Shop Small. Save Big.

Registration for American Express’ Small Business Saturday started this morning!  Register your American Express card now and on Saturday, November 29, use that card for an in-store transaction at a local small business for a purchase of $10 or more and you’ll receive a $10 statement credit for up to three small businesses. You can earn up to $30 in statement credits! And if you have multiple American Express cards, each one qualifies individually. I happen to have three, so I’ll be earning/saving $90 that day.

In past years, the Small Business Saturday offer was a one-time $25 statement credit at one small business.  Many small businesses in my area offered bonus gift cards with the purchase of regular gift cards that day. My favorite nail salon offered a bonus $25 gift card, when you bought a $25 gift card. So I’d end up paying $0, for $50 in gift cards. It was a killer deal. I’m hoping they’re offering something similar this year.

Extra cash back has been Discovered

I arrived at work one day last week and checked my account balances, as I do every day. I logged into the Discover site and an offer I’ve never seen before popped up. So, I read it over and clicked on the “Sign Me Up” button.

Thank you for signing up for our exclusive promotional Cashback Bonus® offer. We are happy that you have decided to shift your spending to Discover® card and want to confirm the details of your offer.   You will earn $300 Cashback Bonus after you make a total of at least $2,000 in purchases each calendar month from 12/1/14 to 4/30/15 with your Discover card.

If I spend $2,000 on my Discover card each month from December to April, I’ll earn an additional $300 cash back. That’s on top of the 5-20% cash back I get for using Discover‘s “Shop Discover” online mall portal. And also on top of the 5% bonus cash back calendar, which is offered on Online Shopping & Department stores, through December 31 and then Gas in January to March and then Dining & Entertainment in April. I also get 1% cash back at any place not listed above.

Spending $2,000 on my card each month will be fairly easy. I’ve already updated all of my auto-pay accounts to bill to my Discover card. And then there’s Christmas…

From what I’ve read about this discount, it’s by invite only and cardholders randomly receive this or a similar offer. I totally recommend getting a Discover card.

Free Credit Monitoring. Thanks Home Depot!

Thanks to hackers who breached their credit card files, Home Depot is offering free credit monitoring for U.S. customers who “believe” they may have used their credit card at HD from April 2014 and on. I “believe” you did.

Line by line

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I just logged onto Mint to do my daily account check and was alerted to a finance charge on my credit card!!! No way!!!!

I knew I paid the balance in full before the due date, as I hate to pay to borrow money (But it does happen. I like to travel and that’s not always cheap). So, I went back through the online statement and made sure my math was correct and that it wasn’t my mistake. Nope. It was theirs.

I called the number on the back of the card and the customer service guy went through the  credits and debits and mentioned every possible way that the finance charge was correct. Once he had determined that, yes, the charge was actually incorrect, he reversed it.  It wasn’t a huge amount, but why pay for something that I don’t owe?

It pays to go through each of your account statements, line by line, every month. Computers do make errors and those errors might be costing you money.

Syncing has its privileges

Because I’m an avid Costco shopper, I’m also an American Express cardholder. It’s the only credit card Costco takes. I rarely use the card anywhere else because their cashback earning level is a joke.

In an attempt to lure my card out of Costco, AmEx has introduced the AmExSync program.  AmExSync lets me add special statement credit deals to my card via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor. The deals change frequently and I have to log in and choose the ones I want to use. Right now I’ll get a $5 statement credit if I spend $15 at Panera and a $25 statement credit if I spend $100 at J. Crew. The deals they offer are usually 25% back or more. Not too shabby.

How’s your credit?

Do you know what’s on your credit report? You really should. What’s on there can affect you for the rest of your life. Mortgage lenders, banks and credit card companies will check your credit report when you apply for an account and then check it regularly once your account is open. Some employers even check them before they’ll hire you.  Typically the better your credit, the lower your cost of borrowing (interest rates).

The U.S. government has made it free and easy for you to know exactly what’s on your credit report. AnnualCreditReport is the official site. Do not go anywhere else for your free reports!

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. 

Don’t check it from a public computer. Understand that you will be inputting your very personal info and answering verification questions to which only you should know the answers. You’ll get to see exactly what’s being reported and be able to dispute inaccuracies. You don’t get to see your credit score for free but each credit reporting company will offer to show your score for a fee.

Make checking your credit report a recurring annual task on your calendar. Print it out each year so you can compare the current report to last year’s report. Know where you stand in the world of credit.

Free Credit Monitoring from Target

You know I love my Target.  I’ll still shop away, with very little abandon, even after the whole security breach thing. I feel like it could happen anywhere and to any retailer. It doesn’t mean you need to freak out and only pay in cash. You just have to be vigilant and check your accounts as much as possible. Use Mint to monitor your card activity. Also, use a credit card rather than a debit card. At least if there are unauthorized charges, your checking account won’t be instantly depleted.

Anyway, if you used your credit or debit card at Target between November 27 and December 15, 2013, Target is offering one free year of credit monitoring.  Sign up by April 23, 2014 for an activation code. They aren’t verifying whether or not you actually used your card during that time period. Hint. Hint.

Happy shopping!