Friday, January 31, 2014

Save money on your cell phone bill, just by asking

I’ve been with AT&T for over 5 years, since the iPhone originally came on their network.  Every few months, I like to call up my various utility providers, like AT&T, and negotiate a rate decrease.  Don't forget that you can get many fees waived just by asking

There are many options when it comes to cheaper cell phone service.

Republic Wireless has cellular phone plans starting at $10 a month for unlimited talk and text plans and $40 for unlimited talk and text plans with 4GB of data per month.

T-mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and data starting at $50 per month for 500mb of high speed data and up to $70 per month for unlimited high speed data.  T-mobile has even started offering to pay for you and your family’s early termination fee on up to 5 lines.

You can see a list of many other cheap cell phone service providers here.  These companies lease wireless telephone and data from major cell phone networks, and package it for cheap.
I have stayed with AT&T because in our location, AT&T provides the most reliable service and fastest internet connection.  Because I am on call for my company one week each month, I need to have the best coverage possible, no exceptions.  My company kindly subsidizes up to $100 a month for my cell phone bill, and I am responsible for paying any amount over $100.

Me and my wife have been on a currently unlisted AT&T plan which includes 700 minutes of anytime calling.  This costs $60 for the first phone and $10 for the extra line.  We are also each on a 3gb data plan for $30 each for 2 data plans.  We are also on a pay per use text messaging plan.  Our monthly bill (before taxes) has been $130 ($60 + $10 + $30 + $30).

I learned a while ago that there are many apps that allow us to text and instant message for free using our data plan and not our text plan.  Using free messaging programs saves us $30 a month for the useless (to us) “unlimited texting” plan that AT&T offers.  For free text programs that use data instead of text messages, look to Kakao Talk, Google Voice, or WhatsApp.  If you’re an iPhone user, you probably already know that messaging other iPhone users with iMessage is free. 

I have found that we have never gone over 2GB a month for data usage, even though we are constantly browsing the web, downloading apps, streaming radio and music.  Most people simply don’t need those expensive unlimited data plans, and yet they still pay for it. 

Last week I decided it was time to negotiate another rate decrease on my cell phone bill.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Are you saving money on your car insurance?

If you currently drive, you need and probably have car insurance.  When was the last time you called your insurance company to see if you could get a rate decrease?  When was the last time you shopped around for better rates?  

I imagine most people just receive their bill monthly, and pay for it without giving their rate a second thought.

Around this time last year, I needed to add my wife to my insurance policy.  This is when I discovered that adding my wife to my policy didn’t save us any money.  My family had maxed out on all available discounts, including the multi driver discount. 

I reached out to several competing insurance companies to get new quotes and found out that switching insurance companies would save us a considerable amount of money: $570.70 per 6 months, or $95.11 a month. 

The best thing about switching was that we were getting more coverage, and paying less!  This process took me around 1.5 hours: which included calling several different companies to get exact quotes on coverage.  These were the companies I contacted online / over the phone:

Geico: 866-345-0280
Esurance: 800-378-7262
Amica: 800-242-6422
Ameriprise: 888-239-9953
Progressive: 800-776-4737
Metlife: 877-619-5604
Mercury: 800-443-1581

Calling several companies helped me make sure I was getting the most value for my money.  Many companies offer similar rates, some offer rates much more expensive, and some much cheaper. 
In the end, it was Geico that we switched to.  We’ve been very happy with them over the last year and have stayed with them for 2 six month periods (each policy runs 6 months).

I'm always looking for ways to earn or save more money.  This year, I once again picked up my phone and made several phone calls.  Each quote took about 15 to 30 minutes.  While a customer service rep will give you an initial quote, it may not be the final cost of your auto insurance.  You will only get an exact cost of your insurance once you provide the company with your vehicle identification number (VIN) and your driver’s license number.  Of course, any traffic violations or accidents on record will affect your final rate.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Redeeming Barclaycard Arrival miles

One of my most used credit cards lately is my Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite Mastercard® I’ve written my review of the card here.  

This card has a hefty 40,000 miles sign up bonus.  40,000 bonus miles are awarded after only spending $1,000 (now $3,000) within the first 90 days of account opening.  Anyone can easily attain this bonus.  The Arrival card has a very unique way of earning and redeeming miles, which has caused potential card members some confusion.

The Barclaycard Arrival credit card earns 2 miles on every single purchase.  There are no bonus point earning categories.  You can redeem these miles for free travel related expenses such as airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, or train rides.  This allows you to earn miles with all credit card purchases, and then redeem the miles for statement credits on travel purchases. 

Despite rewarding purchases with what Barclaycard calls miles, I prefer to think of this card as one that earns 2.2% cash back on all purchases in the form of free travel

Your miles can be redeemed for statement credits on your travel related expenses at 1 mile = 1 cent, and you get 10% miles back.  I value each Arrival mile at 1.11 cents.  Barclaycard Arrival miles earned can be used on any airline, for any flight, in any seating category without restriction. 

On this site, I don’t just write about great credit cards, I sign up and use the same credit cards myself.  

With my father in law’s birthday coming up in March, I thought it would be great to redeem some of our Arrival miles for yet another free flight to Portland, Oregon.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our San Diego trip

Me and my wife spent part of this last weekend in San Diego, CA.

One of my best friends from graduate school invited us out to dinner and bar hopping in downtown San Diego for her birthday.  Since we live about 2 hours away, we thought it would be great to stay overnight and spend the next day by the beach.

Since I’m always trying to burn our Club Carlson points, I was happy to discover a Country Inn & Suites in San Diego.  Club Carlson points can be redeemed for hotel stays at Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inn & Suites.

I first logged into my Club Carlson account and saw that I still had a healthy balance of Club Carlson points.  

Then I proceeded to book a one-night stay at the Country Inn & Suites for 38,000 points and $0.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reminder to always pay with credit

While most people know that credit cards offer fraud protection on unauthorized purchases, most people don’t know that credit cards also offer free warranty extension, purchase protection, and several other benefits.  

Warranty Extension
Your credit card will automatically protect most items you purchase up to an extra year beyond the manufacturer’s original warranty.  I’ve known this for as long as I’ve been using credit cards.  But I’ve never had to use this feature… until last month.

Slowly but surely, I’ve started to notice that my iPhone 5 (purchased over 1 year ago) was losing battery power faster than normal.  My phone used to make it through a long day of heavy usage, but now that my phone’s battery wasn’t holding a full charge as well, I found myself sometimes re-charging my phone in the middle of day.

When I went to the Apple store, the customer service rep at the Genius bar told me that my iPhone was no longer covered by the standard manufacturer’s 1 year warranty, which would have covered battery replacement for my defective phone battery.  Now, I was told that I could either have them replace my iPhone battery with a new one for $79 (plus tax), or I could get credit for my iPhone 5 and upgrade to an iPhone 5s by paying the difference.  

I’m happy with my phone and not interested in upgrading right now.

The next thing I did was call my credit card company.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had a fun and safe night yesterday.  Me and my wife did the count down at our friends’ home.  We enjoyed our time there with the company of many of our close friends.  

As you reflect back on what you have accomplished in 2013, here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin this new year:

  • Has your overall happiness increased?
  • Are you more physically healthy?
  • Have you accumulated more wealth?
  • Are you more appreciative and content with what you have?
As I reflect back on this last year, I realize that it has been an incredible year for us and my best year to date by far.  
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