By Janet Groene, F47166
Every year, clever manufacturers introduce new aftermarket accessories that are a boon to full-timers, especially those who are handy enough to install the items themselves. Here are a few that you may be interested in.
Sink-Away is an outside sink system that attaches to the exterior of the motorhome to help keep messes outdoors. Wash fresh produce, muddy boots, or the day’s catch in the convenient sink. The spray wand has several settings, including one that can be used as an after-swim shower. Contact (800) 255-0829 or visit www.dwincorp.com for more information. The company also makes Spray-Away, which includes 15 feet of tightly coiled hose in its own self-contained compartment.
Shoreline Reels are black/gray-water hose reels that can be motorized or hand-cranked. When it’s time to break camp, simply unhook the hose and reel it in for storage. Call (866) 713-1489 or go to www.tdiproducts.com for more information about the company’s full line of reels.
Lowrance Electronics makes the iWay350c, a GPS navigation system with a built-in MP3 player and picture viewer. The system includes a four-gigabyte hard drive that’s been preloaded with NAVTEQ mapping of the United States and Canada and a USB port that allows uploads of software upgrades. The system is complete and requires no monthly costs. Call (800) 324-1356 in the United States or (800) 661-3983 in Canada; or visit www.lowrance.com for more information.
Pay those student loans!
Retirees and others receiving Social Security who haven’t paid off college student loans may find their checks a little lighter thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling. The court unanimously agreed that it is legal for the government to withhold money from a person’s government checks to pay toward any unpaid federally insured student loans.
Mail or Internet fraud?
What if you ordered something online or won an online auction and your merchandise never arrived? One of the following contacts could help. First, act quickly. Some companies put a 30-day limit on complaints while others impose a 60-day limit. If the complaint involves eBay, go to pages.ebay.com/securitycenter and follow the “Item Not Received” link. If PayPal was involved, go to www.paypal.com. Internet fraud is handled by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov. If you believe mail fraud is involved, go to your local post office or visit www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/welcome.htm.
More interesting interest
Credit card rebates are a boon to full-timers who pay off balances every month. Charging everything from food to fuel, you can get kickbacks of 1/2 percent to 5 percent, depending on the promotion.
One of two new variations on the theme is the American Express One credit card with the Savings Accelerator Plan, which rebates 1 percent of eligible purchases and puts it into a savings account that pays money market rates (3.5 percent at this writing). The second is the Bank of America Visa Keep the Change debit card program. With your permission, the bank rounds every charge to the next dollar and puts the difference into a savings account. The company matches your savings at 100 percent for the first three months of the program, and continues matching at 5 percent for the rest of the year and as long as the program is in effect.
CitiBank’s Simplicity Thank You Network rewards card sounds complicated, but the benefits are enticing. For every dollar spent at select merchants, you receive five Thank You Points for the first year you’re enrolled in the program. Purchases elsewhere receive one point per dollar. Make one purchase within three months of opening the account and get 10,000 bonus Thank You Points. The points can be saved up to “spend” for gifts and travel or redeemed for a $100 gift card good at selected national merchants.
It pays to call your credit card provider every few months to see what new promotions are available.
Starting in 2007, Daylight Saving Time (DST) will begin on the second Sunday in March and will last until the first Sunday of November. That’s four more weeks of DST than we have now. For most people, the change will be minor, but if you are in a time-sensitive business or if you rely on your computer for keeping accurate time, it isn’t too early to prepare for the change. If you’re running a version of Windows older than XP, your computer probably can’t make the change automatically. Contact the manufacturer of your computer’s operating system for help.
Faulty credit report?
You’ve read in this column before that obtaining a copy of your credit report is the first step in protecting yourself against identity theft. But what if that report was incorrect, causing you not just anguish but higher interest rates or even a turn-down for a new credit card or a loan? First, fill out the form that came with your credit report and assemble any supporting information. Mail all the documentation to the credit bureau with a copy to the creditor that supplied the faulty information about you.
The credit bureau is legally required to respond within 45 days. Still, you may not get the response you want. Follow-up correspondence may be needed, so keep copies of everything you send and receive. If a continuing lack of help could be considered abuse, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at (877) 382-4357. While the FTC doesn’t handle individual cases, it keeps track of reports and steps in if it notes a pattern of abuse. Advice also may be available at www.privacyrights.org. If someone else’s errors have cost you money, legal action may be the last resort.
Cell phone troubles
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other agencies that review consumer complaints regarding communications issues, cell phones cause more consumer dissatisfaction than any other service. If calls to your provider don’t resolve your billing dispute, try an intermediary such as www.callforaction.org. Also, write concise, detailed, unemotional, firm, and focused letters and send them simultaneously to your state’s attorney general, the state utility commission, and to the FCC. For the FCC complaint you’ll need Form 475, available at www.fcc.gov or by calling (888) 225-5322. Your complaint won’t be received by phone; use the number only to request the form.
Get directory assistance for free by calling (800) FREE411 (373-3411). The catch? You have to listen to a commercial first. If you have access to the Internet, the fastest way to find addresses and phone numbers is through Web sites such as people.yahoo.com, www.switchboard.com, www.whitepages.com, or www.anywho.com. Moral of the story: don’t lose your address book.
On May 12, participating KOA campgrounds in the United States and Canada will offer a free night’s stay during KOA’s Come Camp With Us Day promotion. During the May 12-14 weekend, numerous fun and family activities will be scheduled, including opportunities for campers to make free-will donations to KOA Care Camps for children with cancer.
KOA also offers a Work Kamper program for full-timers. In exchange for working at KOAs throughout North America, participants receive a variety of discounts and benefits that increase as they develop a track record with the chain. Last October five Work Kampers who reached All Star status won awards of $1,000 each. Apply at the nearest KOA or go to www.koa.com and click on Work@KOA.
The South Florida portion of the Great Florida Birding Trail opened in January. When it’s completed, the state trail will be a marked, 2,000-mile driving route among the state’s best bird-watching sites. Look for signs showing a swallow-tail kite and drive the trail at your own pace. Many sites are free, although some are state parks that charge admission. For information, call (850) 488-9478 or go to www.floridabirdingtrail.com.
Books for travelers
Does childhood asthma keep your children or grandchildren from traveling with you? A new book, Positive Options for Children with Asthma ($12.95, Hunter House Publishers), suggests ways to eliminate allergens, reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, and enhance a child’s immunity and tolerance to allergens. It’s written by O.P. Jaggi, M.D., Ph.D., an international expert on asthma and chest diseases.
101 Life Skills Games For Children ($12.95, Hunter House Publishers) suggests enough games to keep children ages 6 through 12 busy through the longest RV trips. While they play they also are learning life skills such as tolerance, respect, patience, sharing, and self-confidence. Most of the games require little or no equipment so they’re easy to organize on rainy days indoors, in the campground, or at roadside rest stops.
My book Fantastic Discounts & Deals for Anyone Over 50 ($9.95, Cold Spring Press) lists much more than hotel discounts. Full-timers who refer to the book often will be reminded about discounts at restaurants, golf, fitness centers, supermarket chains, and much more. Call (888) 866-6631 or go to www.simonsays.com and type “Fantastic Discounts” in the search window.