10 reasons to use a credit card – Part 7: Rental car insurance

For those of us that travel and drive often, rental car insurance is a pretty big concern. You hit the road with a car that you have never driven before, and drive hundreds of miles a day to see the Grand Canyon, the Yosemite, the Hoover Dam,….

The Grand Canyon, courtesy of Papillon.

Accidents are a real risk, and can ruin your trip, especially when you are thousands of miles away from home in unfamiliar territory. Rental car agencies understand the fear, and sell product that insures you against rental car accidents. Added together, these insurance products can be more costly than the cost of renting the car itself.

car accident

One of the most popular insurance products for rental cars is collision damage waiver, a policy that releases you from the liability for any damage taken on the car during the rental period. This service usually costs around $15 plus tax a day. It’s really not a bad idea to pay $15 a day for the peace of mind. But if you travel a lot, it adds up quickly.

Continue reading 10 reasons to use a credit card – Part 7: Rental car insurance

10 reasons to use a credit card – Part 6: price protection

Have you ever bought something from a website or a store and realized a month later that the exact same thing was being sold elsewhere for much cheaper? That TV you had bought from Best Buy the week before for $600 was selling for $500 on Newegg? In my college days, I hated it every time it happened.

Lower price on something you've already purchased. What to do?
Lower price on something you’ve already purchased. What to do?

And then I got a credit card, and I’ve never had to feel that way again.

Continue reading 10 reasons to use a credit card – Part 6: price protection

10 reasons to use your credit card-Part 4: return protection

It is almost the holiday shopping season, the merriest time of the year for all, and the most profitable time for the retail industry, and I’m sure each of us has our own shopping list for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And every year, millions of dollars’ worth of stuff is returned to stores right after the holidays. If you have a change of heart about a gift you bought and try to return the gift for a refund ….

Hopefully you don’t have to return a gift to the store, but if you do…

Continue reading 10 reasons to use your credit card-Part 4: return protection

Sometimes you just have to spend the money.

What beauty
What beauty

Last night I went to see a performance by Strictly Seattle, a summer dance program that gathers Seattle dancers and choreographers for 3 weeks of intensive rehearsals that culminate in a weekend of performances. It was breath-taking. The dancers were very skilled and expressive. In one of the dances, each dancer’s lower body seemed pinned to the dance floor while the upper body performed very intricate movements without hindrance, as if it had a mind on its own. Imagine a tree where the trunk and root are planted to the soil  while the leaves vibrate with each sweep of the wind. That’s what the dance felt like to me.

Palm tree in the wind

And I was sitting next to a young man who turns out to be one of the dancers’ boyfriend. Being somewhat of an insider, he gave me some insight about how the dancers packed all the complicated choreography into 3 weeks of rehearsals. As a greenhorn to dance performance, I was intrigued. He also works in a building half a block away from my office building. It’s a small world indeed.

Many of you who are reading my blog are in your 20’s.  We are young, and we need to have fun. Someone told me a dollar spent today is worth 100 dollars spent 20 years later. I am all for wisely managing financial resources, but there are things we should spend the money on because they make our lives better. Ultimately money is just a tool to obtain happiness. There is no point in having a lot of money without being happy. I invest part of my income, and I save money on certain purchases just because I want to spend that money on something else, such as the dance performance I went to last night.

What is money if you don’t spend it?


The show was very inspiring. I know I will not be a professional dancer ever, but I think that I can be successful and inspire people as well. I’ve had challenging moments in my life recently, but events like this one keep me motivated. For $20, it was well worth it in my book.

I went to bed last night feeling satisfied, and started today with an inspired spirit. Thank you, Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, for putting together such an awesome show. And thank you, my readers, for allowing me to share with you my stories and to help you along your financial journey. You make me feel appreciated and special.

Have a great weekend!


Richard (Hiep Tran)

Why is your credit card bill so huge: how credit card interest is calculated and what grace period means

I personally don’t carry a credit card balance unless my credit card is offering a 0% APR promotion because one of my goals in the credit quest is to build a perfect credit history without paying a penny in interest. But from my observation, I’m not the norm. Many people I know carry balances from time to time, and when they come to me for advice, I always tell them to at least pay the minimum to avoid late payment fees, and over time I have helped them save quite a bit of money from that.

Honestly though, paying just the minimum amount is never going to pull you out of debt since credit card interest accumulates everyday at an absurdly high rate. There are many reasons to underestimate interest charges.
Continue reading Why is your credit card bill so huge: how credit card interest is calculated and what grace period means

Career is the most critical aspect of personal finance


Recently, I’ve revisited my financial decisions since I graduated from college in the fall of 2011. You know what I found? Having a permanent, decent-paying job actually contributes the most to my assets and financial future. With money in my bank accounts and a stable income stream, I have been approved for good credit cards to build my credit history. The money I’ve saved has been put into my brokerage account so that I can learn how to invest. I’m 24, and I know there are a lot of things to be learned and a lot of money to be earned in the future, but I think I have a decent start, to which my income contributed significantly.

Continue reading Career is the most critical aspect of personal finance

Bank of America’s credit cards: an insider’s view

Last week, I featured Bank of America’s BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card, compiling most relevant information that is more or less public, meaning that you can obtain the information without actually having the card. As an actual cardholder, I have the advantage of knowing exactly what’s inside Bank of America’s online banking system, what other benefits a BofA card offers, as well as the details of the card’s features.

Continue reading Bank of America’s credit cards: an insider’s view

Flight booking: Rule of 21 and Rule of 34

Traveling is one of my great hobbies. Each time I go somewhere far away from home, I get new inspirations and ideas, such as opening my first credit card and starting this blog. And I love air travels; the Wright brothers are among my favorite heroes, and it so happens that Seattle is the host of the famed Museum of Flight. It also helps that I have friends on the other side of the continent, and also on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I don’t need excuses to travel, really. And I hope that you share with me my passion for flying.

Because if you do, you will find the information I present in this post very helpful. I am making this post the shortest I’ve ever written since I want to focus your attention on the 2 simple rules of flight booking: the Rule of 21, and the Rule of 34Continue reading Flight booking: Rule of 21 and Rule of 34

AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice

As of today, I have been on an AT&T family plan for 4-and-a-half years. And just to be clear, none of my family members is on my plan. My plan consists of myself and 4 friends, who are not the same friends with whom I started my plan in the fall of 2008. To date, I have been extremely pleased with my family plan, and have saved my friends as well as myself thousands of dollars through maintaining it. When we started the plan back in 2008, we were college students, so the extra savings really helped. Continue reading AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice