Posted by Jean
In the past week, I’ve been able to get out for a run on a couple of 50 degree days. Sure, 60 degrees would be better, but I’m not complaining. Being able to abandon the big gloves and the fleece hat at the beginning of March is a huge gift. I’ve been looking forward to summer more than I usually do this time of year. And thinking about the places I’d like to go during the warmer months.
Maybe this summer state of mind is why a Daily Finance headline about “online travel sites’ dirty little secrets” popped out at me the other day. The article made some interesting points about those travel-deal aggregators we all love to use. Namely, that while they’re fast and convenient, they often leave out pieces of information that could help make traveling cheaper. So, if you’re like me and are already plotting your summer escape, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Not all travel portals offer every available flight. Most notably, Southwest Airlines is often omitted from the results you get from these portals. This is unfortunate, because Southwest won’t hit you with fees for your first two pieces of checked luggage — and they try to keep their fare as low as possible. If you know you’re flying to an airport serviced by Southwest (or another airline you don’t see in the results), it’s worth going directly to the airline’s website and seeing what deals you can find on your own.
- Not all travel sites will tell you how prices are trending. Sometimes I feel like booking a flight is like trying to buy a stock at the right moment: Cheap on Tuesdays? Cheaper on Wednesdays? Have you missed the boat if it’s Thursday? Microsoft’s Bing has a price predictor that takes this guesswork out of the process, and tells you which way airfare is trending. Traditional travel portals, on the other hand, won’t tell you to wait — even if it’s to your advantage.
- You can’t negotiate with William Shatner. Yes, he makes those Priceline Negotiator commercials fun, but Mr. Shatner (did they really kill him off?) represents an online search engine with which you cannot haggle. Sometimes, you can nab a better deal — particularly with hotels — if make a couple of calls and speak directly to a service representative. You’d be amazed at what you can get with a polite question and sweet disposition.
Before moving on to the headlines for the rest of the week, I want to focus briefly on credit card debt — specifically for those of you who don’t pay off your cards in full every month. As I’ve written here before, I am the Director of Education for SavvyMoney. In addition to informational articles about finance, SavvyMoney offers a great personalized debt reduction program called SavvyMoney Pro. It will help you figure out who to pay, in what increments, to get out of debt as cheaply and quickly as possible. Normally, the site sells memberships to this plan, but this month they’re letting me offer free one-year memberships to the first 100 of you who reply. What they want in return is for you to tell them how you’re using the program, what you like and what you don’t like, so that they can make it even better. In order to qualify for one of the freebies:
- You must be motivated to get rid of your debt.
- You must have the ability to make the minimum or more-than-minimum payments on your current bills.
- You should have a minimum of four debt accounts with a minimum total balance of $15,000.
- You must be willing to respond to a short monthly survey about the quality of the product.
If you meet this criteria, sign up here and enter JC222 in the box that says “voucher.” I’d love to be able to give you a free membership to help you with your debt. And if you have further questions, check outthis informational video on the program.
Does Google need to google the definition of privacy?
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the rescue!
Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) began accepting consumer complaints about bank accounts. This great development includes checking accounts, savings accounts and CDs.
“Deposit accounts play a critical role in the lives of most Americans, but these products and the laws governing them are complicated,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press release. “Consumers need someone on their side to keep banks and credit unions accountable—that is our job at the Consumer Bureau.”
If you have a bank account complaint to file, you can do it on the Bureau’s website, or by mail, fax, or telephone.
Have a great week!