Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Free Credit Report Dot Com: Great Commercials, Bad Advice!

You’ve probably seen the television commercials and had the infectious jingle playing through your head for days. We are serenaded by the words, “Free Credit Report Dot Com!” sung by a guitar-playing trio to their television audience.

The musical threesome that star in these commercials find themselves in a multitude of predicaments – dressed as pirates working in a low-paying tourist restaurant, driving a nearly-defunct ‘junker’ off of a used car lot, or flailing wildly on a rollercoaster ride.

And what is the reason for all of their mishaps and misfortunes? Listening closely to the lyrics of the catchy tunes, we learn their troubles have one simple cause: they haven’t reviewed their credit report.
Each of us should access and review our credit report regularly. The consequences of ignoring our credit report may not be the comical situations portrayed in television commercials, but there are consequences nonetheless.

A credit report is a detailed report of your history with credit, and it is a primary source of information used by creditors to determine whether you’ll be given a loan, or what interest rate you will qualify for. It is also a tool to detect if you’ve been the victim of identity theft or fraud.

The overall message of the commercials is sound – it’s a good idea to get acquainted with our credit report. However, while the television jingle touts a ‘free credit report’, it is far from free. When you visit their website you will learn about a monthly credit monitoring service you will be subscribed to after signing up for the ‘free’ service.

While some companies charge for this service – and obviously, business is going well judging by the amount they can spend on catchy television jingles – there is no reason to pay for your credit report.

In 2003, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act that provides consumers one credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies every twelve months at no cost.
Accessing your free credit report at no cost has been made easy by visiting the website: or calling 1-877-322-8228.

Take advantage of this free service and get acquainted with your credit report. And next time you hear the commercial with the catchy “Free Credit Report Dot Com” jingle, just sing along – but don’t follow their advice!

Friday, December 18, 2009

read the fine print on credit cards

An ad in a New York paper encourages consumers to call for a preapproved credit card...the interest is 79.9%. Much ado was made a few months ago when President Obama came to the aid of a woman who had been charged exorbanent penalities when a University charged tuition to her credit card which was over its limit.

The bloated APR being chardged by the First Premier Bank comes following the recent legislation which limits caps to fees banks can charge to 25% of a card's credit limit. A recent mailing for a preapprded First Premier card lowers fees to just that limit...$75 in the first year for a credit line of $300. The new law doesn't set a cap on the interest rates credit card companies can charge. Hence this particilar card is charging 79.9% interest. These terms are totally unbelievable.

We need to read the fine print. We've been getting new information about our accounts as banks prepared themselves for how they would be conducting business starting in February when the new regulations take effect.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ratings of Insurance Providers

We often hear that we should check the ratings of insurance companies when considering insurance. Mainly this is to assess their financial stability -- several companies are well known for their ratings, such as AM Best. I was asked the other day in a class about ratings for insurance companies on other areas, mainly customer service. A couple sources I know of go beyond just financial stability and get into things like prompt payouts, customer service and general satisfaction.

The first is JD Power, Their website is easy to navigate and has some easy to use ratings for different types of insurance companies.

The other is Epinions, or On this website actual customers write about their experiences with a particular company. It is more random than JD Power, but the insight gives direct comments on companies.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Funds available to Wyo. residents to install renewable energy systems on homes

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming State Energy Office (SEO) is using over $2.2 million in federal funding to launch a program that will help homeowners defray the cost of installing renewable energy systems.

The funding is part of the $3.1 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) appropriation to the U.S. Department of Energy to fund state programs that prioritize energy savings, increase the use of renewable energy, and create or retain jobs.

Wyoming homeowners may apply to the SEO for grants of up to $10,000 or 50 percent of project costs, whichever is less, for installing photovoltaic (solar), small wind, and ground source heat energy systems at their homes. Grant awards are based on project size, will be allocated on a first-come basis, and are not retroactive for systems already installed or under contract to be installed.

“This round of federal funding will expand the state’s already successful photovoltaic program, giving residents more than one way to implement a renewable energy system at their home,” said Shannon Stanfill, SEO program manager. “Additionally, residents who install one of these systems may apply for a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, bringing further savings at tax time.”

Provisions for each renewable energy system include:

  • Ground source heat installations: Grant reimbursements are $2,000 per ton (the measure of the output of a heating or cooling system equaling 12,000 BTU) with a maximum of 5.5 tons in a closed loop vertical or horizontal system. Ground source heat installations must be replacements for other residential heating and cooling systems.

  • Small wind generation and photovoltaic (solar panel and components) installations: Residents may apply for grants of up to $2,000 for every installed kilowatt (kW) up to a maximum of 5kW ($10,000). Grant reimbursements are calculated once the award recipient sends documentation of the installed kW amount to the SEO. No name plate installation of 20kW or above will be allowed. Solar panel components without solar panel installations, such as batteries, are eligible for reimbursement of 50 percent or up to $2,000 whichever is less. A maximum of 20kW for installations applies.

Applications are available Dec. 1 and may be downloaded at Applications may be electronically submitted, or mailed to: Wyoming State Energy Office, 214 W. 15th St., Cheyenne, WY, 82002.

Residents may apply for multiple grants, but only one grant application per renewable energy category is allowed. Applicants may not enter into any contracts using or committing these funds until after a grant award is made and a grant agreement is signed by all parties.

For questions regarding the program, please contact the State Energy Office toll-free at 1.888. 232.5390.

The mission of the Wyoming Business Council is to facilitate the economic growth of Wyoming. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Spending

It's that time of year again. December is in, your Thanksgiving leftovers are out and the holiday madness has fully commenced. If you are one of the lucky ones, your Christmas shopping is almost complete. If, however, you are like me and many other Americans, you are facing a month full of expenses with very little of it tackled. What to do?

The good people over at MSN Money have written an article that will help you navigate the holidays without completely busting your budget. "10 Holiday Money Mistakes" outlines ten of the biggest mistakes made by consumers each holiday season while giving readers ideas on how to avoid those mistakes this year. The article can be found at: