Friday, March 27, 2009

Check Out These Useful Web Sites

Sorry for the long delay... Thanks for being patient!

I once compiled a List Of Useful Sites, and over time I posted more sites to check out as well.
I prepared a few more. I'm sure you will find at least one of them new and useful.

Here they are:

DoNotCall.gov
This site lets you register all your phone numbers on to the 'Do Not Call' registry, which is supposed to stop telemarketers from calling you. It might not block all spam, but it sure does help.

CreditMattersBlog.com
A blog dedicated to everything related to credit. If you want to stay up to date on all credit related news, and like to really understand credit, its a great blog. I discovered it a short while ago, and like it.
If you are looking for practical credit advice, read the Credit Help articles, and the Credit Education Series, right here on my blog.

YouSendIt.com
This site lets you e-mail large files, up to 100MB each (Gmail allows up to 25MB). You can only download the attachment for 7 days from when the email is sent. After that, the link expires. It's free and it works.

ToAndFromTheAirport.com
This site was made by a pilot. He lists transportation options from all different airports around the world. If you are looking for the cheapest or best way to get to or from an airport, check it out! Some of the content seems a bit dated, but it's still a great resource.

TrafficLand.com
This site has cameras positioned at thousands of locations around the world. It lets you check the traffic situation for yourself. Many news stations use their cameras for their traffic reports! It only covers certain major roads though. You might find it easier to just listen to the radio, but it still is quite nice.

SpeedTrap.org
This site lists where there are police cars and cameras for speeding and red lights. I haven't really tried it much, but it looks cool.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

300 Free Continental Miles

Continental has three offers of 100 free miles. Go to Continental.com/cardmembers and click on each of the three links and enter your Continental OnePass number.

Officially the offer is to get 200 miles if you have a Chase Continental Debit Card and 300 miles if you have a Chase Continental Credit Card. I would click all three links in any case. Couldn't hurt. It hardly takes any time.

I got my Chase Continental Debit Card while signing up for a Chase Checking account for 21,000 miles. By the way, I ended up getting 23,500 miles, instead of 21,000. For some reason they threw in an extra 2,500 miles.

Offer expires 04/30/09

Monday, March 16, 2009

Freezing Your Credit Reports - Why And How?

Freezing Reports
Everyone has three credit reports. Freezing your reports means exactly that. New accounts cannot be opened based on frozen reports. If all three reports are frozen, no one will be able to open a new account in your name until you unfreeze your reports.

Reasons To Freeze One Or More Of Your Reports:
1) It's the best protection against identity theft. If you're not planning on opening an account that requires a credit check in the near future (think: credit card, mortgage, cell phone plan etc.), or if you're going abroad for a year and are worried about identity theft, it's a good idea to freeze all three reports. The only issue with freezing, aside from the cost, is that depending on the state and agency, it may take a few days to unfreeze. If all three reports are frozen, you can't get instant credit. For example, you can't apply for a card in a store.


2) If your Fico score is lower on one of your three credit reports (because of something negative or too many inquiries). Freezing that report can help you when applying for new credit. The credit card company won't be able to check that report. If the company tries to make their inquiry using the frozen report, they will either decline your application (because they can't access your report), or they will just try to make an inquiry at one of the other two reporting agencies. Even if you are declined, it won't affect your credit, as you won't get an inquiry on a frozen report.

3) If you are applying for a bank account or for a credit line increase on a credit card but don't want it if it comes with an inquiry.

4) Now that you cannot get your Experian Fico score, some people want to freeze their Experian report because they have no way of knowing their Experian Fico score. (Besides, Experian is the only report where inquiries definitely cannot be bumped off. But bumping inquiries is another subject, which will be tackled in another post.)

No Effect On Credit Score
Placing a credit freeze has no effect on your credit score. Also, even with a credit freeze, your current credit cards will have access to your reports. You also won't have a problem getting your own credit reports and scores.

How To Freeze Your Reports And Costs:
Freezing and unfreezing credit reports can generally be done online. Every state has different fees, so check the details for your state.

Transunion - Free for all states if done online. More info on freezing.
Experian - click here to see state specific details.
Equifax - click here to see state specific details. More info on freezing.

If you were a victim of identity theft, it's free to freeze and unfreeze as often as you wish with all three agencies, in most states. You may need to send proof in the mail though.

Costs For New York:
Transunion is free to freeze and unfreeze.
Experian and Equifax are free to freeze the first time. Subsequent unfreezes and freezes cost about $5 each, and can be done online.

Unfreezing Your Reports
Whenever you want to apply for credit and you want that company to be able to check the frozen report, you can either temporarily unfreeze it, or permanently unfreeze it.
When you freeze your report, you pick a pin number. You will need to remember you pin number when you want to unfreeze your report/s.

Freezing vs. Fraud Alert:
Freezing one report does NOT automatically freeze the other reports. Only a Fraud Alert on one report should automatically alert the other two. A credit freeze is better than a fraud alert for blocking identity theft. A Fraud Alert is a note placed on your report warning new companies to verify your identity, but there is no guarantee that a company will read and follow through with that note. Fraud alerts are generally free though.

Important: Even with a credit freeze you are not 100% immune from identity theft. Some accounts may be able to be opened, such as some phone lines and bank accounts which don't require a credit check. But a credit freeze is probably the best prevention there is for identity theft.

And on the lighter side...
Freezing Your Credit Card
Take your credit card and freeze it in a block of ice. Like that you will have to think a while before actually spending anything...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

GrandCentral Upgrades To Google Voice!

Update 2: Google now DOES have free calls to Canada.
Update: Someone just pointed out that Google Voice does not offer free calls to Canada! So, if you call Canada often, you might want to hold off on upgrading for as long as possible, as GrandCentral does offer free calls to Canada.

As you probably know, I really like GrandCentral. Like many people, I was starting to get worried as Google hasn't upgraded GrandCentral for almost a year. The update finally arrived in the form of Google Voice!
As of now, Google Voice is only available to current GrandCentral users. It should be available to the general public within a few weeks. I will most definitely keep you updated. You can request a invite here.

Google Voice is an upgrade to Grand Central. This service gives you a free local number, and you can forward calls that come to your Google Voice number to whichever phone you want. It has lots of great and useful features. Read my review here.

They will be keeping all the old features of GrandCentral. Plus, here are some of the new features they added on:

Read Your Voicemail

Google will transcribe and email your voicemail, so you can read them! I tried it, and it wasn't too accurate, but still really cool. Google will actually gray out words that they're not sure about.

Text Messaging
You can receive and send text messages to your Google Voice number.

Make Calls Direct From Your Phone
Until now, you could only make calls by clicking online. Now, you can also call your Google Voice number from your regular phone and then press 2 to call any US or Canadian number. For free.

International Calling
Not free, but very cheap. So, you can call your Google Voice number from your cellphone and call international! Comes preloaded with $1 credit to call international. Calling within the US is staying free! International calling rates.

No More "Press 1 To Accept The Call"
Some people don't like having to press 1 to accept the call. With Google Voice you will be able to disable that, and just answer the phone like a regular call.

One Contact List
When upgrading to Google Voice, you will need to use a Google account. If you use a Gmail account, then Google Voice will integrate your Gmail contacts. So you can have all your contacts in one place. This feature still has some kinks, as when you look at your contact list, you don't see if the person's name has an email address or a phone number, unless you hover over their name with the mouse.

Note: You will need export your contacts from GrandCentral and import them to Google Voice.

Links to check out:
Short video clips explaining the different features.
Article at New York Times about Google Voice
Exporting your contacts from GrandCentral, and importing them to Google Voice
And... Google Voice: Press "1" to invade your privacy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Review - Iberia Overcharges For Infants And Lifeline Update

Iberia and Infants
The sale to Europe is over, but I figured I'll share this anyways.


I was checking flights to London on Iberia.com and noticed, that when I added an infant, the price of the regular tickets went up by $10! At first I thought that maybe the surcharge was only for one adult, and it's some sort of additional fee for bringing along an infant. So I tried pricing a few adults with one infant. It didn't matter how many tickets were on the itinerary, the price for ALL the tickets went up by $10 each. Crazy!

Here are ways around it: Book only one adult with the infant, and book the other tickets separately, so that you only pay the extra $10 once. Or maybe call Iberia to add the infant after purchasing the adult tickets.

Lifeline Update:
Just wanted to let people know, that Lifeline (I wrote here about the $1 a month landline for low income households), is not only a basic line for $1. You can pay $10 a month for unlimited local calls instead if you want. You can also add on Caller ID for $9 a month.

Free GPS Software For Cellphones:
Link. I never used this software as my Centro doesn't have GPS. So I can't comment on the quality.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Amex Delta Credit Card - Up To 35,000 Miles Signup Bonus

Apply for either the Personal or Business Gold Delta Skymiles Card and get 30,000 miles after first purchase. Add two additional card members and get an additional 5,000 miles. Their standard offer is 20,000 miles after first purchase, so this one is an extra 10,000 miles. The promotion is officially only for those that never signed up for a Delta Skymiles card.

I would think twice before adding someone as an authorized user on the personal card, as it might hurt their credit, as they will have a new account show up on their report.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Free Equifax Fico Score For First 10,000

Fico is offering a free Equifax Fico score to the first 10,000 people.
Will only work if you never got your free Fico score from them before.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prepaid Cellphones: Short Term vs Long Term. Net10 and T-mobile On Sale.

Prepaid cellphones are great for those who need a phone short term, like if someone is visiting the US or just needs a phone for a few months. Another great use for a prepaid phone is, if someone wants a phone long term, but doesn't use too many minutes, say, under 200 minutes a month. If someone uses much more than 200 minutes a month, a monthly plan is usually cheaper.

Short term use:
Net10 has the LG 300 for $22 with free shipping after coupon code: 34567 and 44477. The original price is $30.00. It comes with 300 minutes on the phone, and another 300 minute card. The minutes will last for four months. Comes out to under 4 cents a minute! Click here for original post.
Make sure you are getting the phone with the extra 300 minute card!

Long term use:
For long term use, I recommend T-mobile. (Unless you don't mind changing your number when the Net10 runs out...) Read the review here. They currently have the Nokia 1208 back in stock for $19.99 and their free $25 refill card is back as well. See original sales post here.
Update: I just checked, and they took off the free $25 card.

If you will be calling international, then Tracfone is nice, as they have free international calling. But it will only be worth it if you get a good promotion for it.


For low income households, there's a free cell phone plan too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cheap Flights From NYC To Spain And Other European Countries

Update 03/09: Seems to be over.

For those that missed out on the United deal, here's another chance, but hurry!

Iberia is running a sale on flights from New York to Europe. The cheapest flights are to Barcelona for $206!

Place a check by "My dates are flexible" to see the cheapest dates.

Sample itineraries I checked:
NYC - Barcelona 03/11 - 03/17 $206
NYC - London: 03/31 - 04/28 $303.80
NYC - London: 04/06 - 04/22 $347.80

Click here to see all sales out of New York.

Check this Flyertalk thread for sample itineraries and different routes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fidelity Amex 2% Unlimited Cashback Credit Card Vs. Charles Schwab Visa

Update: Here's a working link.


Here's a card that I missed when writing the Credit Card Rewards post the other day. I updated that post as well, so make sure to read it.

The Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card, a no annual fee credit card, offers 2% unlimited cashback on all purchases! The way you get the cashback is, once you spend $2,500 dollars, they will deposit $50 into a linked Fidelity account.

If you don't have a Fidelity account, then you can open the mySmart Cash Account for Fidelity to deposit the cashback money into. The account is totally free. There is no minimum opening amount and you don't need to maintain a minimum balance. This account is very similar to a checking account. They give you free checks, and postage paid envelopes if you want to make deposits. They even pay (very low) interest on money in the account! You can transfer money online back and forth to non-Fidelity bank accounts as well.

You also get a free debit card, which you can use to take out money from most ATMs anywhere in the world for free, as long as the ATM has a Visa or Plus logo. Fidelity will even automatically reimburse any fees you are charged by the other bank at the end of every day!

Now, at first I got real excited. An Amex card that gives 2% unlimited cashback?! I would jump on it! But, don't get too excited, because this card is not really an Amex card. It is an Amex branded card, but the benefits of the credit card (car rental insurance, extended warranty, disputes etc.) are not handled by Amex, so for all intents and purposes you won't be getting an Amex. You will only have the downside of Amex cards, which is that the card won't be accepted anywhere that Amex isn't accepted.

There is another card that offers 2% unlimited cashback, the Charles Schwab Visa, which I wrote about in the Credit Card Rewards post. So, if you are looking for a great credit card to use for purchases that you don't need the benefits of an Amex, then get a 2% cashback card! You will just have to decide between this card and the Charles Schwab card. Here are the benefits of both cards, so you can make a decision as to which card to get.

Both cards give you unlimited 2% cashback, which is great!
They also both reimburse any fees from other banks for withdrawing money with the debit card. And they both make you open a second account to have the money deposited into.

That being said, here are the main differences I found between the two cards:

Fidelity:

Pros:
- Opening the mySmart Cash Account does not take a second credit inquiry.
- ATM fees are reimbursed at the end of every day.
- I like the way the mySmart Cash Account looks.
Cons:
- Has the problems of Amex (not accepted all over) without the benefits.
- When using the card overseas, you will be charged a foreign exchange fee (anywhere up to 3%, I'm not sure exactly how much. I will let you know when I find out)
- You get the cashback only once you spend $2,500.

Charles Schwab:
Pros:
- Its a Visa, so accepted almost anywhere.
- No foreign exchange fees.
- The 2% gets automatically transferred every month, no minimum required.
Cons:
- Opening the brokerage account takes an additional inquiry (besides for the inquiry for the card).
Could be an issue for credit card churners. They seem to be checking Experian.
- ATM fees are only reimbursed at the end of every month. Might be an issue for you, if you make lots of ATM withdrawals a month.

Bottom Line:
In my opinion, Charles Schwab is the better choice for most people. If you don't want the second inquiry, or you already have a Fidelity account then you might prefer the Fidelity card.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Credit Cards To Use For Every Day Purchases - Great Cashback And Reward Programs

Update 03/04: New credit cards added.

I keep getting email from people asking what credit card they should get for regular spending. We’ve discussed 0% APR offers, credit card churning and other ways to take advantage of credit cards. But what about the basics, you know, regular shopping? I made a list of which cards are the best to use long-term, for every day purchases.

Many credit cards offer rewards for using their cards, like miles or cash back. If you're spending money, you may as well get rewarded for it! I compiled a list of eight cards with great cashback and reward programs, four Amex and four non-Amex cards. Spend some time today to read up and see which card will give you the most rewards. It's worth it!

Everyone should have around 2-3 cards which they keep and don't cancel. Pick at least one Amex and one non-Amex. If you already have a different card with the same bank, you can call them and try to change it over to one of these cards.

This list has mainly on cashback cards with no annual fee, aside from the Amex Starwood. I consider miles to be worth just over a penny a mile, and most mile earning cards have an annual fee, but the best cashback cards are free. If you consider your miles to be worth more, and need a non-amex card, take a look at this list.

I also listed a few American Express cards, even though their cashback programs are not necessarily as good. I highly recommend that everyone have an Amex card. An Amex card with a mediocre rewards program might be better than a non-Amex with better rewards. I use an Amex whenever I purchase something that I might need to benefit from Amex features. If not, then I use the best rewards card for that specific purchase. As a side note, my Amex cards also always report my credit limit, which helps keep my score high.

If readers request, I will dedicate a separate post for each card and go through all its features.

Non-Amex Cards:
  • Charles Schwab Visa
    2% cashback on everything you spend! There is also no fee on foreign spending! Most other cards add on 2-3% for foreign spending. You have to open their brokerage account as well, which is free. The 2% cashback automatically gets deposited monthly into your brokerage account, which you can then take out whenever you want. The debit card that comes free with the brokerage account can be used to withdraw money from most ATM's, fee free. Any ATM fees the other banks charge will be refunded at the end of the month. The only downside is that it takes two inquiries to open the account, one for the card and one for the brokerage account.
    Bottom Line:
    This card is amazing! I would take 2% in cash over miles any day. If you are a credit card churner, you'll have to decide if it's worth the 2 inquiries. Compare this card with the Fidelity Amex (also 2%).
  • Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex.
    Read my review

    2% Unlimited cashback on everything you spend. Very similar to the Charles Schwab card.
    Bottom Line:
    Most people will benefit more from Charles Schwab.

  • Chase Freedom Visa
    Update: Chase changed the rewards. Read the details for the new system.

    1% cash back on regular purchases and 3% on purchases in your top three spending categories, from a list of 15 categories. Request a check when you reach $50 in cashback. Once you earn $200 in cash back, you can get $250. That means you get 1.25% cash back for regular purchases and 3.75% for your top spending categories. You can earn a maximum of $18 a month in the 3% categories.
    Bottom Line:
    Great program. If you don't spend a lot though, it can take some time to reach $200 in cashback. One issue I have with the Chase Freedom card, is that they don't seem to report the credit limits. Also, Chase might be changing the 3% categories. I'll keep you posted. The card comes with a $50 signup bonus.

    If you want a card without the $18 cashback limit, then get the
    Chase Freedom Plus, which gives you 3% on your top six spending categories, has a $30 annual fee from the second year on, and comes with a $100 signup bonus.

  • Associated Bank Cash Rebates Card - Apply by phone only
    5% cashback on Gas/Drugstores/Supermarkets, 1% on everything else. Request a check when you reach $50 in cashback. $300 maximum annual cashback. To apply, call 1-877-577-9485

    Bottom Line:
    The maximum cashback you can get a year is $300. So, you have to decide if its worth carrying the card. Can be a great card to use for the 5% categories if you get a 2% card for your regular spending.

Amex Cards:

  • Amex Starwood - Mileage collectors. Annual-fee card.
    One point per dollar spent. You can transfer 20,000 points into 25,000 miles in many airlines. You can also use the points for hotel stays. The only problem is that it comes with an annual fee. But from annual fee cards, it's pretty low, only $45 dollars a year.
    Bottom Line
    : If you fly often or like staying in nice hotels, this is probably the best points program out there. You also get a 10,000 point signup bonus. However, if you spend under $1,000 a month on your card, then I don't think it's worth it for you to pay the annual fee. There is a lot of hype about the Starwood card. You need to calculate if it's actually worth it to keep the card and pay the fee after the first year.
  • Amex Blue Sky - Travelers who don't collect miles.
    One point per dollar spent. You can use 7,500 points to take off up to $100 from any single travel related charge. So, if you rent a car for $90, 7,500 points will take off the $90 charge. If the charge was $140, 7,500 points will knock off $100. If you use this card right and you travel often, you could be getting 1.33% cashback, which is great!
    Bottom Line:
    Up to 1.33% Cashback. 5,000 point signup bonus. If you don't want the annual fee that comes with the Starwood, get this one.
  • Amex Blue Cash - Big spenders.
    Update: They lowered the maximum earning on regular purchases to 1.25%. Not as good anymore.
    On the first $6,500 you spend a year, you get 0.5% cashback on regular purchases and 1% cashback on Gas / Drug Stores / Supermarkets. Not that great. But once you've spent more than $6,500, you'll start earning 1.5% on regular purchase and 5% on Gas/Drug Stores/Supermarkets. If you only spend $7,000 in a year, this card is definitely not for you, as you will only be earning the higher rate on $500! Cashback comes as a statement credit after 12 billing cycles.
    Bottom Line:
    Great if you spend over $15,000 a year. Try to spend the first $6,500 a year on 'regular' purchases.
  • Amex Clear - Small spenders.
    Once you spend $2,500, you get a $25 gift card in the mail. So, you are basically getting 1% cashback on whatever you spend.
    Bottom Line:
    If you want things real simple, don't travel, want to use an Amex, and spend less than about $10,000 a year on your credit card, this card is great.
For more details on Amex cards, along with the business cards, click here.

Notes:
- This list is a general one. There are situations where you might want to get a specific card, like if you want to earn points with a specific airline/hotel chain, and can't use an Amex.
If you need help figuring out which card to get, email me at dealreviews@gmail.com. I'll try and help.
- You can be getting even more rewards/cashback if you click through a cashback site, or through your credit cards shopping site.
One more point: If you don't pay your bills in full and on time every month, the fees and interest can wipe away any rewards you might be getting! Especially because often the rewards cards have higher interest rates.

Other cards to look at:

1) Amex Business Simplycash
1% cashback on regular purchases, 3% on gas and 5% on office supplies and cell phone bills. Cashback is applied to monthly statement.
Bottom Line: Great as an additional card (because it's a business card), if you have large cell phone bills or purchase lots of office supplies.

2) Amex TrueEarnings Business - You Must have Costco membership to get this card.
5% cashback on gas, 3% on restaurants, 2% on travel, 1% on everything else. Cashback comes annually as a coupon to redeem at Costco.
Bottom Line: Great if you have a Costco membership.

3) If you spend a lot of money on gas, check out Penfed Visa which gives 5% on gas (2% for Supermarkets and 1.25% for everything else). You might need to pay a onetime fee of $20 to become a member. And another $5 too. Read this Fatwallet thread for more info.
Bottom Line: Not worth it. Unless you really spend a lot on gas, and the other gas cards don’t work for you.