Rainy-day projects: Protect your ID, preserve your airline miles, and claim your rewards
October brings generally mild weather to the Lowcountry that makes it a joy to be outdoors, but for those days when rain drives people inside I have a few suggestions about making good use of that time.
In each case, a small amount of time in front of the computer can take care of some financial tasks that will provide benefits well into 2014, such as protecting your credit, preserving airline miles that could expire, and registering for promotional offers that will save you money during the holidays.
For starters, South Carolina taxpayers and businesses can sign up for another free year of credit monitoring and identity theft prevention starting Oct. 24. This is a valuable service the state is paying for due to the 2012 theft of taxpayer information from the Department of Revenue computers.
If you didn’t sign up for the first year of credit monitoring that the state paid Experian to provide, you can still sign up for the new service from CSIdentity Corp. The service is available to individuals, their minor children, and businesses.
This is a good chance for the millions of people who, for some reason, did not sign up previously. About 1.5 million people did sign up, but the Department of Revenue data breach involved the financial data of 3.8 million individuals, 1.9 million of their dependents, and 699,000 businesses.
In my case, the state-paid credit monitoring has been a money-saver, because I previously paid for such a service out of pocket. I find it helpful to get email alerts if there’s a change in my credit reports, and CSIdentity says their service also watches for identity theft attempts.
To sign up starting Oct. 24, go online to csid.com/scidprotection or call 855-880-2743.
Toward the end of every year, it’s a good idea to check on accounts you may have with airline miles and hotel points. In many cases, those valuable credits will disappear if there’s no account activity during a certain period of time, but there are often easy ways to reset those expiration dates.
For example, my wife, my son and I all have airline mile accounts with US Airways (and with every airline we’ve ever flown with). US Airways miles expire after 18 months without account activity, and while we don’t want our miles to disappear, we rarely fly that airline.
Well, I could have paid $9 per account to restart the 18-month clock, but there’s a better way. Most airlines have online shopping hubs connected to their airline mile program, so you go to the airline’s website, log in to your frequent flier account, and then click through to do your online shopping and get airline miles based on your purchases.
Instead of paying USAirways $9 per account, I used their shopping hub to buy $5 gift cards for myself from retailers where my family shops. Those purchases reset the expiration on our accounts, and I kept my money, in the form of gift cards, instead of paying US Airways $27 to keep our accounts active.
I’ve made great use of airline miles and money-saving promotionals deals, but it’s often necessary to spend a little time online to get the most benefit.
For example, my email box has been filling up with notices about credit card promotions. These are deals involving credit cards I already have, but in order to get the benefits they require cardholders to register for them.
For example, one Citibank credit card will give me 5 percent cash back on purchases at Best Buy during the last three months of this year, but only if I register, which is free.
Another, my Southwest Airlines card, will give me an extra 3,000 airline miles if I use the card enough through the end of the year — but only if I registered to get those bonus miles.
Some hotels also offer deals like this. Marriott, for example, will give you a free hotel night if you stay in their hotels twice by Jan. 15, but again, you have to register to get that deal.
In most cases you won’t have to look far for these offers. If you’re signed up for a hotel or airline loyalty program, or you have a credit card, those companies are probably emailing information right to you.
Before clicking on a link, do make sure you know who the email is from.
So, the next time you’re stuck indoors, take a little time and protect your identity, preserve your airline miles, and make sure you can take advantage of good deals you may be offered. Meanwhile, enjoy this wonderful Autumn weather.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.