Rental Car Insurance: Know Before You Go

by Elysha Lopez, Guest Blogger

Elysha is a law student at the University of Colorado. This article was originally posted on the Consumer Empowerment Blog at

Not sure if you need that insurance the rental car company offers you? The rental car companies will try to make as much money off of you as possible (through insurance policies and various “administrative” and “convenience” fees). Beware. Chances are you’re already covered and purchasing that damage or accident waiver will be a huge waste of money.

Personal Auto Insurance Policy

If you own a car and have an auto insurance policy, you’re likely already covered on a rental vehicle. Do your homework. You need to know what and how much your insurance policy covers. Call your insurance company and make sure you are covered for damage/theft/loss of use/personal injury while using the rental car.

It may turn out that you have adequate coverage and don’t need to purchase any extra insurance. If not, you should consider increasing your insurance coverage to cover rental vehicles. By doing so, you may still save money compared to the policy offered by the rental company in the event of an accident. To make an informed decision, you must know what your personal auto insurance policy covers with respect to liability when driving a rental car. rental car

Credit Card Coverage?

Some credit cards offer rental car insurance policies. If you have a credit card, check with your card’s service department to see if they offer such coverage. Coverage by credit card companies tends to be more limited than a standard auto insurance policy. For example, most credit card rental insurance policies do not cover personal injury. Some only offer damage waivers. You may also be limited to renting certain types of vehicles and will have to use the card to pay for the rental car. If you’re relying on a credit card policy, you might need to supplement the coverage.

Other ways to save:

Read the rental agreement. You’ll likely find that it requires you to return the car with a full tank of gas. The rental agent may offer to fill up the tank for you upon your return, for a discounted gas price, but they usually charge you a hefty convenience fee for this service. You’re likely better off filling up the tank on your own.

Opt out of add-ons. If you have a smart phone, there is no need to pay for GPS in a rental car because you can access GPS on your own.

Finally, return your car to the same location you picked it up. It can cost hundreds to return to a different location. Renting from an airport location is typically more expensive. If you can, try renting from other locations.

Before you rent a car, do some research. Know the source and scope of insurance you do (or do not) have. Know exactly what terms you are agreeing to. Be wary of additional services that are advertised as convenient or complimentary. You could end up saving hundreds of dollars on your rental car.


Smart Phone Faceoff

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

Is the iPhone 6 worth it?

This is the question people are asking. So, what is the difference between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6? Especially when compared to its biggest current competitor the Samsung Galaxy Note 3?

iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 FACEOFF

  iPhone 6 plus iPhone 6 Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Price $299 (for 16GB) $199 (for 16GB) $99 (For 32 GB)
Display Size 5.5” 4.7” 5.7”
Camera-back 8 megapixel 8 megapixel 13 megapixel
Camera-Front 1.2 megapixel 1.2 megapixel 2 megapixel
Screen resolution 1920 x 1080 pixel 1334 x 750 pixel 1920 x 1080
Operating system Siri Siri Jelly Bean
Battery life on a normal day 10 hours 7:27 hours 9:57 hours

So far, we can see that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a better price, display size, camera, and battery.

If you’re not familiar with Jelly Bean (the Android operating system), here’s the a brief explanation:

Jelly Bean is like Siri in that when you ask for questions it answers you. However, whereas Siri is not a search engine, Jelly Bean is a Google Search, meaning more accurate and faster responses.

Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is more advanced in most areas, many people still prefer to stay loyal to Apple, so let’s look into what the best way to get that new iPhone 6.

1. Getting money for your old iPhone

One of the biggest pet-peeves I’ve found of most iPhone users is how fast Apple comes out with a new one. Walmart might have finally found a solution. If you own your own iPhone, you’re not up for an upgrade, and you want a new phone, you might want to look into Walmarts Gadgets to Gift Cards program. It allows you to sell your iPhone back to Walmart as long as it is a newer than an iPhone 3GS or newer.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are currently offering up to a $300 credit for trading in an iPhone 5s in good condition, according to The Denver Channel.

 2. Buying an iPhone with a contract is a better deal than a payment plan

Using Verizon as an example there are a couple ways you can go about getting a new iPhone.

You can buy the subsidized version for $199 a month with a 2 year contract and a payment plan of $60 a month (unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data) which is $1639 over two years.

You can rent the phone with Verizon EDGE for $32.49 a month without a contract and a payment plan of $50 a month (unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data) which is $1849 over two years.

Buying the subsidized version of the iPhone saves you $210 or two Illegal Pete’s burritos for an entire semester.

3. Choosing the right provider

T-Mobile and Sprint will pay up to $350 if you switch from another carrier, which might be worth it.

AT&T: $32.50 for 20 months for an iPhone 6, and $37.50 for 20 months for an iPhone 6 Plus. Service plans start at $60 a month. ($92.50 a month)

T-Mobile: $27.08 for 24 months for an iPhone 6. Service plans start at $45. ($72.08 a month)

Verizon: $32.49 for 20 months for an iPhone 6 and $37.49 for 20 months for an iPhone 6 Plus. Service plans start at $55 a month.

Sprint: Sprints doing things a little differently. They started an “iPhone for Life” leasing plan, where you can lease an iPhone 6 for $20 a month for 24 months, with a service plan at $50 a month. After those two years, you can purchase the iPhone, upgrade to a lease on a new iPhone, or continue the lease the existing lease.

Personally, I have long known that I am not an iPhone person myself. I currently have the Nokia Lumia 635, which even without a case, mine seems to be indestructible and has not cracked yet. I used the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as a comparison in this article, because it is the iPhone's biggest competitor. However, I do find that my Nokia works better and smoother than my iPhone ever did.

If you're considering getting an iPhone 6,  it all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend on a new phone, and what you want out of it.


5 Things Every College Student Should Know About Retirement

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

As stressful as Gen Chem is right now, your retirement is going to be a whole lot worse if you don’t start thinking about it now. The dream of retiring on a beach, sipping Mimosas and smoking cigars doesn’t come easy. However, the quicker you do it, the less money you’ll have to put into it.

future past presentHere’s an example from CNN Money to show you the difference saving at age 25 and saving at age 35 makes:

If you start a retirement plan at the age of 25, and put aside $3,000 a year for 10 years, and then you stop. By the time you reach 65, your $30,000 will have grown to $427,000. (Assuming it is a tax-deferred retirement account at an 8% annual return.) If you start a retirement plan at the age of 35, and put aside $3,000 a year for 30 years, and then you stop. By the time you reach 65, your $90,000 will have grown to $367,000. Saving at the age of 25 provides you with a lot more money, while putting 1/3rd of the money in.  

Retirement may seem like a lifetime away, but it’s a good idea to start as soon as you can. Here are 5 things ever college student should know about retirement:

1)      Should a retirement plan be your first savings account? While retirement is going to be a big priority in your life, in most cases you cannot withdraw the money that you put in. This means if you currently have student loans, saving money to put towards rent and emergency situations is more valuable than having a healthy retirement fund. While starting in your 20’s or during your first job, is the ideal time to prepare for retirement, you should save from 3-6 months of expenses as an emergency fund before you start investing.

2)      How do I get started? Let’s break down the two main options. IRA vs 401k IRA (Individual Retirement Account): This is an individual plan which can be either a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. IRAs are the biggest option with most college students who are not working full-time jobs. A Traditional IRA gets taxed when you put money in, and a Roth IRA gets taxed when you take money out before you are 59 ½.401K egg-smaller

The question here is whether or not you think you will need the money, for education, or housing, before you are 59 ½. If the answer is yes, then a traditional IRA is right for you. However, if this money is solely for retirement, the Roth IRA might bring more savings.

401K: This is an employer-based plan through full-time and some part-time jobs depending on the employer. The reason employer based plans are often the first and best option is because they are easy, it comes out of your paycheck automatically before taxes. There might be a company match available, which means that they will match up to a certain limit, say 4% for example. This money builds up in your account, without you having to sacrifice more to hit your retirement goal.

3)      Where do I start a plan?

If you have an employer who might be able to match contributions, they are the best place to start at. If you do not though, the real question is which bank to start a plan? The University of Colorado’s Elevations Credit Union might be a good place to start for new savers. They are used to college students seeking advice, and you can make appointments through their advisory website. You can set up a retirement fund anywhere even if you plan to move out of Colorado when you graduate. It might be beneficial however, to talk to an advisor about the best place to start a fund.

4)      The biggest mistake college students make

Not making a long-term commitment. This can mean not putting enough money into your retirement account, or buying an investment and then quickly selling it due to an unanticipated need, which might lead to losses on your money. Emergency accounts are vital for this reason. You need to be able to commit in the long-term, while have emergency savings you can tap into incase something comes up.

5)      Is social security still a thing?

Social Security currently plays a role in retirement; however the amount available has decreased and will continue to do so for over the years to come. Although the program will still be running in the future, the best decision is to rely on your own individual savings for retirement.

Overall, the biggest way to help you prepare for retirement is creating a habit of saving. By putting money into your retirement account first, instead of at the end of the month. This teaches you how to adjust the money you spend each month. This may sound easy, but it takes years of learning how to budget and financially plan before most people are comfortable with putting their savings before their immediate needs.

Is the Flatiron Meal Plan Right for You?

by Danielle Meltz, Student Blogger

The Flatiron Meal Plan is a prepaid dining card that allows student to buy food and groceries from over 100 close-to-campus locations. It’s been the craze lately with a ton of students getting it, but what does a Flatiron Meal Plan really entail? And is it right for you?

The idea behind the Flatiron Meal Plan is that parents can put money on a card knowing that it is going towards food, groceries, and now gas or laundry too. It takes away the hassle of withdrawal or transfer charges when students are running low on money and are desperate for a meal.

For students who pay for food themselves, it comes in handy too. The Flatirons plan is more than just a debit card for food. It has exclusive deals making buying food more cost efficient. Every week one restaurant on the Flatiron plan is 25% off. (Sneak peak, next week’s deal is Foolish Craig’s one of the best breakfast places in Boulder)

There are STEALS too, which are random flash deals throughout the semester. In the past they have had free subs at Half Fast Subs, or $1 Rush Bowls.

How does the actual Plan work? When putting money onto the card, you can choose the custom plan and decide to put as much as you want. Or, you can choose a plan which is an estimate of how much food will be spent per week.

The different plans are just an easier way for students to estimate that if they want 7 meals per week, at $7.5 a meal, meaning their parents can start them off at $735. If you buy a slice of Boss Lady Pizza for $4, it will just take $4 off of your card since it operates like a debit card.

flatiron (1)
Getting a Flatirons card in 5 easy steps

1)      Go online to

2)      Choose whether you want to pay with credit card or check

3)      Fill in your information and how much you want to put onto your card

4)      Pick up your photo ID card from their office on the Hill (1310 College Avenue Suite 475)

5)      Test it out on the hill on your way home

Plans to allow parents to estimate how much to put on the card each semester
18 meals a week $1,890
14 meals a week $1,470
10 meals a week $1,050
7 meals a week $735
5 meals a week $525
3 meals a week $315
Custom Plan Any amount

Fall advice- If you start your card at $525 or more, before you September 30th, you will receive $250 in exclusive deals and coupons.

The Flatiron Meal Plan also keeps the money you’ve put on it till you use it all, the same as a regular debit card works. With over 90 restaurants, two grocery stores, a gas station and a laundry mat, it’s no wonder more students are jumping onto the Flatiron meal plan.

After looking into the flatiron meal plan, I am definitely looking into getting one. As anyone who tries to balance school, a job, and clubs will know, cooking isn’t exactly something you always have time for. And having discounts to make food cheaper is always a benefit to a starving college student such as myself.

Back-to-College: Spending and Saving

by Yuchen Wu, Student Blogger

When I was a freshman, everybody says “enjoy your college, because it will be the best years of your life!” While that is absolutely true, what they didn’t tell me was that college can be woefully expensive.

flying money piggy and books According to MintLife Blog, the U.S. total back-to-college spending last year was $46 billion, with an average of $837 per student. If you look at the data below, you’ll probably feel the pinch.

  • Average spending by buyers (in dollars)
    • School supplies $77,
    • Clothing and accessories $169,
    • Personal care $93,
    • Shoes $95,
    • Food $156,
    • Electronics $392,
    • Collegiate gear $84,
    • Dorm furnishings $249,
    • Gift cards $175.

And, of course, we need to add spending on skiing and snowboard. If you really think about it, there are numerous items that we need to buy. High-priced textbooks, a new laptop, meal plans, late night pizza, video games, and so forth.

Despite numerous expenses, you should be smart about your spending to achieve financial success that will help you a lot when you step into the real world. If you don’t know where to cut your costs, here are some tips from MintLife Blog that may help you:

  • Get a summer job. With the extra cash you make, you’ll be able to afford doing more activities during the school year. Plus, after graduation, you’ll already have something to build out your resume.
  • Avoid the campus bookstore. Instead of buying textbooks at your university bookstore, where prices tend to be inflated, consider renting textbooks or buying used textbooks through Amazon or another service, at a fraction of the price.
  • Leave your car at home. If you can avoid bringing a car to school, then do so. Long-term parking can be costly. Furthermore, the ever-rising price of gas is sure to put a dent in your pocket. Utilize public transportation and ride-shares, instead.
  • Choose your fun wisely. Movies, concerts, and outings with friends are invaluable parts of the college experience, but can easily eat away at your funds. Before the school year, plan to create a budget for how much you want to spend on entertainment a week – then stick to it. There are plenty of useful tools and apps that make setting goals and tracking spending a breeze.

Hope you all enjoy a great college year!

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