Just because it’s the lower price, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best deal. When you’re factoring in what is and what isn’t a good deal, keep in mind what you’d be saving overall as well. Here are some examples of items that may cost more upfront but will save you money later on.
Every year, my family and I travel across the country and around the world, flying in business class and staying luxury hotels. It's not that we're rich, we just know how to earn and redeem points and miles offered by airlines, hotels, and credit card issuers.
The truth is that collecting and spending these points and miles is not that hard, anyone can do it. Read more
Every year, an estimated $2.5 billion in leftover gift card credit gets unused. Instead of letting your unwanted gift cards sit in the bottom of a drawer, with the invention of gift card exchanges, you can sell them for cash or trade them for cards you’ll actually use. And as a buyer, you can get these cards for up to 35% off what you’d normally pay. Here’s how gift card exchanges work and what you need to know:
We have all caught a glimpse of the business class seats on our way back to coach and thought, "How can I get upgraded?" We often have the same thoughts when we walk past a fancy rental car or the door to a luxury suite.
There is no magic word that will always land you that coveted upgrade, but there are many little tricks that can increase your chances of being upgraded when circumstances permit:
This is one of the rare places where you can be upgraded, just by asking. That is to say that being upgraded is totally within the discretion of the check-in staff, so long as they actually have rooms available. The process starts when you book your room. In most cases, you will want to book directly with a hotel, rather than through a third party. The exceptions are booking programs that offer upgraded rooms such as American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, Visa Signature Luxury Hotels, World MasterCard Luxury Hotels and Resorts, and the Virtuoso hotels. These programs offer automatic upgrades when you book through them.
First, you should make sure to join the hotel's frequent guest program, even if it is your first time staying at that brand of hotel. Before you arrive, go to the hotel's web page and search the types of rooms that are still being sold. Next, try calling the hotel in the morning before you arrive and requesting an upgrade. Be sure to mention a reason for the upgrade, such as a special occasion. In addition, remind them of your membership in their frequent guest program and any elite status you happen to hold. In fact, you could have upgraded status just by having the hotel's co-branded credit card. Finally, be sure to ask about a specific room that you want to be upgraded to, such as one with a view, or a suite.
You may be assigned an upgrade over the phone, or you might have to try again when you arrive. If you still strike out, you could try slipping the check in agent some cash, depending how much you really want that upgrade. As a last resort, be sure to come back the next day and point out any service failures you experienced. I was once upgraded to an enormous presidential suite after I mentioned hearing loud plumbing noises in my room the previous night.
Every time we make a purchase, we have to decide which method of payment to use. Credit card users may wish to charge some things to their cards, but use other forms of payment when convenient.
Yet there are certain types of transactions that you should always use a credit card for. Here are the top five:
1. When buying anything that you will receive bonus rewards for. For reward credit card users, there is nothing better than receiving extra points, miles, or cash back for your transaction. For example, I always charge office supplies, telephone, television, and Internet services to my Chase Ink Bold, as it offers five Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar spent.
2. When purchasing any goods or services to be delivered in the future. Ordering something off of the Internet? Paying for a hotel reservation? Pre-paying for a year's worth of voice over IP (VOIP) telephone service? In each of these cases, using a credit card will protect you in case the merchant never provides the goods or services you paid for, or they are significantly not as described. For example, if you never receive your Internet order, the hotel doesn't honor your reservation, or the telephone service provider goes bankrupt, you can request a refund using a process often called a charge-back.
Federal law requires credit card issuers to refund your money when a merchant fails to deliver what it promised. All it takes is a quick phone call which will result in an immediate, but temporary credit to your account that will become permanent when you document your loss. In contrast, those who use other forms of payments must resort to the courts in order to try to get their money back.
3. When renting a car. Perhaps the only thing worse than trying to rent a car without a credit card is being stuck in line behind a person who isn't. If the car rental agency will rent a car without a credit card, they may ask for multiple forms of identification, proof of residence, insurance, and a large cash deposit or hold on your checking account. Even after this arduous procedure, renters will still need to purchase their costly insurance policy that is sold by the day.
But when you pay with a credit card, you just show your driver's license, decline the optional insurance, and you are on your way. Nearly all credit cards come with a collision damage waiver that is in effect in most cases when cardholders decline the optional coverage.
4. When buying airline tickets. Not only are these services that will be provided in the future, but many credit cards offer additional benefits for travelers who pay with their credit card. For example, trip cancellation and trip interruption policies will help you cover extra costs during delays, and lost baggage policies will reimburse you for some costs when an airline misplaces your checked luggage. In addition, airline credit cards, like the US Airways Premier World Mastercard, offer bonus miles for purchases, and may provide benefits to travelers who pay with their co-branded card. Finally, most credit cards include some sort of travel accident insurance that covers travel on so-called common carriers such as airplanes, trains, buses, and boats.
5. When you need an extended warranty. Do you know the feeling when you are about to pay for a new television, and the cashier is pitching an extended warranty policy. On one hand, paying an extra $50 might seem like a small price for some peace of mind, but on the other hand, you know that these policies are sold so aggressively because they are so profitable. You can avoid that dilemma by using one of the many credit cards that have an extended warranty policy. These policies typically add one year to a manufacturer's warranty terms at no additional cost.
It sounds too good to be true – buying something for $1.
Shopping at the dollar store can be hit or miss. Some items are fantastic deals, while others should be left on the shelves.
Here are 47 items you should always buy at the dollar store and 21 items to never buy.
The nice thing about buying house décor and house wares at a dollar store is they’re easy to replace if they break or switch up when you want to update your home style.
Finding a great hotel deal can feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.
But before you celebrate, that amount you’re about to book may not be what you’re actually going to pay for. In fact, with several possible hidden hotel fees, you may be paying a lot more than you anticipate. Here are some common hotel fees and what you can do to avoid them:
Wanting to get into your room early or running behind to checkout can result in extra money. Double check the times for each so you’re not getting overcharged. Joining a hotel reward program can be the best way to avoid this fee. For example, Starwood Hotels & Resorts allows Gold Tier members to check-out as late as 4 p.m. And with the a 25,000 point bonus for signing up for the American Express Starwood card, you'll quickly be able to have your entire stay for free.
Not only do some hotels charge for using the Wi-fi, but there are hotels that actually charge per minute you are using the internet. Use your phone as a hot spot, check if the lobby or business center offers free wireless access, or go to a nearby coffee shop instead of paying. Hyatt Platinum Membership means you'll receive complimentary in-room internet service. Plus, with if you sign up for a Chase Ink card, you'll receive 60,000 points that can be transferred to your Hyatt account.
College years are the best years of your life.
Whether you agree or disagree with that statement you’ve heard dozens of times, if you’re like 40 million other Americans, you have the student loans to remind you of your college days.
We owe somewhere between $902 billion and $1 trillion in student loan debt in the United States, according to the ASA. And with the average college grad starting out with $29,400 in debt, dealing with these loans are on everyone’s priority list.
Before you let the stress of dealing with student loans get the best of you, consider these ideas for easing the debt.
These tips are nothing new, but the advice is solid and available to everyone with student loans. If you haven't acted on these solutions yet, you're throwing money away.
The difference is that you can purchase these cards online and earn valuable travel rewards in the process.
In fact, you can even come out a few dollars ahead in the end!
Step 1: Sign up for the Staples Rewards program. You won't actually earn rewards directly from Staples for purchasing Visa gift cards, but you will receive free shipping on your order. It also saves time when you make repeat orders.
Step 2: Purchase the $200 Visa gift cards with your favorite rewards credit card. Each $200 card will cost $206.95 after fees in your shopping cart.
Step 3: Spend the cards as you would normally spend any debit card.
Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus. These cards a great option for several reasons. First, they are currently offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points to new applicants who spend $5,000 within three months of opening an account. Furthermore, cardholders earn five points per dollar spent at office supply stores such as Staples, on up to $50,000 spent annually. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to airline and hotel programs, used to book travel, or redeemed for cash back. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
American Express SimplyCash Business. This card offers 5% cash back at U.S. office supply stores on up to $25,000 spent annually. There is no annual fee for this card.
If you use an Ink Bold or Ink Plus Visa from Chase, you could earn the 1,033 points in Chase's Ultimate Rewards program. These points can be redeemed for $10.33 in cash back or converted to 1,033 points or miles with airlines and hotels. When used for premium class international travel, or luxury hotels, it is possible to receive as much as 4 cents per point in value, making the rewards worth about $40.
Using the American Express SimplyCash Business card would result in a net gain of $3.38 in cash back for each $200 Visa gift card purchased.
Finally, if you use your Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, you will earn just 207 points, but you will be closer to earning much more. This card offers new customers 10,000 Starpoints after their first purchase on the card and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after using the card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first six months of opening an account. Also, cardholders get Gold status in the Starwood program when they spend $30,000 on their card in a calendar year. So using this card might not earn a lot of points, but it will get you close to reaching those threshold bonus.
You could use these Visa debit cards to make any purchase, and pocket the savings, but in fact, debit cards are more versatile than credit cards since they are accepted in more places. Here are some examples:
1. Use Visa debit cards where American Express isn't accepted. If you want to earn as many points as possible with your Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, but it isn't accepted everywhere you shop, you can always use a Visa debit card.
2. Use debit cards to pay bills with Evolve Money. This service offers free bill payment services to thousands of businesses, but only with a debit card, not a credit card. So you can use Visa debit cards to pay rent, utilities, and even to pay back home, car, or student loans.
3. Pay your taxes. By using a debit card, you can pay taxes by using one of the services authorized by the IRS. There is a processing fee of between $2.49 and $3.48 per payment, which is far less than the rates for credit card purchases. Nevertheless, this cancels the value of much of the points or miles earned, but still leaves you closer to reaching a spending threshold for a large bonus.
It feels like a scam. You save your frequent flier miles for an award flight for your dream vacation, only to be forced to pay hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees. In fact, some airlines have been caught charging more fees for an award flight than they would charge you to just buy a ticket!
Of course, many of the charges are imposed by governments, but some airlines are disguising the fact that they are pocketing fuel surcharges to award tickets. So how do you avoid being taken for a ride when you redeem your miles?
Here is the inside scoop:
British Airways (BA) serves more cities in America than any other European airline, but they impose the most egregious fuel surcharges of any airline. It is not uncommon to have BA add fuel surcharges of between $500 and $1,000 each way on flights from North American to Europe, depending on the distance flown and the class of service. For those prices, travelers can sometimes purchase economy class tickets, and earn miles instead of spending them. In fact, BA even forces its OneWorld Alliance partners, such as American Airlines, to add fuel surcharges to when they issue a ticket for a flight operated by BA.
So how do you get around this? US Airways joined OneWorld Alliance in April, and has not been collecting surcharges for award flights operated by British Airways. Right now, redeeming US Airways miles is now the only way to fly BA without paying fuel surcharges.**
The biggest problem is that the US Airways web site never shows any partner award flights. The solution is to: