Archive for October, 2010

Black Friday Deals Starting Early in 2010

Traditionally, Black Friday sales begin the day after Thanksgiving, but this year they’re starting earlier. Retailers like Sears, Target, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Amazon are offering holiday shoppers’ deals as early as October.

Upcoming Black Friday Sales

  • Sears “Black Friday Now” sale starts tomorrow Friday, October 29th and runs through Saturday, October 30th. They are offering doorbuster deals and layaway payment options.
  • On Friday, October 29th Amazon will offer special deals on its electronics.
  • Starting on Sunday, October 31st Toys R Us will put every toy in its 80-page Great Big Christmas Book (Big Toy Book) on sale through Wednesday, November 24th.

Where to find Black Friday Deals?

The best place to start looking for these deals is in newspaper ads and on the Internet. There are some helpful Black Friday websites to keep you informed about the sales: BFads.net, BlackFriday2010.com and Black-Friday.net.

Do you know of any other Black Friday Sales coming up?

Credit Cards – The Good, Bad and Ugly

Credit Cards Good Bad Ugly What do you think of credit cards? They can be good, bad and ugly. Some may say credit cards are so BAD – you simply need to stay away from them, cut them up or freeze them.

Here’s my take on credit cards – the good, bad and ugly:

The Good

If you use credit cards wisely they can be good. Credit cards offer you more purchasing power (good/bad – keep reading), convenience and additional security. They provide you with an excellent opportunity to build a good credit history (payment history, debt/credit ratio).

Moreover, credit cards offer cardholders many benefits such as rewards (cash back, savings discounts), extended warranties, purchase protection and more. Be sure to get the most from your credit card benefits – 5 Ways To Maximize Your Credit Card Benefits.

The Bad

Credit card fees and interest rates can really add up. The new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act has limited the fees credit card companies can charge you. It also provides you with more disclosure of interest rate changes, fees and the true cost of paying the minimum payment only.

In addition to the costs you have to be careful about overspending, since you have more purchasing power.  Research has shown that people tend to spend more money when they use a credit card instead of paying with cash. If you treat credit like money and use your credit card responsibly you can avoid this debt trap.

The Ugly

Credit cards get ugly when you fall into the debt trap. Credit card debt is one of the main reasons why people feel the need to cut up their cards and abandon credit cards altogether. According to CreditCards.com, “Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,788.”

Credit card debt gets even Uglier when you consider the real costs: (more…)

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Identity TheftIdentity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today. Every year millions of victims are faced with the frustration and anguish over the time spent (sometimes years) fighting to resolve the issue.

What can you do about identity theft? Safeguard your personal information (signature, account numbers, social security number, medical information, etc.) to protect yourself against any identity thieves that may be lurking around.

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft:

  • Protect the personal information you carry with you everyday – Check your wallet and only carry the information you need. Avoid carrying your social security number with you. Commit your social security number to memory and keep it in a secure place at home (preferably under lock and key).
  • Shred important documents with your personal information before throwing them away – Identity thieves go through the trash to find personal information they can use to steal your identity. Protect yourself by shredding any materials with your personal information prior to throwing them away, such as financial documents (mortgage/car related documents), account statements, health documents or pay stubs.
  • Protect your social security number – You’d be surprised to see how many documents actually include your social security number on them. Be sure to protect yourself by securing any documents that contain your personal information and shredding them prior to throwing them away. Check your car’s glove department to make sure you do not leave documents in there with your social security number on them.

    Be careful about giving out your social security number. If someone asks for it – question the purpose. I only give out my social security number when I feel it’s absolutely needed (e.g. applying for a loan). For example, on a form at my dentist office they asked for my social security number and I left it blank. Whenever the doctor’s office questions me about this, I say they have other pertinent information (insurance card, contact info) and nothing more should be required.

  • Monitor your credit report – Check your credit report regularly to identify any fraudulent activity. Your credit report gives you more insight into any new accounts that may have been opened in your name. Read “The Free and Easy Way to Check Your Credit Report” for tips on how to monitor your credit report regularly.
  • Check your account statements for any fraudulent activity – Review your account statement to confirm your charges. If you find any charges that you did not make, then promptly raise them to your creditor‘s or financial institution’s attention.
  • Secure your personal identification number (PIN) for accounts separate from your cards – In college, a friend of mine’s roommate stole her ATM card and checks, and easily used her ATM card because she left her PIN number attached to the card.

If you become a victim of Identity Theft: (more…)

Categories: Credit, Life

How To Get Free Seat Upgrades, Hotel Room Upgrades and Other Perks With Airline Credit Cards

The following post is by Kevin from CreditShout, a personal finance site dedicated to helping people save money with credit cards.

If you have to have a credit card (and many people do nowadays), why not get one that gives you something back? Airline credit cards are a hugely popular source of great travel perks that can increase your fun while lowering your budget every time you travel.

How you go about taking advantage of the benefits offered by the card will depend largely on the card you get, and the type of agreement that comes with it.

Trading in Points for Perks
With the majority of airline cards including most Continental Airlines credit cards, the quickest and easiest way to get perks is to rack up “miles” on the card.

Under the standard incentive program offered by most travel credit cards, each time you use the card, the amount you spent is translated into a point system, and the more points you earn, the more perks you can get. Trading in your points can get you things like seat upgrades, hotel discounts, rental car rewards, and more.

This means, of course, that the more you use your card, the more perks you’ll get. The point of most airline credit cards is that many people, particularly frequent travelers, use credit cards for convenience when purchasing airline tickets anyhow. So offering perks for doing so only makes sense and is a great way to draw in customers.

It’s key, then, when trying to earn some benefits, to use your airline card when you buy your tickets. Most airline credit card companies will give you a great return on what you spend- typically two “miles” for every one dollar spent on travel. There’s more, too: it’s usually not just the tickets that count for mileage, but any travel-related expenses. The credit card company wants you using the card while you’re on the road and in the air, and in return, you can rack up some major mileage points.

You should also think about choosing a card that offers you points for any type of spending, not just for travel purchases. This can allow you to get points faster than a card that offers you a bonus only for travel.

Affiliate Discounts
Aside from the points-for-purchases program, even more perks may be available to you so it is important to look into your cardholder agreement before you travel. Most airline credit cards have special sponsorship deals with various travel-related services and companies, and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you can get just by being a holder of the card. (more…)

Beware of Email Fraud – Protect Your Identity

Email FraudIf your email box is anything like mine, I’m sure you have a process for those you open and delete. The most annoying emails I receive are the fraudulent ones. You know the emails that claim you’ve won the lottery, a car or an inheritance from someone you never even knew.

This past weekend I received one claiming to be a “BMW WINNING NOTIFICATION.” Sounds exciting at first glance and I normally just delete it, but I decided to open this one and share it with you in this post – Beware of Email Fraud.

When you first open these types of emails, they always try to lure you with a generic upbeat opening. This one started with “Dear Lucky Winner.” Congratulations you have won a new BMW 5 series! To really convince me, they went on to describe the BMW: color (Black Sapphire Metallic), premium package, type of transmission etc.

Wow, I’ve won something without even entering any contest. I must be lucky, because there’s no other explanation. Not convinced? Well, they go on and explain the intricate selection process:

The selection process was carried out through random selection in our Computerized Email Selection System (C.E.S.S.) from a database of over a million email addresses from the worldwide web. Each email address was attached to a ticket number and your email address with ticket number: 5647600545188 and serial number: BMWP/556543450906 was randomly selected as the star prize winner amongst other consolation prize winners.”

Now that you understand what and how (blah, blah, blah) you’ve won your new BMW. Here’s the catch to receive your unbelievable prize, kindly fill out your personal information via email and we’ll get it right to you. This is a big Red Flag! Don’t reply to any email phishing for your personal information. For example, an email that requests your address, any financial related information (e.g. account information, passwords) or a copy of your ID (i.e. driver’s license).

The Claims Manager that I was supposed to send my personal claim information to was a Dr. to make it sound official. The email was so awful that they were inconsistent with the Dr.’s first and last names.

One thing I find in common with these types of emails is that the contact information (address and phone number) is never in the U.S. The email address is suspect too. If they’re supposed to represent BMW, why are they asking me to respond to an email address @live.com?

I decided to contact BMW and inform them of the scam. To my surprise when I visited the company’s contact page on their website, I saw a warning posted for email fraud. BMW’s contact page read “ALERT: EMAIL FRAUD WARNING”:

BMW of North America will never ask you to send or confirm personal information by email, including but not limited to: your name, address, passwords or financial information. If you receive an email from someone purporting to be BMW, or a division of BMW, such as the Security Department or Lottery Department, asking for this type of information, DO NOT RESPOND TO IT. It is most likely a fraudulent email, the sole and only purpose of which is to elicit your personal information. To be safe, we recommend you add the sender to your blocked email or SPAM email list.

Email Fraud Tips:

  1. Do not reply, respond or answer email messages requesting your personal information (accounts, identification information). (more…)
Categories: Life

Have You Booked Your Holiday Travel Plans Yet?

It’s hard to believe this year’s almost over. We’re halfway through October and before you know it – Thanksgiving will be here. Have you booked your holiday travel plans yet?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest times of the year for travel and considering the laws of supply and demand planning ahead is a must.

Now is the perfect time to book your holiday travel. Especially given that holiday airline ticket prices are “expected to cost more this year.” If you wait too late, you could pay more and have less flights to choose from.

Last year, booking my holiday travel plans felt like playing airfare roulette. Week after week, I watched closely as ticket prices fluctuated up and down in hopes of catching a deal. As weeks passed, I started noticing the flights were all heading in the same direction UP. When I realized the trend, I called my credit card rewards program (you have to love – no blackout dates) and booked two tickets using points. I reluctantly paid the higher prices for the other two tickets I needed.

Sure I booked over a month in advance, but I was so focused on finding a great deal that I missed out on the opportunity to buy better priced tickets earlier. Not to mention the cost of the two tickets I bought was close to the amount I paid for all four tickets (same time of year, destination etc.), just a few years earlier. :(

That being said, book your holiday travel plans early and save the frustration and money. Airfares are usually cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so be sure to check fares during the week. And keep in mind that the holidays are peak season, so if you find a reasonable ticket, time is of the essence (hold or purchase, but avoid playing airfare roulette).

Holiday Travel Tips

Photo: pfala

Take Advantage of Additional Savings at Checkout

Have you ever paid attention to the coupons you receive at checkout? Some stores print them on the back of your sales receipt and others dispense them from a machine. If you’ve never looked at them you may be passing up on some great savings.

As for me, I usually sort them into two piles: keep or toss. All of the useful coupons go into the keepers and the rest are just recycled.

Recently, I almost tossed out a $5 off your next shopping trip coupon. I mistakenly thought it was an ad, because on the left side there was an ad and I happened to glance at the right and saw the $5 coupon. That would have been like throwing away $5.

The last time I used the self-checkout lane, I noticed some ads/coupons hanging from the dispenser. I decided take a look and found a $2 off your next purchase coupon. Sure enough, I used it on my grocery purchase and saved $2 instantly. I know it may not sound like much, but it all adds up and every dollar counts.

Taking the time to look through the ads/coupons you receive could save you money on your next shopping trip and more (e.g. restaurants, oil change, salon services). There’s no telling what type of coupon you may find because many businesses choose to advertise this way.

I hope you take advantage of additional savings at checkout. Be sure to check the expiration date of your savings offer, so you don’t miss out.

For tips on how to save money at the grocery store read the 5 Ways to Save Money on Groceries.

Happy Smart Shopping!

Categories: Save Money

Bank of America Halts Foreclosure Sales in All Fifty States

Finally, there is some good news on the Foreclosures Gone Wrong front. On Thursday, October 7th, President Obama vetoed a bill to speed up foreclosures given the flaws in the foreclosure process. On October 8th Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, announced that it would halt foreclosure sales in fifty states.

Bank of America’s press release:

“Bank of America has extended our review of foreclosure documents to all fifty states. We will stop foreclosure sales until our assessment has been satisfactorily completed. Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for our past foreclosure decisions is accurate. We continue to serve the interests of our customers, investors and communities. Providing solutions for distressed homeowners remains our primary focus.”

Now it will be interesting to see whether Ally Financial and JPMorgan Chase will follow suit, since the flaws in the foreclosure process have been widespread across different financial institutions.

WSJ’s Rick Brooks discusses Bank of America’s decision and the state of foreclosures in the WSJ.com video below:

Do you think other banks will follow Bank of America and stop foreclosure sales across all fifty states?

Categories: News

Foreclosures Gone Wrong

How would you feel if the house you paid for in cash was foreclosed? Picture the house you own (no mortgage) being seized by the bank, all of your possessions removed and the locks changed. You’ve become a victim of foreclosures gone wrong.

Paying cash for something (especially a house) gives you an unbelievable sense of ownership. And to have that feeling stripped away from you in such a manner as a home foreclosure is completely heartbreaking.

The foreclosure process is already hard to endure, but imagine going through it when it’s not your fault. Homeowners experiencing the brutal reality of this situation — are living a nightmare.

This problem has been widespread across lenders like Bank of America, GMAC and JPMorgan Chase. Some banks have voluntarily halted foreclosures to correct the issues in the foreclosure process. While state attorney generals (Florida, Texas, California, Connecticut and others) have asked lenders to stop foreclosures or opened up investigations into their questionable foreclosure practices.

The flaws in the foreclosure process are negatively impacting the lives of real people, who are undeservingly being locked out of their own homes. The foreclosure errors are largely attributed to employees signing off on foreclosures without verifying the accuracy of the paperwork (Is the mortgage current?) and lenders foreclosing on the wrong address.

Read more on Foreclosures Gone Wrong:

Photo: respres

Categories: Mortgage, News

Are the Best Things in Life Free?

“The best things in life are free” is an American Proverb. Do you believe it? The saying is so popular that there have been songs, books, musicals and poems written to tell you why – the best things in life are free.

I thought about this saying when I read TheWisdomJournal.com’s blog post, “Practical Economics: There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”. The post suggests that absolutely nothing is free, because there is always someone who bears the cost of paying for it. I agree that many of the goods and services we receive are not really free when they are funded by tax dollars or other organizations.

However, I still feel there’s truth to the saying “The best things in life are free.”

When I think of the best things in life that are free, here’s what comes to mind:

  • Senses – The ability to see the world, hear a voice, taste your favorite food, smell a pleasant aroma or touch someone you love.
  • Sun – When was the last time you watched a sunrise or sunset?
  • Stars and Moon – The starry nights and full moons.
  • Nature – Nature’s beauty as seasons change (snowy winters, summer beaches), flowers bloom, birds sing and animals roam.
  • Life –Our faith, hopes and dreams.
  • Family and Friends – People are the real treasures in life. We share our lives – love, smiles, laughs, hugs, words of encouragement/support and memories with each other.
  • Freewill – We have the freewill to make our own choices (e.g. religion).
  • Time – What are you choosing to do with your 86,400 seconds today? Thanks for spending some of them reading this post!

Need more proof? Watch the video below to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

My question to you is: Are the best things in life free? Please share your opinion or thoughts using comments. I’d love to hear from you on this one. :)

Categories: Life
GainMoneyControl