To Travelers: Time to Make Room in Your Wallet

Capital One has recently launched a new travel rewards credit card, as you might have already heard from its many TV commercials.  If you like to travel, Capital One’s Venture Rewards credit card could be your match made in heaven. Continue reading

IRS Open Houses Begin

This Saturday, March 27, IRS began holding Open Houses from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at over 180 offices across the nation to help taxpayers with their tax questions.  Click here to find the location nearest to you and here for the entire list of services provided.  And no worries if you missed this past Saturday, the IRS is holding additional Open Houses until the income tax return deadline on April 15th, so be sure to keep your schedule open.

Sweepstakes Can Get You Coupons

Entering online sweepstakes may sometimes seem like a waste of time, particularly in those that run for days or even months and only select one grand prize winner.  But sometimes your entry can get you some interesting coupons as well.

Banana Republic and Virgin America have partnered in a promotion called “Land the Look,” and, by entering the sweepstakes, you not only try your luck in getting a round trip Virgin America flight, a hotel stay, and Banana Republic gift cards, but you also get two coupons delivered into your inbox.  The first is a 20% off coupon for any full-priced item at Banana Republic stores, and the second, which can be quite valuable depending on where you fly, is a coupon for 10% off your next Virgin America ticket (promo code 54054109).  Both coupons are valid only until the end of this month (March 31, 2010) and the latter applies to trips taken until June 9, 2010 (with blackout dates between May 28 and 31, 2010).

Other sweepstakes frequently come with deals as well.  Entries to contests tied to magazines often give access to discounted subscription rates, which could be interesting if for a magazine you usually read or to which you already subscribe anyway, and sweepstakes run by manufacturers sometimes have a coupon as their final landing page.

If you are looking for coupons, searching online for codes is a first step.  But entering related sweepstakes could be a useful second.  And you never know – your resourceful entry could turn out to be lucky one too!

Citi/AAdvantage: Earn Miles, Save Some Too

For earning miles, the Citi/AAdvantage credit cards are fairly good ones, offering 1 mile per $1 spent (or 1.2 miles per dollar until May 31st for me, as I wrote about here) and relatively low annual fees starting at $85.
 
But Citi/AAdvantage credit cards come with another perk that is often overlooked.  Credit card holders are given access to quarterly offers for Reduced Mileage Rewards for domestic trips.  Although I generally do not recommend redeeming miles for domestic trips since international trips are usually a better deal in miles-per-dollar saved, with the Citi/AAdvantage card, it is an option worth considering.  In general, round-trip domestic flights go for 25,000 miles on almost all airline programs, but every quarter Citi Gold/AAdvantage and Citi/AAdvantage American Express card holders are given a list of cities in the United States and Canada to which they can travel using only 20,000 miles (45,000 for business class).  Citi Platinum Select/AAdvantage, Citi Select/AAdvantage American Express and CitiBusiness/AAdvantage card holders can fly for slightly less: 17,500 on economy or 42,500 on business.
  Continue reading

Two More Cents on Amtrak

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my experience with Amtrak‘s cancellation policy.  Here’s an update on that trip:
 
In my post, I left off on where the Amtrak customer service representative canceled my outbound trip without imposing any cancellation fees – a huge deal, especially when compared to airline cancellation policies.  As I noted then, although my cancellation request was done over the phone, to get the actual refund I would have to speak to an agent at the ticket counter.  What I did not know, however, is that, because of that, the remaining portion of the ticket could not be issued through a self-service kiosk.  This created a momentary problem: the line for the ticket counter was about 50 people deep when I got to Penn Station 40 minutes before my trip, and I was worried that I might not make it to the ticket agent in time for my train.  But the Amtrak customer service phone representatives again confirmed their helpfulness: I called the 1-800 number and explained my situation – I did not want to miss my train because of a pending refund.  The representative quickly resolved my problem by inquiring whether I had enough of a limit on my credit card, canceling the original ticket altogether, and reissuing a new one for the same price.  The new ticket had the same booking code, and could be retrieved at the self-service kiosk.  With that, I had 10 minutes to spare before boarding my train.
 
Morals of this story: (1) Amtrak’s customer service is extremely helpful, (2) if you are stuck in line, be resourceful and call customer service instead (This also goes for re-booking canceled flights; while standing in line behind another 50 angry customers who have been grounded, try calling the airline’s customer service number. Hopefully you’ll get someone who is not overwhelmed and being yelled at over and over), (3) when canceling one portion of an Amtrak ticket, ask to cancel the entire ticket and have a new one booked at the same price instead.

Concierge.com on Earning and Redeeming Miles

At Money Under Your Futon, we’ve frequently encouraged our readers to sign up for mileage and points accounts with their favorite airlines, hotels, and stores.  But not being able to redeem miles/points or shedding more of them than you would like can undermine even the most diligent efforts to accrue them.

Condé Nast’s concierge.com sheds some light into the mileage redemption process in a recent article.  Writing on “How to Maximize Your Miles,” they offer 10 tips for getting the most out of your mileage account, from well-known advice, such as looking for seats in code-share partner flights, to the more obscure but probably equally useful, including calling airline companies after midnight on a weekend and, if your home airport is an airline hub, considering a frequent flier program that is not from that airline but from one of its partners instead.  To read the full article, click here.

Tip of the Week: Get in the Habit of Checking Your Credit Report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees each person free access to a credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) every twelve months.  It is generally good practice to periodically check your credit report to make sure it is accurate and that there are no suspicious, fraudulent, or unauthorized activities.  In another month, we are hitting a four-month mark in the year 2010.  If you have not ordered a credit report yet, now is the perfect time to do so.

One option is to order all three reports at once so you can compare them.  Another plan would to be alternate every other year between spreading your credit reports throughout the year and requesting all three at once so you can get the best of both worlds.  And remember to get your credit history from AnnualCreditReport.com, because it is the only source authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide free credit reports to consumers.

Public Service Announcement: Only One Month Left to Claim Your 2006 Refund

Earlier this week, the WSJ posted an article reminding readers that refunds on 2006 taxes can only be claimed until April 15, 2010.  Here, we provide more details.

The IRS estimates that as many as 1.37 million people who did not file their 2006 taxes are actually due a refund, with a total value amounting to around $1.3 billion.  California, Florida, and Texas each have over 100 thousand people who might still be due a refund on their 2006 taxes, and Californians alone might be leaving more than $150 million sitting in IRS coffers!  Whatever is not claimed within 3 years of the original filing deadline (i.e., not claimed within a month from this past Monday) is forfeited and becomes IRS money. Continue reading

Insurance is Not Just for You and Your Car

Most of us at are probably renters.  We might be testing out different career paths or deciding which graduate school to attend, but the bottom line is that most of us have neither the funds nor the commitment to purchase a home and stay in one place indefinitely.  Instead, we hold a premium on being mobile.  But nearly two-thirds of renters do not have renters insurance and many landlords do not require this.  Here are three BIG reasons why renters need insurance: Continue reading

Cancellation Policy Puts Amtrak Ahead

Amtrak‘s winter promotion is ending this weekend, but besides the environmental benefits and the sometimes lower prices, there is yet another reason to choose the train over the plane when traveling on shorter routes: Amtrak’s cancellation policy.  I had heard of the flexibility of its policy before, but this week I had the opportunity to see it for myself.

I had booked a round-trip DC-NY ticket a month ago, but a week before traveling I decided to cancel my outbound trip (I would be traveling for work the week before, so it made more sense to fly back straight into NY rather than to DC just to take the train up).  I called Amtrak only 4 days before the trip, and the customer service representative immediately canceled the outbound leg for a full refund, which I could confirm since Amtrak shows the price of each leg on a round-trip ticket purchase rather than a packaged price. Continue reading

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