Personal Finance 

Pay Cash for Gas for Discount?

An article in USA Today mentions a new method of saving money at the pump, paying in cash. The article cites a pump in South Carolina offering a four cent discount on each gallon of gasoline in return for payment in cash as opposed to credit. Considering that credit cards charge a percentage of the sale and a flat rate, this is a win for the gas station, a business with low profit margins (all the money is in the convenience store). While this is a win for the station, it’s a lose for the consumer.

Considering you can get a 5% cashback card on gasoline purchases and gas at, say, $2.50 (good luck finding that around here) per gallon – 5% is 12.5 cents. You personally save eight cents more by using credit over cash. (if you have a 5% cashback card, if you don’t, then the cash option is better)

 Banking, Personal Finance 

ING Direct to 4.25%

Unless you just bet a superfecta, chances are you don’t really care which horse came in fourth. That’s probably why ING Direct’s rate increase to 4.25% doesn’t really excite you when Emigrant Direct, HSBC, and many others are at 4.65% and higher. That being said, 4.25% is not a bad place to put $250 if you want to get a $25 referral bonus. Shoot me an email if that interests you, otherwise, you should get an Emigrant Direct account.

 Personal Finance, The Home 

5% Apartment Rent Increase Expected

An article in USA Today notes that the National Association of Realtors expects apartment rents to rise approximately 5.3% this year, double the increase last year, in the highest jump since 2000.The four factors they identify for the increase are more jobs, higher home prices, fewer available apartments, and greater demand because of displaced residents from Hurricane Katrina.

The first two factors are well known leading indicators for apartment rents for obvious reasons, an increase in the amount of renters. Job seekers who move to a new job will typically rent before they buy, thus increasing the demand on apartment rents. The same applies for home prices/sales and rents, as one increases the other decreases (or stagnates). It’s easier to rent an apartment for $1000 than pay a mortgage for $2000, even if you are “throwing” rent away. An interesting statistic they mentioned that I thought was worth noting was that for twenty years (1980-2000) the ratio of home price to rent was 12, now it’s 21!

The last two reasons are a little hard to accept as the cause of increased rents. Fewer apartments because condos were converted from rental properties to owner-occupied (they were sold)? Does it really affect overall rents that much? I find that a little hard to believe. As for the 100,000 displaced residents? Those last two may be a stretch in terms of being “major” reasons. But what do I know…

via Yahoo Finance.

 Personal Finance, The Home 

WGES – Alternative to BG&E

If you’re in Maryland then you know that on July 1st your energy bill is going to spike up around 71%, Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) is an alternative to Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E) and they’re offering 10% off BG&E summer rates and 3% non-summer rates for a period of one year if you agree to a one year contract, effective July 1st. “You’ll continue to receive emergency service and one bill for all your electricity charges from BGE. When you choose WGES, there is no interruption of service and no connection charge. If you are on BGE’s budget plan, you may continue to budget your charges.” (website) The little discount will help ease the brunt of the rate hike blow on July 1st… and none of the other companies listed in my searches appeared to give such a discount.

What’s also nice is that 5% of WGES’s electricity is generated from wind, a nice thing to see. The only fine print that I found worth noting, and this isn’t surprising, is a $75 early termination fee and a 45 day notification window prior to service cancellation. The early termination fee is waived if you are moving.

WGES may not be available where you are, here is a search tool provided by the Maryland Public Service Commission.


The Pros Wedding Services Not Reliable

I spent a fun weekend fishing, seeing my parents, and, oh yeah, attended a beautiful wedding. Two of my college friends became one and I can safely say that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and that it was a great time. The ceremony was beautiful, the reception was a lot of fun, and the cake was delicious. (Actually everything was delicious, I think I gained ten pounds between all the alcohol and the food) The only blemish on the night, not for me personally, was the absence of the videographer, from “The Pros,” who didn’t show up at all. At all.

(Click to continue reading…)

 Personal Finance 

AllThingsFinancial Calculators

If you haven’t noticed, JLP at AllThingsFinancial has created several useful calculators worth taking a look at. For those that don’t know, JLP is one of the few personal finance professionals who is a blogger so you can have confidence that these calculators carry a little more credibility than most (unless JLP is bad at math, I have no idea!)… if you have a moment, please check them out and let me know what you think (or what calculator you’d like to see):

Investing and Planning
College Cost Estimator
Financial Goals Calculator
Life Insurance Needs Calculator
Retirement Planning Comparison Calculator – See how much you can possibly save retirement and compare it to the cost of waiting.
Tax Bracket History – Only works for those who are Married Filing Jointly.

Annual Gasoline Costs Calculator – How much does it cost you (gas, at least) to drive your car each year?


Happy Memorial Day

Child saluting United States flag

(Photo: respres)

 Credit, Insurance, Personal Finance 

American Express Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan

While in Lake Tahoe, I’ll be renting a car for about a week and the usual Collision Damage Waiver (insurance) cost approximately $15/day and they’re generally regarded as a waste of money because most credit cards will cover you as a secondary insurance (your primary auto insurance comes first). I saw that my Costco American Express TrueEarnings card has a Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance policy as a free benefit for all cardholders but was concerned at the fine print: “Coverage is determined by the terms, conditions, and exclusions of Policy AX0925 and is subject to change with notice.” Try to find Policy AX0925 anywhere online… guaranteed you won’t. (don’t bother, I asked a CSR and he said it’s not online anywhere).

I called them up and got a full explanation of both their standard car rental loss and damage insurance, free for all TrueEarnings card members, and their premium car rental loss and damage insurance, which has a $24.95 fee per car rental.

Essentially the standard coverage is identical to the car rental agency’s Collision Damage Waiver, which covers any damage or loss to the vehicle (not your items inside!). Some highlights:

  • It has no deductible
  • Covers you for a rental period of up to 30 consecutive days.
  • It will cover you worldwide except Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Ireland and Jamaica.
  • It does not have liability coverage, but your primary auto insurance will have that.
  • It also does not cover fifteen passenger vans, pickup trucks, large SUVs, and vehicles over $50,000 in value.
  • Finally, it’s a secondary insurance so your primary insurance picks up the tab and it will cover what your primary insurance does not.

What does the Premium Car Rental Protection cover?

  • The policy becomes your primary insurance policy for your rental period.
  • It also covers some liability, loss or theft of items inside the vehicle,
  • some death and dismemberment,
  • and a handful of other ancillary insurance items.

All you do is enroll in the program, which is free, and you are charged $24.95 each time you rent a car. There is no cost to join or cancel.

The basic program is pretty good because it basically replaces comprehensive and collision insurance, which I don’t carry, and my liability insurance, which would be first anyway, covers the liability portion it does not cover. For a mere $25, I can get primary coverage for nearly everything (and some) which comes out to approximately $3+ per day.

I reached a CSR by calling 800-338-1670.

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