Computer Sciences Dept.

Amos Ron

Professor of Computer Sciences and Mathematics
Picture of Amos Ron
Research Interests:
Approximation theory, wavelets, Gabor systems, splines, polynomial interpolation, data representation, frames, scientific data, applications.

Amos Ron's Personal Page is presently under
It is slated to contain info about:

Travel such as my favorite hotel clubs, and the best way to earn free hotel nights.

Collections as a child, I used to collect stamps (I have an almost complete set of Israeli stamps between 48-72). These days I collect credit cards, gifts cards, and loyalty cards.

My addictions Uneducated people connect the word "addiction" to substance abuse and gambling. Well, that's completely wrong...

My health My late grandma used to tell me not to eat while standing, since `the food will go to my legs'.

Learning Korean (past) and learning Chinese (present) I used to think that learning a far-eastern language is practically impossible. I changed my mind after visiting Korea in the fall of 2005. Then I even changed my mind about Chinese, after meeting one day (at denver airport) with an american who makes living by real-time Chinese-English translation.


I need to write that part fast, since hotels, for example, change their program rules very often. Hilton points used to be a great deal. Not any more. Holiday Inn points were as good as Hilton. They also lost a lot of their glamor, but not as much as Hilton. I assess the value of hotel points using the following metric:

1. The ease of accumulating points. That's usually the good part, but also the misleading one (after all it is easy, for example, to accumulate miles. The hard part is to spend them.)

2. The ease of getting a free hotel room. Most chains are great in this regard: rooms are available almost always, even during periods of high demand. That sets hotels apart from airlines.

3. The stability of the rules. Here the airlines are great. They last changed the cost of a ticket (from 20k to 25k miles) about 20 years ago. Hotels? just the opposite. Your points are devaluated continuously.

4. Special deals on rooms. Hilton is the front runner, in two aspects. First, they offer premier rooms sometimes at cost lower than the regular. Also, in some markets (China, certain locations, e.g.) you can get a room for a token of points. Most importantly, they allow you to covert 60% of the points back to money at exachange rate of 300 points on the dollar, which is a good rate. Holiday Inn allows you to buy points from them by booking hotels on $$+points, and then cancelling and getting everything in points. You can buy in this way about 180 points for a dollar. Thus, 3 HIG points are worth at most 5 HH points.

5. The "value" of a point computed by dividing the market cost of the hotel room by the point charge as a free night. E.g., if the room costs $150, and you pay instead 15k points, that every point is worth 1c, provided that you cannot find an alternative room of the same quality but for lower price at some other chain. As a rule, 1c per point is a good deal.

6. I have gone a long way since starting to write this part (around 06-07). Eventually, I realised that the best strategy is stick with one program, and chose initially the Holiday Inn since they are by far the best, as far as the ease of accumulating points, and getting elite mebership. I have been a platinum royal ambassador of the chain, which for all practical purposes means that I stay more or less at each hotel at the best room that they have (as an upgrade). It is completely unimaginable to realize how far loyalty to a chain can pay off (and of course you need to spend many night a year at that hotel. I have been far more than 100 nights at IHG hotels during 2009).

7. My present (2016) assessment is the Hilton is the winner in the hotel industry. Its rates are reasonable (compared to Marriott, e.g., and even compared to IHG), it has depth (Hampton at the bottom, Conrad and WA at the top) and is expanding in many markets. Its elite membership is excellent (I have been diamond for 7 years by now), and the qualifications are reasonable. Drawbacks: some of its hotel are very expensive on points (they changed the scale in 2014 or so), and it is not very easy to get points. So, I usually try to book at the points+$$ rates. The average quality of HH hotels is great, much better than the IHG.

Collections: credit cards, and gift cards.

Ten years ago, when starting to write this part, I had to explain why the credit card industry is one of the most intriguing financial industries in the U.S. These days, you just go online and find hundreds of sites devoted to credit cards. Gift cards is a more sophisticated issue, which I am leaving out for now. Here is the list of my most favorable cards (as of December 2016):

1. Amex blue cash ($95 annual). 6% at groceries, 3% at department stores and gas stations. No alternatives.

2. Chase SR ($450 annually, you get $300 back on travel per calendar, so $600 back on the first card year). 100k points on signing, and 3 points per dollar on travel. A Chase point is about 1.6c (when converted to United miles).

3. Chase Freedom ($0 annually). 5 points on the dollar in rotating categories, one of which inclues gas, one includes groceries, one includes department stores. Alternatives: Citi dividend and Disocover, both paying straight 5%, hence are inferior to Freedom. Special category spending is limited to 1.5k per quarter. However: Citi's limits is 6k per year, and with no quarter's quota. I own all three, they are all good.

4. USBank Cash+. ($0 annual, I forgot the size of their signup bonus). I have two of them, and they used to be exceptional: 6.75% (with exisiting USBank checking), unlimited on categories that you choose quartely. Gone. First, good catergories (airfare, hotels) are no longer (only department stores are left). Second, 6.75% is history. Now, 5%. Third, 2k spending cap per quarter. Advantage (compared to Citi dividend, or Discover): cap is slightly higher, and you choose the category.

5. Citibank 1+1 ($0 annually, but there is no signup bonus). It is the garbage collector, i.e., everything that does not have high CB elsewhere, is charged here at 2% flat, unlimited. You can get more by using GC, but sometimes you need the protection of the CC (i.e., whenever you buy tangible goods).

6. Chase ink ($0-95 annually, signup up to 70k points or even more). 5 points on the dollar at office stores.

7. Chase IHG ($49 annually, signup up to 80k IHG points. An IHG point is about .55c). You become platinum of IHG and you get one free stay every year.

8. Amex HH ($0 annually, their Reserve version is not worth the annual fee, unless you seek Gold status at HH, or chase the initial signup bonus). The card cannot beat any other card. For example, 10 HH points per dollar at Hilton is 3.3%, while CSR give 3 Chase points which is 4.8%. But, at a minimum, it collects Amex offers. Watch of the signup bonus of Citi HH: a few years ago I signed up, got 2 free HH nights, and spend them at the Grand Wailea, where a room goes for $750 per night.

9. Chase Marriott ($85 annually, 80k Marriott points signup. A Marriott point is around .4c). One free Marriott night per year (at category up to 5, so forget about resort hotels). No other value.

10. Chase Explorer (United) and Citi AA are good for a hefty signup bonus. One mile per dollar is what you get for free at Chase Freedom. Two miles per dollar on airline tickets falls below the 3 points of CSR. So, the $95 annual fee can only be justified by travel perks (priority access, free luaggage). If you are an elite member of the airline, the card has no real value. I do not own any of these two cards.

11. How about BoA's CC? worthless, all of them. I have one which I never use. Their signup bonus is not worth the hard inquiry on your credit. (If you apply for too many cards during a short period, your credit score will drop and you might be declined when applying for more.)

  • Summary: What are credit cards good for?.

    There are four major ways your credit card can benefit you:

    1. You can get cash rebates on your card. Cash rebates can be as high as 8% (Only Chase, when offering 5 points per dollar). Getting 2% flat is advisable. Avoid cards that offer miles. See above for more concrete cards.

    Avoid "award cards" that promise "valuable gifts" for accumulating points. These cards work like 1% rebate cards, but make it harder to pocket the money.

    2. The next reason for having a credit card is for borrowing. That was great when you could get a $50k loan at 0% and put it in the bank for 4%. It is possible (but quite hard) to get a 0% loan (most cards will charge uncapped transfee, even when the stated rate is 0%: cheap trick to lure customers with feeble minds). But, with current CD rates at the bank, this borrowing option has no value.

    3. The next reason for applying for a card is the signup bonus. Sure, CSR offers 100k Chase points, i.e., $1.6k, which is a good incentive for most.

    4. The final reason is loyalty perks. For example, Chase IHG makes you IHG platinum, Amex HH makes you HH gold. "Perks" also include hotel points and airline miles in lieu of straight cash. This is usually a so-so deal and can be safely avoided. Exacpetion: (1) Chase points are best as United miles, and (2) Amex points (available on some of their gold/platinum/plus/bla-bla cards) are best as ANA miles.

    My addictions

    in fact, I bet that most people do not recognize the fact that they are addicted to something (and many do), and most addictions are either benign or positive. For example, I am addicted to coffee.

    My Health

    Since then, I have always been skeptical about the merit of proper diet (treating almost all statistical `evidence' as the result of some random process. Smoking has always been the notable exception. I quit 25 years ago) Well, not any more: after avoiding the flu and all types of viral cold for more than ten years (while having once or twice of these in each of the preceding years), I made my own scientific excursion, and was stunned to see the amount of evidence that supports eating (and drinking!) certain types of food. Of course, everything starts with coffee; but coffee is not alone. more to come. In the meanwhile, here is the person who changed my life.

    Learning Korean and Chinese

    1. I started with Korean in 2006 since Korean is so easy. Korean is easy since (1) it has only 14 or so consonants (which can be pronounced each in multiple ways), (2) it has only 150 or so vowels, (3) it is actually not one language but five different ones, and you need to choose the right one according to your relative seniority and level of familiarity with your counterpart. Sounds simple, right? It is really simple: for example, the words "oni?", "wayo?" and "umnikka?" all mean "do ... come?" and are all derived from exactly the same root ("upnida", pronounced as "umnida") by well-structured rules. Did I tell you that Koreans will omit from the sentence words that are not essential to understanding the meaning (e.g., the subject of the sentence)? ... Yes, yes, I like challenges.
    2. In 2008, I decided that Chinese is also quite easy. You see, you just need to memorize no more than 3000 characters, and you can read 99% of Chinese! There are no more than 35 vowels in Chinese, and each can have 4 different intonations, so we are talking about a mere 140 different vowels. Adding to the simplicity is the fact that some of the characters that look similar may even be pronounced similarly (most of the time this is not the case). I decided that life is short and that my Chinese can do with 500 characters (if you learn the right ones this gives you control over 80% of the characters). Right now I am over 400, so may not stop at the 500... My laoshi (teacher) is my former TA Shengnan Wang (whose name means, for my level of Chinese, the king of the southern victory. However, if you choose the wrong characters for "wang", "sheng" and "nan", you get instead the death of the hard life). Chinese is so trivial to learn that I may learn Korean in Chinese characters. zai jian!

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