Showing posts with label Consumer Reports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Consumer Reports. Show all posts

Monday, May 04, 2009

How to Squeeze a Nickel: Tips from Consumer Reports

Shrink your cell phone bill; flatten toilet paper rolls and rent an apartment when you travel. Those are a few of the money-saving ideas in the June issue of Consumer Reports. The magazine polled staff members and readers about their tips for squeezing a nickel.

“These tips show that it’s important to be creative when trying to cope with the recession,” said Kim Kleman, Editor-in-Chief, Consumer Reports.

Here are a few of the tips:

  • The website can help you analyze your cell-phone bill to determine whether you’ll save money with a different plan.
  • Call up your Internet, phone, and cable companies and try to get a better deal. It could cut your bill in half.

  • Many plumbing fixtures have a lifetime warranty. Try calling to get parts sent for free.

  • Rent an apartment when you’re on vacation. You live like a local and it’s cheap.

  • Forego buying tub and toilet cleaners. Consider using white vinegar and baking soda for cleaning chores.

  • Flatten the toilet paper roll a bit. It doesn’t spin around as much and waste paper.

  • In the supermarket, look at the unit price. Many items such as tuna have a quantity surcharge—the bigger container has a higher unit price than the smaller one.

  • Buy kitchenware (pots, pans, knives, etc.) at kitchen-supply wholesalers. Many are open to the general public.

  • When shopping online, check Google for a coupon for the site before checking out. "

The complete report, “How to squeeze a nickel,” is available in the June issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands May 5 and online at Consumer Reports.


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Friday, April 03, 2009

Consumer Reports Gives High Grades to Low-Cost Brokers

This report is from Consumer Reports:

"Discount brokers did a better job shepherding clients through the stock market upheaval of the past year than traditional investment banks, according to Consumer Reports survey of the most satisfying brokerage firm services.

Topping the list in overall satisfaction was USAA, available only to current and former military personnel and their families. USAA earned high marks for account service, Web site ease of use, transactions and phone services. Vanguard followed closely in the Ratings and Edward Jones had high marks for phone services.

Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed almost 9,000 online subscribers asking them about their experiences with their brokerage firms regarding several services including transactions and general customer service, Web site ease of use, online transactions and their instances of problems with phone and personal service between January 2008 and 2009.

Rounding out the list of brokerage firms that respondents found to provide high scores for services were Schwab, Scottrade, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and T. Rowe Price. Though half of survey respondents said their investment portfolios plummeted, most respondents were relatively happy with the level of service and advice they received.

However, bigger brokerages, such as Merrill Lynch and Ameriprise, placed lower in the Ratings earning below average scores for their Web sites. Ameriprise also received relatively low marks for phone service. The survey revealed some additional complaints, even among discount brokers. E-Trade clients reported a higher number of phone-service problems and said they were unable to find information on the company’s Web site 35 percent of the time.

E-Trade, Scottrade, and TD Ameritrade were among the lower-rated companies for financial advice, which is not surprising because they are bare-bones discounters. Unexpected fees continue to irk clients, about 4 percent said they were hit with unexpected fees. Banc of America clients reported the most, with 11 percent saying they were charged unexpected fees. For more information on the survey and complete broker service ratings check out Consumer Reports May issue or visit starting May 6, 2009. "

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Consumer Reports: Best & Worst Credit Cards: How to Avoid Credit Pits

This item from Consumer Reports caught my eye.

Here's the report:

"Consumer Reports analyzed hundreds of credit cards and named a dozen that are worthy of consumers’ consideration—and three to stay away from.

Among the best credit cards for low-rate/low-fee are:

Capital One Platinum Prestige,
Clear from American Express,
Iberiabank Visa Classic.

The best cash-back cards:
Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards,
Chase Freedom Visa
Discover More.

Among the best gas cards:
Chase PerfectCard MasterCard
Discover Open Road
Hess Platinum Visa.

Three cards to avoid:
First Premier Bank
HSBC American DreamCard
New Millennium Visa or MasterCard.

Although some consumers have avoided any direct effect from the storm clouds in the economy, the credit-card industry is changing in ways that could affect cardholders. Consumer Reports’ experts advise consumers to do a credit card checkup to make sure their accounts haven’t changed for the worse.

“Whether you have good credit or bad, you should check your account terms with your credit cards,” said Greg Daugherty, executive editor, Consumer Reports. "Several card issuers have doubled or tripled interest rates for some customers in recent months, even though many were current on their bills and have good credit.”

The full report is available in the redesigned October issue of Consumer Reports, on sale September 2 on newsstands and online at

Getting the most from a card

Good credit or bad credit, consumers must keep tabs on their accounts. CR offers the following tips on how to get the most out of a credit card:

Use credit wisely. If a consumer has a lot of high-interest debt, they should find a card that has a zero-percent-interest transfer offer and no transfer fee.
Open the mail. Card issuer letters could look like advertising, but they also could be a notice of an increase in rates or a reduction in credit limit. Issuers often provide an opt-out clause, allowing customers to stop using the card and pay off the existing balance under old terms.
Contact the lender. Cardholders who are dissatisfied with account changes or errors should call the card issuer and ask to speak to a manager or customer-retention person.
• Steer clear of traps. Federal banking regulators are pushing for rule changes that could take effect as early as next year. Some current practices that could be eliminated are raising rates on existing balances and applying payments to the lowest-rate charges (such as balance transfers.)
• Pick the right card. Consumers should select the right card for the type of borrower they are. CR also found that smaller issuers including credit unions and community banks are worth checking out for various interest-free offers.

CR reports that consumers’ credit card balances are up from $825 billion at the end of 2005 to $962 billion in May. At-risk borrowers are facing tightened credit lines and higher interest rates. Periods for teaser rates are becoming shorter, and balance-transfer fees are becoming standard while fixed rates on cards are as high as ever.

All news is not bad news however, as variable interest rates have come down, which can help consumers who carry a balance. Those with excellent credit scores can earn lower rates, higher credit limits and good rewards according to the report. "


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