Ten for Tuesday, January 22, 2012

1. Interesting thoughts on “7 habits of extremely frugal people
One disagreement – I don’t think making your own bread is really “free.” There are costs involved in all of these (even if it is only time costs). Some of those costs are worth it when you are trying to save money, but some may not be.

2. What Makes Debt Socially Acceptable?

3. 6 Step Plan to Dominate Your Debt
Not a whole lot of new information here, but sometimes it’s good to have a list.

4. I Think I Figured Out Why Frugality Is So Popular
Perfectly sums up the reasons “getting out of debt” and “weight loss” are our favorite topics to read about…but never actually do.

5. 3 Steps to a Quick Turnaround
Another “get out of debt” article. I like that he doesn’t gloss over the difficulties, but outlines some good steps to get started.

6. How to Organize Your Pantry and Save Cash

7. 5 Ways to Slowly but Surely Become a Millionaire

8. 7 Surprising Facts About Roth IRAs

9. Voluntary Slavery

10. 10 Steps to a Happier Life
Favorite: #1. “Lighten up! Don’t get your panties in a wad about every little thing thathappens.”

Get 2% Deposited Into Your Schwab Investment Account

I don’t usually write much about credit cards here but this is something kind of interesting.

Charles Schwab is offering an unlimited 2% cash back on their Invest First Visa Credit Card*. The 2% reward gets deposited directly into your Schwab One brokerage account. If you can charge most of what you spend on a monthly basis, this could add up to a decent chunk of change.

My wife and I currently use a Wells Fargo cash-back Visa but it is capped at $500 per year. At a 2% reward, that’s $25,000 per year in spending. If you spend more than that, the Schwab card may not be a bad idea. Just don’t carry a balance!

* NOT an affiliate link.

Discover Card’s Idea of “Hurricane Relief”

I just received this email from Discover Card:

Subject: Hurricane Relief Information

I’m very sorry to hear about the recent disaster that affected your community. Please know that Discover Card is here to help you through this difficult time.

We can assist you with locating ATMs, issue emergency PINs to access cash, and provide additional/replacement cards for immediate use. You can also view your statement summary online and make an immediate payment or schedule a payment in advance – whenever it’s most convenient for you. We also have additional services for qualified accounts that may be helpful.

Thanks for being a Discover Cardmember. If there is anything we can do to serve you better, please let us know. Knowledgeable Account Managers are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-668-8767, or you can always visit Discover.com.

Edward Stolbof
Senior Vice President
Customer Service and Engagement
DFS Services LLC

One question:

Where exactly is the “relief” in that email?

It sounds much more like a call for customers to use their cards to rack up some good ol’ American debt. I hope not very many people have to take them up on their offer. Evacuating for a hurricane is a perfect example of why families need an emergency fund.

My Brother’s Nasty Bank of America Experience

Make a couple of late payments and Bank of America will jack your interest rate up to 29.99%!

My brother just sent this to me:

I handle pretty much all my financial business online. I don’t get paper statements for many accounts at all. I wanted to know what my Interest Rate was on my Bank of America credit card so I pulled up a statement online and come to find out it was 29.99%. I had seen online about how you can call your credit card company and tell them that you have offers from other companies and your current credit card company will most likely give you a better rate.

So I called Bank of America and mentioned that I had Credit Score that was around 750, I had a our mortgage with them that I had never been late on. I also stated that I had anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 in my checking account varying throughout the month as well as having over $2,000 in one of my savings accounts with them, I have four savings accounts with them total that vary from $100 to $500 during the month. I then stated that I didn’t understand why I would have a 29.99% interest rate and asked that they give me a better rate.

The lady said, “OK sir let me pull your information up.” She did so and stated, “Well I see that you were late in March and you were also late in November.” She then told me that the system automatically changes your interest rate if you are late twice.

I said, “How many day’s late was I? She said, “Uh it looks like three day’s on the one and one day the other time.” I said, “So my interest rate with all that I have with your company should be set at 29.99% that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been late a couple times and you are telling me that I should have such an outrageous rate?”

She then said, “Well sir you’re blaming the credit card company for your mistakes.”

Well of course that comment really ticked me off so I said, “OK I know I am not your biggest customer but I can tell you this: I will actively seek to move every penny, including my mortgage elsewhere.”

She said “OK” and I hung up.

I was so ticked off. I don’t care if I was late a few day’s here and there. I was never late 30 day’s…not even close because I just pulled my credit report last week and there were no blunders on it. Anyway I will mention to everyone I know that BOA sucks a**!!!

Now for a little background. I sent my brother an email and asked him to clarify how he didn’t know that he had a 29.99% interest rate. This was his resonse:

I received a phone call from a BOA rep about three months ago and he stated that my interest rate was going to go up and that I could keep my current interest rate for the balance on my card until I paid that amount off but I would have to close the account. My other option was to leave the account open and the rate would go up. He wasn’t for sure what it was going to go up to.

Well in all my research on credit scores I didn’t want to close the account so I left it open and continued making my monthly payments. In the hustle and bustle of things I never thought twice about checking to see what the rate had actually gone up to, especially since I don’t get an actual paper statement with the APR printed on it.

I’ve really been focusing on paying off any and all debt so I decided to get rates on any loans/credit cards that I had and determine which to pay off first so I went online and pulled a statement and low and behold I noticed the rate was 29.99%.

Okay, my brother could have done one thing that might have changed the outcome of this situation (or prevented it from happening in the first place):

When he was late, he should have called the bank and explained why he was late. I know for a fact that this helps the situation. A lot of times the bank will make a note in your file or even delete the late fee.

Regardless, a 29.99% interest rate does seem extreme in this situation. That’s nearly 2.5% per month! Usually those kinds of rates are reserved for those who are considered a credit risk—or at least they should be.

Bottom line: Don’t take those warm and fuzzy bank commercials—where they show the loving banker taking care of their customers—seriously. The bank doesn’t care about the customer.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: As an afterthought, I wanted to add my experiences with Bank of America. When we bought our house in 1999, we used a mortgage broker. A few months after we bought our house, we were informed that BofA had bought our loan.

Things went along fine until the day that I made an error when I paid our mortgage electronically. I misplaced a decimal point and paid $107.00 instead of $1,070 (or whatever amount it was). BofA rejected the payment, making our mortgage payment late. They charged us something like $40 and sent us a scary letter. I immediately called them and explained what had happened the guy cleared the late fee and allowed me to make the payment with no penalty.

We do our main banking with Wells Fargo but have our mortgage with BofA. As long as I can remember, we have always had good service.

Question of the Day: Rewards Cards

I was just reading Jennifer Oppenshaw’s piece on gas rewards cards and it brought this question of the day to mind:

Do you use a rewards credit card? If so, which one(s)?

I don’t use a rewards card because it seems like it would be too much of a hassle. I like the simplicity of my Visa check card, that pulls money directly out of my checking account. No hassles and I don’t have to worry about paying another bill each month.

That’s my opinion. What about you?