Deal of the Day October 8, 2008

Traveling for the holidays on Northwest Airlines?

Buy your tickets and pay with Paypal and you’ll get $50 back per ticket, up to five tickets.  Click here for details.  Expiration unknown.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Financial Instability Aftershocks Affect Your Credit, Too

In the wake of the ridiculous goings on in the financial world you could see some aftershocks right there on your credit card statement.

Credit card companies are tightening their belts, and reining us in, too.  Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with them, how good your credit is, how many payments you’ve made on time.  According to the Wall Street Journal they are starting to reduce credit limits across the board.

If you’re like me you’ve seen a credit limit of $3,000 balloon to a limit of $25,000.  I’ve never paid much attention, as my strategy of paying of my balance each month has meant that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to my limits and interest rates.

Many people are seeing their credit limits slashed with little notice, and those like me who are not diligent about checking those parts of their statement may find themselves dangerously close to their credit limit, and dangerously close to those over-the-limit fees.   When’s the last time you looked at your credit limits?  That would be a very, very nasty surprise, wouldn’t it?

Not only that, because your buying power is reduced your debt to income ratio goes up.   According to CNNThe debt-to-limit ratio is calculated by dividing what consumers spend each month by their credit limit, and it’s a key component of credit scores. If your limit drops to $1,000 from $2,000 and you continue spending $500 a month, your debt-to-limit ratio immediately jumps from a favorable 25% to an unfavorable 50%.” That means it’s harder to buy that car or that house, making your life less comfortable and making it harder for our economy as a whole to recover.

This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

What can you do?  The Wall Street Journal article had some great suggestions:

1.  Reduce your outstanding debt. Bigger balances make consumers prime targets for credit-card companies looking to reduce credit lines, since the banks worry that you may not be able to pay your tab.

2. Watch the mail. When credit-card issuers lower credit limits, they must notify you. Typically, that will be done by mail (unless you’ve agreed to online-only notification). You should also review your monthly statement for changes, including a lower credit limit, interest-rate spikes and new penalties.

3 Check your report. Credit-card issuers review consumers’ credit reports for red flags, like late payments to other credit cards, a sudden buildup of debt or high credit-utilization rates. Check your credit report for free online at AnnualCreditReport.com. If it includes any errors, report them to the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

4 Get online alerts. Ask your credit-card issuers if they offer online alerts that notify cardholders when they’re nearing their limit.

5 Shop around. If your credit limit gets slashed, don’t cancel your credit card. That will decrease your credit score. Instead, shop around for more attractive credit-card offers.

I’m going to add a few of my own:

6.  Check your account online at least twice a week. This  way you can have the latest updates, keep track of your balances and limits and catch errors early.

7.  Curb spending. Stay home, don’t shop.  Just buy what you absolutely need to so you have less to pay back.

8.  Pray. Whether you believe in a Higher Being, the power of positive thinking or your faith is in humanity, put your positive energy out there and pray.

Costco American Express Card Holders Can Get More Rebate Cash Back!

We got a lovely little piece of mail the other day that’s going to put money in my pocket, and money in yours if you took my advice and signed up for the TrueEarnings card from Costco and American Express.

Enroll in the program and spend $1,000 on non-Costco purchases and you will get an additional 1% cash back on every eligible purchase (up to $200 extra!) between September 1 and October 31st!

That means I’ll be getting 4% cash back on gas, 3% on travel and 2% for every other non-Costco purchase.

And you know what else? I don’t have to wait for my rebate check to receive the extra cash back. It comes as a statement credit to my account 6-8 weeks after the promotion ends.

You have to be invited to participate. If you’re worried that you may have mistakenly tossed your invitation go to http://www.americanexpress.com/costco1000 and you can enter your login and password to see if you’re invited.

There’s lots of fine print, so check that out, of course.

It’s a great deal for me. I hope you can take advantage, too!

Deal of the Day August 27, 2008

If you’re local to South Florida and don’t already have a Sunpass, now is the time to get one.

I used to hardly ever use mine.  I’d always take the non-toll roads to save money.  But now with the price of gas hovering around $4 it makes sense to take the quickest route…

For a limited time if you buy a Sunpass transponder for $4.99 you get $4.99 in tolls loaded onto it.  So it’s kinda free.  Plus you’ll save 25 cents on all your tolls.

What are you waiting for?

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Deal of the Day July 8, 2008

Here’s a great deal if you’re doing any air travel in the near future…

Pick your discount over at JetBlue with choice of $10 or 10% off a JetBlue flight. After choosing your destination and flight, enter coupon code JET10D for the $10 savings, or code JET10 for the 10% savings. While there be sure to check out their current featured web fares of New York/JFK to Long Beach for $244, New York/JFK to Orlando for $114, or New York/JFK to Oakland for $244. Coupons expire 07/10/2008 for travel between 09/03/2008 – 12/16/2008. Some blackout dates apply, see site for details.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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What you Can Expect From The New A La Carte Airlines

I wrote a few days ago about how To Explore the New World of Airline Travel You Need More Than a Map. Today I received an e-mail that shows I certainly am NOT the only one completely ever being nickel and dimed by the airlines:
NEW AIRLINE RULES

Attendant: Welcome aboard Ala Carte Air, sir. May I see your ticket?

Passenger: Sure.

Attendant: You’re in seat 12B. That will be $5, please!

Passenger: What for?

Attendant: For telling you where to sit.

Passenger: But I already knew where to sit.

Attendant: Nevertheless, we are now charging a seat locator fee of $5. It’s the airline’s new policy.

Passenger: That’s the craziest thing I ever heard. I won’t pay it.

Attendant: Sir, do you want a seat on this flight, or not?

Passenger: Yes, yes. All right, I’ll pay. But the airline is going to hear about this.

Attendant: Thank you. My goodness, your carry-on bag looks heavy. Would you like me to stow it in the overhead compartment for you?

Passenger: That would be swell, thanks.

Attendant: No problem. Up we go, and done! That will be $10, please.

Passenger: What?

Attendant: The airline now charges a $10 carry-on assistance fee.

Passenger: This is extortion. I won’t stand for it.

Attendant: Actually, you’re right, you can’t stand. You need to sit, and fasten your seat belt. We’re about to push back from the gate. But, first I need that $10.

Passenger: No way!

Attendant: Sir, if you don’t comply, I will be forced to call the air marshal. And you really don’t want me to do that.

Funny, to be sure. And I don’t really think we’re that farr off from that. Delta just announced they will be charging up to $50 per ticket as a fuel surcharge on frequent flyer award tickets.

Priceless…

To Explore the New World of Airline Travel You Need More Than a Map

Am I the only one who’d rather not be nickel and dimed by the airlines?

Even the most seasoned travelers feel like traveling neophytes as they try to keep track of all of the changing rules, regulations and fees the airline industry imposes on daily basis.

It’s a new world, folks, and things are changing minute to minute. Between fees for baggage and food and breathing their oxygen (well, not yet – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s coming!), it’s increasingly more confusing to do what once required no more thought than whether to bring the black shoes, the brown shoes or both.

Last week Husband drove son and I to the airport for our trip to New England, and before he got Son’s carseat out of the car I’d already experienced a problem.

I had read that Delta was not (yet) charging for a first checked bag. I had checked in online and told them we were checking two bags – 1 large suitcase and the carseat. Apparently I didn’t research enough because I thought the weight limit was 75 lbs, and I’d weighed it at home to make sure it was within limits. They weighed it right at the curb and came up with the same 54 lbs I’d gotten at home, and told me the weight limit was 50 lbs.

Greaaaaaaaaaaat.

Okay, I thought. How much is it for an oversize bag? For $15- $20, I might have just paid it. But no – they wanted to charge me $80 for four extra pounds!

As if. So, I opened the bag and took out a few things. One was my blow dryer, as I can borrow from my sister if I really need to. And it’s summer, so most days I just pull it back in a ponytail or barrette and my fifteen second hairdo is done.

I also slipped one thing into my carry-on bag, which I was loathe to do. My carry-ons were heavy enough. The one bag plus one personal item per person limits are being strictly enforced because of the new fees, so I usually have to finagle to pass muster. I have a large (but acceptable airline size) tote bag that I use so if needed I can put my handbag, laptop and camera equipment inside and still have room for more stuff. The downside is it gets heavy! I didn’t have to worry about finagling this time because there were two of us traveling, so we were allowed 4 items. But of course Son didn’t want to carry any of them…

So, adjust your travel budgets.  And try some of the following:

  1. Pack light. If you’re going somewhere you can do laundry you can really pare it down.  Mix and match wherever possible, be willing to wear your jeans twice, and use all of the space available (why not pack your socks inside your shoes?).
  2. Carry-on only. If you pack light you won’t even have to check a bag.  Just make sure the bag you take on board meets the airline’s size requirements, usually a total of 45 inches!
  3. Wear your bigger, heavier items. On this trip Son and I both wore our sneakers (even though it took an extra moment at security) and jeans and we each carried a sweater.  This makes more room in your carry-on or checked bag, and saves on the weight, too!
  4. Use lightweight luggage. My very good, sturdy suitcase weighs about ten pounds.  If I had a lighter suitcase I would have been able to bring everything I had to take out of my bag.  I’ll be looking for a large nylon duffel bag to use in the future.  And methinks luggage companies are going to be coming out with some nice new lightweight models!

It’s also good to know that they don’t count car seats,  strollers or wheelchairs as baggage for either checked baggage, and they don’t count and diaper bags as carry-on.  There are other exceptions, too, so check your airline’s baggage policy!

I also found this website, where a resourceful guy has promised to quickly update airline fees.

So today you probably won’t be able to bring both the black shoes and the brown shoes, especially if you’re going to need your sneakers, too. Choose one pair, and if the weight of y our bag isn’t a problem make them slip-ons. You’ll get through security quicker…

Time and Effort are More Valuable Than Money

I don’t mind using my time and effort to save money. It’s worth it to me to clip coupons I’ll use, check for sales and go to three different stores to buy my groceries to take advantage of the best deals (something Husband and others often tease me about). I do try to save time and effort when possible, planning my day so that as little time, effort and gas is expended as possible. I’m not obsessive about it, and there are many exceptions, but I don’t mind putting a little elbow grease into saving money.

Sometimes, though, the time and effort are just not worth the money saved.

Case in point: yesterday I bought airline tickets for Son and I to fly North for a wedding.

We’re going to a Bar Mitzvah in New Jersey, and my sister and Mom live just a few hours away in Connecticut. My first thought was to fly into Hartford and spend a few days, drive with them down to the Bar Mitzvah, go back to Connecticut with them and fly home from Hartford.

When I first checked rates a few days ago, though, I was shocked. Rising fuel costs and a myriad of other reasons made the rates out of my price range. I found that I could fly into Newark for much less. I could ride back up to Connecticut with my sister after the Bar Mitzvah, then get a ride or take public transportation (Son would love the train!) back to Newark to fly home.

Then I realized it was way too far to ask my family to drive us. I checked prices for train, bus and limousine from their house to Newark. I thought about dragging a three year old, a carseat and the rest of our luggage from train to bus to airport.

Eek.

Just for giggles I looked at the rates to Hartford again, and I decided to widen the travel date parameters. One of the many perks to being a Stay at Home Mom with a preschooler means I can take advantage of being flexible about flight dates and times.

I wound up finding flights that would give us a week with my family instead of just a few days, and it was only about $125 more than flying into Newark. That’s about $25 more than I would have spent on the least expensive public transportation getting from Connecticut back to Newark for our flight home.

And instead of spending an entire day dragging a three-year-old from train to bus to airport to home I’d get the job done in a few short hours.

Less time. Less effort. A bit more money.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Deal of the Day

Take a trip with JetBlue during their Flower Power Spring Sale, and get flights priced from just $39. Fly between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas from $49 each way, or between New York City and Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa from $84 each way. Book through 04/16/2008 for travel between 05/01/2008 – 06/11/2008.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Costco’s American Express Rebates Get Even Better

I’ve never applied for an American Express card. I refuse, on principle, to pay for the privilege of having a credit card. My agreement to carry a card means the issuer gets to charge the merchant a percentage of my total purchases. They don’t need – and won’t get – $50 a year from me, thankyouverymuch.

Husband, though, had no such principle. He already had a card when we got married, and after I explained my principle to him he agreed that we would cancel that card before renewal.

That isn’t what happened. Instead, American Express teamed up with Costco to offer a no-fee Costco American Express. As long as you were a Costco member you could switch your standard AMEX card over, get your annual AMEX fee waived and get up to 1.5% (it starts at .25% and increases in steps based on total purchases) back. Additionally, you no longer had to pay the card off every month (which is irrelevant to us, as another principle of mine is to never carry a balance). I can’t tell you the interest rate or how it compares to other cards (see never carry a balance principle).

It also gave me an opportunity to use a credit card at Costco, since the only card they accept is AMEX.

Switch the card over we did. We also added me as a user, and believe me when I tell you that mine sees much more action than Husband’s. Since we put everything (including cars) on our credit cards to take advantage of rewards, it’s a nice sum at the end of the year. The rebate is in the form of a check that you must use at Costco, but if you don’t use the entire amount they give you the cash back. Last Christmas’ purchase of Husband’s $4000 Mac gave us a nice bonus this year, which went directly into savings (well, after I bought us some nice steaks).

Today I went to Costco and discovered that now Costco and AMEX have an even better deal. Their TrueEarnings card, previously available only to business members, is now open to all. What’s so great about it? Well, it bumps up the rebate percentages on gas, restaurants and travel.

We’re all trying to save money at the pump. The new TrueEarnings card increases the cash back to 3% back on gas, adding even more value to a very good deal. Today’s Costco gas price was $3.09, a full ten cents cheaper per gallon than the other stations in my neighborhood. That 3% cash back means my true price per gallon will be $3.00. Horrible, but not as horrible as $3.19 …

They are also offering discounts of 3% for restaurant dining and 2% for travel. Another great difference: with the TrueEarnings card you get the maximum rebate from dollar one. That makes a big difference right there.

So, if you have a Costco American Express, or any American Express, call now to get switched over to TrueEarnings. If you don’t already have an American Express, call and get one.

And if you are one of the unlucky ones to not have a Costco within a reasonable driving distance (sorry, PaidTwice!), you might consider moving.

Update 8/29/08:  Check out my post about how you can possibly save even more through the end of October: Costco American Express Card Holders Can Get More Rebate Cash Back!

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