4 Reasons to Stay with Your Cellphone Carrier

Senior happily talking on smartphone or cellphone
Photo by fizkes / Shutterstock.com

You see in ads online and on TV all the time: the call to switch cellphone carriers.

Yes, switching could be a great way to save money on your cellphone bill, and even get a new phone at a discounted price. However, switching might not always be the best option.

Here are the top reasons you should stick with your current carrier.

1. You get great coverage

There’s a reason why every carrier likes to brag about their network coverage. Without good coverage, your cellphone plan is basically useless.

If you get strong coverage in all the places you regularly are, switching carriers might not be best option. You could end up on a network that has spotty coverage in those areas.

Instead of switching carriers, you might want to take a look at your current provider’s plans and see if there is one that is cheaper while still meeting your needs.

2. You’re already getting a great price

Switching carriers is basically the best way to save money on your cellphone plan unless you’re already paying a low price. How do you know you’re getting the best rates?

It’s always a good idea to do some comparison shopping now and then to see if another carrier is offering a similar plan at a lower rate. If you find a cheaper comparable plan, it might be a good idea to switch.

On the other hand, if you’re getting the best rates, stick with your carrier.

3. You’re getting the best perks

One of the best features of modern cellphone plans is the perks that come with them. With all the competition out there between the major carriers and MVNOs, carriers are offering some excellent perk packages to gain new customers and keep their current ones.

Verizon offers free Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ on select unlimited plans. T-Mobile offers eligible customers free Netflix or Quibi. Not to be left behind, AT&T gives its own HBO Max free to customers on their Unlimited Elite plan.

If you are digging the perks you get with your current carrier, you might just want to stay with them.

4. You don’t need a new phone

If you need a new phone and you’re looking to save, the best thing to do typically involves switching carriers. That’s because most carriers save their best deals for new customers switching from a competitor.

These deals can save you hundreds, but if you don’t need a new phone, you could stick with your current carrier. Wait to switch when it’s actually time to get a new device.

How do you know you don’t need a new phone? If your phone still holds a charge well, doesn’t have any functional damage, and is supported by current operating system updates, you probably don’t need a new phone.

Sure, it’d be nice to get a new 5G-capable device, but 5G tech is still very new and hasn’t come close to reaching its full potential. For now, your 4G LTE phone should be more than sufficient.

If none of these reasons to stick with your current plan and carrier resonates with you, it’s probably time to switch.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Ways to Get Walmart Gift Cards for Free

Walmart website
Photo by chrisdorney / Shutterstock.com

Perhaps you already know there are multiple ways to land free Amazon gift cards — but Amazon isn’t alone.

You name a major retailer, and you will probably find at least a couple of ways to score free gift cards for it. You just need to know where to look.

Take Amazon’s brick-and-mortar rival Walmart for example. Here are several ways you can score free gift cards from Walmart.

For more Walmart savings tips, check out “8 Ways to Snag Extra Savings at Walmart.”

1. Sell your clutter to Walmart’s trade-in program

If you’ve got electronics lying around, check out Walmart’s trade-in program, called Gadget to Gift Cards.

You may be able to trade in your old devices for a Walmart e-gift card, as we detail in “9 Companies That Sell Your Stuff for You.”

2. Join Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a free rewards program — just sign up for an account. As a Swagbucks member, you’ll be able to accumulate points called “SBs” for completing simple tasks online — tasks that you may already do anyway, such as:

  • Shopping online
  • Searching the web
  • Answering surveys

Then, you can redeem your SBs for free gift cards to various retailers, including Walmart.

3. Use TopCashback

TopCashback is a cash-back portal. This basically means that if you do your online shopping via TopCashback’s website, you can earn rebates on purchases from thousands of online retailers.

TopCashback prides itself on paying high cash-back percentages and offering many ways to convert your accumulated rebates to currency. For example, the company will send you cash via direct deposit or PayPal. It also will convert your rebates to a gift card — with Walmart gift cards being one of the options.

To start using TopCashback, sign up for an account, which is free.

4. Download Shopkick

Shopkick is a free app that rewards you — with points called “kicks” — for doing small tasks while shopping, such as scanning product bar codes in stores. You can redeem kicks for free gift cards to various retailers, including Walmart.

Download the Shopkick app to get started.

5. Buy gift cards from Raise

Raise is a gift card marketplace that sells secondhand gift cards for less than their face value, as well as new gift cards at face value.

If you buy new gift cards through Raise, you will earn rewards called “Raise Cash.” And you can put your Raise Cash toward future purchases of gift cards from Raise — including Walmart gift cards — effectively getting gift cards for free.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

What to Do If Your Stimulus Check is Lost, Stolen or Destroyed

It’s bad enough if a new sweater you ordered on Amazon gets lost in the mail – but you’re really going to get mad if the post office loses your $600 stimulus check. What do you do then? Or what happens if your bank never receives your direct deposit stimulus payment from the IRS? Are you going to lose that money?

Fortunately, the IRS has a procedure to help. If your first-round ($1,200) or second-round ($600) stimulus payment is lost, stolen or destroyed, you can ask the IRS to perform a “payment trace” to see if your payment was cashed. In fact, you may need to request a trace in order to eventually get paid (assuming you’re eligible for a stimulus check). That’s the good news.

But there’s some less than thrilling news, too. First, whether or not your check was cashed, the IRS won’t reissue your payment. Instead, you’ll have to claim the amount you’re owed as a “recovery rebate” credit on your 2020 tax return, which means you won’t get your stimulus check money right away. Second, as with any government request, there’s a healthy list of procedures you must follow. Slip up on one of the steps, and you could find yourself in a bureaucratic black hole. But don’t worry. While dealing with the IRS can be intimidating, we’ll help you get through the process.

[Stay on top of all the new stimulus relief developments – Sign up for the Kiplinger Today E-Newsletter. It’s FREE!]

Who Can Request a Payment Trace

You can track the status of your stimulus check using the IRS’s “Get My Payment” portal. If you’re getting a stimulus payment, this online tool will let you know how it will be delivered (e.g., paper check or direct deposit) and provide an estimated arrival date.

Also, after it processes your stimulus payment, the IRS will mail you a letter letting you know that a payment was sent to you. The letter is formally known as Notice 1444 for first-round stimulus checks and Notice 1444-B for second-round payments.

You can request a payment trace only if you haven’t received your stimulus payment and you:

  • Get an IRS letter (Notice 1444 or 1444-B); or
  • The “Get My Payment” tool shows your payment was issued.

Don’t request a payment trace to determine if you’re eligible for a payment or to confirm the amount of money you should have received.

When to Request a Payment Trace

If the “Get My Payment” tool or your Notice 1444/1444-B says that your payment was issued as a direct deposit into your bank account, you should first check with your bank before submitting a payment trace request to make sure they didn’t get a deposit. But wait at least five days after the estimated delivery date. Otherwise, the bank might not have the necessary information.

If you were scheduled to get a first-round paper stimulus check in the mail, the IRS can’t initiate a payment trace unless it has been:

  • Four weeks since the check was mailed to a standard address;
  • Six weeks since the check was mailed if you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office; or
  • Nine weeks since the check was mailed to a foreign address.

For second-round payments, a payment trace isn’t allowed until:

  • February 24, 2021, if the check was mailed to a standard address;
  • March 10, 2021, if the check was mailed if you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office; or
  • March 31, 2021, if the check was mailed to a foreign address.

(Note: If you have a foreign address, there may be international service disruptions at the U.S. Postal Service or the foreign country you’re in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the USPS Service Alerts website and check with your local consulate for more information.)

How to Request a Payment Trace

There are two ways to request a stimulus payment trace:

  • Call the IRS at 800-919-9835; or
  • Mail or fax a completed Form 3911 to the IRS.

Pick only one method (e.g., don’t submit Form 3911 if you have already requested a trace by phone). Also remember that you can’t request a payment trace before the timeframes described above – the IRS can’t process a request until after the appropriate time period has passed.

If you’re using Form 3911, make sure you:

  • Write “EIP1” (first-round payment) or “EIP2” (second-round payment) on the top of the form to identify which payment you want to trace;
  • Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your stimulus payment;
  • When completing item 7 under Section 1, check the box for “Individual” as the type of return, enter “2020” as the tax period, and don’t write anything for the date filed; and
  • Sign the form (if you file a joint tax return, both spouses must sign the form).

Mail or fax the form to the appropriate address or fax number according to the chart below. Don’t send anything other than a Form 3911 to the fax numbers listed.

If you live in… then mail to this address… or fax to…
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont Andover Internal Revenue Service
310 Lowell St.
Andover, MA 01810
855-253-3175
Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia Atlanta Internal Revenue Service
4800 Buford Hwy
Chamblee, GA 30341
855-275-8620
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas Austin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
855-203-7538
New York Brookhaven Internal Revenue Service
1040 Waverly Ave.
Holtsville, NY 11742
855-297-7736
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming Fresno Internal Revenue Service
5045 E Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93888
855-332-3068
Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia Kansas City Internal Revenue Service
333 W Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
855-344-9993
Alabama, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee Memphis Internal Revenue Service
5333 Getwell Rd.
Memphis, TN 38118
855-580-4749
District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Philadelphia Internal Revenue Service
2970 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
855-404-9091
A foreign country, U.S. possession or territory, or use an APO or FPO address, or file Form 2555 or 4563, or are a dual-status alien. Austin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
855-203-7538

What the IRS Will Do

You’ll generally receive a response about six weeks after the IRS receives your request for a payment trace (there could be delays due to limited IRS staffing). They will process your claim for a missing payment in one of two ways. If the check was not cashed, the IRS will reverse your payment. They’ll send you a notice, too. If the original check shows up later, you need to return it as soon as possible. You will then need to claim the “recovery rebate” credit on your 2020 tax return to receive your payment (assuming you’re eligible for the credit).

If the check was cashed, the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a claim package that includes a copy of the cashed check. Follow the instructions in the packet. The bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before determining whether the payment can be reversed. If it is reversed, you will need to claim the “recovery rebate” credit on your 2020 return to get your money.

It’s very important that you submit a payment trace request as outlined above. Since the payment was issued to you, you could be deemed ineligible for the “recovery rebate” credit if you don’t request a trace.

Also, if you’re filing your 2020 tax return before your payment trace is complete, don’t include the payment amount on line 16 or 19 of the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet (the worksheet is in the instructions for Form 1040). You may receive a notice saying your recovery rebate credit was changed, but an adjustment will be made after the trace is complete and it’s determined your payment hasn’t been cashed. In that case, you won’t need to take any additional action to receive the credit.

Source: kiplinger.com

How to Know If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies

Woman removing her mask
Photo by Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock.com

Millions of us wonder if we’ve been exposed to the coronavirus without knowing it, and the American Red Cross is offering a free way to find out.

When you donate blood, platelets or plasma, the Red Cross will test your blood for the presence of coronavirus antibodies, which form when the body fights infections such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Such testing can tell you whether you have had a coronavirus infection in the past — which in turn can indicate that you have potentially developed at least temporary immunity or resistance to the virus.

The Red Cross will test all donations between now and at least March. The Red Cross says it will decide whether to extend the policy past March based on how the pandemic progresses.

The Red Cross says donors will receive news about their antibody status about seven to 10 days after they donate.

While a donation can help you get valuable information about your own health, it also can save the lives of others.

The pandemic is still causing “disruptions in blood collections and unprecedented fluctuations in the supply and demand for blood products”, according to a joint statement issued today by the Red Cross and two other organizations.

The statement, which notes that January is National Blood Donor Month, continues:

“This January, AABB, America’s Blood Centers, and the American Red Cross join together to urge all eligible individuals to make and keep an appointment to donate blood, platelets and convalescent plasma now to ensure critical treatment options are always available for patients when needed.”

If you would like to donate through the Red Cross, you can schedule an appointment by visiting redcrossblood.org or calling (800) RED-CROSS.

The Red Cross emphasizes that it is testing for antibodies, which indicate a previous infection. It is not testing donors to diagnose current illness. If you do not feel well, the Red Cross urges you to postpone any donation appointment until you feel better.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving blood, you now can receive antibody testing at some retailers.

Kroger, for example, offers rapid antibody testing to customers. Such tests cost $25, and you get the results within 15 minutes, although you do need to make an appointment in advance.

For more about staying safe during the pandemic, check out Money Talks News’ latest coronavirus articles.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Standard vs. Itemized Deduction: Which One Should You Take?

Standard versus itemized deduction: Which one should you claim? If this question is weighing heavily on your mind as you file your taxes, now that all the new tax reforms have taken effect, let this guide help you decide.

Itemizing your deductions—particularly if you’ve bought a home recently—could save you major bucks when you file. But, more than ever, you need to understand what you can and can’t do. We’ll break it down to help you make the decision on whether to select a standard or an itemized deduction.

What is the standard deduction?

The standard deduction is essentially a flat-dollar, no-questions-asked reduction to your adjusted gross income. When you file your tax return, you can deduct a certain amount right off the bat from your taxable income.

For 2019, the standard deduction is $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. (The standard deduction nearly doubled as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect in 2018.)

Here are some of the benefits to taking a standard deduction:

  • It allows you a deduction even if you have no expenses that qualify as itemized deductions.
  • It eliminates the need to keep records and receipts of your expenses in case you’re audited by the IRS.
  • It lets you avoid having to track medical expenses, charitable donations, and other itemizable deductions throughout the year.
  • It saves you the trouble of needing to understand the fine nuances of tax law.

What are itemized deductions?

Although claiming the standard deduction is easy and convenient, choosing to itemize can potentially save you thousands of dollars, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer at the Jackson Hewitt tax service.

“Don’t be lulled into thinking the standard deduction is always a better answer,” Steber says. That advice especially applies to homeowners.

“Buying a home has the single largest impact on your tax return,” he adds, noting that a home purchase is “an anchor item that can move someone into the itemized taxpayer category.”

Itemizing your deductions may enable you to deduct these expenses:

  • Home mortgage interest (note the exceptions below)
  • Real estate and personal property taxes (note the cap below)
  • State and local income taxes or sales taxes (but not both)
  • Gifts to charities
  • Casualty or theft losses
  • Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
  • Unreimbursed employee business expenses

Why itemizing often makes sense for homeowners

Under the new law, current homeowners can continue to deduct interest on a total of $1 million of mortgage debt for a first and second home. But new buyers can deduct interest on only $750,000 for a first and second home.

It’s still possible that if you own a home, your mortgage interest alone might exceed the standard deduction, says Steve Albert, director of tax services at the CPA wealth management firm Glass Jacobson. In this case, it’s a no-brainer to itemize your deductions.

This is particularly true if you bought a house recently, since most mortgages are front-loaded to pay mortgage interest rather than whittle down the principal (which is the amount you borrowed).

For instance: If you have a 30-year loan for $400,000 at a fixed 5% interest rate, in the first year of your mortgage, you’ll pay off only $5,901 in principal and a whopping $19,866 in interest.

That alone exceeds an individual’s standard deduction of $12,000 deduction for 2019. So if you’re filing taxes this year, itemizing would make total sense.

Plus: If you bought your house in 2019 and paid points—which are essentially a way to prepay interest upfront to lower your monthly mortgage bills—these points count as mortgage interest, too, amounting to more tax savings.

On the other hand, if you’ve owned your home for a while, then your mortgage interest may not amount to much. By the 25th year of that same $400,000 loan, you’ll pay only $6,223 in interest.

However, keep in mind that your property taxes of up to $10,000 are an itemized deduction, too—and combined with mortgage interest and other deductions, could push you over the top into itemizing territory.

Itemized vs. standard deduction: Which is right for you?

Not sure how much you paid in mortgage interest and property taxes last year? To get a ballpark, you can punch your info into an online mortgage calculator.

Also, early in the new year, your mortgage lender should have mailed you a mortgage interest statement (Form 1098) showing the total you paid during the previous year.

“And if you had your property taxes impounded in your loan, your taxes will appear on your 1098 as well,” says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a CPA and tax expert at TurboTax.

Another DIY approach for seeing whether your combined itemized tax deductions are higher than your standard tax deduction is to fill out the IRS Schedule A form, which outlines all federal itemized deductions line by line.

You can also consult an accountant (you can search for a tax professional in your area using the IRS directory of tax return preparers). But as a general rule, if you bought a home recently, you could be a prime candidate for itemizing, so don’t let these potential savings pass you by without checking!

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

The Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Cellphone Plan in 2021

Woman happy with new phone plan
Photo by Luis Molinero / Shutterstock.com

We’re coming up to the end of the first full week of 2021 and leaving the year that must not be named far behind us.

Since the beginning of each year always seems like a good time to reset certain things about your life, you might be thinking about reviewing your monthly bill to find ways to cut your recurring expenses.

One area that has potential for savings is your cellphone bill. Here are several ways you can save on your cellphone bill in 2021.

1. Switch carriers

Between the major cellphone carriers and the smaller MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that lease coverage from them, there is plenty of competition out there vying for your business. That means, if you take the time to shop and compare, you should be able to find a carrier with a plan that fits your needs, at a price you are comfortable paying.

Just make sure that when you switch, you switch to a carrier that has strong coverage in your area. Saving is great, but not worth it if you don’t get good service.

Here are some of the most popular carriers you might want to consider switching to:

2. Track your data

The biggest difference between a very inexpensive cellphone plan and a much more expensive one is the monthly high-speed data allotment. The more data in the plan, the more that plan will cost. Basically, these days what you’re paying for from your plan is the data.

A great way to save on your cellphone bill is by tracking how much data you use. Take a look at the past three months of data usage (you can usually find this on your monthly bill or by logging in to your account online).

If you are using less data than you are paying for, you may be able to save money by downgrading to a plan with a smaller data allotment.

3. Use less data

If you find that you are using up to your data limit, you might want to consider pulling the brakes and using less so that you can get a smaller plan. One of the best ways to do this is by connecting your phone to trusted and secure Wi-Fi whenever possible. This way, when you are browsing the internet or streaming shows on your phone, you will not be using your mobile data.

Speaking of watching shows, most streaming apps have options that limit the quality (and therefore data usage) whenever you are using mobile data. Use these options to make sure you aren’t reaching your limit too fast.

Here are just some cellphone plans with low data limits and low rates:

4. Join a family plan

If your family isn’t already on a family plan, you are missing out on a ton of savings. This is especially true if you are with one of the major carriers, and want to stay with them. Typically, the more lines you have on one plan (usually up to four or five lines), the more you save per line. Depending on your carrier and plan, you could save over half per line compared with a single-line plan.

Really, there’s just no reason not to be on a family plan if you are in a multi-person household. These days, adults are staying on their parents’ plans long after moving out, just to take advantage of these savings. Just make sure, if you’re the account holder, that everyone is paying their share.

5. Don’t buy a new phone

Part of the reason why cellphone plans can get exceptionally expensive is that many people purchase phones on monthly payment plans, adding as much as $40 per month on a bill. The problem is, many are buying new phones when they really don’t need to.

If your phone is paid off and is working perfectly fine, you probably really don’t need a new one. Consider buying a new phone when it is no longer supported on the latest operating systems, will not hold a charge or is otherwise damaged. New phones might seem cool, but keep in mind that the latest bells and whistles are often things you end up not using very often.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

6 Ways to Avoid Spending Too Much at Warehouse Stores

Unhappy man with grocery receipt
Stokkete / Shutterstock.com

Everything is larger than life at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club. That includes product sizes, shelves and even the shopping carts.

Whether you’re a family stocking the pantry on a budget or a soccer coach looking for post-game snacks in bulk, you can wheel some killer deals out the door.

Yet, we also must remember that, like any other retailer, warehouse stores stay in business because they know how to part us from our dollars.

Following are some tips to avoid being trapped by warehouse stores’ tricks of the trade.

1. Ignore ‘warehouse’ decor

store aisle
Cassiohabib / Shutterstock.com

The floors are concrete. The beams are exposed. Stuff is stacked on metal shelving or pallets.

That spartan appearance tells consumers we’re bound to get unbelievable deals because warehouse clubs don’t waste money on decor or carpeting.

Generally, that’s true. Just make sure that rushing to nab something at what you assume is an unbeatable price doesn’t keep you from doing the math. Compare prices.

Remember, too, that low prices might tempt you to buy stuff you don’t need.

2. Remember that you are paying extra

money
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Part of the reason you pay less at warehouse stores is that you shell out each year for the privilege of walking through the door. The annual fee offsets some of your savings.

Often, the membership fee will pay for itself. Sometimes, though, you can get a better deal at regular stores, especially when combining sales and coupons.

However, getting a pretty good price consistently at the warehouse likely beats getting super prices every so often at supermarkets and drugstores. If you don’t want to fuss with coupons, warehouse stores might be for you.

3. Don’t buy food you can’t eat

warehouse club
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

Large quantities are the hallmark of warehouse stores. But even if you really like an item, be honest: Are you going to consume that much bagged salad or all of those cookies?

For example, I love grape tomatoes. They make a wonderful snack, and they’re delicious in salads. But we probably couldn’t finish several pounds of the things before they rotted.

If you’re throwing food away, you’re not saving money.

4. Beware the deadly FOMO and WWLT

Costco deals
Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

“Fear of missing out,” or FOMO, drives a lot of irrational buying. Knowing that the inventory changes often might cause you to pull the trigger on a purchase even if you’re not sure you want or need it.

Just as bad is WWLT — “Wouldn’t ‘whoever’ love that?” You see the camouflage-printed jammies or the hardback mystery novel that would be perfect for someone in your life. Perhaps, say, yourself.

Come clean: Have you ever gone to Costco for milk, oranges and canned goods and walked out with a trampoline? It happens.

If you’re suddenly eying something you don’t need — or something you want but can’t pay for right now — it’s no bargain.

5. Put on your track shoes

televisions
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com

As soon as you enter the store, run to the specific items you need. Groceries are likely to be in the back. Do not be distracted by the bright, shiny big-screen TVs or the smartphones or other pretty gadgets by the entrance.

If you’ve been wavering about buying something like that, the discounted price tag might be enough to convince you. But if that new iWhatever isn’t currently in your budget, that means you’ve just decided to carry a credit card balance or to withdraw money from savings.

Wait until you’ve saved enough to pay with cash — and done enough homework to be sure your warehouse club has the best price.

6. Be an informed consumer

Shopping list on cellphone
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

The same consumer tactics you use everywhere else also apply at warehouse stores: Make a list, compare unit prices and carry cash instead of plastic. For more tips, check out:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

10 of Your Favorite Stories From 2020

Couple celebrating the new year
Photo by Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

With a new year dawning, it’s time to look back at some of the most popular stories of the past year.

What follows are the most-read stories that Money Talks News published during 2020. But the guidance that you will discover in many of these stories will serve your finances in 2021 and beyond — or serve your sanity in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.

So, if you don’t recall reading them in 2020, take a minute to check them out now.

  1. “7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply“
  2. “5 Groups Who Won’t Get Coronavirus Checks From Uncle Sam“
  3. “7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast“
  4. “These 5 Cleaning Products Kill the Coronavirus“
  5. “19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree“
  6. “5 Tips to Keep Glasses From Fogging When Wearing a Mask“
  7. “20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling“
  8. “4 Groups Who Could Receive Another Stimulus Check“
  9. “This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers“
  10. “9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again“

A note about No. 2 and No. 8: These articles are about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which was enacted in March, and proposed legislation that never became law, respectively.

To learn about the second round of stimulus checks that Americans will start receiving soon as a result of the legislation that President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 27, check out “Here’s How Much Your Next Stimulus Check Will Be” and “6 Groups That Won’t Get a Second Stimulus Payment.”

Lastly, from all of us here at Money Talks News, Happy New Year!

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

6 Retailers That Let You Double Up on Coupons

Woman using a digital coupon
Photo by UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Coupons can help you score everyday products on the cheap if you know a few tricks. And coupon stacking might be the best trick of all.

It’s the practice of applying multiple coupons, such as a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon, to a single product.

Few retailers allow coupon stacking, but the following are exceptions. These stores will accept two and sometimes three coupons for the same item.

1. BJ’s Wholesale Club

BJ’s allows you to stack one of each of the following on a single item:

2. CVS Pharmacy

CVS allows you to stack one of each of the following:

  • Manufacturer coupon
  • CVS coupon

3. Dollar General

Dollar General allows you to stack one of each of the following:

  • Manufacturer coupon
  • Dollar General coupon

Note that Dollar General requires you to sign up for a free online account to access its digital coupons. You can also access store coupons via Dollar General’s app.

4. Rite Aid

Rite Aid allows you to stack two or all three of the following:

  • Manufacturer coupon
  • Rite Aid Manufacturer coupon
  • Rite Aid Valuable coupon

The standard manufacturer coupons that Rite Aid accepts have a UPC barcode that begins with “5.”

What the company calls “Rite Aid Manufacturer” coupons have a UPC that begins with “49.” These coupons are usually found in Rite Aid’s weekly ad and on its website. They are also emailed to customers.

Rite Aid’s store coupons, called “Rite Aid Valuable” coupons, have a UPC that begins with “48.”

5. Target

Target allows you to stack two or all three of the following:

  • Manufacturer coupon
  • Target coupon
  • Target Circle offer

Target Circle is the retailer’s loyalty program, which you can join for free.

6. Walgreens

Walgreens allows you to stack one of each of the following:

  • Manufacturer coupon
  • Walgreens coupon

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Will Claiming Survivors Benefits Hurt My Social Security Later?

Senior man
Photo by AJR_photo / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to our “Social Security Q&A” series. You ask a question about Social Security, and a guest expert answers it.

You can learn how to ask a question of your own below. And if you would like a personalized report detailing your optimal Social Security claiming strategy, click here. Check it out: It could result in receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetime!

Today’s question comes from Jeff:

“I am 58 years old. My wife passed away a year and a half ago. We were married for 34 years.
I retired from teaching last May. If I claim a Social Security survivors benefit on her record at 60, will that affect my Social Security retirement benefit when I am ready to take mine? Given my birth year, my full retirement age (FRA) is 67. I am hoping to delay claiming my own retirement benefits until age 70.”

When should you claim survivors benefits?

Jeff, I have good news for you. You can indeed claim widow(er)s benefits — one type of survivors benefit — as early as age 60 without having any negative effect on your retirement benefits. Alternatively, you can claim your retirement benefits as early as age 62 without having any negative effect on your widow(er)s benefits.

Keep in mind that claiming widow(er)s benefits at age 60 involves a steep early claiming penalty of 28.5%. Nevertheless, it is often worthwhile to accept that penalty and claim at age 60 (assuming you will switch to retirement benefits later on).

Jeff, you do have the option of claiming retirement benefits first. So, which benefit should you claim first? The answer partly depends on the earnings test, which we will ignore for the moment. (In Jeff’s case, he retired at age 58, so the earnings test is irrelevant.)

In many instances, the answer is obvious: If retirement benefits are significantly larger (say, at FRA) than the widow(er)s benefits, then claiming widow(er)s benefits at age 60 makes good financial sense. The next move would be to switch to retirement benefits at age 70 or thereabouts.

Alternatively, if widow(er)s benefits clearly dominated retirement benefits at one’s FRA, then the best move would be to claim retirement benefits at age 62, and then switch to widow(er)s benefits at FRA. That is because widow(er)s benefits reach a maximum at FRA.

As widow(er)s benefits (at FRA) grow closer to retirement benefits (at FRA), the choice of which benefit to start first becomes more complicated. I do not see any easy rule-of-thumb that can deal with cases of this sort. One really needs to do some careful calculations or turn to some inexpensive professional advice to reach a reliable conclusion.

Finally, for those who continue to work past age 60, the earnings test will play a role. For 2021, earnings above $18,960 result in a $1 reduction in benefits for every $2 in earnings (a higher limit applies for the months leading up to one’s FRA).

So, anyone with significant earnings will find their benefits reduced substantially, perhaps to zero. This fact further complicates the decision about the timing of claiming benefits.

Got a question you’d like answered?

You can submit a question for the “Social Security Q&A” series for free. Just hit “reply” to the Money Talks News newsletter and email your question. (If you don’t already receive the newsletter, you can sign up for free, too: Click here, and the sign-up box will pop up.)

You also can find all past answers from this series on the “Social Security Q&A” webpage.

About me

I hold a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years.

In 2009, I co-founded SocialSecurityChoices.com, an internet company that provides advice on Social Security claiming decisions. You can learn more about that by clicking here.

Disclaimer: We strive to provide accurate information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that we are not offering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services, and that the SSA alone makes all final determinations on your eligibility for benefits and the benefit amounts. Our advice on claiming strategies does not comprise a comprehensive financial plan. You should consult with your financial adviser regarding your individual situation.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com