This Week In Your Wallet: Testing, Testing…
Happy Holidays. Happy almost New Year. For many of us, it feels as if it can’t come fast enough. 2021 was – is still – a lot. So, as we close the books on a year we won’t be able to put past us for a while, there are a few last minute news items you need to know about.
Fool Me Once
The last time I wrote about the upcoming expiration of the student loan hiatus – which was due to hit on January 31, 2022 – I believe I was adamant that this time it was going to stick. President Biden (and let’s face it, Omicron) proved me wrong. So, I’m not making any such prognostications this time around. If you’ve been enjoying the ability to not make your federal student loan payments, you’re now off the hook until May 1, 2022.
That may seem like some decent breathing room, but as we’ve learned during this two-year time warp, sometimes the days and weeks are a slog, and other times they fly by. Which is why you’re going to want to prepare to make those payments sooner rather than later, particularly if restarting them is going to be a stretch. I covered this when we thought Feb 1 was the date, and the advice holds this time around.
Home (Or Away) For The Holidays
If you traveled for the holiday, I hope you got home safely, or are still away, enjoying some much needed rejuvenation. I hope you’re not, like so many, stuck in place (or worse, in an airport) because of one or more canceled flights.
The travel travails — with 2,500 flights canceled yesterday, atop more than 6,000 over the holiday weekend, with thousands more delayed — are also a result of the spread of Omicron, with flight crews and other personnel calling out sick. My aforementioned track record notwithstanding, it feels like a pretty good bet that this won’t be the last of the travel hiccups we’ll experience in the coming months.
So, if you find yourself all dressed up without a plane to get on, what’s your best alternative? Ask for a refund? Not so fast, say Washington Post reporters Gabe Hiatt and Natalie B. Compton. Yes, you’re entitled to one (as you may be if your flight is “significantly” delayed, though definitions of significantly vary by carrier.) But, it may take a long time to get to you. And requesting one may not be as beneficial as trying to work with the airline to get on another flight that’s actually going to go.
The reporters suggest letting the carrier rebook you so at least you have something, then using the airline’s app to find the flight that works best for you and calling customer service to see if they can help you make the switch. They also note that this is a good time to be booking with your stash of frequent flyer miles, which are more easily refunded (along with taxes and fees) than cash. Using miles to book is “kind of like booking a refundable ticket,” Brian Kelly (aka The Points Guy) told The Post.
And Many Happy Returns
Compared with much of the recent news, holiday sales seem to have gone off without a hitch. Despite the worry that took hold early in the season, The New York Times reported that the vast majority of packages shipped via the Postal Service, FedEx and UPS were delivered on time or with “minimal delays.” This, even though sales were up. Way up. In=store sales rose 8.1% over last year, and e-commerce sales were up 11%, with online sales racking up 20% of total sales for the holiday season. That’s 5 percentage points higher than just two years ago.
Now, it’s all over but the returning. If you’re returning to a major retailer or big box store, our friends over at ConsumerWorld.org say you don’t have to rush out the door today – many will accept returns well into January. Of course, if you’re looking to exchange, sooner may be better as you’ll likely have more merchandise to choose from. The important details are here.
One more heads up. Returning merchandise bought using BNPL can be a headache. Here’s what we learned in the field.
This year, for the second year in a row, single tax filers can take a deduction for up to $300 in charitable gifts (double that to $600 for married filers filing jointly) even if you don’t itemize. That’s just one thing to keep in mind if you’re looking to make any charitable contributions before year end. There are others, too, as The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Saunders documents in her most recent column – including rules for donating some of your (perhaps highly appreciated) crypto stash. Hint: If you’re giving away more than $5,000 of your Bitcoin or it’s brethren, you’re going to need a professional appraisal. That isn’t true when giving appreciated stock.
Here’s To A Happy, Healthy New Year!