Money Hacks

Free Money for Using Your Amex Card

American Express has been a very socially-savvy company over the past few years.  One of their programs, Amex Sync, is one you may not be aware of.  By linking your Amex account to your Twitter account, you can save hundreds of dollars!

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Everything You Need to Know to Survive Without a Car and Never Miss It

Keeping a car in the city can be incredibly expensive. In Chicago, we pay for insurance (which is more expensive because it's the city), city stickers that allow residents to keep a car inside the city limits, and many of us also rent parking spaces, especially if street parking is particularly difficult, or there's no other way to have your car on campus, or having to move your car for street sweeping days is a little too much of a headache. Maybe it's time to try living a car-free lifestyle.

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10 Expensive Things That Will Save You Money in the Long Run

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.

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Beginner's Guide To Miles And Points, Part 1: Where Do Miles And Points Come From?

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.

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Everything You Need to Know about Gift Card Exchanges

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:

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How To Get Upgrades For Everything

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:

Hotels

Free Hotel Room Upgrade

Flickr / Grand Velas Riviera Maya

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.

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Top 5 Times When You Should Always Use A Credit Card

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:

Extra Miles for Office Supplies

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

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.

How to Rent a Car

Jthompson5254 / Wikimedia Commons

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.TV Warranty Credit Card

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.

47 Things You Always Should Buy at the Dollar Store (+ 21 Things You Never Should)

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.

Housewares & Décor

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.

Cheap Votive Holders

  • Reusable food storage containers
  • Bins for organizing
  • Wine glasses
  • Mugs
  • Plates
  • Silverware
  • Kitchen towels
  • Vases

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15 Hidden Hotel Costs And How To Avoid Them

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:

Hotel Early Check In Fee

Photo: Upsontedmuilo / Wikimedia Commons

Late check-out & Early check-in

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.

Wireless internet

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.

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9 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster and Cheaper

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.

Pay off student loans fast

The average new college graduate has $29,400 in student loan debt upon graduation.
(Photo: Mando vzl / Wikimedia Commons)

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.

The Basics That Everyone Should Be Doing

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.

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