One of the most underutilized ways consumers can save money is by taking advantage of stores' price matching policies, and in an age when every penny counts there's no excuse for ignoring this valuable tool. It's important to know exactly which retailers offers what and equally important to know which merchants don't offer anything at all. Some retailers offer to match, some offer to beat, and many even offer to refund the difference of items within two weeks if they're available cheaper elsewhere.
This year, in an effort to curb showrooming, Best Buy, Target, Fry's Electronics, and Staples have all made the decision to match the prices of goods from some major online retailers. Customer are eligible to price match their purchases against the offerings from Amazon, Walmart, TigerDirect, Buy.com, and several others online retailers, provided that the item is new (OEM-packaging and open-box items are excluded in most case) and identical to the item being offered in-store. Surprisingly, Walmart has not made a stance as to whether or not it will match its online competitors' prices this holiday season.
As in 2011, we again tip our hats to Home Depot and Lowe's, both of which offer to undercut any cheaper offer by 10%, although not during the blackout dates from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. For more details about Black Friday price matching, check out our chart below:
for Black Friday?
|Amazon||No||Amazon will only match prices of TVs within 14 days of purchase, but prices are not matched on Black Friday. Early bird and doorbuster offers are excluded.|
|Best Buy||No||Best Buy will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer and select major online retailers like Amazon and Walmart, but prices are not matched on sales from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Best Buy's price matching promotion runs until November 17, and from November 27 to December 24. Special offers, bundled offers, rebates, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Fry's Electronics||Yes||Fry's Electronics will match prices on identical, in-stock items from authorized local or online competitors, though some items are excluded. Fry's is also honoring price-matching on select items within 15 to 30 days of purchase, and will issue customers a 10% refund of the item's purchase price.|
|Home Depot||Yes||Home Depot offers to go 10% lower than the price customers find on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer, but online offers, special orders, rebates, free offers, and more are excluded.|
|J&R||Yes||J&R will match prices from authorized resellers, but CDs and DVDs are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|JCPenney||Yes||JCPenney will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer. Online offers, free, special, or bundled offers and rebates are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Kohl's||Yes||Kohl's will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer, but online offers, clearance, Buy One, Get One offers, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Lowe's||Yes||Lowe's offers to go 10% lower than the price customers find on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer, but online offers, closeout, special order, discontinued, clearance, liquidation items, and more are excluded. Customers and customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Meijer||Yes||Meijer will only match prices of general merchandise, and online offers, grocery, health & beauty items, discount, special promotions, gift card promotions, limited quantity items, mail-in rebates, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Office Depot||Yes||Office Depot will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer and select online retailers, but free product offers, special orders, mail-in rebates, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad. Office Depot is also honoring price-matching within 14 days of purchase and will reimburse customers the difference.|
|OfficeMax||Yes||OfficeMax will match prices on identical items from any local retailer, but mail-in rebates, gifts with purchase, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Sears||No||Sears will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer within 14 days of purchase, but prices are not matched on sales from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Online-only offers, bonus offers, free offers, special offers, bundled offers, rebates, and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad.|
|Staples||Yes||Staples will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer and select major online retailers. Gift cards and more are excluded. Customers must present proof of a cheaper price via competitor's print ad. Staples is also honoring price-matching within 14 days of purchase and will reimburse customers the difference.|
|Target||No||Target will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer and from major online retailers, but prices are not matched on sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Early bird and doorbuster offers, timed deals, special offers, bundled offers, rebates, Buy One, Get One offers, and more are excluded. Target's price matching promotion runs November 1 to December 16, and November 27 to December 24. Customers must present proof of a cheaper online price via mobile device, printout, or competitor's print ad.|
|Walmart||Yes||Walmart will match prices on identical, in-stock items from any local retailer, but prices are not matched on sales seven days before Thanksgiving Day and through Cyber Monday. Online offers, some Buy One, Get one offers, special offers, bundled offers, rebates, and more are excluded. Unlike most other merchants, Walmart will match prices on select Buy One, Get One Free ads.|
Paula Kerrigan is the assistant editor of dealnews.com, a website devoted to finding the best deals on consumer goods. The site pledges to list the best deal, whether or not it's from an advertiser, although it does work with advertisers to craft deals for readers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This feature first appeared in dealnews.com.
We're a week away from Black Friday and if you're on the prowl for a new HDTV you've come to the right place. Below, we've updated our roundup of the best Black Friday HDTV ads, with deals from retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target. Each of the deals below was hand-picked for being amongst the best TV deals we've seen this year.
If your heart was set on a 3D TV, we're sorry to report that deals on 3D TVs have been rare and disappointing. (You'll find the three best we could find below). Prices have indeed dropped, but value-wise your money is best spent on non-3D HDTVs. Should we find any additional deals, you can rest assured we'll update our roundup.
Best 32" to 46" HDTV Ads
- 32" LCD HDTV for $97 at Sears Thanks to a reader tip, we were able to find this amazing deal on a 32" LCD HDTV. Not only does it crush our Black Friday prediction by $62, but it's also the cheapest 32" HDTV we've seen by $72. Though keep in mind that the TV's brand-name and resolution are not listed by Sears, and at this price, we doubt you'll get anything but 720p resolution.
- Apex 32" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $147 at TargetNot a fan of mystery deals? This in-store only deal beats our Black Friday prediction for 32" HDTVs by $12 and unlike the above-mentioned deal from Sears, lists the manufacturer and resolution.
- Samsung 32" 720p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $248 at WalmartAlthough it's a 720p set, this Walmart deal is $2 under Dell's Black Friday price on a similar 720p Samsung and earns its pixels as the lowest price we've seen for a 32" Samsung.
- Toshiba 40" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $180 at Best BuyThe first true "doorbuster" of the season, this 40" 1080p HDTV is $9 under our Black Friday predictionand the star of Best Buy's circular. And for those keeping count, it's also $9 under last year's best Black Friday price for a 40" 1080p LCD HDTV. Simply put, 40" HDTV deals don't get any better than this.
- Samsung 40" 120Hz 1080p 3D LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $498 at Best Buy This 40" 3D HDTV is a buck under last week's (now-expired) Editors' Choice mention of a similar Samsung TV. Unlike last week's mention, which was from Fry's, this deal does not require in-store pickup. It's also the cheapest 40" 3D Samsung TV we've ever seen and $2 bucks under BJ's Black Friday price and $30 under Kmart's Black Friday price on a non-3D set.
- Vizio 42" 1080p WiFi LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $400 at BJ's Typically, only refurbished 42" Vizio TVs fall below the $400 mark. But this deal on a new, WiFi-enabled 42" Vizio HDTV is an all-time low for this brand TV in this size category.
- RCA 46" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $300 at Kmart At $300, this 46" HDTV is just a buck away from our Black Friday prediction for TVs in this size range. It's also the cheapest price we've for any 46" LCD HDTV.
- Samsung 46" 120Hz 1080p 3D LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $648 at Best Buy Although we saw a similar Samsung TV bundled with a Samsung 3D Blu-ray player for $49 less last week (since expired for pickup at Fry's only), this deal merits mention because it's the second-best deal we've seen for a 46" Samsung 3D HDTV. (And one of the few 3D TV deals out there worth mentioning.)
Best 48" to 52" HDTV Ads
- TCL 48" 240Hz 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $480 at BJ's This deal ties last week's (now-expired) Editors' Choice mention dollar-for-dollar. If brand name isn't of importance, then opt for this TV, which is the best price we've seen for any new or refurbished 46" or 47" 240Hz 1080p LED-backlit HDTV.
- Emerson 50" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $298 at Walmart That's no typo. Walmart has a 50" 1080p LCD HDTV for just shy of $300. That's $152 under the best price we've seen all year for any 50" 1080p LCD HDTV. And it's also a buck under our Black Friday prediction for a 47" HDTV.
- Toshiba 50" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $500 at hhgregg This confirmed, in-store only deal is $135 under the best price we've seen for this set and the cheapest 50" Toshiba LED-backlit LCD we've seen.
- LG 50" 600Hz 1080p Plasma HDTV for $500 at BJ's Who said plasma is dead? Not only does this deal trump our Tuesday mention by $99, but it's also the lowest price we've seen for any 50" LG 1080p plasma.
- Samsung 50" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $698 at Walmart Although we didn't see many deals on this specific model throughout the year, we did list it once in August. At $698, it's $102 under that August mention and it's also the least-expensive 50" Samsung LED LCD HDTV we've seen.
- Samsung Series 5 51" 1080 Plasma HDTV for $580 at Dell Home Outside of refurbs, this is the cheapest price we've seen for any Samsung 51" 1080p plasma TV by $70.
- Sharp 52" 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $800 at Sears Although we've seen cheaper prices on name-brand 55" HDTVs, if your mind is set on Sharp, this is the lowest price we've seen for this TV by $99.
Best 55" and Larger HDTV Ads
- Sony 55" 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $799 at AAFES.com Black Friday hasn't shown much love for Sony HDTVs, but this model is looking to change that. This 55" edge-lit set packs every feature you could want: WiFi, 120Hz refresh rate, Netflix streaming, and more for just $799. That's the lowest price we've seen for this popular dealnews model all year by $199.
- Samsung 55" 240Hz 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $800 at Best Buy Although January typically rings in the best deals on brand-name HDTVs, this 55" 240Hz Samsung is at an all-time low, beating out every deal we've posted on similar 55" 240Hz Samsungs this year by at least $198.
- Panasonic 55" 120Hz 1080p 3D LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $900 at Best Buy If you must have a TV with 3D built-in, we'd recommend this 55" Panasonic. Not only is it at an all-time low, but it's $49 under the best price we've seen this year for this model.
- Sony 55" 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $800 at Navy Exchange Not only is this television $247 under our Monday mention, but it's also the least-expensive price we've seen on this TV all year by $198.
- Vizio 60" 120Hz 1080p WiFi LED-Backlit LCD HDTV for $688 at Walmart A brand-name 60" for $688 is simply unheard of. Yet another deal worthy of its doorbuster label, this HDTV is $31 under our prediction and an absolute must-buy for anyone shopping for a big-screen HDTV.
There are still more ads trickling in as we speak, so be sure to keep an eye on the Black Friday HDTV ads page for additional deals.
Louis Ramirez is the senior feature writer at dealnews.com, a website devoted to finding the best deals on consumer goods. The site pledges to list the best deal, whether or not it's from an advertiser, although it does work with advertisers to craft deals for readers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This feature first appeared in dealnews.com.
In case you haven't noticed, we here at dealnews are huge advocates of online shopping, especially during the busiest shopping period of the year — Black Friday. However, those who opt to brave the early morning Black Friday crowds at their local brick-and-mortar retailers are in for a treat beyond nabbing the last doorbuster: exclusive freebie offers abound! From gift cards and video games to coffee and pastries, several retail chains are offering consumers an incentive to leave the house to do their shopping.
Below, we've rounded up a selection of eight great Black Friday freebies. Keep in mind, however, that as of this writing several of these offers are just rumored, so keep an eye on our Black Friday page to see when they're confirmed. Also, many of these freebie deals will be available for "early bird" customers only — the earlier you arrive, the greater a chance you'll have to score a little something extra.
Freebie: Be one of the first 100 customers at your local A.C. Moore and score afree $5 gift card. You can save yourself a little extra dough just by showing up before the sun rises, as doors open at 5 am on November 23.
Freebie: Shoppers who arrive when doors open at 6 am on Black Friday will receive a free Bealls Christmas 2012 tree ornament. And for those who really want to be early — in other words, be in front of the store come midnight — the first 100 customers in line will also walk home with either a "16GB WiFi tablet," a $100 gift card, or $5 Bealls Bucks via a Bealls scratch-off card.
Half Price Books
Freebie: In addition to a free $5 gift card, the first 100 customers to show up when the doors open at 7 am will also get a free tote bag, which will be ideal for hauling off your Black Friday bounty. One of those totes may contain another freebie: an extra $100 gift card!
Freebie: Yes, Old Navy is a clothier, but it's also giving away a Wii U Console this Black Friday! While it's likely that the retailer will only give away one console per store, a larger number of customers can spend at least $40 and take home a free copy of Super Mario Bros. U, which is a $60 value! Old Navy's doors open at midnight on Friday, and the first customers in line will receive a wristband for this free game offer.
Freebie: 'Tis the season for dropping temperatures, so remember not to skimp on auto maintenance, especially if you'll be enduring heavy holiday travel. As an exclusive for its in-store patrons, Pep Boys is offering Champion Platinum Spark Plugs for free via a $2 rebate. And because you never replace just one spark plug, you can purchase up to 15.
Freebie: If you're anticipating a large present from Santa (say, a new flat-screen TV?), you'll want to make sure you have plenty of space for it. To ensure the perfect fit, head to your local Ace Hardware and nab a Lufkin 25-Foot Self-Centering Tape Rule for free via a $5 rebate. And in case you want to buy in bulk, keep in mind that there is a limit of 32 per store.
Freebie: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially on Black Friday; you'll need stamina to make it through those crowds! As Sam's Club opens its doors at 7 am on Black Friday, it'll be handing its members a free cup of Starbucks holiday blend coffee along with a free Artisan Fresh pastry. Really, who wants to shop in the morning on an empty stomach?
Seattle's Best Coffee
Freebie: No worries if you're not a Sam's Club member — you can still enjoy your Black Friday boost! Participating Seattle's Best Coffee stores will be handing out free 12-oz. cups of coffee. Although this deal touts that it's especially for those who have to work post-Thanksgiving (like our writers and editors!), it appears to be valid for just about anyone in need of a coffee break. If you can't make it to a Seattle's Best location (and have a Facebook account), you can opt to have a free sample sent to your house instead. We reckon you'll have to brew it yourself, however.
More Black Friday Freebies!
All are rumored unless otherwise noted:
- 7-Eleven: Double up on your caffeine intake this Black Friday at Sevs: Nab a free coffee of any size with the purchase of any size Red Bull.
- Aeropostale: Spend $100 or more and get a free pair of headphones or a DJ Teddy
- Cabela's: The first 600 customers will receive a free rifle, smoker, binoculars, hoodie, or gift card
- Costco: Members can receive a free Simply Delicious The Costco Way cookbook
- CVS: Select drug store items are free via ExtraBucks, including candy bars, earbuds, and more
- JCPenney: Free button, which represents a chance to win prizes including trips, kitchen electrics, and more
- Michaels: The first 100 customers can satisfy their sweet tooth with a free Godiva chocolate bar
- Sports Authority: The first 80 customers in line will earn up to $500 in Bonus Bucks for free
- Victoria's Secret: Spend $65 or more and nab a free limited edition tote with beauty samples.
Allison Barretta is the senior editor of dealnews.com, a website devoted to finding the best deals on consumer goods. The site pledges to list the best deal, whether or not it's from an advertiser, although it does work with advertisers to craft deals for readers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This feature first appeared in dealnews.com.
There are 41 million Americans 65 or over – presumably in or near retirement, but many of whom still lead an active financial life. For them, a credit card can make a lot of sense.
Among the reasons to have one: not every transaction lends itself to cash; many cards offer rewards and other incentives; and some come with purchase protection – almost like an extra warranty.
Like any tool, a credit card can be abused. In 2010, nearly a third of households headed by a 65- to 74-year-old carried balances on their credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve. However, when used wisely and responsibly, a credit card can be an advantageous way to manage cash flow and even earn a few rewards. Here is what a good retiree credit card should look like:
1. Terms are easy to understand and compare
Do not get caught up in the details. Pick cards that have straightforward terms and conditions that you clearly understand. If something does not make sense, move on. When comparing credit cards, look beyond the promotional interest rate and evaluate the rate that goes into effect after the promotion expires if you plan to carry a balance. ( Continue… )
The election is over. For now, no more attack ads, no more barrage of emails begging for money.
But speaking of cash, what about the money raked in by campaigns that was left unspent?
It’s a little too early to call the grand total of all 2012 election spending, but the Center for Responsive Politics estimates it will be above $5.8 billion, 7 percent higher than 2008. “But outside spending,” the group says, “is a wild card that makes predictions tricky.” ( Continue… )
Laptops are among the hottest items of the holiday season, so it's no surprise that we've seen so many mentioned in this year's leaked Black Friday ads so far. What is surprising though is that, so far, only one of the deals matches our Black Friday predictions. However, that doesn't mean there aren't good deals to be had! Below, we've rounded up the best of the Black Friday Laptop deals so far, including a very enticing budget system from Walmart.
Compaq Presario CQ58 15.6" 2GB RAM 320GB HDD Laptopfor $179 at Walmart
While we haven't found deals that support all of our Black Friday laptop predictions, here's one that does. We bet that we'd see a basic 15" to 16" laptop with a dual-core processor for $179... and that's exactly what Walmart is offering with this Compaq laptop. Pretty spot-on! ( Continue… )
While Black Friday still marks the official beginning of the holiday shopping season, things will be a little different this year. Not only will shoppers be using their smartphones and tablets to comparison shop, but we've noticed an interesting trend emerging, in which retailers tie early promotions to loyalty programs.
Already, Lowe's, Sears, and Target have pushed "sneak peeks," promising either a preview of the store's Black Friday ad, or actual advance access to the deals themselves. The catch? Customers must be willing to register for the store's loyalty or rewards program. It's a brilliant strategy really: Black Friday shoppers feverishly crave information and access, and retailers are forever looking for ways to hook consumers in the long-term. As such, we wouldn't be surprised to see other retailers join in on the game before Black Friday 2012 is out.
So what exactly is this trio of stores offering consumers who hop aboard the loyalty train? And is it worth it? Here's a rundown of what each has (or had) in store for Black Friday shoppers this year. ( Continue… )
A documentary called "Dive!" followed a group of friends who went dumpster diving behind Los Angeles grocery stores to reveal the amount of waste in America. Entire families featured in the film lived off “wasted” food for weeks.
But grocery stores aren’t the only ones wasting food.
From farm to table, up to 40 percent of American food goes uneaten each year, at a cost of about $165 billion, according to a recent study by the national environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. While there are numerous sources of waste, one of the biggest is the American family. We throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages we buy, costing the average family of four $1,365 to $2,275 yearly.
Here’s how to save cash, food, and time… ( Continue… )
This week is “National Save for Retirement Week,” an educational campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of long-term retirement planning.
The program, created by bipartisan Congressional action, encourages Americans to utilize retirement savings and investment plan strategies. The week also encourages individuals to reflect on their current financial situations and their potential for a secure retirement in the future.
Below, some surprising statistics and insights on where Americans stand today, as well as their expectations, fears, and hopes about retiring:
1. How much money do we need to retire? There’s no real rule of thumb
There are varying estimates of how much money an individual needs to retire. One guideline suggests $1 million, while another recommends you save 10 times your last annual salary. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and you’ll have to consider a variety of factors to determine what’s best for you and your family – like your age and current annual income, desired retirement age and income, and expected annual pension and Social Security. Then, of course, your personal spending habits weigh in.
There are plenty of retirement calculators available, such as CNNMoney’s calculator, AARP’s retirement predictor, and SmartMoney’s retirement planner. Working with a financial adviser can also help determine how much money you’ll need.
2. Half of Americans aren’t saving for retirement
According to a Life Insurance and Market Research Association study, 49 percent of Americans say they aren’t contributing to any retirement plan. Those least likely to save for retirement: individuals between ages 18 and 34.
What are Americans doing instead? In another survey by Wells Fargo, planning a home remodel and planning a vacation ranked higher on the list of priorities within the past year than planning for retirement (which ranked third).
3. Eighty is the new retirement age?
Apparently 80 is the new 65 for many middle-class Americans when it comes to retirement. One-third of survey respondents plan to delay retirement till age 80 or older, according to a Wells Fargo study of 1,000 adults with income less than $100,000. That’s up from 25 percent who planned to retire at age 80 during last year’s survey.
Another study by My New Financial Advisor, a service that connects clients with advisers, suggests the average baby boomer will retire at age 75. Some of the top issues preventing an earlier retirement: loss of income, insufficient savings, low returns, higher than expected current expenses, past-due taxes, and low wage growth.
4. The majority of middle-class Americans aren’t confident in the stock market
According to a Wells Fargo study, 70 percent of middle-class Americans aren’t comfortable investing retirement money in the stock market. When survey respondents were asked what they’d do if given $5,000 to invest for retirement, only 24 percent said they’d invest in stocks – compared to 40 percent who would choose a CD or savings account and another 22 percent who would invest in gold or precious metals.
5. Women are less engaged in retirement planning
Women are more concerned about retirement risks than men, according to a Life Insurance and Market Research Association study – but they’re less likely to do anything about it.
Only one-third of women are actively involved in their family’s retirement planning, compared to nearly half of men. Meanwhile, 32 percent of women admit they do no retirement planning at all.
6. More Americans are tapping retirement funds
More than 20 percent of Americans have borrowed against their 401(k), the highest percentage since 1996, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The average loan size is 14 percent of the remaining account balance.
7. Employers are more willing to offer 401(k) plans, but many employees don’t care
About 95 percent of companies are back to matching 401(k) contributions, but only 30 percent of employees are taking advantage of this, according to a survey by the nonprofit Plan Sponsor Council of America.
The reality: Many individuals need their current income for living expenses and can’t afford to put it away.
8. Forty percent of Americans fear lack of retirement funds
Nearly 4 in 10 Americans are worried that they won’t have enough money saved to retire, according to aPew Research Center survey. The fear is more prevalent today than it was at the end of the Great Recession in 2009.
Thirty-somethings are among the most worried: Half of adults aged 36 to 40 are worried that they won’t be able to save enough to sustain a comfortable retirement, noted the Pew survey. This age group was reportedly more concerned than those near or at retirement age.
Renee Morad is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.
If water falls from the sky, most homeowners policies will provide coverage. If it comes from anywhere else, it’s a different story.
That’s a rule of thumb many of the 60 million people affected by Superstorm Sandy will be learning today. And some may be discovering their deductible – the portion of the damage they’re expected to pay before their insurance kicks in – is thousands more than they expected.
Whether you were affected by Sandy or not, here are some important insurance takeaways.
If you live near the coast, you may have a higher deductible than you think
As those living in parts of the U.S. prone to hurricanes already know, some insurance policies come with much higher deductibles for any claim related to hurricane damage. Rather than the typical $500 or $1,000 deductible, for example, hurricane deductibles are expressed as a percentage of a home’s insured value, typically 1 to 5 percent. So in the case of a $300,000 home, the deductible would range from $3,000 to $15,000.
States where these higher insurance deductibles are allowed include places you’d expect, like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. But they also include states you might not expect, like many of those in Sandy’s path: Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.
Just because you live in a state that allows higher hurricane deductibles doesn’t mean your policy includes them. The way to find out is to pull out your policy and look at it. In addition, you’ll have to find out the exact description of a storm that triggers the deductible. In some policies, the operative language is only when a hurricane is declared, while a tropical depression may trigger higher deductibles in others. In still other cases, specific wind speeds must be reached.
If you don’t have flood insurance, you may be out of luck
No matter where you live, your policy most likely excludes damage from flooding, which typically means water that rises from the ground, not the sky. So if water from a storm surge or cresting river invades your home, only a flood policy will pay. Should damage occur due to rain entering because a tree destroys your roof or breaks a window, however, you’d be covered by a typical homeowner’s policy.
Think before you file
When your home suffers damage, your immediate response is to contact your insurance company and report it. While that’s a good thought – many claims are processed on a first-come, first-served basis – making that call before you’re fully prepared could cost you thousands in reimbursed damages. Understand your policy first: Don’t let an insurance company representative be the one driving the bus.
Step one is always to read your policy and determine, as best you can, specifically what’s covered and what’s not. In addition to deductibles, take note of the amount of coverage you have for dwelling, contents, and loss of use. Then look for exclusions like flood or other perils, as well as exclusions or limitations for specific types of property, like art, computers, and jewelry.
Step two is to document everything. Take pictures to show exactly what damage has been done to your property and take a complete inventory of everything affected. And be aware that it is your responsibility to protect your property from additional damage to the best of your ability.
File your claim
Once you know what should be covered and exactly what you’ve lost, make the call. Avoid any potential trigger terms, like “flood.” Don’t get into a long conversation about what happened or what you think should or might be covered. Just provide a simple and concise description of the damage and ask what to do next.
Be prepared to take notes of everyone you talk to, including names, dates, and what was said. Once you’ve reported your loss, you’ll be assigned an adjuster: Get their contact information, including their phone number, email address, and supervisor.
When the adjuster arrives, recognize that they will likely be stressed out, just like you are. In the case of widespread damage like that from Sandy, adjusters will be brought in from all over the country, working 14-hour days dealing with emotionally devastated people, many of whom will be demanding, suspicious of their insurance company, and otherwise difficult to work with. Stand out from the crowd by being friendly, calm, and most important, prepared.
As with everyone else you deal with, take notes of what the adjuster says.
The time to learn how insurance works isn’t in the aftermath of a storm
Disasters like Sandy will offer firsthand experience on dealing with insurance companies to those affected. But it should offer a wake-up call to everyone with homeowners insurance. The trend of the last decade, especially in regions where natural disasters have occurred or are likely to occur, is for insurance companies to charge more and pay out less.
Take a moment this weekend to review your homeowners coverage, including cost and exclusions. If you’re ever in the path of a storm like Sandy, you’ll be glad you did.
Stacy Johnson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.