Sunday, August 29, 2010

What the United Continental Merger Means For You

The United Continental merger will make United the largest airline in the country. Both companies combined serve over 144 million customers each year. The frequency of flights may be reduced and some flights may be eliminated. There may be fewer flights between small cities.

There should be improvements in flight schedules. United has hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Continental has hubs in San Francisco, Denver, Washington, DC and Cleveland.

Frequent flier programs already allow customers to use miles on both airlines. If you are a member of Continental’s airport club program you can use United's club programs. Both airlines use the same credit card program. Business travelers locked into corporate contracts may see higher prices.

Continental’s pilots are paid more than United’s so United’s pilots are expecting pay raises. Some jobs may be lost due to the merger due to the logistics of business mergers which usually involve cutting costs and reducing redundancy.

According to Joe Brancantelli on, don't be concerned with what you hear in the media about the merger. I would add that you wait about a month or two after the merger has been finalized, then watch for comments on updates to their services. Here are some other tips from Brancantelli.

1. Learn the airport jargon, listen to how airline employee talk to each other. Ask the agent, “Where’s the equipment?” The agent will go to the computer and find out where your plane is and when it will arrive. If the plane is already at the gate ask the agent, “When are we scheduled to push back?” This means when will the plane take off. If you want an upgrade ask, “How are the loads today?” This means how many empty seats do you have and the agent will let you know your number on the upgrade wait list. This will be to your advantage because you will not be viewed as the average customer and they will inclined to provide you with more information.

2. Remove your business card tags. Replace with business tags with tags with your home address on all baggage you check-in at the airport. After mergers some unhappy bag handlers may mysteriously misplace bags with business tags because they are most likely to complain about service.

The merger reduces the depth of airline competition which may cause an increase in airfares, however the airlines assure passengers that fares won't be affected, we will have to wait and see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How to Protect Yourself From Debt Collectors

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines a debt collector as any person who regularly collects or attempts to collect a debt owed including a creditor who uses a third party to collect a debt.

Consumers should learn their rights regarding credit and debt collection to prevent harassment, prevent paying additional fees or money that is not owed and to protect their credit. The main act that protects consumers regarding debt collection is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which can be found on the FTC website at

The FDCPA covers individuals, families and debt owed for medical bills, mortgages, car loans and personal credit cards. The act does not cover debts business debts owed. A debt collector can only contact you between 8am and 9pm. They can contact you at any number you provided on your credit card or loan application unless you tell them in writing or over the phone to stop contacting you at that number. A debt collector can contact other people to get your contact information if they are unable to find you or do not get a response from you. They are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once.

According to CNN Money the number of complaints against debt collectors threatening to use violence or using violence increased by more than 50% since 2009 to 2,517. Complaints against debt collectors using abusive language increased to 35% in 2009.

Debt collectors cannot ask for more money than what is owed, threaten violence, legal actions, jail, job loss, or property seizure. A debt collector must sent a written letter stating how much you owe within 5 days from the first time they contact you and must include the name of the original creditor owed, and the process to follow if you feel you do not owe the debt.

If you feel you do not owe the debt, send a written response with a return receipt within 30 days of receiving the letter requesting proof that you owe the debt. A debt collector cannot contact you again until proof has been sent. Here are some highlights of what debt collectors cannot do:

Debt collectors cannot: harass you with threats of violence or publish your name, use profanity, make obsessive phone calls, make false statements or send false documentation, misrepresent the amount owed or the company they work for, cannot state you will be arrested if you don't pay your debt, may not give credit information about you to anyone including a credit reporting company, may not collect fees or other charges on top of the amount owed unless the contract states so or contact you by postcard.

If you do not pay a debt owed, a creditor or debt collector can: sue you or garnish your wages. However, debt collectors cannot obtain garnishments from: social security, SSI or veterans, military, railroad retirement, foreign service or disability benefits, merchant seamen wages or FEMA disaster assistance.

If you feel a debt collector has violated the FDCPA you can sue them in a federal or state court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the debt collector to pay you for damaged incurred up to $1,000. Complaints can be filed against a debt collector with the FTC.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are You Still Using Checks

I still use checks and according to MSN Money I am one of a few who still do. My first preference is using money orders. Your personal information is passed around as many times as we breathe air during a 24 hour period which puts you at an increased risk for identity theft.

Whole Foods has begun refusing checks as payment in some of their stores and has plans to expand the policy to other stores. Banana Republic also began a no check writing policy that went into effect in the fall of 2009.

I liked it when you had to go to a bank to make transactions and the only means of payment was writing a check or using a credit card. I use electronic transactions such as a debit card or credit card but prefer to pay for items with cash.

I don't like being forced to use a particular payment method such as the automated check system that scans your check and accesses your account immediately. This prompted me to start using money orders again, that way I don't have to worry about anyone accessing my bank account. I don't do online banking and don't setup automated payments.

I know checks are going to be retired but I am holding on for dear life and will continue to use them until I am forced to use another method of payment.

Some consumers are afraid or uncomfortable using ATM and debit cards. Others, are hesitant to use them for fear of becoming a victim of identity theft. I wonder, if those who write checks now will no longer be able to write checks in the future and don't want to use a debit card or credit card, what payment method will banks provide for them? Only time will tell what the future holds.

If you are a check writer like me, write your congressman and request that businesses accept checks as a form of payment. I will be writing my letter right along with you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Next Week's Credit Card Changes

You have heard of all the changes that were outlined in the CARD act of 2009 that went into effect February 22, 2010.

Well, credit card companies were forced to make additional changes that affect consumers which go into effect August 22, 2010. Here is a highlight of some of the changes developed by the Federal Reserve that may affect you.

1. If you make a late payment credit card companies can only change up to $25 for fee unless one of your last 6 payments was late or they can provide justifiable cause that the costs it incurs as a result of a late payment require charging more than $25. If you repeatedly make late payments you can be charged a higher fee but no more than $35.

2. You cannot be charged a late payment fee greater than your minimum monthly payment. This also applies to over-the-limit-fees.

3. You will no longer be charged inactivity fees for not using your credit card.

4. You will not be charged more than one fee for multiple offenses such as a late payment and over-the-limit. Some consumers were being charged multiple fees which made it impossible to stay current on their monthly bills.

5. Credit card companies must explain in detail any rate increases and must reevaluate your interest rate every six months. This will be helpful for those who made late payments in the past but are now current on their payments. If the evaluation determines that you can receive a lower interest rate, it must be applied within 45 days after the evaluation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Over 10 million cars have been recalled since January 2010. Toyota recalled over 8.5 million cars; Jaguar recalled 5,000 cars; Honda recalled approximately 384,000 cars and General Motors recalled 1.3 million cars.

If your car has been recalled you should be contacted by mail by the manufacturer. However, if you have not, you can find recall information on the internet at sites such as: Carfax, Environmental Protection Agency or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most cars that are recalled are repaired free of charge by your local dealership. Here are 5 tips if your car is recalled.

1. Don't panic. Some recalls are not safety hazards but you should take you car to the dealership to have the repairs done just to be safe.

2. Verify notification. If you receive a notice that you car has been recalled take your car to any dealership in your area that sells your particular car make and model. Recall notices are valid as long as the car is less than 10 years old.

3. Get a second opinion. Get a second opinion on repair costs before taking it to the dealer in case they suggest additional repairs that they will not cover.

4. Used Cars. If you bought a used car and repairs were made a sticker will be displayed inside the car.

5. Check annually. If you did not receive a notice that you car was recalled, ask other people who own your same type of car to notify you if they hear about recalls. Also, search the internet periodically to see the list of recent car recalls.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Upcoming Debit Card Changes

Starting August 15, 2010 if you overdraw on your bank account, your transaction will be declined and you will not be charged overdraft fees if you did not previously opt-in by July 1, 2010.

However, this rule does not apply to checks or automatic bill payments. You will still be charged overdraft fees for these transactions if you account is overdrawn. Standard overdraft services your bank provides will cover the transaction by charging a flat fee of $20-$35 each time you overdraw your account.

If you have an overdraft protection service your bank will provide a line of credit that is linked to your savings account to cover transactions when you overdraw your account. Banks will charge you a fee each time you overdraw your account.

Using your bank's overdraft protection service may be less expensive than using the standard overdraft service. Use caution because some banks report overdrawn accounts on your credit report.

If you did not opt in by July 1, 2010, it may not be too late. If you have been a good customer of your bank, contact them and ask if you can still opt-in to their debit card program.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

How to Save Money on Your Cable Bill

The average price for cable television per month is $75. Cable bills increase on average 5% per year. This is due to higher fees that cable companies have to pay the FCC, competition from other cable companies, loss of advertising dollars, higher technology costs and to makeup for the loss of subscribers each year.

Customers would have better accepted the higher costs if the cable companies sent out a survey to ask customers what technologies they would like and how much more they would be willing to pay. Instead, customers were forced to accept new technologies and higher prices.

If you feel like you are paying too much for cable or satellite tv or are frustrated by the service you receive there is hope. There are several free content websites available such as and low fee content websites such as Apple's iTunes.

I liked analog cable and don't really care about high definition, blu-ray and fiber optics. I just want to be able to see a clear picture and don't need a picture that is so clear you can see a pimple on someone's face.

I purchased a television a few months ago and had cable installed. I wanted to see if my cable bill would be reduced. It was, by $8. Incredible. I heard good things about Netflix and am in the process of comparing Netflix options and movie selections with the number of movies I watch per week because I mostly watch movies or informational shows.

If you want to eliminate your cable bill you will not have as many channel options but it will save you a lot of money which can help everyone in this economy whether you are sinking in debt or not. Most U.S. homes can receive at least one local television station over the air and approximately 80% can watch 5 or more stations over the air.

The picture quality is clear largely in part due to the digital tv conversion that was completed last year and will still be able to see HD programming. HDTV is more expensive for local stations to produce so they may show non-HD during the day and switch to HD at night. To view the stations over the air you will need an antenna and an HDTV with a built in HDTV tuner or integrated HDTV. If you tv does not have this feature you can buy a separate HDTV tuner that connects your existing HDTV to an antenna.

For shows that you cannot see with your antenna, go on the internet to see if you can view them. Some of the shows may have commercials but it is worth it to watch them for free. If you use you can watch shows for free and watch past seasons of your favorite shows. Hulu can be viewed on your computer, Play Station, Wii, iPhone and Xbox. You can watch unlimited shows for only $9 a month and you can cancel whenever you want.

Some sports channels can be viewed on the internet such as You can also purchase single shows from and iTunes soon after they air on tv. You can also stream video from your computer to your tv if your computer has on output that works with a tv. Netflix allows you to watch as many movies as you want per month for only $9 and you can also cancel at anytime. Watch out cable tv, your subscribers are moving to free tv.

Monday, August 02, 2010

New Mortgage Rules That May Affect You

New mortgage rules will affect those who previously qualified for the sub-prime mortgage loans. The new rules will require borrowers who qualify for riskier loans to pay higher fees and interest rates.

Lenders are now required to make qualified loans to borrowers with elimination of interest-only loans, terms no longer than 30 years. Borrowers with bad credit who cannot qualify or afford these types of loans will have to apply for non-qualified mortgages which will allow for terms longer than 30 years with higher interest rates. Lenders can still offer loans with higher rates in the first five years.

The new laws are causing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to implement restrictive rules that are preventing millions of borrowers with good mortgage payment history from being able to refinance at the current low interest rates.

This reaction by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may result in additional foreclosures if borrowers are unable to pay their mortgage and unable to refinance. This rule should be looked at again and should be done on a case-by-case basis for borrowers.

Write your congressman and voice your opinion about the new mortgage laws. If you are having trouble refinancing your home contact NACA at or HUD at