It’s that time of year again when students are returning to school. Some will be leaving their parents nest and living on their own for the first time. My oldest son attended university in our own city so he lived at home, saving us a housing expense.
However, my younger son decided to attend university in another city and, after tears and hugs, set up residence in the student housing in his first year.
Before year two we decided to purchase a house that he could live in. We found a five-bedroom house and, since I had saved and invested all the family allowance payments received over the years, I had a nice down payment. My son assured me that he could easily find four students to rent the extra rooms.
Related: How Much House Can I Afford?
I opened up a joint chequing account for depositing rent money and paying the mortgage, utility and other bills and I added $2000 overdraft protection in case all the rooms were not rented out all year or other unforeseen expenses came up.
Unfortunately, my son thought this “house account” was also for his own personal spending. The overdraft quickly reached the maximum and was never entirely paid the whole time we owned the house!
It is quite mortifying to be a banker and have a child with such poor money-management skills. Luckily, no thanks to him, all bills managed to get paid on time, there was not much tenant turnover and they didn’t wreck the house too badly. We ended up with a modest profit when it was sold, even after paying some capital gains tax.
Since the money originally was earmarked for him and his education I allowed him to keep the sales proceeds, and, I believe he used them to purchase a new house that he currently still owns and lives in with his wife and daughter. Hopefully, his money-management skills have improved.
One of my goals this year is to maximize my rewards points. For years I have been a loyal Air Miles collector. I have always shopped at Safeway, filled up the car at Shell, and for one time purchases I generally went out of my way to purchase at an Air Miles sponsored business.
I have the Air Miles credit card from American Express, which rewards me with 1 Air Mile for every $15 spent. I even downloaded the Air Miles Toolbar, which
gives* gave me 5 Air Miles for every 50 internet searches (up to a maximum of 30 reward miles per month).
Redeem Air Miles For Products
Unlike most people however, I don’t redeem Air Miles rewards to cash in for flights. I redeem Air Miles rewards for products like $20 gas gift certificates from Shell. For 175 Air Miles you can purchase a $20 gas certificate. So far this year I have earned over 1750 Air Miles rewards and redeemed them for 10 gas gift certificates ($200).
Are the Shell gift cards considered the best Air Miles rewards as far as return on your money spent? I’m sure there are other products that probably pay at a much better ratio than the gas certificates, but I like the feeling of subsidizing that expense and putting a little bit of money back in my wallet each month.
When I redeem Air Miles, it’s a great enhancement to my overall rewards points strategy that I use along with my favorite rewards credit card, the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard.
There are lots of other rewards besides Air Miles travel that you can redeem Air Miles for on their website. From magazine subscriptions, restaurant gift certificates, movie packages, electronics, and appliances, there are some great items to choose from. Besides, I never liked having to pay all of the fees & taxes that go along with redeeming your points for flights…not to mention the blackout dates that limit your travel options.
Do you like to redeem Air Miles rewards for products or save up and redeem them for flights? Do you prefer the Air Miles program over Aeroplan miles?
*Updated September 23rd, 2011
The opportunity to earn reward miles with online search though the AIR MILES Toolbar is no longer available as of June 30, 2011. During the 30 months in which this innovative earning opportunity was available to our Collectors, the online search market has changed substantially to the point where AIR MILES can no longer offer this option to our Collectors. Please be reminded that the Toolbar will still ensure you never miss an opportunity to earn reward miles at our 100+ online stores.
Should you keep all your accounts, loans and investments at one financial institution, or spread them around? When I worked for a bank, when I had a new customer referral – for a mortgage, say – the goal was to transfer in all of their financial accounts. The reasoning behind this was that it would be more difficult to leave the bank once everything was set in place, and it’s true.
Whenever I have a complaint about my service and I vow to move all my accounts elsewhere, I think of the pain it will be to research a new bank, open and transfer all my accounts, perhaps they will hold all my deposits until they get to know me, I’ll have to learn a whole new system, aiy, aiy aiy! I guess I’ll stay put.
So, we know the bank is trying to keep you as a customer indefinitely, but what are the advantages to you to have all your finances in one place?
- When you go on-line, all your accounts are there, on one page, giving you a quick overview of all your balances.
- Links to investments and loans show holdings and recent activity and you can download them to accounting software like QuickBooks or Microsoft Money easily.
- Transferring funds between accounts is quick and simple.
- Past banking statements can be accessed on-line for the past two years or more.
- By consolidating similar accounts, you can often save money on fees. For example, a direct trading RRSP account charges an annual fee of $100 for balances under $25,000 and trading fees are reduced for balances over $100,000. So, if you’re paying fees on spread out small accounts, this could work for you.
- You may get to know a financial advisor at your branch who knows you well enough to recommend new products that will fit your financial plan.
- It can be a good bargaining tool to get a better interest rate – e.g. higher for GICs and lower for loans and mortgages – or other perks.
I personally keep most of my accounts with one financial institution with a couple of exceptions where I get a better deal elsewhere. But, I’m always open to offers and negotiation.
Do you have accounts at multiple banks, or are you loyal to just one?