His phone is always ringing and his mailbox is brimming. You have questions and our consumer reporter is happy to oblige with answers. Here are some of the top questions Chris Chmura fields each week:
1.) How do I save money on homeowner's insurance?
Insurers largely base your premium on the county's property records. And when they're wrong, you could be paying more. Also, consider hiring a home inspector ($50 - $200) who can assess your home's hurricane worthiness. He/she will generate a report you can provide to your insurer to demand a lower rate. If that agent won't help you, I say fire them and get someone new who will work on your behalf to get an accurate policy.
2.) How do I get a lower interest rate on my credit card?
Ask and you shall receive. Seriously, call and ask. But even better that that tactic, I say fish one of those convenience checks from the junk mail. Use it as leverage. Threaten to walk, and you'll have the upper hand in getting the bank to lower your interest. It's best if the company realizes you are willing to take your business elsewhere. After all, you're the customer and a simple rate reduction (no matter where you get it) can be worth hundreds of dollars.
3.) How do I score a bargain on travel?
Be flexible. If you box yourself into a particular destination on a specific week, you'll pay top dollar. Great deals hinge on your ability to "help" a hotel or airline fill empty space. Always ask for a discount. The worst they can say is, "no." The best they can do is lower your rate. Travel club participants, government employees, military veterans, senior citizens, and union members over get much better deals at hotels. Sometimes a hungry hotel will extend those discount rates to anyone who asks—even if you're not a member. Also, merely informing a cruise line that you're a Florida resident can yield deep discounts. And I think cruises are the very best value in vacations.
4.) How do I complain like a pro?
Don't write a manifesto. Keep it simple. Cite specifics. And remain calm. It's also important to keep the door open for compensation. If you say you'll never fly United Airways, why would the company offer you anything? If you say you'd like to give United Airways a second chance, you receive something in return. When you're calling in your displeasure, it's likely you will have trouble getting the answer you want. I say politely hang up and keep calling until you are satisfied. You might be surprised how much of a difference a new operator can make.
5.) How do I slice my food bill?
Much the same as travel, flexibility is the key to eating cheap. Try to plan your meals around the weekly sales at the supermarket. Even better: try to synchronize your coupon shopping with the weekly ad. Plenty of free websites do much of the research for you. Consider addictedtosaving.com or truecouponing.com. Both sites have early access to the flyer, giving you an upper hand to savings.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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