Read Your Credit Card Agreement

When the booklet containing my credit card agreement came in the mail recently I did something I’ve never done before. I read it.

I didn’t just flip through it. I read it…cover to cover…and I learned about some benefits provided at no cost just for charging purchases on my card.

Here’s what I learned:

No need to purchase insurance when renting a car. Instead by simply charging the rental on my credit card Auto Rental Collision Damage Protection is included. However, the credit card protection is void if I agree to the insurance provided by the rental agency.

No need to purchase trip insurance. Charge airline tickets, hotel rooms, and tickets to events and all are protected in the case of Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption. They even claim to offer refunds on accommodations that are unsatisfactory and cover problems relating to delayed flights.

Lost Luggage…covered. The benefit reimburses for the cost to repair or replace baggage and the personal property contained. Even Baggage Delays are covered at the rate of $100 per day for the purchase of clothing, toiletries, and charging cables for cell phones.

Travel and Emergency Assistance Services are available by calling a toll free number 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This includes medical or legal referral assistance as well as emergency transportation or ticket replacement assistance.

The Travel Accident Insurance includes a $500,000 benefit.

There’s also Return Protection which will reimburse me for the cost of an item purchased if I’m dissatisfied with the item.

A Price Protection guarantee provides reimbursement for the difference in price on a purchased product when a printed advertisement at any retail store advertises it for less within 90 days. Looks like something to keep track of for Christmas purchases.

The Purchase Protection covers replacement or repair of purchases in the event of theft, damage or accident.

Finally, it offers Extended Warranty Protection which adds one additional year to the warranty of products.

I can think of a several times I could have used these benefits…a stolen computer, a damaged piece of luggage, a vacation cut short due to the illness of a relative.

I’ve added the toll free number for the credit card to my contacts in my cell phone so that should the need arise I’ll be able to take advantage of the benefits provided.

Do yourself a favor. Read your credit card agreement!






Ooops…how does this happen?

On Wednesday, after months of hoop jumping, and two weeks of overcoming what often seemed like insurmountable obstacles, Emily finally closed on her house. Less than 5 minutes before the scheduled closing she received an email with the figures indicating how much money she would need at closing and then an hour into the closing “the numbers” changed requiring even more paperwork, but at 4:55 she left the title company with a folder full of documents declaring her the proud owner of her first house.

Emily and Brian showing off the keys to the house.
Emily and Brian showing off the keys to the house.

But then, in Thursday, more than 24 hours after closing, she got an “ooops” email and phone call. There’s a problem with the transaction…you don’t own the house yet…there’s another mortgage that hasn’t been satisfied…we’re working on it…hopefully, everything will be cleared up in the morning.

How does this happen? Nearly a dozen “professionals” representing realty firms, mortgage companies, underwriters, lenders, and of course the government worked on this for weeks. So as she moves in, Emily waits for word that everything’s been taken care of. No wonder her advice to her sister, “Never buy a house!”

The latest text indicates that they’re clearing up final details now. Let’s hope so.

Check Your Bank Statement

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t always check my bank statement. Sure, I get the email stating my bank statement is available, but I don’t always sign on to my bank account and check the statement. Well, this week I got quite a surprise. When I signed on to my account, I noticed I had been charged a $14 “monthly maintenance fee”. Of course, I was livid. We have a free account – one that does not incur fees. So I looked at the statement from the previous month and there it was again, another $14 monthly maintenance fee. You can only image my anger when I found the same charge for November. A total of $42 in fees slipped past without me noticing.

This is something that would NEVER have happened to my mother. I remember that on the day the bank statement arrived in the mail, she  would immediately get out her checkbook and go through the process of balancing her checkbook – no calculators in those days – just bank statement, checkbook, and pencil. Now I know how to balance a checkbook and I’ve done it, but not with the same enthusiasm as my mom. You would have thought a new Sudoku puzzle had arrived the way she attacked this monthly task. (To be honest, she got this from her dad. I remember seeing him sitting at his desk balancing his checkbook – too busy to acknowledge his beloved grandchildren.)

Balancing a checkbook goes something like this: go through the checks returned in the statement (yes, each check written was returned at the end of the month and then you decided where to store them for the next ten years) check them off in the check register (that’s the notebook that comes with your checks that you’re suppose to use to record each check written), then take the balance on the statement, add the deposits not included, subtract the checks not included, and through the magic of math you were to end up with the figure listed on the bank statement. But, of course, this was easier said than done because you may have written the wrong amount for a check, subtracted wrong, or even added when you should have subtracted. Theoretically, this was about a 30 minute procedure, but it could take much longer. I remember my mom locking herself in her bedroom for hours because she couldn’t get the checkbook to balance; and I’m not talking about big problems, I’m talking about a few pennies. She refused to quit until it balanced to the penny. (I think she really was meant to be an accountant – too bad she didn’t get the chance.) In those days you couldn’t check you account online or even by phone, you had the responsibility of balancing your checkbook, and she took that responsibility seriously.

So I’m sure she would be appalled that I don’t even look at my statement every month. Really all you need to do is look at the deposits, withdrawals, and check for fees. If you find a mistake it’s your responsibility to contact the back promptly so they can research the problem and make a correction if necessary.

Last week I had to admit that I hadn’t carefully looked at my statement for three months when I questioned the fees. All three fees were mistakes by Bank of America. As a customer with accounts totaling more than the minimum requirement, we are not subject to these fees. As a customer with direct deposit, we are not subject to these fees. Luckily, the representative I spoke with was able to credit my account with the $42 that had been taken by mistake. With banks aggressively charging fees, it’s more important than ever to check your statement each month. you should not have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. You should not be subject to fees charged for using your debit card. Look for these charges and if you find them, challenge them, and despite your anger challenge them nicely. The person you speak with may have some discretion in determining whether or not to waive fees so you want this person to sympathize with you and go the extra mile to help.

When I got my fee problem resolved, the woman at Bank of American noticed that my savings account was only earning .05% interest but was eligible for 1.3% (still pretty puny, better) and I’m also eligible for a free safe deposit box ( a $65 value) so some good came from my mistake.

I think since we have access to our accounts online, by phone, and through text messages, we’ve gotten lazy. Yes, that looks right, but is it right? We work hard for our money. We should watch after it! It’s not too much to check you bank statement each month as well as your credit card statements. Are the charges correct? Did you really make that purchase? Is that fee required? Has the interest rate on your credit card changed, and if so, why? It’s worth the time and effort to check. Be more like grandma. Be vigilant in protecting your hard earned money.

Check your bank statement! You’ll feel good knowing you’re keeping the bank out of your pocket.



Next Issue

The Next Image icon
The Next Image icon

Last weekend I downloaded a magazine app called Next Issue. They offer a one month free trial, and even though I had to enter my credit card information so it could be charged next month if I fail to cancel (something I usually refuse to do), I felt it looked like something I would enjoy. So, I downloaded, registered, and set an alert on my calendar to remind me in three weeks to cancel if I decide this isn’t a service I’ll use.

Next Issue offers unlimited access to digital editions of popular print magazines. Entertainment, craft and hobby, family and parenting, health and fitness, food and cooking, business and finance, and automotive are a few of the categories included in their collection. Money, Southern Living, Fitness, and Real Simple are among more than seventy-five titles available. And not only do you have access to the current issue, but to all back issues for the past twelve months.

I’ve read Southern Living, Fitness, Eating Well, Rachel Ray Every Day, Bride, and Real Simple since downloading. I know for sure I’ll never go back to print editions. I’ve always hated the way magazines stack up, but I have a difficult time throwing them out… which is no longer a problem. (I never would have purchased six magazines in one month!) But the best thing about the tablet editions it the extra content. Videos and interactive features make the digital format much better than the print.

A few of the titles available on Next Issue
A few of the titles available on Next Issue

Now for the bad news. The cost of monthly access is $9.99 for the basic plan – all of the magazines I’ve mentioned and a total of about fifty or $14.99 for the premium plan which includes additional weekly magazines like Sports Illustrated, Time, People, and The New Yorker. But despite the price, I think I’m going to continue the subscription. I’m currently paying for three magazine subscriptions at about $60 per year so if I use that toward Next Issue that pays for six months. As a bonus I won’t have magazines spread all over the house. And finally, the app can be downloaded to five mobile devices which means all members of my family will have access to all of the basic content. Now that makes the monthly price a bargain for me…especially because there’s no continuing commitment. I can cancel at any time. I’m looking forward to adding magazines to my reading list.

Gotta Just Love a Good War!

Gas war that is! Recently, several gas stations in Silver Springs Shores have been engaged in a gas war with the price of gas as low as $3.01 per gallon, about a quarter cheaper than stations about ten miles away in Ocala. Drivers certainly appreciate this competition for business, but it also reminds me of a similar competition when I was much younger.

I remember being very confused hearing my parents discussing a gas war while driving in our karmann ghia (a model of Volkswagen no longer in production). The tone of the conversation was one of excitement and anticipation instead of fear that I associated with the word. In fact, I remember seeing hand printed signs posted along the road with the words, “Gas War”. Fortunately, I hadn’t seen the movie Zoolander because I’m sure the scene of the models squirting one another with gas…with disastrous consequences would have come to mind.

I finally realized that a gas war meant gas was being sold an lower than usual prices…less than 30 cents! And to think last week I was excited to see it hovering around $3.00.

We filled the Suburban last Sunday saving nearly $10, but I was disappointed to see that while the prices today are still about ten cents lower than those in town; the war seems to have subsided. Prices were back up to $3.12. I’ll keep my eyes open as I drive through the Shores. I’d love to see another war!

Hoping this is the sign during the next gas war.
Hoping this is the sign during the next gas war.

Just say no – NO to the house with the pool!

One of the worst decisions Dad and I made was to have a pool built in our backyard. I take responsibility for the money pit. Growing up in South Florida, we lived in our pool using it daily from April until November, and my fondest memories of living in Lighthouse Point revolve around our pool.

When my parents bought their first house in Florida a pool was an absolute necessity. They thought a pool home would be like going on vacation year round, and they were right. By 8:00 on summer mornings, I hit the pool. We grilled and ate by the pool; our friends came over to spend the day in our backyard. All our entertainment centered around our pool, patio, and grill. We even ate Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas diners on the patio around the pool; and I bet you can guess where we held the reception for our wedding. So of course, it seemed only natural to add pool.

However, I forgot Ocala is not South Florida. The weather here is not conducive to year round pool use. In fact, we used it only about three months a year, but those were the same months busy with travel, softball tournaments, and boating. Out of a 52-week year, we were lucky if we used the pool eight weeks.

And it always seemed as though a problem occurred just when we had time to use it—the pump quit—the filter needed to be replaced…it rained all week…always something cut in to those precious eight weeks.

So please, don’t buy the house with a pool, or add a pool to your backyard without serious thought. Consider the following:

Your water bill will increase.

Chemicals cost about $50 per month.

Electric usage and costs rise.

Time must be devoted to brushing, dipping, checking and adding chemicals. Not to mention time spent at the pool store purchasing items and asking advice.

Don’t forget about the pump, filter, gaskets, brushes, poles, nets, baskets, and timers, you will need to replace or repair.

When you calculate the time and money spent on upkeep, you’ll need to spend a lot of time in the pool to offset the costs.

Instead of a pool, let me make a few suggestions:

Join the YMCA or some other community pool.

Buy a home in a community with a pool. Sure the HOA fees will be higher, but think of all the time and money you’re saving by letting someone else take care of the pool.

Buy a hot tub. This is my favorite solution since we use ours all the time. If it’s hot out, just add a little cold water or if it’s cold, turn on the heater; you can truly use it year round. The cost of water, electricity, and chemicals is minimal as is the time required for care.

Or just use a hose or sprinkler. In your backyard, the neighbors won’t have to know you’re using this method to cool down. Heck, you can even get a slip ‘n slide or a kiddy pool for a little relief from the heat.

I’m serious about this advice. We contracted with a demolition crew that removed and filled our pool last week. Sod is being delivered Thursday, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to having a larger yard to mow!

Resist the temptation…just say no to the house with the pool!