Monthly Archives: February 2013

Finding the best price on a rental car

A few times a year, my husband and I fly out of state to visit his family and find ourselves in need of a rental car. After numerous searches for an affordable vehicle, I’ve uncovered nine tips that can help you find the best price on a car rental.

Tip 1: Don’t play favorites. If you find a rental car company you love and stick with it, you won’t get the best deal. Be open to renting from a different company on each trip.

Tip 2: Compare prices on numerous websites. If you only check prices in a couple of places, you could end up seriously overpaying. For example, I just checked prices for a trip we have planned for Easter weekend 2013. The first website I checked turned out to be $113 more for the rental period than one I found later.

Here’s a list of prices I found for a 49.5-hour rental of a midsize car, from highest to lowest (rounded to the nearest dollar):

Tip 3: Don’t assume bargain websites will provide the best price. I have found great deals for rental cars on Hotwire, for example, but on other trips, a major rental company’s website provided the best deal. On this trip, the cheapest Priceline price was $68 more than what I found on the rental company’s site for the same class of vehicle.

Tip 4: Not all coupons are created equal. If you are part of a motor club or have a credit card, you may receive coupons in the mail with codes that give you rental car discounts with various companies. I’ve discovered that you often get a better price without entering any code. When you’ve narrowed your choices down to a couple of websites, try requesting one quote with the coupon and one without to see which price is best.

Tip 5: Consider paying in advance. Some websites offer a discount if you prepay for your rental. However, this payment may be nonrefundable or subject to a cancellation fee, and you may not be able to change the reservation to different dates, so be sure of your travel plans before choosing this option.

Tip 6: An extra driver can be a deciding factor. Many companies only allow the person whose name is on the registration to drive the rental car. If you want a spouse or friend to drive the vehicle, you’ll have to pay extra with some companies. That extra fee can make a competitor’s price a better deal. For example, National’s policy says you can expect to pay about $10 extra per day to add a driver unless you are an Emerald Club member of have a corporate agreement. For a 5-day rental, you’d be tacking $50 onto your bill. Avis’ additional driver policy would allow a spouse to drive the vehicle at no extra charge and could make its rental car  cheaper. You can usually find this policy in the Customer Service section of the website or by typing “additional driver” into the site’s search engine.

Tip 7: Call your insurance company before booking. Depending on the type of coverage you have on your personal vehicles, you may not need to purchase the rental company’s collision insurance. Bypassing this fee can save you considerable cash.

Tip 8: Read the fine print. At least one company will charge you a fee if you request bonus frequent flier miles for your rental through an airline promotion. Reading the detailed information provided in the reservation process can help you avoid charges like this.

Tip 9: Squeeze out all the discounts you can. After you’ve selected a rental car company, start your reservation at to get cash back on your reservation. Ebates cash back rates for rental cars include:

  • Alamo: 2.5 percent
  • Avis: 3 percent
  • Budget: 3 percent
  • Enterprise: 2 percent
  • Hertz: 1.5 percent
  • Hotwire: 2 percent
  • Priceline: 2.5 to 3 percent
  • Travelocity: 1.5 percent

I hope this advice helps you save a stack of cash the next time you rent a car. If you have more tips to add to this list, please post a comment.


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Filed under Sales and promo codes, Saving money, Shopping tips

Choosing an anti-virus software

Anti-virus software products are a lot like new cars — each year brings different models, which may be better or worse than the previous year’s product. While it’s impractical to change vehicles every year, it’s relatively simple to give up one anti-virus software and switch to another annually, if needed.

I explained in my last post why I decided to end my subscription with Webroot. My search for a new product focused on two main criteria: price and performance.

To get an idea of which products offer the best protection for my computer, I turned to two trusted sources of technology information. PC Magazine offers a review of the best 2013 anti-virus products and PC World offers a similar set of test results. Unfortunately, not every product tested by one publication was evaluated by the other, so I looked for commonalities between the two articles. The products they seemed to agree on were Norton, Bitdefender and Webroot.

Step two was to compare the products offered by Norton and Bitdefender, since I’d already ruled out Webroot. Much like the “trim levels” offered in new cars, anti-virus products offer varying levels of protection. Most product websites provide a comparison chart which shows the features that are common to all its products and then the “extras” you get for upgrading beyond the lowest-priced model. When comparing products, be sure to think about how many computers you need to protect. Some products give you a software license for only one machine, while the more expensive ones typically protect three computers and purchase additional licenses as needed.

The two products that seemed to best fit my needs were Norton Internet Security and Bitdefender Internet Security. Much like cars, these products are constantly “on sale” or subject to various promotions. To get the most bang for my buck, I did a Google search for promotional codes for these products. One of my favorite promo code sites, RetailMeNot, offered a coupon code for 70 percent off the purchase price. This allowed me to purchase Bitdefender Internet Security for $20.98.  The best deal I could find on the Norton product was a 25 percent off promo code, making the purchase price $37.50.

Since the two products appear quite similar, I chose Bitdefender. Removing Webroot and installing the new product was a simple process. After I have several months of experience with Bitdefender under my belt, I’ll post a review of my new anti-virus software.

Have you tried Norton or Bitdefender? What as your experience?

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Experience with Webroot antivirus software ends on a sour note

I’d never heard of Webroot anti-virus software until the beginning of 2012, when my McAfee subscription was about to expire. Disappointed by the high subscription fee for McAfee’s anti-virus product, I set out in search of a more affordable way to protect my computer. I found Webroot had good reviews and an attractive subscription price. For $45 plus tax, I got a three-seat license, allowing me to protect my computer, my husband’s and my son’s. You can also get a nice cash-back reward if you start your purchase at — currently, you get 75 percent off your Webroot software via cash back.

Things went very smoothly with Webroot throughout my initial subscription. I never had any problems with computer viruses, malware, etc. I even got a free upgrade to the company’s top-of-the-line product. As the renewal period for my subscription approached, Webroot sent me an email reminding me the product would be automatically renewed on Feb. 13 and explained how I could turn off the auto-renewal if I wanted to. When I noticed the renewal price was $80 (due in part to that free upgrade to a more expensive product), I turned off the automatic renewal on Jan. 30. I received an email confirming I’d successfully completed this task.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email on Feb. 6 stating my subscription had been automatically renewed. While this renewal was at a price $20 cheaper than what was stated in the initial email, this didn’t change the fact the product was renewed without my permission. Equally  concerning was that the product was renewed a week early, and based on the new expiration date, the company had shaved a couple of days off the subscription I’d previously purchased.

I emailed Webroot about my concerns and asked them to reverse the unauthorized charge made to my credit card and to restore my remaining subscription. I received a response in about six hours — an impressive turnaround time. While Webroot did refund my money, it also canceled my current subscription, leaving my computer unprotected. The only way I figured this out was to check the software icon in my system tray — the company never pointed out it had taken this action. Concerned about the safety of all the computers on this subscription, I emailed Webroot again and asked them to restore the remaining week of my subscription. While the company did so within a few minutes, it offered no apology for its mistake.

Overall, Webroot has been a very reliable product, but its customer service when the time came to renew was clearly lacking. I plan to try a new anti-virus software for the next 12 months. In my next post, I’ll offer tips for how to choose such a product.

Have you tried Webroot? If so, what was your experience with the company?

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Amazon delivers a quick refund on failed shredder

In my last post, I explained how an Amazon Basics shredder I’d purchased failed after just a few weeks of use and how impressed I was by my initial customer service experience with the company when reporting the problem. I promised to follow up after the transaction was complete.

I dropped off my broken shredder at a UPS store on Monday, Feb. 4. Return shipping was paid for by Amazon. Because I live so close to Amazon’s return processing facility, the company received received my shredder the day after I dropped it off. Today, two business days after the drop-off, I received a notification my return had been processed, followed by a notice of my refund.

Between the time I requested a return merchandise label and the date I shipped the item, I emailed a couple of questions to the Amazon customer service team. Each time, I received a prompt response.

After shipping my item, I could log into my Account, then select “Return or replace items” and “Manage my returns” to track my package. The only improvement I’d make to this section is adding the notification that the return was processed and the refund issued, but that is a very minor flaw.

Besides the fact my shredder was a poor quality product, I really have no complaints about my Amazon shopping experience. Within a week of requesting to return the item, I have my money back and can now purchase something else.

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Amazon customer service: so far, so good after shredder fails

To protect my personal information, I make a habit of shredding documents that someone could use to steal my identity. After many years of faithful service, my trusty shredder showed signs of its impending doom in December. I read a lot of shredder reviews before picking a new one. The choice came down to a more-expensive model (which had the best reviews) or a budget model that seemed to work well for most folks.

I chose to take a chance on the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross Cut Shredder. At a price of $60 with free shipping, it was one of the best values out there. Until it stopped working, that is — a mere six weeks after it arrived at my home. I shredded four sheets at once (one-third of its alleged capacity), and the shredder jammed. I tried reversing it and using other troubleshooting steps, but the paper in there won’t budge. Repeated attempts to dislodge it began to result in a burning smell from the unit.

I called the customer service number on the front of the product manual and was pleasantly surprised when an Amazon representative answered the phone immediately. I expected her to grill me about why the product didn’t work, but she simply asked if I would like her to send me a prepaid label to ship the product back. While we were on the phone, she encouraged me to check my email account to make sure I received the label she emailed, which I did.

Now, I need to package the shredder up and drop it off at a UPS store. Once Amazon receives and processes my return, it will refund the purchase price. This is expected to happen within two weeks of Amazon receiving the item. Plus, the customer service representative gave me a $5 account credit toward the purchase of another AmazonBasics item.

So far, Amazon has impressed me with its customer service. I’ll update you after it receives and process my return. What types of experiences have you had with this company when things go wrong?

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