Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Couples can Save on Car and Home Insurance

When two people decide to merge their lives together, they often have quite a bit going on. Marriage or couplehood can include a new house to decorate and settle into, a new family car, and a whole host of the other ups and downs associated with starting a new life. Few young couples just starting out take the time to shop around for various car and home insurance. And when they do, they often simply search for home and car insurance individually online.

Young couples are especially interested in cheap car and home insurance, and luckily for them, they are well positioned to negotiate a great rate for their car and home insurance. Merging all home and car insurance policies into one, for example, can save quite a bit of money, and in today’s fast-paced world, young couples can search for an insurance agency that covers both home and car insurance from the comfort of their own home. Tech savvy couples will be happy to know that they can get home and car insurance quotes and instant insurance right online.

If you and your partner are consolidating your households, be sure to save money by looking into home and car insurancek.

Two Ideas for Saving On Car and Home Insurance

Everybody knows that they need insurance for both home and car (even if you own your car outright, many states still require that you have insurance), but a surprising amount of home and car owners do not realize that they have many options for making both their home and their car insurance affordable.

Combine your policies with the same insurance company, and purchase insurance for your home and car in one convenient package from CarInsurance.com. If you are in the market for low-cost car insurance and home insurance, take the time to evaluate your insurance needs. If you have home and car insurance policies with different insurers, you could be missing out on big savings. Perhaps you are happy with your low-cost car insurance, but unhappy with your homeowner’s insurance. If so, get some quotes online for consolidating your insurance for your home and car. You may be surprised at the cheap car and home insurance deals you can get.

Adjust your deductibles and coverage limits. Both your home and car insurance policies have deductible options and coverage limits you can adjust. By raising and lowering these coverages respectively, you can create an affordable premium that still protects you and your family from financial upheaval.

Finding Cheap Car Insurance

Finding cheap car insurance can be a lot like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s long and frustrating and can lead to fits of uncontrollable swearing and temper tantrums. However, unlike the endless quest for that needle, finding the least expensive car insurance has a point. The more coverage you can get at the lowest price means more money in your wallet and a lot less stress about paying your other bills.

But which companies offer the cheapest insurance? That really depends on what you’re looking for. The amount of coverage you want will determine the price, along with your age, driving record and where you live.

Take for example, Geico. Everyone knows the little green gecko ads. They are extremely effective. But how much would they charge a 21-year-old male living in the suburbs outside of Boston, MA? Let’s say that 21-year-old is looking only for liability coverage, forgoing comprehensive, collision and medical coverage for a 1995 Chevy Cavalier. Let’s assume he has a clean driving record with no accidents or speeding tickets reported. If he selects all the minimum liability amounts for bodily injury, property damage and personal injury, his premium will be $83.30 a month, or $999.60 per year. That same 21-year-old living in Carmel-By-The-Sea in California would pay $56.32 a month or $675.84 a year for insurance, under the same conditions, searching for the same amount of coverage.

As any smart shopper would, it pays to check out Geico’s competition. A quick visit to Amica Mutual’s web site, using the same criteria with the same 21-year-old male, shows he would be paying an annual rate of $799 in suburban Massachusetts and $695.54 in sunny California. So the 21-year-old in Massachusetts would be smart to choose Amica Mutual for his car insurance, while the 21-year-old in California would more than likely choose Geico.

Why the discrepancy? Different states demand different minimums for liability coverage. Massachusetts sets minimum bodily injury liability coverage at $20,000 with a maximum payout of $40,000 per accident, along with a $5,000 limit for property damage. There is also a mandatory minimum for any uninsured drivers who might get behind the wheel of your car, also set at $20,000 with a max payout of $40,000. In California, the minimums are lower, with bodily injury set at $15,000 with a max payout of $30,000 and a minimum $5,000 property damage liability coverage. California does not require drivers to carry coverage for any uninsured or casual drivers who might get behind the wheel.

One good indicator of where to start looking for cost-effective car insurance is consumer surveys. Survey giant J.D. Power & Associates rank customer satisfaction with insurance companies annually. In their latest ranking, Amica Mutual topped the list, with State Farm and Shelter taking the second and third spots. Some other big names, like Geico and Progressive ranked further down the list, coming in at nine and 14, respectively.

One thing cannot be stressed enough: where you live plays a large role in determining how much you pay. Keep in mind, our 21-year-old in Massachusetts was living within 25 miles of a major urban centre, with a higher population density than picturesque Carmel-By-The-Sea. In fact, Massachusetts is one of the more expensive states where one can obtain insurance. In a nationwide survey done in 2005 (the latest figures available), five Northeastern states (New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware) ranked in the top 10 most expensive states for car insurance. Connecticut comes in at number 11. Drivers in New Jersey drivers pay an average of $1336.20 in premiums a year. Only Maine, with its sparse population, ranked in the top ten for lowest car insurance rates. The Midwest makes up the rest of the list with Iowa being ranked the cheapest place to obtain car insurance. Drivers in Iowa drive easy knowing they’re paying an average of $664.20 in premiums every year.

California Auto Insurance

California Auto Insurance quotes are lower if you qualify for a special program that can get you affordable auto insurance. According to the article “State Program Helps Connect Drivers With Low-Cost Auto Insurance” by Steve E. Swenson found on bakersfield.com says that the program offered in Kern County since 2006 is saving eligible drivers money.

The program is called The California Low Cost Auto Program and it offers coverage limits of $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident, and $3,000 for property damage for as little as $254/year. Quotes on auto insurance in California can be pricey and tickets for not carrying auto insurance can be extremely expensive, up to $786 according to court officials.

To qualify for the program applicants must be 19 years old or older, have a license for 3 years continuously, and have no more than 1 at-fault accidents, or 1 point for a moving violation in the last 3 years. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner believes the program needs to be supported, especially during the tough economy and high rate of unemployed drivers.

New York State No Fault Car Insurance Rules

Before driving in New York be sure your car insurance provider participates in New York’s no-fault program. When it comes to car insurance, New York is a no-fault auto insurance policy state. This means that New York State no-fault car insurance rules apply to all in-state drivers but may not apply to all out-of-state drivers who get in an accident in New York. There are a few things you might need to know about New York’s no-fault auto insurance policies before purchasing your insurance in or out-of-state.
No-Fault Coverage
# Most commonly known as 25/50/10 coverage, New York State’s insurance law mandates all motorists to carry a minimum amount of property liability insurance, $10,000; $25,000 for bodily injury to one person, $50,000 for bodily injury to all people, and property damage. According to the “no-fault” policy, a mandatory additional coverage of $50,000 applies for all New Yorkers. This is because no-fault entails coverage for damages done to all vehicles and the medical costs for all parties involved in the accident.
New York Resident Policy
# New York’s no-fault insurance program offers convenient payment for expenses, such as medical care for treatment of injuries and it safeguards against lawsuits for pain and suffering in cases that do not involve serious injuries. All insurance companies licensed to sell auto insurance within New York are required to partake in the no-fault insurance program, which means they are automatically required to cover the medical bills of their customers. This prevents many conflicts for New York drivers.
Non-New York Resident Policy
# In cases in which a non-New York resident has been in an accident in New York, the no-fault insurance policy only applies to the out-of-stater if he has auto insurance through a national insurer who sells auto insurance policies in New York or another insurer who participates in New York’s no fault car insurance program. In these cases even if the out-of-state motorist’s policy does not include a no-fault provision, the insurer is still required to cover the cost of any expenses or medical bills resulting from an accident in New York. Regulation 68, as noted in the 2007 Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance, states that No-Fault Benefits-Personal Injury Protection (PIP), under the coverage of the insurer, covers the driver and passengers for the costs of all damages resulting from an accident.

get 15 ways to save on homeowners insurance

You can save money on homeowners insurance if you know how. Discounts from your insurance company are available for a variety of reasons, ranging from the type of building material used to build your home to how close you live to a fire station. Here are 12 ways you can save money on your homeowners policy:

Shop around. Check with several different insurance companies to get rate quotes. Do your friends or family members like their insurance company? Get online quotes from sites like MSN Money.

Raise your deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance kicks in. Typically, deductibles start at $250. Increase your deductible to:

* $500 and save up to 12% on your premiums.
* $1,000 and save up to 24%.
* $2,500 and save up to 30%.
* $5,000 and save up to 37%.

Just make sure you can afford to pay the higher deductible if something should happen.

Buy your home and auto policies from the same company. Many companies will give a discount if you buy both homeowners and auto coverage from them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cheap Flights: Save Money on Travel

Budget planners need to be aware of two key aspects when attempting to save money through cheap flights. One is that they must utilize advanced planning as well as being able to leave in a moment’s notice. In short, flexibility is the key. This article will focus on steps people looking for cheap flights can take to lead them to deals and specials.

If customers are open to devoting time and effort into looking for deals, while being prepared to forgo what may be considered unnecessary pampers of traditional airlines then the more likely it is that they will find them.
Shopping Around for Cheap Deals

To begin, people looking for cheap flight deals can visit traditional face-to-face or telephone travel agents. These agents are likely to have available deals for customers looking to save. Especially during the ‘off months’ travel agents who compete for holiday makers may be able to offer that special deal.

How to Book a Cheap Flight with the Best Tools for the Job

When it's time to book a plane ticket, you've got an overwhelming number of online destinations to check—which really complicates things. NYT writer Matt Gross details his simple booking workflow, which combines his favorite travel sites for great deals.
You've probably heard of most of the services he uses (we've mentioned most of them here, in fact), but his process of moving from one site to the next—and his reasons for doing so—are what makes his guide interesting. Like most of us he starts at the Lifehacker favorite, Kayak, to get a baseline for prices. Next, he continues down the booking rabbit hole into more interesting and esoteric sites to verify ticket prices, see if he can find anything cheaper, and determine if he might save some money if he waits a little longer.

Cheap Air Travel in Europe

Air travelers in Europe today have many more cheap air travel options than only a decade ago. The partial deregulation of air travel in Europe in the 1990s allowed the rise of low-cost airlines, and flying even short distances in Europe is often cheaper than taking the train. The days when national flagship carriers dominated air traffic and were regarded as national symbols are gone, and the fierce competition from low-cost airlines has led to bankruptcies and mergers of several large and reputable airlines. But with so many more airlines operating in Europe comes the difficult choice for travelers to figure out how to get the best prices and the services they desire. This article is intended to shed some light on cheap air travel within Europe, while also covering some aspects of traveling to Europe from overseas.
Flying to Europe

London is still the cheapest European destination from North America, but it is not a great gateway for continental Europe. If your final travel destination is not Great Britain, you are better off using a hub in continental Europe for connecting flights. The international airport at Heathrow is so huge and congested, that it is difficult to make connections on time. If you have a connecting flight to continental Europe, chances are that your bags will be delayed, due to the airport’s enormous size and the different terminals that are far apart. In addition, with ongoing terrorist threats and security alerts, security checks at London’s Heathrow airport are a continuous nightmare. But if you stay in Great Britain and then continue to other European countries, you can catch low-cost flights from secondary London airports that take you almost anywhere in Europe at incredibly low prices.

Also keep in mind that booking a direct flight to your European destination is not always the cheapest way to get there. The major European airlines will often take you to one of their hubs, from where you can catch a connecting flight to your final destination. A few years ago I wanted to fly from Boston to Lisbon, but the cheapest flight was first to Frankfurt, and then Lisbon. Frankfurt is a major hub of the German airline Lufthansa, with frequent connections to most European cities. Another option is to fly open-jaw, which means that you arrive in one city and fly out from another on the same airline, and you usually only pay a little bit extra. This is a great way to plan a one-way itinerary in Europe, which saves you additional travel expenses and time.

Starting in March 2008, the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and the European Union will go into affect after years of negotiations. This partial deregulation of transatlantic air traffic will allow European airlines to fly from any city in the EU to any city in the U.S., and vice versa. U.S. airlines will also be allowed to fly within Europe. This agreement is largely expected to increase competition on transatlantic flights and reduce fares.
Low-Cost Airlines in Europe

Low-cost airlines have exploded onto the European market in recent years, and routes that were traditionally covered by national airlines now face the stiff competition of low-cost carriers. This has prompted several major European airlines to start their own low-cost subsidiary airlines to remain competitive.

Low-cost airlines typically fly to smaller cities or secondary airports, where landing fees are lower and where fewer airlines compete for landing slots. While large airports often operate at maximum capacity leading to delays and canceled flights, smaller regional airports still have room for additional flights, which many low-cost airlines take advantage of. This means that if you are flexible and willing to consider secondary airports or smaller cities as your destination, you can save a lot of money. Low-cost carriers usually offer only one passenger class and often have no assigned seating. Keep in mind that tickets from low-cost airlines are usually non-refundable and that flight dates cannot be changed.

To save cost and make extra money, low-cost airlines charge for food or drinks, and you will find the baggage and weight allowance to be very low, or you might even be charged for every checked bag. Airport taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges are often listed separately from the low advertised fare. Many low-cost airlines sell their tickets almost exclusively online, and few travel agents will be able to book a flight on a European low-cost carrier for you from overseas. If you are flying to Europe from overseas and want to continue with a low-cost carrier, you should do your own online search for a suitable airline and book a flight directly online.

Least Expensive Cars of 2010

Looking for cheap wheels? Here they are -- the least-expensive 2010 cars on sale in America. (All prices are MSRP (sticker price) plus destination charge.) The About.com Cars test team has driven all of these cheap cars, and this list will tell you which are the real deals -- and which are the real duds.
1. Hyundai Accent Blue, $10,690
"Hyundai Accent"Photo © Hyundai

Last year, Hyundai chopped the price of the Accent to undercut Nissan's Versa (see below) by $20, but you had to buy a more expensive model in order to get any options. The price is unchanged for 2010, but you can now add air conditioning for an extra $1,000, although you'll still have to buy the pricier Accent GS if you want a stereo or automatic transmission. Hyundai has tweaked the powertrain for better fuel economy -- hence the name change from "GS Base" to "Blue" -- but they've also limited color choices to blue (of course), white, and shades of gray. The Accent is good fun to drive in a back-to-basics sort of way, but the lack of advanced safety features and mediocre crash test scores make it difficult to justify.

Sports Cars - Fast Cars

SUVs are advertised as rugged, but few have bumpers designed to withstand a minor bump in a low-speed collision. Eight of nine new midsize sport utility vehicles (SUVs) earned poor or marginal ratings for bumper performance in 5 mph crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In this group, only the 2003 Honda Pilot is equipped with bumpers that resisted major damage. The Pilot earned an acceptable rating. The 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor, 2003 Nissan Murano, and 2004 Lexus RX 330 are rated marginal. The 2003 Toyota 4Runner, 2004 Chrysler Pacifica, 2003 Infiniti FX35, 2004 Cadillac SRX, and 2003 Kia Sorento are rated poor.

The Highway Institute's series of four bumper tests includes front- and rear-into-flat-barrier plus front-into-angle-barrier and rear-into-pole impacts. The tests assess how well bumpers can prevent damage in 5 mph impacts simulating the fender-bender collisions that are common in commuter traffic and parking lots. A good bumper system should absorb the energy of these minor impacts and protect expensive body panels, headlamp systems, and other components from damage.

Top 10 Cars for Women

Women tell us they prefer a car that's agile, has good visibility, and isn't a chore to drive. Many like to sit higher and most rightly insist on plenty of storage space, reasonable prices and low running costs. Space for growing families is essential in many cases and safety is a major factor. Furthermore, many women tell us that a high fun-to-drive factor is important.

The ten cars listed below meet these criteria while allowing for different tastes, lifestyles, and incomes.
Ford Focus
"2006 Ford Focus ZX4 front view"Photo © Aaron Gold
The Ford Focus has a markedly different character than most Ford products sold in the US and Canada. That's because it was developed by Ford of Europe -- that's right, this is an honest-to-goodness European car. The tall cabin, upright driving position, roomy interior and trunk and smile-generating driving experience all come courtesy of the Focus' old-world roots, but with the humble Ford badge on the boot -- er, trunk -- you aren't paying for a fancy European name.

Sports Cars - Fast CarsSports Cars - Fast Cars

The emission test regulations have kept the wild Mosler MT900s supercar away from North America until now.
The Corvette engined MT900s will go on sale in Anaheim, California starting in late fall 2006.

Althogh the Mosler only weighs 2,200 pounds, it packs a beefy 435 horsepower, 5.7 liter Corvette LS6 V8 engine. Once you light the fuse, the Mosler will speed from 0 to 60 miles/hour in 3.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 190 miles per hour.
The body is made of carbon-aluminum honeycomb just like aircraft bulkheads and you can purchase one for $189,000.

2013 BMW 3-Series Review and Prices

Consumer Guide's Impressions of the 2013 BMW 3-Series

It's still a few years off, but the next iteration of BMW's top-seller is shaping up as a mix of fresh styling, big-Bimmer tech features, and thriftier engines. And yes, the redesigned 3-Series is almost sure to cost more.

What We Know About the 2013 BMW 3-Series

The next edition of BMW's top-selling 3-Series is in the works, but don't look for it anytime soon. Reports indicate the redesigned "F30" line won't start home-market sale until 2012, which likely means a 2013 U.S. debut. Typical of European brands, the new 3-Series will launch with sedans, then add wagons and coupes a year or so later. An updated hardtop-convertible should arrive in 2014. Also due is a first-ever 3-Series 4-door hatchback, a sort of kid brother to the recently announced 5-Series GT and with most of the same functional attributes. The current E90 3-Series design will be seven years old when the rollout begins, having bowed in Europe during 2005 and in America for model-year '06--quite a long run in today's super-competitive global auto business.
Explore the Options

* New Luxury Car Prices & Reviews
* Reviews of All New BMWs
* All BMW 3-Series Reviews

The 2013 BMW 3-Series has lately been spied testing in Germany disguised in E90 bodywork, albeit with some telling alterations. Prime among them are a reported wheelbase stretch to 110.2 inches, up 1.5 inches, and axle tracks broadened by perhaps 2 inches front and rear, matched by like gains in overall width. The F30 should also be a bit longer than E90, but little, if any, taller. Curb weights will likely rise, but we think BMW will limit the gains to 100-200 pounds. As with E90, the F30 architecture--which may or may not be technically "all-new"--will also underpin BMW's smaller 1-Series premium-compact cars that get their own redesign for release about a year before the new 3s.
Chassis design is said to be basically a current-model carryover. Though the suspension may get some redesigned hardware, the 2013 BMW 3-Series will retain a 4-wheel independent setup with front struts, so-called "Z-axle" multilink rear geometry, and an antiroll bar at each end. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS will continue per BMW tradition. So, too, a standard stability system with traction control, available auto-adjusting shock absorbers, and BMW's optional "Active Steering" that's designed to quicken low-speed response for more-nimble handling. Wheel sizes are likely to stand pat as well, with 16-inchers, 17s, 18s, and 19s all available, depending on model. Run-flat tires should remain standard across the board, mainly because they eliminate the need for a spare wheel and thus save a little gas-wasting weight.

2012 Future Cars

Model-year 2012 is a big one for Volkswagen in the American marketplace. The European automaker is opening a new U.S. manufacturing facility in Tennessee in preparation for the 2012 VW America (our predicted name) midsize sedan. It'll compete with an updated-for-2012 Chevrolet Malibu. A sports car from VW's Audi division is on the docket for 2012 as well. Likely to be called R4, it will slot into the lineup below the R8.

Volkswagen isn't stopping there and expects to unveil two more vehicles for 2012, both on the smaller scale. The subcompact Chico and Up would compete against the Scion iQ and Smart ForTwo. Buick is also rumored to jump into the compact-car fray with the Bolero and Excelle (again, our names), based on a popular Chinese-market car.
A Deeper Look Into the Future

* Future Cars
* 2011 Cars
* 2013 Cars
* Auto Shows
* New Car Reviews & Prices

On the other end of the spectrum, the SUV class, expect Ford to redesign an old favorite and unveil a new-to-the-U.S.-market people mover popular in Europe. A new Ford Escape should be ready by late-2011 and the new Ford Focus C-MAX wagon will likely arrive in the U.S. around the same time.

What else is in store for 2012? Take a look at these in-depth previews for photos and details on the cars due out for this model year. Stay with us for updates.

Air Travel Rules: Traveling with Sports Equipment

Are you an avid sports fan? If so, there is a good chance that you will try and incorporate sports into your next vacation or business trip. If you are planning on enjoying a game of golf or a game of baseball, it is likely that you will want to bring along some sporting equipment with you. However, did you know there are certain restrictions on those items? If you are planning on traveling with sports equipment, not matter what sport that equipment is for, you are advised to familiarize yourself with these rules and restrictions.

As previously mentioned, golf is a sport that many travelers enjoy participating in. If you are planning on traveling with your golf clubs, you will need to treat them as checked baggage. All airlines currently have a ban on golf clubs being used as carryon luggage. Due to the cost of most golf club sets, you will either want to leave your clubs at home or properly protect them. If you are traveling to a golf resort or other popular vacation destination, there is a good chance that you should be able to rent a set of golf clubs. Although they will not be your own, it is nice to know that your set is safe at home.

In addition to golf, baseball is another sport enjoyed by many. Like golf clubs, baseball bats are banned from being used as carryon luggage. If you are planning on enjoying a game of baseball, on your next vacation or business trip, you will want to store your baseball bats in a secure bag that can safely be transported through different airports. While baseball bats are banned from airplane cabins, there is no mention of other equipment, such as cleats, helmets, or baseballs. For your own convenience, you may want to store these other baseball supplies in the same place as your baseball bats, in your checked baggage.

Of course, if you are planning on enjoying a hunting excursion, when on vacation or a business trip, you will need to keep your supplies in your checked baggage. All bows, arrows, and guns are strictly prohibited from being in airplane cabins. In fact, if you try and pass through a security checkpoint with these items, is there is a good chance that you will be detained by airport security, for further questioning. Although you may not necessarily think about it, bows, arrows, and guns are not only used for recreational purposes, but they are also used to harm others.

Additional sporting goods that are banned from being included in your carryon luggage include pool cues, ski poles, lacrosse sticks, or hockey sticks. As with all other items, if you are concerned with the safety of your sporting equipment, you are advised to rethink your decision to bring that equipment along. You can help to protect your equipment by making sure that everything is properly and safely packaged; however, there are no guarantees. You are also advised against relying on compensation from the airlines if and when your sports equipment suffers damage.

As previously mentioned, there are some sporting goods that are outright banned, but other rules are not so clear. If you are trying to decide whether or not you can pack other equipment in your carryon luggage, such as masks or other protective gear, you are advised to ask before heading out to the airport. In the event that these items are banned, you may have to make additional arrangements. Regardless of whether you choose to return the items to your car or mail them to your home, you may end up wasting unnecessary time and money.

Credit Cards and International Travel

What a good idea! If you are planning to travel to foreign countries from the U.S., the best credit card to take is the one offered by AAA. After all, AAA is a world-class travel authority. WRONG! First off, AAA does not really offer a VISA Gold card. Sure, they have their logo and name on it, but if something goes wrong, as it did for me, they disavow any responsibility and refuse to help. They pass the buck on to the issuing bank. The bank issuing the card, in this case was PNC Bank in Wilmington, DE and the party you have to contact when things go bad. Unfortunately, PNC Bank does not have an international toll free number and their support personnel seemed to have little knowledge or experience in dealing with international clients. My decision to sign up with AAA to obtain their credit card ruined my vacation to Europe and put me at considerable risk. My suggestion to international travelers is to obtain an a credit card from an international bank like CitiBank or from American Express. Even this will not be enough to ensure the security of using your bank card when it is needed and I will explain why.

The following is an account of our experience attempting to pay our bill at the Holiday Inn at Kings Cross, GB with a AAA/PNC Bank VISA Gold Card with approximately $10,000 U.S. credit line. The desk clerk swiped our card through the hotel's card reader. The card was rejected. The desk clerk then called their bank in response to the code they received on their credit card reader. The Holiday Inn's bank requested more information from us and then rejected the charge because PNC Bank company rejected their attempt to clear the account. We were left standing in the crowded lobby of a hotel on a weekend in a foreign country with a unusable credit card account. We were embarrassed and humiliated by this experience. The hotel was so convinced that we were deadbeats that they wouldn't permit me to call PNC Bank company using their phone.

I used the same PNC Bank VISA Gold card to call PNC's 800 number from a credit card telephone in the lobby. The 800 number listed on their credit card was not usable from Great Britain. The first call to PNC Bank's office put me in touch with a customer support person who was unknowledgeable and unhelpful. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, they hung up on me. A second call resulted in my being connected to a different customer service person who was more helpful. After speaking with the second person, I was assured that the problem was resolved. When I returned to the Holiday Inn counter, the credit card was swiped and the charge was again denied. The hotel's bank was called again. The charge was rejected, again. Once again, I called PNC Bank and talked to another customer service person who was more helpful sounding, but equally ineffective. I asked if my credit was in doubt. I was told that my credit was fine. I asked if I was behind in payments. I was told I was not. I asked if I had done something that would have caused my credit limit to be decreased. I was told I had not. I asked why my credit card was being rejected. None of the three customer service people had a clue to what was causing the problem. However, one of them hinted that Holiday Inns were not good credit risks and that charges were automatically denied to their customers. The last person said that my account was in order and that my card would not be rejected again. They were wrong. When I returned to the hotel desk, my credit card was rejected again. Another call to the hotel's bank confirmed the rejection. Three phone calls and $128.53 proved that PNC Bank's customer service people were totally inept of resolving a problem that originated within their company. Only the clever thinking of the hotel clerk enabled us to pay our bill. The clerk tried running a series of smaller charges through the reader. It worked.

This was not the first time our card was rejected in Great Britain. Our first hotel, The Bailey's, also had considerable trouble getting our card to accept their charge. We were also embarrassed and felt degraded by that experience. The combination ruined our vacation.

On our return home, weeks later, we learned that PNC Bank had called us at home and left messages on our telephone answering machine. The messages explained that our card was being used in a foreign country and could we please call them to verify the card was being used legitimately. How very clever of PNC Bank to call a home number in the U.S. to ask about charges being made in Europe. I doubt it would take a rocket scientist to figure out that PNC Bank should have called us at the hotel where we were staying and requested verification of our charges. They also had the option of requesting that we provide more information through the desk clerks at the hotels. PNC Bank was negligently stupid in their handling of this problem.

Having stood at the hotel desk three separate times attempting to use what appeared to be a bogus credit card made us look like criminals to the dozens of other guests. We were horribly humiliated, embarrassed, and insulted by PNC Bank's internal screw up. For our entire trip, we never knew if our card was going to be accepted. We never knew if we were going to stranded at some out of the way location without funds. It was a horrible experience. Had our VISA card been rejected at a inopportune time we would have suffered dangerous consequences. What's more is that we accepted the credit card offer from AAA because they are a travel organization and because of AAA's reputation. Based on our experience, we will never use them for anything more than maps and towing.

When we complained to Ms. Dorothy J. McKinnon, President, AAA Rochester about the problems we had using AAA credit card we were told that AAA had nothing to do with the the credit card bearing their name. We were told that we were on our own to pursue satisfaction from PNC Bank. They said that they would write to PNC Bank regarding the problem, but we never heard anything more from them.

When we complained to PNC Bank, they apologized for the problem and deducted the cost of the long distance telephone calls to their customer support center from London, England. When we suggested that we should receive additional compensation for their negligence they replied that the reimbursement for the phone calls was as much as they would compensate us. We have since canceled the PNC Bank VISA Gold card and will never do business with PNC Bank or AAA credit services.

If you believe that using a more credible bank card will keep you safe from this kind of problem you are mistaken. We have since experienced similar problems with other credit cards and have discovered the secret to trouble free credit card usage. Call the customer service number printed on your credit card before you leave on your trip. Tell the customer service representative that you are traveling to a foreign country. Tell them which countries and what cities you will be visiting. They will then log that into your account information. When charges start getting flagged because they are unexpectedly coming from the country you are visiting your account information will be verified. Since we started using this method we have not had a single credit card problem.

Packing List for Travel

Aah, the joys of traveling! Be it a weekend road trip, week-long Christmas vacation or a month long spring break, traveling is something that I always look forward to. Exploring a new place, getting a feel of its sights and sounds, studying its flora and fauna, feasting on the local cuisine, shopping at the flea markets...just thinking about it makes me want to forget everything else and set out on a new travel expedition this very minute!

Anyway, stepping aside from the joys of traveling momentarily, one thing that I wish to stress on at this moment is, the amount of preparation that one should do before any sort of travel. Lack of preparation can often land travelers in problematic situations which can severely dampen the spirits of the traveling party. Here is a basic vacation packing tip for all travelers. One of the first things that you should do in the preparatory stage is, make a travel packing checklist. On that note, let us look at what a packing list for travel should contain, and how to go about making one.

Making a Packing List for Travel:
Your travel packing checklist should ideally be split into the following categories:

* clothes
* toiletries
* travel documents
* finances
* first aid
* accessories and general items.

Clothes: You should always pack your clothes while taking into consideration the prevailing weather conditions at your destination and the duration of your stay. The following clothing items should ideally be on your vacation packing list:

* regular casual day wear i.e. shirts, t-shirts, trousers, dresses, jeans
* an extra pair of denims
* innerwear
* towels
* sweater or windbreaker
* raincoat or a rainy jacket
* two sets of formal clothing
* night suits/pajamas
* swimwear
* bermuda shorts
* socks
* shoes, sandals and slippers.

Toiletries: Make sure that you inspect your toiletry kit before you leave. Very often, we happen to forget small things like toothbrushes and combs which can later cause a little bit of inconvenience.

International Travel Tips

Traveling abroad is always among the wish list of people of all age groups. Many people who have traveled abroad describe it as the most memorable and exciting time of their life. Traveling abroad is generally done for a variety of purposes. Some people go abroad for business related purposes, while some go to experience the beauty of that country. Whatever may be the reason for traveling abroad, systematic planning is very essential to avoid any sort of confusion and problems during their course of your journey. Given below are the tips for traveling abroad, which will be of great use to people visiting foreign countries.

Important Tips for Traveling Abroad

Let us start the discussion of things to take care of while traveling abroad by knowing some useful international travel packing tips. You should select the clothes which you will be wearing abroad quite early and buy some new clothes if you are falling short of them. Wear comfortable clothes while traveling. You should keep some extra clothes with you to avoid any sort of problems later on. The clothes should ideally include formal wears, casual wears, a suit, and the clothes to wear at night. Other things you will need during your stay abroad are shaving material, napkins, caps, shawls, bottles, your cellphone and the electronic gadgets which you find necessary. You should also carry useful things such as shoes, camera, i-pod, laptop, your skipping rope, a chess board, etc., for your entertainment and use in the foreign country. More on packing list for travel.

The most important thing to possess is your passport, visa, driving license and the tickets of your air travel. One of the most important international travel tips would be to register with the State Department. By doing so, you can get some useful help if any kind of difficult situation arises during your stay in the foreign country. You should give your personal details such as contact numbers to your neighbors and close friends, so that you can stay in touch with them.

Taking care of your health is of prime importance, while you are visiting a foreign country. You should get a medical check-up done and carry all the preventive medicines which have been prescribed by your doctor along with you. Protection from infectious and contagious diseases is very essential as falling ill can affect the very motive for which you are visiting the foreign country. You should strictly have a first aid kit in which you should have pain-killer medicines such as acetaminophen, ketoprofen or aspirin which have been prescribed by your doctor to you. Having proper medicines for cough, fever and cold is very essential as you might require them if you feel unwell due to change in atmospheric and weather conditions in the foreign country you are visiting.

In order to purchase things you like, you will need sufficient foreign exchange. But, before seeking the foreign currency, you should have a complete knowledge of the conversion rates of the currency of the country you are visiting and the currency prevalent in your country. You should consult experts in the immigration field as they have the details related to foreign exchange. You should take good care of your personal belongings while traveling and staying in a foreign country, as loss of important things can create a lot of problems and affect your entire schedule. You should avoid making money transactions with strangers and possess the contact details of the security in the area in which you will be residing. You should have the exact address and information about the place where you will be staying in the foreign nation.