3 Quick Tips for Savvy Consumers

In this post I’m kicking back (what the hell, it’s August and the livin’ is easy). Here are a few tips to make life a little simpler for you.


No, this isn’t about what you do the night before an exam. It occurs when your phone bill, either home or mobile, lists charges for features you never requested; for instance call waiting or ringtones, respectively. On a landline bill the extra charges might even be itemized as “miscellaneous” or “enhanced” services.

If you don’t examine your bill you might end up paying for charges that an outside provider added to your bill.

Check your bill each month and challenge charges itemized as “service charge,” “other fees,” “membership,” or the like.

According to the National Consumer League you should also avoid all 900 numbers they typically hit your bill by way of anonymous collect calls or signing up for online contests via your cell phone.



Free phone calls without a phone

I must confess I have not used this service myself because I hate electronics in general (look up the word “Luddite”). But here’s the lowdown. www.bobsled.com offers free calls from most web browsers, the iPad, iTouch, iPhone (ay, ay, ay!) and Android phones. Bobsled lets you call any landline or mobile phone in the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. The receiving device does not need to have the Bobsled program.


Changing doctors and health insurance

According to Money magazine, you need to be extra cautious when changing physicians in order to be sure that your health insurance coverage stays in effect. It seems that insurers’ directories are often out of date. So if you switch from an in-network doc to one who is no longer part of the network, it could make you sick in the head.

This is especially true when it comes to emergency physicians and anesthesiologists, who rarely accept insurance.

If possible, find out in advance what your insurer will pay. Some insurers will only pay the current Medicare rates for out-of-network care. Some have reduced their coverage from 80 percent to 70 percent.

If you are checking into a hospital and you still have your wits about you, request in writing to be seen only by in-network providers. If you go out of network, call the hospital’s billing office and request a lower fee (unless taking the time means you will die or lose a leg, for example). Money advises that you try to negotiate a one-third deduction.