Maintaining a good credit rating is critical when you are full-time and traveling. Here are a few hints.
Sign up with your bank for their bill-pay service so that you can write checks online. This saves you a whole lot of trouble:
Some banks charge for this service. If so, I suggest another bank. I use NetBank. It is free. This is its primary business. That is, unlike the Cingular telephone company, no one will ever ask you to show up in person to an address 2,000 miles away.
The primary bill-pay service is Checkfree. I used Checkfree for a decade before banks went online. Checkfree charges by the month depending upon your activity level. The banks themselves use Checkfree.
Quicken software supports Checkfree. Checkfree supplies its own software when you open an account. Quicken’s also has its own online banking feature in addition to support of Checkfree.
Using a private service like Checkfree isolates your accounts from your payments. I like this: I can tell Checkfree when and for how much to issue the check. With everyone going online, this is no longer a necessity. I think the best bet is to use your bank’s bill pay service. They contract with Checkfree at no cost to you.
Yahoo, the Post Office and others offer this service. I strongly discourage this: use your bank. If they charge fees for online banking, change banks.
I used Quicken to balance my accounts for over 10 years. I spent hours every month balancing one account against the other. When I initially started traveling, this became a hassle since my mail has such a delay. I could look at any account online any time I wanted. I gave up on paper. Now I regularly scan my online accounts to verify activity and to send them an online check. I spend less time and get less frustrated.
All credit cards are accessible online. Many have the ability to cancel paper statements. I do not like the concept of paper bills following me around the country both for the problem of security and for the problem of having to pay forwarding postage on statements that are too late to be useful.
I can pay the credit card either with the credit card webpage drawing it from my account. This will happen the same day if I am in a hurry.
I can pay by having my bill-pay service sending a check. This takes 5 days and if I am in a hurry, the payment will be late. Then again, I can always mail a check. I do this so infrequently that I forget that real checks do exist.
If I want a current statement, I go online and print one out.
I keep a couple spare cards with rarely used and large credit lines in my lockbox. In the event of an emergency, I can use these cards. The emergency may be a sudden credit block on another card, which may take some time to resolve. I have had a Mastercard closed because they incorrectly recorded my new address. It took months to clear this up – in the interim I used my spare account. Use the reserve cards once per year to keep the account active and to make sure that addresses are current.
In addition to cashing checks and getting cash-back from merchants who have accepted your debit card, you will need cash. For this you can use an ATM with your debit card.
This may cause you to be double-charged. Your bank will charge you for using the debit card outside their system and the ATM will charge you for using the machine. There are ways to reduce or eliminate these costs.
Internet Banks (NetBank) do not charge for using their debit card in any ATM. The ATM may charge you. Some Internet banks will refund these charges. Most do not.
Some banks, such as Washington Mutual, do not charge you to use their ATM. So if you use your NetBank debit card at Washington Mutual, there are no charges.
If you go to your Internet Bank’s web page, they will link you to a page with free ATM’s and you can find one close to you. Most of the free ATM’s belong to credit unions.
You will need to go to your Internet bank page to locate an ATM that will accept deposits.
I do not like to carry more than $300 of cash so I use these ATM’s regularly. I do not pay cash for many things. I pay service fees even less often.
Remember that just because you are not paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you. See Identity Theft.