BEST REWARD CARDS FOR TRAVEL
With summer travel season in full swing, Consumer Reports Money Adviser’s editors sifted through the fine print and named the best rewards cards for airlines and travel.
Many people bank their miles over several years with the hopes of getting tickets for their dream vacation. But the best strategy depends on whether you earn your miles through frequent flying or frequent spending. If you are a frequent traveler, you’ll want to choose a specific airline credit card that augments the miles you earn on the routes and carriers you regularly fly. If you accumulate miles through spending, you might be better off with a card that gives you cash back so you can buy your own tickets without restrictions. The AmEx Starwood Preferred Guest card is a good hotel/air card if you often stay at Sheraton, Westin, W, and others in the Starwood chain of 940 hotels. You’ll earn one point per $1.00 spent on eligible everyday purchases and double points at Starwood hotels. If you stay at Hilton hotels, take a look at the AmEx Hilton HHonors or Citi Hilton HHonors Visa.
Many Americans will travel by car to cut costs on their summer vacation this year. Here are some trips for stretching your travel dollars:
- Avoid ATM add-ons. To dodge paying out-of-network fees for cash withdrawals, ask your bank for a map of its ATM locations along your route.
- Map it. Use one of these free online road-trip planners to build a custom map and itinerary: AAA TripTik (www.aaa.com, chose “Online Trip Tiks” in the left corner; Yahoo trip planner (travel.yahoo.com/trip); or Rand McNally TripMaker Planning Tool (www.randmcnally.com).
- Prep your car. Before you leave, have your mechanic check the level of all fluids, inspect belts and hoses, check the battery and tires, and inspect the air-conditioning system.
- Conserve gas. Avoid hard acceleration and braking. Keep tires properly inflated.
- Look for lodging deals. Take advantage of membership discounts and perks from hotel loyalty programs or groups like AARP or AAA.
- Get smart. Smart phone applications can be useful on the road and some are free. Navigation apps like those from Navigon and TomTom let your phone function like a stand-alone GPS. Aloqua, Urbanspoon, and Yelp find nearby attractions and restaurants in your price range.
HOW TO APPEAL A HEALTH-CLAIM DENIAL
One provision of the healthcare legislation recently passed by Congress is that most people will be able to file an appeal with an independent panel appointed by their state’s insurance commissioner if an insurer denies a health-insurance claim. CRMA offers the following advice for people whose claims are denied:
Before you even go to a doctor, read your benefit plan documents to make sure you understand what insurance will and won’t cover. If any part of the policy is unclear to you, ask for clarification from your insurance agent, your insurer, or from a Medicare representative. Save copies of all paperwork from your doctor and your insurance company in chronological order.
If your claim is denied, review all the paperwork as soon as possible, noting why the insurer denied the claim and why you think the bill should be covered. Then call your insurance company. Sometimes a simple error causes a denial which can usually be cleared up quickly with a single phone call. If your insurer denies your claim a second time, it must send you a letter telling you that you have the right to have its decision reviewed by independent professionals. The company must also provide you with contact information for your state’s insurance commissioner. You will need to submit a request for an external review within four months. Make sure your letter requesting an external appeal clearly explains why your procedure or medication was necessary, and why it should be paid for under your insurance policy. Be sure to keep a copy of everything you send to the insurance company for your records. Send letters by certified mail with return receipt requested.
About Consumer Reports Money Adviser
Consumer Reports Money Adviser is a monthly, subscription-only newsletter that answers tough money questions and provides expert financial advice. Its proven information and successful strategies can make any financial decision an easy one. Each month, CRMA provides feature articles and helpful investment, savings, and spending advice that will help prepare consumers for anything life may bring them. For more information visit: www.ConsumerReports.org.