Tag Archives: Bills

Loyal Customers Pay More for Cable, So Call and Haggle a Better Price

Loyal Customers Pay More for Cable, So Call and Haggle a Better Price

Customer loyalty usually doesn’t pay off. In fact, Consumerist found that loyal cable customers generally pay $10-$20 more a month. It’s worth picking up the phone and asking your cable company for a better deal.

Consumerist has been studying a number of bills from real customers of seven different cable providers. They’ve shared some interesting findings overall, but here’s what they found in terms of customer loyalty:

One recurring theme we noticed: new customers are getting better packages, for less money, than existing customers. When pricing out comparable bundles for the bill guides, we generally saw that new customers were being offered the same or better service for $10-$20 less than our current customer. We even found one ten-year Charter customer, whose bill we did not publish, paying roughly $75 per month more than a brand-new customer, getting similar service, in their neighborhood would.

It’s interesting to see the actual amount customers pay for their loyalty, and Consumerist they only looked at cable bills, chances are, the same rule applies for any service provider that offers new customer incentives.

Although not everyone has a choice of provider, it’s worth calling yours and asking for a lower rate. Check prices online and see if they’re giving new customers a better deal, then ask for the same deal. If you haven’t called your provider to haggle in a while, Consumerist’s findings serve as a good reminder to pick up the phone.


The 3 Big Things We’ve Learned About Your Cable Bill | Consumerist

Photo by Kai Chan Vong.

Why You Should Make a List of Every Account Linked to Your Credit Cards

Why You Should Make a List of Every Account Linked to Your Credit Cards

There aren’t many drawbacks to automating your finances, but one you occasionally encounter is having to update all of your bills when you get a new credit or debit card. To make it easier, finance writer J.Money suggests making a list of every account linked to your cards.

Maybe your card info was hacked and you had to order a new one. Or maybe you got a new chip credit card and your old one no longer works. Whatever the scenario, it can be a minor pain to go through all of the accounts linked to your card. Having a list of those accounts on hand is incredibly useful when that happens.

Over at Budgets Are Sexy, J. Money points to a couple of other reasons why this tip is helpful.

  1. It makes updating your new card everywhere MUCH faster
  2. It prevents any late fees from happening, or worse – shutting off of services since you don’t forget where it’s all listed anymore!
  3. It keeps stress levels as low as possible
  4. And it forces you to re-evaluate all the services/apps/products/bills you have to see if it’s still worth including in your life.

All it takes is sitting down and making a list once, and then as you link new accounts, simply add them to the list. For more detail, head to J.Money’s full post.

TIP: Make a list of where all your credit cards are listed! | Budgets Are Sexy

Photo by Sean MacEntee.

This Energy Efficiency Quiz Offers Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill

This Energy Efficiency Quiz Offers Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill

We’ve shown you lots of ways to save money on your power bills, from the drastic to the simple and easy, but the biggest energy sinks around your house are probably the big ones you use most often. This quiz helps you see which of your appliances or comforts uses more energy, and explains how much.


You can take the quiz embedded below, but we’d suggest hitting the link below to jump over to Constellation Energy, who built the quiz, and read more about exactly how different the energy consumption between the options in each question really is. Most of the questions are pretty self-explanatory and the answers will be pretty obvious, but some of them are a little trickier, and the detailed explanation leans into what you should know before you, let’s say, run out and upgrade your fridge or washer and dryer.


For example, it’s pretty obvious that a laptop will consume less energy than a desktop computer, but if you’re looking for energy savings, you should pay attention to your system’s power management controls, and make sure it’s set to sleep when it’s not in use—that’s where the real energy savings lies, regardless of the type of computer you use. Anyway, even that’s an obvious example, so try the quiz yourself, then hit the link below to read more about how you can save money—and energy—at home.

Take the Energy Efficiency Quiz | Constellation Energy

The Surprising Reasons You Pay More for Car Insurance

The Surprising Reasons You Pay More for Car Insurance

In high school, car insurance is cheaper if you get good grades. When you turn 25, your premium changes again. Car insurance companies assign rates based on how responsible they think you are and how likely they think you are to get into an accident. Fair enough, but some of the criteria they use is a little unexpected.

You’re Single

If you’re not married, chances are, you’re paying a bit more for car insurance.

According to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), major insurance carriers almost always charge more for customers who are single, separated, or divorced. Even worse, widowed drivers are often charged more, too.


The CFA conducted a study in 10 cities, getting rate quotes for minimum liability insurance only. They assumed the driver was a 30-year-old female with no history of accidents or violations. Here’s what they found:

All State Farm price quotes for a driver in a city were the same, regardless of whether the driver was single, separated, divorced, widowed, a domestic partner, or married….Farmers, Progressive, Nationwide, and Liberty always charged single, separated, and divorced drivers the same price, and this annual premium was almost always higher than the premium it charged married persons. GEICO’s premium quotes, though always lower for married drivers, varied unpredictably, with single, separated, and divorced drivers often being charged different prices.

According to the CFA, carriers admit and defend this practice, saying that married people tend to drive more responsibly. These companies often cite a 2004 study from the National Institute of Health that found single people have higher driving injury rates than married people. The CFA argues that the study doesn’t make much sense:

However, this study, undertaken by several academics, was based on data collected in New Zealand around 1990 involving only 138 injuries, a substantial minority of which involved driving motorcycles. And the difference in injury rates was only about one percentage point.

Misguided or not, it’s a fairly common practice.

You Rent Your Home

Unlike homeowners, renters don’t have to pay for property taxes, HOA fees, or maintenance. However, one thing they will pay more for than homeowners is car insurance.

The CFA has researched this factor, too. According to recent data, renters pay about 6 percent more per year for car insurance than homeowners do. They looked at rates for minimum liability coverage in 10 cities with the largest carriers: State Farm, Geico, Allstate, Progressive, Farmers, Liberty Mutual, and Nationwide, and found that almost all of those carriers charged renters significantly more than homeowners.

Check out the numbers for yourself. Here’s how much more renters pay for car insurance in 10 different cities.


You can see how much it varies by city, but also by company:

The Surprising Reasons You Pay More for Car Insurance

Every carrier uses their own calculation. Geico might charge more if you’re single, but they don’t seem to jack up prices for renters. Liberty Mutual, on the other hand, charges renters quite a bit more.

You’re a Loyal Customer

Loyalty does not pay off, at least when it comes to insurance rates. Auto insurers use a practice called price optimization to charge their loyal customers more than customers who are likely to shop around.


According to NPR, insurers use software to track your spending habits. They collect data about what you buy at the grocery store, how often you change cable providers, and other shopping behaviors. Then they set your rate based on that data. CFA rep Bob Hunter told NPR:

A sophisticated algorithm crunches that data and spits out an index showing how sensitive a customer is to price increases. Only the insurance company knows the index. Clients may see a loyalty discount on their premiums but Hunter says it may not be what it seems. “They’ll give you a discount for loyalty,” Hunter says. “But, they’ll give you a 10 percent discount after they’ve raised your rate 25 percent.”

In short, if the company thinks you’re loyal, they’ll take the risk of hiking up your premium, because you’re not likely to leave. Worse, they’ll give you a phony discount for your loyalty.

There are consumer advocacy groups urging for a change, but the good news is, this price hike is one you can actually avoid. You just have to shop around for insurance. Get a quote from a few competitors, or just call your insurance company and ask if they can offer you a better price.


You Park in a High Crime Neighborhood

Sometimes insurance carriers will ask where you park your car; sometimes they’ll just use where you live as a metric. Either way, where you live and park your car determines your rate, too. Here’s how Allstate explains it:

Urban neighborhoods typically have higher rates of accidents, theft, and vandalism than more rural areas, resulting in premiums that are likely to be higher.

Obviously, combating this isn’t as easy as “move to a better neighborhood.” That’s not exactly realistic for most people. However, let’s say you’re currently on your parents’ policy, but you’re planning to move out soon. If you’re moving to an area with higher rates of theft, you might be able to save some cash by staying insured under their policy. Here’s what The Law Dictionary says about the logistics of this tactic:

If your car is currently insured on your parents’ policy and you’re planning on moving out of your childhood home in the near future, you may be able to remain on your parents’ policy. Most insurance companies encourage young people who move into separate residences to obtain their own car insurance policies. However, the definition of “separate residence” may vary between insurance providers.

If you’re traveling across the state or country for college and plan on living in an on-campus dormitory, you’ll be treated as though you’re continuing to live at home. It’s likely that you’ll be able to stay on your parents’ insurance even if you move into an off-campus apartment near your university.

It’s not a scenario that applies to everyone, but if you can swing it, you might save some cash with this workaround.

You Didn’t Go to College

Yep, your educational background affects your auto insurance rate, too. Particularly, if you didn’t go to college, some carriers might charge you more.

A 2007 report (PDF) from Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty found that “under some rating plans consumers with more professional occupations (doctors, lawyers, architects) and advanced college degrees are being offered preferred driver rates.”

That report was only for rates in Florida, but similar data (PDF) from the CFA found pretty much the same thing. They looked at rates at 10 different carriers across the country, analyzing not just formal education but also job type. Here are some highlights from the findings:

GEICO often charges a factory worker with a high school degree far higher annual premiums than a plant supervisor with a college degree – 45% more in Seattle ($870 vs. $599), 40% more in Hartford ($1299 vs. $926), 33% more in Oakland ($922 vs. $693), 23% more in Louisville ($2200 vs. $1791), 21% more in Chicago ($1013 vs. $840), and 20% more in Baltimore ($1971 vs. $1647).

Progressive also often charges a factory worker with a high school degree higher annual premiums than a plant supervisor with a college degree – 33% more in Baltimore ($1818 vs. $1362), 14% more in Houston ($1406 vs. $1236), 9% more in Louisville ($2390 vs. $2185), 9% more in Denver ($995 vs. $911), and 8% more in Oakland ($736 vs. $684).

Liberty Mutual charges a high school graduate higher annual premiums than a college graduate – 13% more in Baltimore ($2116 vs. $1877), 13% more in Houston ($1373 vs. $1216), 12% more in Phoenix ($1592 vs. $1418), and 10% more in Hartford ($1913 vs. $1735). In five other cities studied – Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, Denver, and Seattle – Liberty’s website quoted rates for a college graduate but not for a high school graduate.

NerdWallet recently did their own analysis in the state of Oregon and found the same thing: not having an advanced degree generally meant drivers paid about 20 percent more. Why a higher premium? There is a correlation between education level and car accidents, but no causation to be found. NerdWallet explains why there’s reason to be skeptical about that statistic:

Insurers generally base rates on factors that have been shown to correlate to risk and size of claims. Education is one such factor, although controversial.
A 2008 report by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance found that Geico’s claims payouts relative to premium paid in by people with a high school degree or less education were 10% higher than for people with an associate degree, 26% above people with a bachelor’s degree and 38% more than those with a master’s degree.
But Florida’s McCarty reported in 2007 that higher-income people appear to be more likely to pay for small repairs out of pocket rather than filing claims, which artificially drives down loss ratios for that group.

The DMV.org offers one suggestion for working around this. If you and your spouse apply for a single policy together, list the person with the higher education level as the primary policyholder. You might save some cash.

These are a few unexpected lifestyle factors that affect your car insurance rates. It might not be fair, but, unfortunately, that’s the way it goes—for now. Thankfully, consumer groups like the CFA are investigating and working to change this. In the meantime, are we suggesting you should get married, buy a house, or go to college just to get a car insurance discount? Of course not; that would be silly. However, you do want to know how the rules work so you can be prepared for them and, if possible, even work around them.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley

Embrace Action During Tough Financial Times

Embrace Action During Tough Financial Times

When money is tight, you don’t feel like you have much control over anything. You’re at the mercy of your bills, debt, and other financial obligations. You feel powerless. However, a little action can make a surprising difference.

Money blog Frugal Beautiful reminds us that, in tough financial times, taking action—even if it’s just one small step—can help build momentum. Here’s what financial expert Jackie Beck tells the site:

Often that’s the last thing you’ll feel like doing when experiencing financial issues, but doing what you CAN do will help. Specifically, track your spending (daily at first), create a specific & reasonable plan to get to where you want to be, reach out to folks who have been there before, and then move forward.

This advice isn’t meant to diminish anyone’s struggle—many people are dealt an incredibly difficult hand and there’s not much they can do it all. That said, there’s power in focusing on what you can control, being resourceful, and, as Beck mentions, taking action.

For more detail, head to the link below.


Photo by Images Money.

You Can Get a Bill Credit From Comcast For Monday’s Service Outage

You Can Get a Bill Credit From Comcast For Monday’s Service Outage

Comcast is sorry about their service outage earlier this week, and they want to make it up to you with a credit to your monthly bill.

Via a press release on their corporate site, Comcast explained:

This issue started around 10:20 am EST and lasted about 90 minutes for most people. During this time, we also were experiencing high call volume and apologize to customers who weren’t able to reach us by phone.

Unfortunately, we did not live up to expectations around 100% reliability with your TV service. We’re sorry for that, and we will be crediting customers. Just reach out to us, and let us know you were impacted, and we’ll credit you, no questions asked.

Don’t get too excited, though. One spokeswoman told CNN she estimates the credit to be about $2. The actual amount will vary, depending on how long your own service was down. It might be worth calling, though, and trying to negotiate more or ask for a lower price on your bill. Either way, find out more at the link below.

Sorry for Yesterday’s Video Interruption | Comcast

Photo by Mike Mozart.

You Have Until The End of the Year to Find Out If Verizon and Sprint Owe You Money

You Have Until The End of the Year to Find Out If Verizon and Sprint Owe You Money

If you’ve had unauthorized charges on your Verizon or Sprint bill, you might qualify for a refund, but your deadline is fast approaching. You have until December 31st to file a claim.

In the past several years, a handful of the big cellphone carriers have been fined for sneaking unauthorized charges into customer bills. It was a practice called “cramming,” and it involved charging customers for third-party messaging services, like weekly horoscopes or dating tips, without their consent.

Current and former Verizon and Sprint customers who paid for unauthorized texts between July 1, 2010 and January 31, 2014 are likely eligible. Don’t expect a huge payoff, though. According to CNN:

Verizon says refund amounts may be lower than expected depending on the total number of claims filed. The company also says it may not send out refunds if the total amount due is $3.00 or less. Sprint said that current and former prepaid customers (Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Sprint Prepaid, and Assurance Wireless) are eligible for a one-time refund of $7.00.

The deadline is tomorrow, and you can claim your refund at the links below.

Verizon Wireless Premium SMS Refund Program
Sprint Government Restitution

Photo by Mike Mozart.

If You Have Poor Credit, Beware Extra Charges on Your Monthly Bills

If You Have Poor Credit, Beware Extra Charges on Your Monthly Bills

You probably already know that your credit history can affect things like your mortgage approval, loan interest rates, and so on. Unfortunately, poor credit can also mean higher monthly bills. If your credit isn’t great, you’ll want to beware “risk-based pricing.”

In a recent report, the FTC explained:

When you apply for things like cable or satellite TV, mobile phone service, or internet service, the company might review your credit report. They can use the information in your credit report to give you less favorable terms, meaning they can charge you more for the service than someone with a better credit history. That’s called risk-based pricing. The law says it’s OK as long as the company lets you know about it by sending you a Risk-Based Pricing Notice.

They mention that Sprint got in trouble with this recently for charging customers with poor credit a $7.99 monthly fee without sending them any kind of notice. The FTC suggests checking your bill to see if there are any charges of this nature included. Of course, you should regularly check your credit report for errors, too. If there are errors, take the necessary steps to dispute them.


For more detail check out the links below.

Take notice: How your credit history can affect your monthly bill | FTC via MoneyTalksNews

Photo by 401(k) 2012.

How I Used Mint Bills to Finally Simplify My Bill Payments

How I Used Mint Bills to Finally Simplify My Bill Payments

Bills suck. As if taking all your money weren’t enough, they’re a nightmare to organize and remember. After I started using Mint Bills, however, it got a lot easier to keep track of my bills.

I have a confession to make: I don’t really use Mint all that much. Despite being one of Lifehacker’s go-to recommendations for budgeting software, I’ve never found it useful for much more than occasionally checking my credit score or glancing at where my car loan balance is at. Mint Bills, on the other hand, is a separate app from Mint that comes in web, iOS, and Android flavors. It allows you to plug in to your various bill companies, creates a calendar for your due dates, and even lets you pay bills directly from the app. Even if you’re a big fan of Mint itself, Mint Bills offers a ton of functions that can help manage your various payments.

The Problem: Managing Bills Is a Mess

How I Used Mint Bills to Finally Simplify My Bill Payments

Keeping up with your bills is easily one of the worst nightmares of being an adult. Between rent, gas, power, cell phones, credit cards, car payments, and a myriad of other expenses, it can get hard to keep track of who you owe what to. We’ve talked a lot at Lifehacker about how to automate your bills, but the companies that mange your accounts often don’t work with you. Here are just a few problems I’ve run into over the years:

  • Bills that don’t support auto-pay: It seems crazy that a bill provider wouldn’t allow you to set up automatic deductions from your account, but many don’t. I’ve encountered sites that offer no automatic payments at all, or (bizarrely) only offer the option to schedule one payment in advance. The latter was always the worst, as I’d forget which month I had already scheduled a payment for.
  • Terrible bill payment sites: If you’ve ever used a bill payment site managed by your local government, you’ve probably encountered some ridiculous browser limitation, login issues, or worst of all, inconvenient downtime when you need to pay a bill. The latter would often result in forgetting to come back later when the site’s up, which inevitably leads to late fees.
  • Unreliable payment schedules: Even when a bill doesn’t support auto-pay, I can have my bank mail a check, right? The problem is, this shifts my effective “due date.” Even if my bank automatically sends the check out, the money will withdraw from my account typically a week early, so I need to account for that. So, some of my bills show accurate due dates, but others need to be adjusted. This made chasing due dates an organizational mess.

If all of your bills support auto-pay, you always have enough money in your account to cover any bills at any time, and all the companies you deal with are honest and reliable about how much they withdraw from your account, managing bills can be fine. If even one gear doesn’t work, though, the whole thing can become a mess real quick. This is was often the situation I found myself in. Spreadsheets, calendars, and Mint didn’t fix the problem I had with figuring out when to pay bills so that I wouldn’t overdraw my account. Mint Bills, on the other hand, did.

The Solution: Mint Bills Connects Directly to Most Bill Accounts

The big reason that Mint proper is useful is because it connects directly to all of your accounts. Mint Bills takes the same approach to your bills. Rather than just reminding you that your bills exist, the app allows you to plug directly into your accounts (where supported) and pay your bills directly from a single app. If a particular bill isn’t supported, you can add its information to get reminders and put it on the calendar with the rest of them.

There are a few advantages to doing it this way that most other methods I’ve used don’t have:

  • A built-in calendar: The biggest problem with bills isn’t remembering that they exist. It’s when they’re due. Mint Bills offers a calendar view of due dates natively, so you can see when each bill needs to be paid.
  • Pay multiple bills from one app: If Mint proper had the ability to pay bills directly, I might have started using it a lot sooner. If your bill can integrate with Mint Bills, you can pay it directly from the app. Even if half of your bills can be paid this way, it’s a huge load off.
  • Credit utilization and other tracking tools: It wouldn’t be Mint if there weren’t some sort of data tracking. Within Mint Bills, you can see information about your credit utilization, available credit, and bank balances for various connected accounts.

Of course, it’s not perfect. There are some bills that I still can’t plug directly into Mint Bills because no one upgrades their systems slower than the companies that deal with your money. However, Mint Bills has a mechanism for this as well. You can add a “manual bill” that lets you input how much you need to pay and when. This is then added to your bills calendar and you’ll get notifications periodically to let you know when a due date is coming up.

So far, Mint Bills hasn’t been perfect, but for me it finally the psychological distinction I’ve needed between “bills” and “everything else.” Every budget I’ve ever put together treats regular bills as a distinct type of spending from, say, going out to eat. Between the due dates, late fees, and inconsistency between various companies over how you can pay, managing my bills was the most confusing part of my financial life. I was never a huge fan of the regular Mint app, but Mint Bills actually makes sense to me.

File a Complaint with the FCC to Potentially Lower Your Comcast Bill

File a Complaint with the FCC to Potentially Lower Your Comcast Bill

We’ve said it time and again, you can often lower your bills just by asking. If an ISP like Comcast isn’t cooperative, though, you may have a new way to get a discount: file a complaint with the FCC.

As Ars Technica points out, several internet customers have filed complaints with the FCC over unfair billing practices. While you could do this before, the new Title II rules the FCC recently passed give those complaints some teeth. If you can bring a decent case to the FCC that your ISP has unfair billing practices, that complaint will be logged by the regulatory agency and “may lead to investigations and serves as a deterrent to the companies we regulate.” More importantly, that complaint is forwarded to the ISP itself, which has 30 days to respond to both the FCC and you, the customer, within 30 days:

Customers could already complain about billing before the net neutrality order took effect, but the FCC now has more power to make sure they’re being treated fairly. And Internet providers have more reason to take the complaints seriously… The FCC forwards complaints to Internet service providers, and they are required to respond to the commission and the customer within 30 days.

Of course, this is no guarantee. As Ars goes on to point out, the customers they spoke with still had to deal with a massive headache trying to negotiate a “deal”, and in one of the cases, the customer still wasn’t satisfied and did not deem their FCC complaint resolved. However, it does highlight a significant change in how you can handle complaints about your ISP. In the past, if Comcast or Time Warner offered you a crap deal, there was little you could do but vent about it online. Now, if you can offer proof that your ISP is giving you the short end of the stick, the FCC might actually be able to help out. It may be pressuring your ISP to call you and get a better deal, or it may be collecting that complaint to decide whether to pursue an investigation. Either way, though, it seems like consumers finally have a decent ally when their internet provider tries to screw them over.

Want­ a lower Comcast bill? Complain to the FCC | Ars Technica

Photo by Mike Mozart.