Monday, December 23, 2013

Cash advance offer. Good or bad?

I am sure many of us who have received this offer from your 'friendly & caring' bank, myself included. The offer would sound something like "this facility provides you cash now for a low interest rate of 9% per annum, which is much lower compared to your credit card's interest of 18%"

Most people heard the 9% vs 18% and immediately conclude it is a good offer, but is it really? No, it is NOT! I took the carrot sometime mid this year, with the intention to settle my credit card at one go. But now about 6 months down the road, after some thinking and calculation, it was not a very good decision, despite whatever the telemarketeer tells you. 

The following is the explanation:

Assuming you take RM5,000 cash advance (Cash Treats, EZcash, etc.. all same thing) with a 9% per annum interest, with RM100 processing fee and no early settlement fee, sounds good right? So it worked out as per below:

Initial amount 6,000
Interest 540
Processing fee 100
Total to pay  6,640

But what if you charge that amount to your credit card, but you plan (with good discipline) to pay the bank RM500 every month off the principal amount (RM6,000) plus whatever interest the bank charges for that month on that principal. Assuming 15% p.a. interest rate, which most people with good payment record get from their bank.
Month Balance Amount off the principal Interest Total amount to pay
1 6,000.00 500.00 500.00
2 5,500.00 500.00 68.75 568.75
3 5,000.00 500.00 62.50 562.50
4 4,500.00 500.00 56.25 556.25
5 4,000.00 500.00 50.00 550.00
6 3,500.00 500.00 43.75 543.75
7 3,000.00 500.00 37.50 537.50
8 2,500.00 500.00 31.25 531.25
9 2,000.00 500.00 25.00 525.00
10 1,500.00 500.00 18.75 518.75
11 1,000.00 500.00 12.50 512.50
12 500.00 500.00 6.25 506.25
6,000.00 412.50 6,412.50

Notice the LOWER total amount to be paid, within the same number of repayments, despite the supposedly higher interest rate? This is because the cash advance above calculates interest based on total amount, while the credit card calculates interest based on balance remaining! 

So be careful of such offers. Longer repayment period or more cash advance amount will naturally just make the difference even bigger! If you're planning to take cash advance, or already taking one, it would be a good idea to fully settle it soonest. 

Now you (and I) understand why the banks keep on offering such offers with the impression that it's the bank that's losing i.e. lower interest + no charge for early settlement. Apparently, it's not really to our benefit. Well, we should not trust the bank too much in the first place, they're in the business to make profit anyway...

Monday, August 12, 2013

A hidden gem - Proton Exora Bold

Took delivery of my new car, Proton Exora Bold Premium, a 7-seater MPV on Tuesday, just in time for the balik kampung trip for the Aidilfitri. For those who have previously read my blog and wondered what happened to my blue Impreza, it was sold sometime way back in 2011. After marriage, found out it not feasible to keep the car anymore as it was seldom used and not so comfortable for normal driving around town. So I sold it off an traded for another one of my childhood dream, a superbike. But that's a story for another day.

This posting is about the Proton Exora I mentioned above. This is a car that I bought without even once sitting inside it, not even on display at showrooms or roadshows. Bought it purely because it meets my current requirement & budget and very good reviews from various publications. Of course, I know some people would diss it, simply because it is a 'Proton', but I am willing to take the risk. And having owned Proton Satria & Waja previously, and currently my wife drives a Persona, I think Proton cars are not really that bad, if they're properly maintained and cared for, which some are not.

To cut it short, I was surprised with the Exora, on so many aspects. Firstly, the CFE engine is really much better than previous Proton Campro engine. It is a turbo-charged 1.6L engine, a fact which Proton seldom highlights, for unknown reason. And I was also skeptical of CVT gearbox, afraid of rubbery feeling due to the constantly variable nature of the gearbox. But for this engine, CVT gearbox is the best option as the engine is always in the meaty part of the engine's torque curve (2000-4000 rpm), making progress easy and swift. Really changed my perception on CVT geabox, despite I have previously driven a Mercedes B-class with CVT box for almost a week. The flat torque delivery of the turbo-charged engine and the CVT gearbox is just perfect, unlike the naturally aspirated B-class. Can't say the Exora is a fast car, it is not, but adequate. Having said that, it's easy to keep a constant 120-130km/h on the highway and despite being in run-in period, already managed to reach 160km/h rather easily. In perfect comfort & silence, with no sign of strain from the engine. Adequate.

Also impressed with the improvement in Proton's QC process. The car was received with perfect paintwork. No blemishes, no over spray, not a single visible scratch. Wheels were properly aligned and balanced. In fact, all four tyres were also properly inflated to specification! Small things, but you'll be surprised that not all new cars roll out of the showroom in perfect running shape.

And then, the kit list. It's amazingly long, although I wonder why some of the features were never highlighted by Proton themselves. Some of them:

- roof mounted DVD system that also accepts USB thumbdrives, and plays MP3 plus a few other music & video formats
- Bluetooth enabled audio system that allows you to make and answer calls when paired with your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. And also plays and controls music on the phone via A2DP!
- 2nd and 3rd row air-cond vents, with separate blower control
- follow-me home headlights that continue to turn on temporarily after the key is removed
- automatic rear wiper activation on reverse with front wiper use
- selectable driver door unlock (unlock only driver's door on first press of remote)
- key remote transmitter battery level displayed on intstrument panel
- front wiper that slows down when stopping in traffic
- cruise control
- anti-glare rear view mirror (no day/night adjustment to do anymore, yay!)

these are on top of the normally highlighted features e.g. leather upholstery, electric folding wing mirrors, reverse camera, external wide screen GPS (a Lokatoo A1000, which can be modified to run Garmin software), ABS, EBD, dual air bags, smoked LED tail light, etc.. You'll be hard pressed to find another car that has all the features above, especially at this price point. So I was totally surprised.

But of course, it is not perfect. There are still areas that can be further improved:

- the plastics are really hard & the textures doesn't look very convincing compared to other manufacturers. Other manufacturers also use hard plastics for cars in this price range (yes, they do. Please check yourself) but they look more convincing and looks 'less cheap'
- the leathers on the seats are also rather nasty to the touch. Feels very dry & synthetic, which it probably is. But could be better
- the driving position also a bit tiring. The steering wheel need reach adjustment. Now I'm sitting too far from the steering wheel for ideal driving position
- should include some of the newer features available in latest model e.g. auto headlight, auto wiper, pedal shifter

All in all, i think the Proton Exora Bold is really a good buy. A value for money buy. No wonder I'm seeing a lot of them on the road nowadays.

For those who overlook this car because it is a Proton, maybe you wanna re-confirm your perception.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Koh Samui road trip 19–22 Jan 2012: Part 2

Morning photo before going out for our boat tour

Glorious morning sun

More morning sun

On the boat for the tour to nearby islands. I can't remember anymore how much it costed us. But it includes meals on board, with free flow hot drinks


The tour operator. In case anybody would like to contact them

Colourful kayaks on board. You may choose to kayak rather than visiting the islands or snorkeling. But I advise not to snorkel. Nothing to see here. Seriously. Was mega dissapointed with snorkeling on this trip

Our destination, Koh Ang Thong

Tourists on the tour. Transferring to the beach in a small boat

A traditional Thai long-boat, with the customary colourful clothes

Signboard of the Angthong National Park

A series of views on the island

You can camp here if you like. The tent were already prepared. Just need to rent them

Jungle trekking trail, which we didn't try since we didn't wear proper shoes, which we weren't informed of

Visitor Center of the park

Nice view of some kayaks

Anothe pic of a traditional Thai long-boat

A very nice viewpoint of several surrounding islands. Not before a long climb up a flight of very steep stairs!

Check out how steep the stair is

A beautiful lake in the middle of the island. Superb view. It's sea water by the way

Steep huh?

Another view from top. Simply beautiful

Some attractive signs on the tour van hehehe

Road of Koh Samu

Typical view of Koh Samui shops. LIned with convenience shops, pharmacy & teeth whitening dental centres. For whatever reasons

A night market we stopped by

Leather carving
Interior view of the sole mosque on Koh Samui


Guess what those empty bottles are for? 

A view of the vehicle deck

All rusty. A bit scary if you ask me

Overall, I was dissapointed with this trip. Was expecting to enjoy the underwater world, but it was dissapointing. Practically nothing to see. Koh Samui is suitable if you like to go sight-seeing and take pictures. But if you want to enjoy the underwater life, I would say Sabah is a much better choice. Which we did go, a month after this trip hahaha!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Koh Samui road trip 19–22 Jan 2012: Part 1

Wow! It's been MONTHS since I last updated this blog. Can't promise anything, but I'll try to update this from now on. All photos are straight out of camera, no editing. So pardon the tilted horizons!

This is a story of our road trip to Koh Samui, Thailand on 20 Jan. We spent a night at Anis' uncle's house in Kulim before we proceeded to the Bukit Kayu Hitam border check-point on the next day. On the way to the border, we stopped at a coffee shop to buy the compulsory RM30 3rd party insurance to drive our cars in Thailand. The shop keeper also assisted to fill-in a form to import our vehicle into Thailand for a fee of RM1. You’ll need at least a copy of your vehicle’s grant to do this.

Remember to keep the importing vehicle form and return it to the Thai customs at the border checkpoint before leaving Thailand. If you fail to do so, the fine is THB2000, failing to pay, your vehicle will not be allowed to enter Thailand. We found it out the hard way because we didn't return it when we went to Hadyai last year. The border crossing on that day was busy as usual, but we all managed to pass through in about an hour or so. It was already around 11:00AM Thai time.

At the border crossing complex. From Thai side

After we made the crossing, we were totally dependant on the GPS, which indicated about 400km to Don Sak, the port town to Koh Samui. Finding Halal food would be quite a hassle. Should’ve stopped at Hadyai which we have passed. We searched for the nearest mosque in the GPS. The imam directed us to a food stall, right next to the mosque. We had our lunch there, under a nice traditional wooden hut.

The mosque in the background

Andi and the shop owner exchanging phone numbers

Lunch under the hut

Preparing dinner

After lunch we continued our journey. Take note fuel in Thai is expensive relative to Malaysia. Close to RM4/litre And 95 is the highest RON available. If you drive a JDM vehicle, shots of octane booster may be helpful. Don Sak is a small town by the sea. But I think mostly it is just a stop-over before reaching Koh Samui. Had some difficulty finding our resort, which we all blamed the resort's signboard which was in Thai only! Total travelling time was about 6 1/2 hours from the border. Inclusive of the lunch stop at the mosque.

The next morning, we headed to Raja Ferry Port a short drive away. If I remember correctly, the fare was THB620, for the car, driver & a passenger. We were surprised that the ex-Japan (can still see some signs in Japanese) ferry is comfortable & spacious. Just hoping it is not past its intended service life! The ferry ride was about 90 minutes.

In front of the Raja Ferry ticket counter. And our Persona, our ride for the road trip! Winking smile

The entire group, minus me of course

Anis, with Che Wan and her husband, Andi on the ferry’s car deck

Better view of the car deck

The spacious & comfy passenger deck

Open deck area at the back of the ferry

Lift jacket?

Ferry time table between Akashi & Iwaya! I thought we’re going to Samui!

Another sign in Japanese

When we reached Koh Samui ('Koh' is island in Thai), we were surprised that it's a rather big island, more Langkawi-sized than Redang-sized island. Guided by a tourist map we snatched from the ferry port ticket counter, we drove to our resort, World Resort Samui in Bhoput area. There are tons of resort on Samui, they’re practically right next to each other. I would easily say, easily more than 200 of them to suit all budget & tastes.

Our chalet at World Resort Samui

The beach behind our resort

After a short rest, lunch hunting time, which is rather tricky on Samui. From blogs, people say there’s only one Halal restaurant on entire Samui. But couldn’t find it, so we guided by the trusty Garmin loaded with MFM map, proceeded to the sole mosque on Samui, in a Muslim village area. Sure enough, we found a Halal restaurant there. In fact the Muslim village it is a Malay village with about 100 families.

The Halal restaurant near the mosque

Economic activity at the Muslim village. Processing of ikan masin. They are mostly fishermen

Goreng pisang! We practically tapau-ed all of them

Sundry shop at Muslim Village


On the way back stopped by a Namuang Safari Park. For us Malaysians, the animals and jungle trekking may not be that attractive since we have those back home as well. But foreigners would enjoy the elephant ride & trekking through the rain forest. Quite expensive though, THB1700 per person for elephant trekking and animal shows. So we skipped it.

My mother in-law, with a fierce looking big cat! The 1-year old cat really is BIG!

On the tour map, listed Hinta Hinyai (Grand father & grandmother rock) as an attraction. We knew it's sort of a curiously shaped rocks, but we didn't know it's quite difficult to reach. Need to trek about 10 minutes up a rocky slope. Even then, we still did not manage to see exactly what it was. We only knew exactly later what it was from postcards! Google 'Hinta Hinyai' pics if you want to know about it.

Dodgy, hippies-themed B&B on the way to Hinta Hinyai. I bet they smoke crack here

We’re there already. But where’s the Hinta Hinyai? Apparently it’s the rock on the right most