Line by line

mint.jpg

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.

Advertisements

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!

Track your budget

Although I love to shop, I’m always on top of my finances.  As you may or may not know, I’m cheap. So I use the free budget tracking website Mint.com.  It’s owned by Intuit, the same company that makes TurboTax and QuickBooks, so it’s trustworthy.

Set-up is super easy. On your first log-in you input all of your log ins and passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, loans, retirement accounts, mortgages, student loans, store cards, etc. Mint downloads all of your transactions and you (or Mint) assign a spending category to each transaction. On future downloads, Mint will use your previous category assignment to categorize new transactions. Mint also does a pretty good job of recognizing merchants and assigning the right category. You can always change the category and add your own. You have the option of splitting transactions into multiple categories, too.  Cash transactions can be manually added as well.

After a couple months of using Mint regularly, the software gets to know your spending habits. It does some magical calculator math and determines your budget for you. Trust me, it’s a bit shocking. But it does make you more aware of where your money is going.  You have the ability to change the budget limits and the software lets you set financial goals.

Mint keeps track of your payment due dates and alerts you on the site and by e-mail. It recommends ways in which you can save money. It also shows your your net worth. Eek!! Nothing like a good slap in the face from a stupid computer.

I fully recommend Mint. I’ve been using it for years and I’m 100% satisfied. I log in at least 5 times a week and I know where every penny goes.

More free giftcards

Several years ago I joined MyPoints. It’s kind of like a mall, with links to several retailers on their site. If you click through the MyPoints site and make a purchase at one of their 1242 retailers (Macy’s, Old Navy, Best Buy, iTunes, etc.) you earn anywhere from 1-25 points per dollar.

You save up your points for gift cards. You can start redeeming (for the more useful gift cards) at 1600 points. Gift cards range from $10-100 for places like Target, Amazon, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, Starbucks, PF Changs, and “more than 75 merchants”.  I rarely redeem for less than a $50 gift card, because the redemption value is usually discounted for higher value gift cards (Example: a $25 Macy’s gift cards costs 3450 points and a $50 Macy’s gift card costs 6450).  I’ve earned about $850 in gift cards since joining.

I will warn you that they send a lot of email. You can limit how much they send but they use your e-mail address to match up the purchases you make and award your points, so use the same e-mail address you’d use with the retailer. They also send emails that have a 5 point offer just for clicking on a link, so don’t completely shut them down. You can earn 20 points clearing your your emails as you stand in line at the grocery store by clicking their links.

If you have an extra minute when you’re shopping online, this is my favorite site for stacking or double-dipping. My usual method is to go to MyPoints first and find the retailer where I want to shop. I click their link and it takes me to the retailer’s site.  I then close that window (It makes them think I’m shopping through their site and sets the points earning process in motion). Then I open a new window and scope out which of my credit cards is offering the best cashback rewards for the retailer where I’m shopping.  I use my credit card mall’s link to shop and finalize my purchase.

There. I’ve just earned points through MyPoints AND my credit card’s cashback program! I’ve doubled up on my gift card earning and I’m awesome.

Free gift cards anyone?

No, this is not one of those spam e-mails that gets auto-diverted to your trash.  I’m taking about the best iPhone/Droid app ever, ShopKick.

When you walk into specific stores (Target, Macy’s, JC Penney, & AE, just to name a few) you get “kicks”.   And when I say walk in, I mean walk in and sometimes just walk near the front door.  A sensor in the store emits a noise that your phone’s microphone detects and that’s how you’re awarded the walk-in kicks.  Every store has a different walk-in kicks level and some days there are no kicks to be had.  There are usually item scanning kicks available.  Also, some stores offer kicks for purchases you make when you link your Visa or Mastercard.

This app is amazing.  I’ve had it on my iPhone since January 2012.  As of this moment, I’ve earned $497.51 in gift cards.  And these are real (well, virtual) gift cards for stores you will actually want to shop at like Coach, Target, Macys, Best Buy and a lot more.

You redeem your kicks for gift cards within the app and most are available as soon as you redeem your kicks.  I’ve redeemed kicks for Sports Authority gift cards as I’ve stood in line at the store with my $100+ Asics in hand.  Asics on which I didn’t spend a penny, thanks to ShopKick.

The app is free and is very easy to use. You just have to remember to use it.  Click the link above to sign up!

You need a Target Red Card

If you don’t already loooove Target, you have issues.  I can wander aimlessly for hours.  They have almost everything you could need, although I don’t like their produce so much.  I’m not fond of packaged produce.

Anyway….whether there’s a Target near you or not, you need to get a Target Red Card.  There’s a Visa option or a debit card option. I went with the debit card, because it’s Target. I can’t be trusted with an unlimited credit line (well, they’d limit it, but still). I have to have the cash in my checking account to make a purchase so it keeps me within budget.

With the Red Card you get 5% off of almost every purchase. Even on Disney gift cards. Yes, if you’re going to one of the Disney Parks, you can save 5% if you fund your visit with Disney gift cards purchased at Target.  Your savings may only net you a free small soda in the park, but hey, it’s a free soda.  They sell other gift cards (iTunes, chain restaurants, etc) and you save 5% off the face value. You do not get 5% off of Target gift cards or prescriptions.

Free standard shipping on any amount to ALL 50 STATES!!!! See something on their website that you can’t find in the store? Need to send a gift to a family member in a tiny town in Alaska? Not near a Target? Are you like me and you prefer to do all of your Christmas shopping online because you’re too impatient to stand in line?  You don’t have to pay the standard shipping fee (usually starting around $9) when you use your Red Card! That is reason enough to get the Red Card.

Target also has an app called Cartwheel that usually saves you another 5-20% off items when you shop in the store.  You add discounts for certain items within the app and the cashier scans the bar code at the end of your transaction.  My local Targets have free wi-fi now, so I just connect and search the app for the items I’m tossing in my cart as I wander. You’re not going to be making a killing here, but every discount helps.  Why pay full price if they’re willing to give you a discount?