All that Christmas cheer can seem a lot less fun now that it's showing up on credit-card bills. But there's a way to ease the strain. You can transfer the balance to a credit card with an introductory rate of 0 percent--or near zero--interest, and pay it off while the new rate still holds.
Here's a new vacation motto: never pay retail again. There's a glut of time shares, and that means deals for folks who buy one-week resort stays from previous owners instead of arm-twisting developers."You can buy a resale for 50 cents on the dollar, but some areas will go for far less," says Bill Rogers, founder of Timeshare User's Group (tug2.net), a site where owners share price data and trade weeks.
Long-distance rates went up almost 20 percent last year, with AT&T, MCI and Sprint all charging as much as 35 cents a minute for daytime calls. All three offer cheaper rates in the 5- to 7-cents-a-minute range if you pay $5.95 to $8.95 a month, but you can do better, says Consumer Action, a California group that monitors rates.
Ouch! If you've looked at your home insurance bill lately, you're probably seeing double-digit increases. Insurers have rung up big losses lately, so they're even turning away people who live in bad-weather areas like Texas and Florida, who have poor credit histories, who live in water-damaged homes (which can lead to mold) or who simply have filed a few claims.
It's like a credit card with training wheels. A new MasterCard for students from College Parents of America (www. collegeparents.com) lets parents set a credit limit up to $5,000, get the card first so they can hand it over with a lecture and review account details any time.
Forget the floaties. This year's vacationers aren't swimming, they're shopping for property. The second-home market is as frothy as a breaking wave, stirred up by cheap mortgages, a lackluster stock market and a post-September 11 desire to vacation near home.At $162,000, the median price for a second home now tops the $153,000 for primary residences, says the National Association of Realtors.
Sheryl Garrett has gotten really, really popular, and she's not alone. After months of bad financial news, culminating in the spectacular collapse of Enron and its employee savings plans, investors are worried about the safety of everything from their children's' college funds to their own retirement portfolios.