Buying tips

June 07, 2021

What to look for when choosing a rewards credit card

For people who like to funnel most purchases onto a credit card, or travel on business and can keep the points, a credit card that ties to an airline may be your best bet.

Card Most Canadians opt for travel when using rewards points, with 57 per cent redeeming for flight options, well ahead of merchandise (30 per cent) and gift cards (27 per cent), according to a recent RBC poll of Canadian cardholders.

Not that using points to book travel is always easy. Many reward travellers say they’ve faced obstacles when trying to travel on reward points, with 81 per cent expressing frustration at having to book months in advance.

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June 02, 2021

Popular suncreens not all created equal: report

In the spirit of keeping us safe and burn-free this summer, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated last Friday as Don’t Fry Day.

Sun But, before you pile on your favourite goop, have a look at the Environmental Working Group's shrill but well meaning site.

The EWG has just released its annual list of sunscreen rankings, warning again about the bulk of sunscreens “filled with problematic ingredients, unsubstantiated marketing claims and lackluster protection.’’

According to the EWG, only a small number of the hundreds of sunscreens on the market actually protect us like they should. The group claims that only about one in five sunscreens passes muster for safety and efficacy.

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June 01, 2021

Is cross-border tire shopping worthwhile?

The last time the loonie was worth more than the U.S. dollar, Canadian consumers complained bitterly about the price gap between the two countries on a pile of goods. Well, not much has changed this time out.

Tire Take tires, for instance.

The owner of a Niagara Falls, N.Y., warehouse that caters to cross-border shoppers by providing a U.S. address and temporary storage for goods ordered from U.S. online retailers claims tires are his biggest seller.

“I’m looking at four tires that cost $500 here that up in Canada would be almost $1,000,” he told the Toronto Star.

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May 20, 2021

The continually changing face of retail

With daily deals delivered via Twitter feeds and mobile-friendly sale sites, retailing is expanding in directions it would have been difficult to predict even five years ago, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.

Retyail While consumers have always looked out for special offers and discounts, new technologies and services mean that 2011 will see even more new ways to help rid yourself of those pesky dollars. 

Among several trends that are quickly changing the way consumers shop, Woroch offers a few highlights ....

1. Daily Deals
With the explosion of limited-time daily deals via group-buying and flash-sale sites like Gilt Group and, other retailers will soon be piling in. Target and Overstock, for instance, already offer Deal-of-the-Day sales with more to come, Woroch predicts.

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May 10, 2021

A stack of fees you shouldn’t be paying for

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from travelling during the past year, it’s that few things are as frustrating as having an extra fee tacked onto your bill.

Fee Witness the unexpected costs of a hotel visit, which now include fees for mandatory valet parking, porters, fitness centers, early check-in, late check-out, housekeeping services, Internet connection, package or fax delivery, mini-bar restocking, in-room safes and even in-room coffee, according to a list compiled by the Associated Press.

And the list of airline fees -- ticket change, phone reservation, exit row seating, peak travel surcharge, first and second bag tariff, curbside check in, pillows and blankets – seems to get longer every day.

But while you may have little choice but to pay many of these travel-related fees, there are a whole stack of fees that can be easily avoided if you’re on the lookout for them.

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April 26, 2021

Are online coupons soon to replace weekend flyers?

The days of clipping coupons from newspapers and flyers may be over.

Coupon Another new digital coupon service launched last week. Unlike group buying sites, however, it’s not designed to offer deals on spa treatments or restaurants.

Instead, the service from SavingStar will work with the loyalty cards handed out at large U.S. grocery chains to give extra discounts on everyday items such as juice, paper towels, and diapers.

Although online coupons account for only one percent of all coupons distributed, they account for about 10 percent of all coupons redeemed, said Susan Gear, group vice president for digital at Catalina which provides a similar service.

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April 21, 2021

Is it time to ditch your landline?

Although costs are now pretty steady, many people are deciding the traditional phone that has been their lifeline for years is no longer worth the expense, especially if they spend most of their time reaching for their cell phone to make or receive calls.

Phone Thanks to better competition and lower pricing south of the border, the rate at which Canadians are going wireless is considerably behind the United States, which is at about 25 per cent of households, according to the Centres for Disease Control.

In Canada, roughly one out of every six families has now cut the cord on their landline. But that number is clearly growing, particularly as Skype and its competitors beome more popular. Most offer free calling within their systems — assuming both people on the call are members — and are fairly inexpensive otherewise.

If you’re thinking of ditching your landline, here are a few considerations, courtesy of GeckoBeach.

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April 20, 2021

Is now the time to trim that whopping cable bill?

Looking for a strategy to talk your way to lower cable or satellite bills? Just ask, says John Ogilvie, a professor of management at the University of Hartford.

Cable "Many things are negotiable," he says. “But people just assume they don't have that possibility.”

If you notice that Rogers is offering a special promotion to new subscribers, for instance, see if you, as a loyal customer, can get the same deal.

Find out what new competitors like Netflix and Hulu (still blocked here for the moment) are charging and get your provider to justify its prices. Media companies here are feeling threatened and want these new entrants to be subject to the same rules as Canada-based companies.

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April 18, 2021

Does ‘extreme couponing’ give savvy shoppers a bad name?

If you’ve ever seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing show, then you know that some people take coupon clipping very, very seriously. So much so, that’s it’s a bit hard to believe just how they spend their time. 

Coup Hard-core couponers are in it for the long haul. They load up three or four shopping carts at a time, all the while testing the patience of overwhelmed cashiers and fellow shoppers. 

Unfortunately, watching someone snag a hundred boxes of pasta and a truckload of soup leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths – you know, those only buying the things they need and leaving products on the shelf for other consumers.

“Nutjob hoarders!” they shout.

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March 22, 2022

Does blind booking a hotel room really pay off?

Price-sensitive vacationers looking to book a hotel seem to have no end of options. The latest entry into the deal-finding field dominated by HotelsCombined and Kayak is Hotelly.

Hotel The fledgling service quickly canvasses a stack of existing hotel-booking engines and offers up their rates side-by-side so you can see which is cheapest for a given room. You then click over to the principal booking site to make your reservations – assuming you insist on knowing where you’re going to stay.

But are you better off in the so-called opaque market where you commit to a price or place a non-refundable bid before knowing which hotel you’re actually going to end up with.

Blind booking began with Hotwire about five years ago, but lately it has taken off, especially among American-based booking engines.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...