At Outlets, Mom and Dad Can Save You Money

Outlet shopping is a pretty obvious way to save money when compared to shopping at regular retailers. But there’s a way to save even more on outlet shopping: bring mom and dad along. No, I’m not suggesting that you should have them pay for your new outfits so you can keep your cash, although I’m sure some parents are more than happy to do so. Rather, there’s a discount that only they can give you: the Premium Outlets chain – which includes the outlet malls at Gilroy (CA), Woodbury (NY), and Wrentham (MA) – offers a 10% discount to shoppers over 50 years of age, every Tuesday.

I learned this about a year ago, when my mom was visiting me. We decided to take advantage of the fact that I was on vacation too and went outlet shopping on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The Premium Outlets chain is by far my favorite outlet option since they not only have good brands but the malls are also outdoors and the stores are for the most part clean and organized. They might not be the cheapest outlet malls out there, but the way they are set up makes for a much more pleasant experience since I don’t have to dig through heaps of stuff to find good deals.

So there we were: my mom and I on a shopping outing, on what happened to be a Tuesday. As my mom was checking out, I spotted a sign on the counter that said something like

50 Plus Shopper Perks

If you are at least 50 years of age you can take advantage of an added 10% savings on Tuesdays by simply presenting a photo identification with your proof of age to the cashier at participating stores. [taken from the Premium Outlets website]

I pointed it out, and told my mom to ask about it since we were there on a Tuesday anyway. The cashier interjected, “Don’t worry. I already applied the discount to your purchase.” If I were my mom, who happens to be in her “young 50s,” I would have been mortified or at the very least upset. But my mom took it in stride and was just happy with her discount. In fact, she then asked me if I didn’t want to buy more stuff that day, seeing as I could get the discount only with her anyway.

shopping

Photo credit: F-oxymoron (Creative Commons)

The list of participating stores for this discount varies by outlet mall, but is fairly long and includes J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines, and even Samsonite. To see the list for the Premium Outlet you are planning on visiting, just click on it on this map, then go to “sales & events”> “50 Plus Shopper Perks.”

My mom is visiting me again in a couple of weeks, and since she wants to go shopping, I will make sure to schedule the outlet trip for a Tuesday. It should be a good mother-and-daughter bonding experience – I’ll help her pick out clothes and carry her shopping bags, she’ll get me a 10% discount.

ev’reward: An Awesome Shortcut for Miles and Cashback Comparison Shopping

Late last week, I learned about a great website that I think is worth sharing: ev’reward.

I strongly believe in going through a portal whenever I online shop, so once I find something I want to buy, I put it in my check-out basket and then visit several portals to find out which one is giving the highest mileage or cashback return for that store. As I showed a while back, there isn’t one portal that is always the best – some portals have more partner stores than others, and the highest miles/ cashback yield varies by portal and store. And while I still visit several online portals, I admit that checking every one is a fairly time-consuming process if all you want to do is click “buy” and have an item delivered to your house.

Step in ev’reward. Through this website, you don’t have to decide whether visiting each portal is worth it for you – ev’reward automatically visits them and tells you what their deals are! All you have to do is type the name of the online store from which you’re buying something, and ev’reward gives you a list of portals and the miles or cashback each one will give you for making a purchase from that store. This cuts the research process to just a few seconds, and you can immediately see which portal will suit you best.

ev’reward’s output for Banana Republic: portals for cashback, savings, points, and miles

There are only two caveats that I’ve seen so far. First, some rates are a little outdated. For example, United’s Mileage Plus Shopping Portal is currently offering 2.5 miles per dollar spent at Banana Republic online, but ev’reward is showing only 2 miles per dollar. Second, it doesn’t list every portal out there, so that if you typed in “amazon.com,” you wouldn’t know through ev’reward that Hawaiian’s and US Airways’ shopping portals currently give miles for Amazon purchases.

Nonetheless, if you usually check several portals like I do before buying, ev’reward is a great starting point to find out which ones are even worth looking into. In the case of J.Crew, for example, ev’reward correctly does not list ShopDiscover as a cashback portal, so I know there’s no point in checking, which saves me some time. On the other hand, if you are not planning on investigating each portal before buying, with the ev’reward output, you can at least be sure that if you go through any portal on its list, you’ll get more miles or cashback than if you didn’t go through one at all.

More on the Zipcar Deals

Yesterday I wrote a post on three current Zipcar offers: a deal from LivingSocial, an $80 referral bonus from Zipcar, and a reimbursement for residents of the City of Alexandria.

It looks like LivingSocial has extended its Daily Deal for another day, so you now have until tonight at midnight to get a Zipcar membership for a year and $30 in driving credit for $29.

an updated version of LivingSocial's DC Zipcar deal

I also heard back from LivingSocial and Alexandria’s Office of Transit Services, and have some updated information:

  1. It is not clearly stated on the terms and conditions, but the LivingSocial deal does include the Zipcar application fee. So considering that the application fee is usually $25, and the annual fee can be as high as $60, this deal really offers a savings of as much as $86! So if you are still not a Zipcar member and need a nudge to join, this is it.
  2. The LivingSocial deal for DC has been updated to include residents of “the greater D.C. metro area.” Yesterday’s offer was only available to DC residents, but now those of you in Virginia and Maryland can take advantage of it too.
  3. If you’re a resident of the City of Alexandria, it is unclear whether you can stack up the LivingSocial deal with the reimbursement (though you can still combine a referral bonus with the reimbursement). From an email I received from the Office of Transit Services:

“As long as you send us your proof of payment we can reimburse your costs. However, this [LivingSocial offer] is an exception to our program and we will probably not allow this when and if other deals like this pop up for Zipcar.”

This is a non-committal response, though completely reasonable on their part. On one hand, they could argue that LivingSocial deal is already effectively waiving your application and first year annual fee, since the $29 you pay gets converted into $30 in driving credit, so there’s nothing to be reimbursed for. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to try. If you get today’s Zipcar deal and live in Alexandria, send in the “Reimbursement Request” and “Initial Survey” forms and see what happens. Best case scenario, you get the reimbursement, and the whole bundle comes out free for you. Worst case scenario, you still saved $86.

Three Zipcar Deals to Go Around

It took me a while to join Zipcar. The problem was that I would look into signing up whenever I needed a car right then and there, but Zipcar membership doesn’t go through immediately since they have to verify your driver’s license information for insurance purposes and get the Zipcar card (which unlocks the car doors) to you. So ultimately the key was to join when I didn’t actually need a car, and then have the option of using a car right then and there the next time I did need one. And now, even though I have a car of my own, I still keep my Zipcar membership for when I travel, since members have access to cars in any Zipcar city.

If you, like I was, don’t need to join Zipcar today but should at some point, there are several deals going on to help you make it happen now.

First, LivingSocial is running a Daily Deal today for individuals who join Zipcar: a one-year membership plus $30 in driving credit for $29. Since the annual membership fee is technically $60, this deal can save you quite a bit of money. I write “technically,” though, since you are very likely to qualify for a discount through one of your connections, including your university (as a student or alumni), employer, or even your building. Today’s LivingSocial deal is available in several cities, including Boston, DC, New York, and San Francisco. Just make sure to get the deal for your city since the fine print on the bottom of each offer limits the coupon to residents of that area. After you buy your coupon, you have until October 26, 2011 to sign up for Zipcar and use the $30 driving credit.

But here’s a potentially better deal. Or one worth considering if you miss today’s LivingSocial offer. Until the end of August 2011, Zipcar is offering an $80 referral bonus which can be split between the referer and referee, or can be given away entirely to the referee. So, if you have a good friend who is a Zipcar member, ask him/her to send you an invite, and make sure to sign up by August 31st. If you qualify for an annual fee discount (mine for example is just $25) and your friend lets you keep the bonus, this referral could turn out to be an even better deal than the LivingSocial one.

today's LivingSocial DC deal

Keep in mind that the referral bonus is always available, though the driving credit outside the promotion period is usually $50, which can still be split or given to the referee. This bonus is also much less restrictive than the LivingSocial deal since the latter for the DC area, for example, is limited to “Washington D.C. residents only”. If you live in the Beltway but have an address in Virginia or Maryland, you may have to go with the referral bonus anyway since you may not be eligible for today’s LivingSocial DC offer.

If you live in the city of Alexandria in Virginia, there’s also a third Zipcar deal worth taking into account. The City of Alexandria’s Office of Transit Services and Programs is currently reimbursing the Zipcar application and first year membership fees for Alexandria residents. Since the Zipcar application fee is currently $25 and the annual fee can come up to $60 without a discount, this can translate into some huge savings! There’s no official end-date for this offer, but it’s probably best to apply for it sooner than later. All you need to do is fill out the “Reimbursement Request” and “Initial Survey” forms and mail it to the Office of Transit Services in Alexandria after you sign up for Zipcar. And there’s no reason you can’t stack up the referral bonus and the fee reimbursement, since one is a driving credit and the other takes care of your fees.

Whichever discount(s) you choose to use, if you’ve been meaning to get a Zipcar membership, it seems like now’s time to do it. Don’t wait until you actually need it, since membership doesn’t come through immediately, and, even worse, there probably won’t be as many great deals available then.

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Apple Calls – and Raises? – Staples’ Back to School Deal

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Staples’ current offer of a $100 prepaid card for students buying select laptops, which has since become the most popular post on this blog. As I argued on that post, despite all the hype, I don’t think it’s such a great deal, particularly since the offer is limited to 4 laptop models. But here’s a similar offer that might be worth getting excited about if you’re already Mac fan: Apple is giving a $100 Apple gift card to any student who buys a Mac (except for the Mini) by September 20, 2011.

The downside of this promotion as compared to the Staples’ one is that you get the reward as an Apple gift card, which can only be redeemed on the Mac App Store, the iTunes Stores, and the iBookstore, while the Staples deal offers a Visa prepaid card, which can be used anywhere. On the other hand, Apple’s offer applies to all new iMacs, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and Mac Pros – both laptops and desktops – while Staples’ deal is much more limited.

a screenshot of Apple's deal: Who qualifies? You might!

Then again, even the cheapest Mac is more expensive than any of the laptops that qualify for the Staples offer. But let’s be honest: if you’re an Apple fan, you’re likely not in it for the money. So if you’re going big anyway, you might as well get the $100 gift card with your purchase.

To qualify for the gift card, you must use the Education Pricing discount that Apple usually offers to college students, parents, and faculty, which means you’ll get the discount plus the $100 card. To get the deal, you can buy your new computer online through the Apple Education Store, at an Apple store, or at your campus store. If you buy your new computer through one of the first two, the gift card will come with your purchase. If you buy on campus, just visit www.apple.com/promo within 90 days of your purchase to claim your gift card. There’s a limit of 2 gift cards per person during this promotion.

While Macs are definitely not the cheapest computers out there, I’m highlighting this offer in Money Under Your Futon because this blog isn’t just about saving; it’s about finding ways to save so you can live in style. If you’re a Mac fan, you clearly care about style. And if you’re eligible for this offer, you need all the deals you can get.

Get a Movie Break with Fandango and Visa

It’s summer time, and I’ve probably watched more movies over the past month than I did all of last year. There’s nothing like a dark, heavily air-conditioned room to make me feel like I am far away from this year’s unbearable East Coast heat. And Fandango’s partnership with Visa makes this much appreciated escape a little cheaper.

With a Visa Signature card (which I have through the amazing British Airways offer that was available two years ago), you can get 2-for-1 tickets through Fandango every Friday until September 30, 2011. All you have to do is buy two tickets through fandango.com/visasignature on a Friday for any movie that same day and one of the tickets will be free of charge. Granted, this offer requires that you actually buy through Fandango, which charges a convenience fee, but I sometimes would rather pay the convenience fee than stand in line while I miss the first few minutes of the movie, or, even worse, have the movie be sold out by the time I get to the movie theatre. Besides, the 2-for-1 deal also applies to the convenience fee; with your Visa Signature card you are only charged the fee for one ticket.

The 2-for-1 deal only works on Fridays, but for all other days, a Visa Signature card also gets you $5 off a purchase of $25 “Fandago Bucks,” the Fandango equivalent of a gift card/ voucher. This discount is only being offered until Sept 30th, but Fandango Bucks never expire, so you can buy the vouchers now and use them whenever you get tickets through Fandango in the future.  Or you can just hold onto them and give them away for Christmas if you run out of gift ideas.

the two offers, stacked up

Now the technical stuff: To find out whether you have a Visa Signature card, just look at your credit card and see if it says “Visa Signature” on it, check out this page showing most of the Signature cards offered by Visa, or enter your card number on the Fandango/ Visa Signature page to verify. The discount only applies if you buy through fandango.com/visasignature and pay with your Visa Signature card. And you can only get one 2-for-1 deal per month with each Visa Signature card you have, but you can buy up to $100 Fandango Bucks (for $80 with the discount) each month.

Summer break might be almost over, but the heat is probably staying for a while longer. If you need a weekend activity that involves being outside for the least time possible but that is also affordable, going to the movies with Fandango/Visa isn’t a bad deal. And considering the insanely high concession stand prices, a 2-for-1 deal on movie tickets or the $5 discount may even free up some cash so you can actually afford popcorn or a snack.

New York + Restaurant Week + AMEX + foursquare = $5 off

If you’re in New York this summer, make sure to check out its Restaurant Week event. What originally started as a week in which higher-end restaurants offer affordable fixed-price deals has been extended in several cities, such as Boston and Philly, into two-week events. But New York has taken it to a new extreme – the city’s 2011 Restaurant Week was scheduled for July 11-24, but has since been extended for another six weeks.  The NYC Restaurant Week Extension runs from July 25th to September 5th (excluding Saturdays and, depending on the restaurant, Sundays as well) with lunch specials for $24.07 and dinner for $35.

And American Express and the social media enterprise foursquare have stepped in to make this summer deal even sweeter. If you are a foursquare member, you can get a $5 credit on your Amex statement when you use your Amex card at a participating restaurant.

To get the credit, you have to register (“sync”) your Amex card to your foursquare account, and “check-in” at a participating restaurant during the Restaurant Week Extension period. When you do so, you will automatically get an offer on your phone. After accepting the offer (“Load to Card”), if you spend $24 or more – which you probably will, considering that the lunch deal is $24.07 and dinner is more expensive anyway – and pay with your Amex card, you should get a $5 credit on your credit card statement within 5 business days.

If you don’t have a foursquare account, you can download the program onto your phone for free. Note, however, that Prepaid and Corporate Amex cards and payments using Amex’s ExpressPay feature are not eligible for this offer. And if you have multiple Amex cards, you can only have one “synched” with your foursquare account at a time. Also, you can only earn one of these $5 statement credits per participating restaurant, though there’s no limit to how many credits you can earn if you go to a different restaurant each time. Almost all restaurants in participating in the Restaurant Week Extension are part of the Amex/foursquare statement credit offer, but for a list, click here.

If are in New York before Labor Day, be sure to check their Restaurant Week Extension offer. The list of participating restaurants may be a good place to start if you’re just looking for a place to eat. And even if you already have your dining plans set, you never know – you could find out that the restaurant you are visiting just happens to be participating as well. Then don’t forget to check-in and use your Amex card to get $5 back.

JetBlue’s Boston All BluePass Is Back for a Bit

JetBlue's Boston All Pass is Back

Just two days ago I wrote an update on JetBlue’s BluePassoffer, but here’s a new fact: JetBlue’s Boston All pass, which allows unlimited flying to/from Boston to ALL airports serviced by JetBlue during the promotion period, including those in the Caribbean, is back for 48 hours! If you hesitated the first time around or new plans have come up in the meantime, now’s the time to buy one of these passes. The Boston All price is still $1,999, and allows unlimited travel from August 22nd to November 22nd, 2011.

To Save on Flights, Clicking “Buy” is Not the End

This is an updated version of an article originally posted to our .com blog, which was unfortunately hacked a few months ago.

Doing a price comparison before booking a trip is standard procedure for saving money on travel.  There are search engines such as Kayak that tally up ticket prices for airlines and third-party sites, and even academic theories on when is the best time to buy.  But regardless of when you pull the trigger, there are still ways to save after making that flight purchase.

The third-party travel website Orbitz, for example, offers a price assurance coverage, which promises consumers that, once they book their hotel or flight, if the price drops and anyone else books the same exactly itinerary (same dates, flights, and restrictions) for less through Orbitz from then on, they will be refunded for that difference. Refund values range from $5 to $250 for flights and $5 to $500 for hotels, and there is no need to submit a request.  Orbitz keeps track of all purchases made through its website, and if you qualify for the price assurance, you will automatically get a check in the mail 6-8 weeks after you’ve completed the trip.

But what if you see lower fare soon after you book your ticket?  This happened to me twice recently.  I spent a while tracking flight ticket prices, and as the travel date approached, finally decided to buy.  No less than a few hours later, though, prices for the same exact itinerary had dropped by around $20!  If this happens on the same day in which you booked your ticket, you usually have two options.  First, you can appeal to the company’s “low price guarantee” policy, which essentially is an offer to undercut competitors’ rates. Many travel and airline sites have this, including Orbitz, Expedia, and even United.  All you have to do is submit a claim on the website with links to the lower fare for the exact same itinerary and wait for customer service to verify it.  Remember to also make several print-outs of the screen with the lower fare, so you have proof if you run into trouble having it approved.  Orbitz’s and United’s guarantee apply only to the day of booking, while Expedia gives you 24 hours to find and claim the lower fare.

If you find a lower fare within 24 hours, another option is to simply cancel your original reservation and book the other one.  Most sites give you 24 hours to cancel without any fees. Third-party sites have a policy of retaining their own booking fees if you cancel, but several of them have not been applying fees for the last two years or so anyway. Doing this is a better option if you are afraid your lower fare guarantee claim will not be approved, or if you have a coupon for another site that can now be used.

Last week, I chose to just cancel my reservation and re-book it.  Earlier in the day, I had booked my flight through Orbitz because it had the cheapest fare for the exact itinerary I wanted (United did not even show that itinerary when I searched for it in the morning).  But when I ran the same search in the afternoon, the fare had both dropped on Orbitz and was now showing on United for the same price.  Orbitz offers a $50 coupon valid on your next trip through its “low fare promise,” but I had a coupon for 10% off a purchase on United (earned through an old United promotion).  I decided 10% off now was better than a potential $50 in savings in the future, since the latter would depend on validation from Orbitz’s customer service.  I canceled my Orbitz reservation online without any penalties, and re-booked my itinerary on United. Ultimately, I saved $50 from what I would have spent had I kept the reservation I made that same morning.

Price comparison does not end when you click “buy.”  If you keep track of prices on your itinerary for another 24 hours, you may find a pleasant surprise.  Who knows – it could even be that the fare on an itinerary you liked even better than the one you booked drops too. And if you book on Orbitz, the search keeps going; their price assurance means you could get a check later on if someone else books your same itinerary for less.  And if you can’t find a lower fare and don’t get any money back, by doing this follow-up you can at least rest assured that you got a good deal on your travel plans.

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