Archive for November, 2010
Did you lose your job? Get a divorce? Get downgraded to part-time? If you lost your dental insurance or never had any, check out DentalPlans.com. These are not dental insurance plans, these are dental discount cards. You pay an annual fee and then you are eligible for the discounted prices at participating dentists.
At DentalPlans.com you will find the following features:
Individual Discount Plans
As the category says, these are for individuals. The nice thing about these discount plans is that they are very easy to pick up. Even if you are a student or self-employed you can pick up a dental discount plan. There are no health checkups required either.
Family Discount Plans
If you find yourself having to cover your entire family, the DentalPlans.com plans are affordable. You pay an annual fee of $200 or less and your entire family is eligible for the dental discounts.
Business and Group Plans
This could be a great benefit to offer your employees without having to break the bank. There are also no paperwork hassles since the discounts are given directly at the dentist visit. I don’t know about you but medical paperwork becomes a hassle quickly.
Zip code based search for plans available in your zip code
This is a great feature. I would do this first because it shows you which plans are available in your area. Then you don’t even have to bother checking the plans that aren’t available.
Last name search for participating dentists in your area
This is a wonderful feature if you have been seeing the same dentist for years and you are happy with him. Find out before you sign up which plan he offers if any. Alternatively, if you are signing up for a dental discount plan and need to find a dentist that accepts the card, you can use this tool to determine which dentist has an office close to your residence.
General information about the difference between insurance and discount plans
There is clearly written information comparing what an insurance policy may cover to what the dental discount plan may cover. Look at your typical dentist bills. Which discount plan will be best suited for you?
This feature comes in handy if you do not have dental insurance and discover that you need to visit the dentist. Some of the plans can be activated as fast as the next business day. You can print your discount card online and be ready to visit the dentist to take care of your emergency. I love this feature because it allows you to stretch your budget as far as it will stretch. You start your annual discount as close to the appearance of a needed treatment as possible and then have a whole year of discounts ahead of you.
First off, I have to say that this website is very easy to navigate. It is clearly organized and brings you to where you want to go quickly. The different kinds of plan options are easily accessible on the left side of the screen until they take a more prominent space.
DentalPlans.com lists dental discount plans by companies ranging from Aetna over Cigna to Uni-Care. These are not unknown companies. These are some of the best known companies in the United States. With the sample cost cards provided, you can easily compare the different offers and decide which one is best for you. Remember that the sample cards provided are just that, samples. If you already know which procedure is being recommended for you, contact the company whose card you are considering and ask them for their price for the procedure in your area. If the discounted price suits your budget, purchase the dental discount plan and make an appointment at your dentist.
This is another credit monitoring service. FreeCreditScore.com is owned by Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. As such they offer you a free Experian credit score when you sign up for a 7 day trial of their credit monitoring service. The three main credit reporting bureaus have different names for their credit scores although they all appear to use the software created by Fair Isaac and company. On any given day your FICO score will be different depending on what information the credit bureau calculating your score had in their data base.
I know the information in my credit reports for the three big credit bureaus is different, so I don’t expect my credit score to be identical either. They should be close though unless one of the bureaus has inaccurate information in their data base. That is precisely what you may expect to discover through a credit monitoring service like FreeCreditScore.com. The main features of their service that they call Triple Advantage are:
Credit score alerts
These inform you when your credit score changes. This will alert you when something negative has happened that you weren’t aware of but also give you updates on whether your efforts to improve your credit score are working.
Credit score center
This is an informational tool which lets you learn how credit scores are calculated and what you can do to improve your credit score.
Credit score estimator
This tool allows you to estimate the impact of a financial move before you make it. Use it to see what a car loan will do to your credit score before you purchase one or how expensive of a car you can purchase without negatively impacting your credit score.
Free credit score
You will receive a free credit score when you sign up for a free 7 day trial of their Triple Advantage program. Be careful here. If you do not cancel within 7 days, you will be billed $14.95 per month for this program.
This last caveat is what you will find in negative customer reviews for most credit reporting companies that offer a free credit score incentive. It appears that many consumers do not read the fine print and don’t discover the fee they have been paying until they read their credit card statement in detail months later. By then, of course, that free credit score has cost them quite a bit of money. Of course, if your credit score changed during that time period due to an attempt at identity theft, you will be thanking your lucky stars that you were informed of this so quickly.
Overall, FreeCreditScore.com seems to be a good company. Star Reviews gives it a score of 5.5 out of 6 possible points. They also commended the company for same day responses to customer e-mails. This is not the case for other companies.
In recent years identity theft has increased dramatically. Even if your individual credit card wasn’t stolen, there have been many cases of thefts from large corporations where thousands of customer credit card numbers were compromised. You are always better off discovering a problem at the beginning of its occurrence than years later when you try to get a home loan and discover that your credit score is terrible because someone else opened false accounts in your name and didn’t pay their bills. The easiest way to discover that kind of problem is through credit monitoring by companies such as FreeCreditScore.com. If you aren’t too worried, you should at least request your free annual credit reports that you are entitled to by law.
This company provides you with credit reports, credit monitoring services and your credit score. Their fee for the credit monitoring service is $14.95 per month. This is about average when you compare it to other companies. Credit monitoring services can cost twice that much.
You can receive your credit score for free on their site. Beware though. In order to receive your free credit score you have to sign up for their credit monitoring service. They give you a 7 day free trial membership, so the credit score is indeed free if you cancel that membership within 7 days. I don’t know about you, but I always have trouble with the cancellation required offers. Seven days is a very short time period. If anything unusual happens, you can easily find yourself paying for at least one month of the credit monitoring service.
Credit monitoring can be a useful tool. Identity theft is rampant and credit monitoring is one of the fastest ways to discover that you have been a victim. So even if you were just after your credit score, you may want to consider the credit monitoring service.
CreditReport.com has the following features:
Free credit score available
As mentioned above, this one is only free if you cancel the trial credit monitoring service within one week. It does come with an analysis of how to improve your score which is nice. There are a number of methods in determining a credit score. FICO is the most commonly used one. However, even from the sample at CreditReport.com it is not possible to determine which credit score model they use.
Credit monitoring service at a reasonable price
At $14.95 per month their fee falls right along the typical fee charged for this service. Credit monitoring provides you with notifications if any changes occur to your accounts or if your credit score changes significantly.
These provide a financial history of your credit activities. Here you will be able to tell if someone other than yourself has been opening accounts in your name.
Online explanations of credit scores, how they are determined and their impact on you
This is my favorite part of CreditReport.com. They provide clear explanations of what credit scores are. They also offer details on what impacts your credit score and more importantly, what is considered positive or negative.
Credit scores are in the news and in advertisements frequently. The importance of credit scores is included as a topic in many financial literacy classes these days. CreditReport.com gives you a way to find out where you stand for free. CreditReport.com is not known for fast customer service. If you contact them by e-mail, expect to wait a few days for a reply. At least they do appear to reply.
Checking into complaints about this company, most seem to revolve around being billed for their monthly service. Even though I do not personally like this method of obtaining customers, I cannot fault the company for this. They do disclose their fee on the main page of their website and the fact that you need to cancel the free trial membership within seven days in order to not be billed for the credit monitoring service. It is up to us, the consumers, to follow through with what is required of us in order to receive what we wanted. It would be a different story, if they didn’t inform us of what is required, but they do.
Everyone should be checking their credit reports. By law you are entitled to a free credit report every year. CreditReport.com is not the place to request that credit report. If you are worried about your credit and wish to get reports more frequently or have your credit activities monitored continuously, then you may want to use the services offered by CreditReport.com.
The Online Trading Academy has been in business for 13 years now. Their goal is to provide professional trader education. They have expanded that mission to include beginning investors. To entice you into signing up for their programs they offer several incentives:
You will need to sign up in order to access the other free incentives. This process is fast and easy. After having tested it, it also does not appear to be spam intensive, something I always worry about. Getting informative e-mails is great, being bombarded by sales pitches is not.
Free online courses
After listening to one of their free online courses, I can tell you, they offer overviews of what you need to know with a bit of a sales pitch thrown in for their in depth classes. This is not unusual. After all, there is always more to learn, and which company does not want you to do your learning with them? You can dip into the world of exchange traded funds, gold, foreign exchange currency trading and more with these.
Free pro trader class
This one is being offered around the United States and in Canada by Online Trading Academy. I am a big believer in learning and having immediate access to the instructor is always good.
Free traders’ virtual magazine
This is an online publication which really looks like a magazine. You will find interesting articles in here. The lead article in the October issue is on modern trading systems. I found the articles to be well written and informative.
Free Power Trading Radio
This is a daily broadcast, generally by one of the Online Trading Academy instructors. The one I listened to started with a recap of the trading day. They save their broadcasts for later access by their membership.
Having been in business for over a decade, gives their product some degree of credibility. They also appear to have a following of students who were very satisfied with what they learned, always a good sign. The negative reviews tended to focus on cost.
The Online Trading Academy provides enough free content, you should be able to get a feel for whether their product will be worthwhile for you. In any kind of learning, it depends on where the student is at, to know which step they need to take next in order to learn more. I always am happy to see free offers when evaluating the value of a course.
Only you know, where you are at. You need to take that into consideration for any course you consider. If you sign up for a Master’s degree course and you haven’t graduated from high school yet, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. On the other hand, if you have a lot of knowledge on a particular topic and you sign up for an introductory course, you are likely to be bored and consider it a waste of your time. Honestly evaluate where you are at and then find the courses that provide the next step.
The free courses at the Online Trading Academy are a great way to assess yourself. If the content resonates with you, if you understand what they are talking about and find you are adding to your knowledge, then this may be the perfect next step for you. If, on the other hand, you could be teaching the course, you may want to get in contact with them and see if they need more instructors.
You certainly cannot go wrong with their free content. Every investor has to start somewhere. Investing is the type of activity that requires continuous learning, if it isn’t learning about the methods of investing, it most certainly is learning about the current world events that may impact your investments.
As you probably have noticed, interest rates have been low for years now. Everyone that has a loan has rejoiced at this situation, but those trying to earn some money on their investments have struggled with the current interest rates. The HSBC Advance online savings account can help with this dilemma.
The national averages for the annual interest rates on savings accounts are not very high. Most are below 0.5%. So the HSBC Advance online savings account is quite the bargain. It has the following features:
1.1% annual percentage rate
At about 5 times the national average this is a great increase even if the interest rate itself is still low compared to historical averages.
No regular monthly fees
Monthly fees quickly eat up your interest payments with the current low interest rates, so it is good to find an account without fees.
Low minimum deposit
The HSBC Advance online savings account only requires $1.00 to open. So what are you waiting for?
No transaction fees
There are still fees for orders such as stop payment orders. Read the fine print before you open an account so you are aware of what charges may occur.
Currently FDIC insured accounts are guaranteed up to $250,000.
Fast application process
You can apply online within minutes.
HSBC bank has been around for over a century. In the current climate of failing banks, it is nice to know your bank has a good track record.
Online banks have been around for about a decade now. Unless you have your heart set on walking into your local bank branch to deposit money, they are very convenient. Taking away that local temptation to withdraw money, will also give you an edge in increasing your savings. The best way to increase a savings account balance is to deposit money regularly and then consider it off limits.
Of course, there are still convenient ways to access your money. You can link your HSBC Advance online savings account to any number of checking accounts at any bank. You can also withdraw money at any ATM machine. This will come in handy when you are ready to withdraw the money for the purpose you saved it for. Just remember, this is a savings account, not a checking account. If you want to take advantage of that increased interest rate, you need to keep your money in there for as long as possible.
In my experience, accounts such as the HSBC Advance online savings account offer great annual interest yields in better economic times too. Since the overhead costs are a bit lower than for the brick and mortar branch locations, the consumer gets a slight benefit. It is never a huge increase, but if you save steadily, it will make a difference. On $10,000 just a tenth of a percentage point adds $10 in interest to your account. For the HSBC Advance online savings account the difference is about eight tenths of a percentage point right now.
Overall, this account has some great features, so when you are ready to add a savings account, keep this one in mind as you compare your options. Personally, I have found online savings accounts to be an excellent tool for my savings portfolio. The only drawback I have found is that when you do not access the account frequently, there is a tendency to forget the passwords you set up. So make sure, you have simple answers to those security questions everyone establishes these days.
In the current economy with the national unemployment rate hovering around 9.5% more and more people are finding themselves in a position they never dreamed they would be in: out of work and deep in debt. It doesn’t take long before the choice becomes paying a bill that is due or putting food on the table. Most of us would choose putting food on the table. Unfortunately, not paying your bills starts you on the spiral towards decreasing your credit score.
Why should you care? Hopefully, your current misfortune will not last forever. Some day you will find yourself in the position to consider buying a new car again or even a home. That is when you want your credit score to be as high as possible. As with most things in life, it takes longer to restore your credit score than it does to ruin it.
One of the tools available for rebuilding your credit score, is to get a secured credit card. The First Bank of Delaware offers the Granite Secured MasterCard®. Secured credit cards require you to have money in an account with the bank to secure the purchases you make with the credit card. This is not the same as a debit card. With a debit card you only spend money you already have in your bank account. That part is the same for this secured credit card. However, with a debit card the money is immediately withdrawn from your account.
With a secured credit card you are also limited to the amount of money in your bank account. However, you send in payment for your secured credit card bill every month instead of it being immediately deducted. Make sure you keep up with your payments. Late fees on secured credit cards can be steep.
There are many secured credit cards available. Each with different features. The Granite Secured MasterCard® offers the following features:
A typical line of credit of $500 which can range up to $5000
There is an annual fee which will reduce your possible maximum line of credit to $4940 since the current annual fee is $60.
Interest payments on the money deposited to secure the credit card
Most banks do not offer interest on the money deposited into an account to secure a credit card. Granite Secured MasterCard® does. Currently the First Bank of Delaware is paying 1% annual percentage rate on their savings accounts.
Monthly credit reporting to the three major credit bureaus
This is very important in order to restore your credit score. Other than being a matter of pride, it does you no good to make all your payments on time, if the credit bureaus do not find out about it. If you went through difficult times that affected your credit score, you need to make sure your efforts to restore your credit are being noticed.
Fast credit card application processing
You can apply for a Granite Secured MasterCard® online. It will only take a few minutes and you won’t have to wait long to find out if your application has been approved.
So what does improving your credit score do for you? It allows you to qualify for lower interest rates on future loans. Most of the purchases you are likely to make in the future are not affected by your credit score, but a home purchases and a vehicle purchase are. Your best approach to getting back on the right track is to start putting away money in a savings account while handling a secured credit card. Pay off your secured credit card balance every month, so you don’t build up more expenses than you can reasonably afford. Remember, you are best off if you consider this secured credit card as a credit reporting tool, not a financial loan. Budgeting is an important part of getting back on track.
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