ZERO PERCENT FINANCING
The economic picture this summer is filled with a plethora of inducements that proclaim zero percent loans and postponed payments for cars, computers, electronics, etc. Before you lunge for that no-interest deal, or for that no payments until 2012 offer, bear in mind that these financing deals can be misleading and deceptive, and can end up costing you.
SCOPE OUT THE DEALS
Always compare and contrast offers, since you may discover that there is a cheaper price being offered from a retailer that does not offer a convoluted financing deal. In addition to price, you also want to deal with a reputable store that sells quality products, and provides consistent customer care. If you find a better price, take the financing ad with you. Sometimes, the other dealer will match, or even beat the competitor’s price. Negotiate your price. You will not know if you can get a better price if you do not ask. Remember, asking costs you nothing. If you are looking to compare financing deals, incentives, and rebates for automobile purchases, access: www.autobytel.com and www.edmunds.com.
LOOK WITH SCRUTINY
A zero percent loan often is not as good as it appears, and can end up taking a bigger bite out of your wallet than would have been the case if you purchased the same item without the free financing deal. Often, you have to forgo a “cash back” deal, or other discount to take advantage of these no-interest loans. Some stores offer no interest financing, but inflate the selling price to make up the difference. Also, some zero-interest offers impose restrictions that are only applicable to certain brands, or only apply to purchases over a minimum dollar amount. Always be alert to any hidden costs or conditions surrounding the financing deal that may nullify any of the cost saving benefits that are being advertised. Many zero-interest offers provide that you do not have to pay interest on an item as long as you pay for the purchase in full by a specified date. However, the catch is that if you do not pay in full by that specified date, you will be charged exorbitant interest on the entire amount of the item, dating back to the original purchase date, even if you have paid off most of the balance. If you do take advantage of a deal that touts no payments for a specified period of time, e.g. no payments for six months, confirm that when you do start making payments, that you are not obligated to pay interest that accrued from the original date of purchase. Always get in writing the date when you start owing and start paying interest, and the amount of interest that will be applied.
MAGNIFY THE FINE PRINT
Do not get seduced by provocative advertisements that scream “No Interest,” or “No Payments Required until 2012.” The truth is in the details of the contract, and it is essential that you get everything in writing. Before you agree to any offer, temper your enthusiasm, take your time, and understand all of the restrictions, payment terms, interest rates, and payment deadlines. Do not be afraid to ask questions. If the salesperson is using a lot of fancy financial jargon that you cannot understand, let them know. You may also want to shop with a trusted and knowledgeable friend, co-worker or family member.
Consumer Savvy Shopping Tip: When you are shopping online, go to www.retailmenot.com,. This website will alert you to any promotional codes, special offers, and coupons that you can access to save money on your online purchases.
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