Things that consumers purchase that they can get for free.
1. Free checking. Plenty of banks still offer free checking accounts. Depending on where you live, SunTrust for example, offers a free plan with no minimum balance required. And you get free online and ATM service too. Check your local Wachovia and U.S. Bank to see if they have their own version of free accounts. Some Chases even offers $100 for opening such an account. Indeed, a host of banks and savings and loans offer free checking. So far. When you’re looking for lower fees, including free checking, always to look to smaller local banks and credit unions.
2. Free credit reports. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free look at your credit history once a year. If the Financial Regulatory Reform bill passes, you might also one day get a look at your credit score.
3. Free cash. If you can’t find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you use your ATM card to make even a small purchase. You can buy a candy bar or a Diet Coke and get back up to $100 in cash from Wal-Mart. Target will give you back $40 if you use your ATM card for a purchase. Grocery stores also offer cash back. And then there are iPhone and other apps that will help you locate ATMs.
4. Free information calls. Bing 411 (1-800-BING-411 or 1-800-CALL-411) allows you to find local shops and restaurants, as well as get driving directions, traffic reports, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather reports. 1-800-FREE411 allows you to get any number, business or residential, in exchange for listening to a brief ad.
5. Free scholarship search. Plenty of websites offer free searches for scholarships, such as Fastweb. There’s even a company called Free Scholarship Searches that offers links to 40 websites that offer free scholarship searches.
6. Free baggage. Sure, nearly all airlines are charging to check baggage but at least one doesn’t, Southwest. And remember carrying on bags is still free, except for on Spirit Airlines.
7. Free entertainment. Your local library and parks offer lots of free fun, from books to movies to concerts. Join their e-mail list to see what’s up. And of course, there’s the Internet, offering free games as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Just go to the website of your favorite periodical.
8. Free Water. While technically not free, tap water is about as close as you can get. If you’re concerned about water quality, buy a filter. But don’t ever pay for water at a convenience store.
9. Free TV. Thanks to sites like Hulu, you can now watch many popular television shows online for free. If your favorite shows are free on the web, why pay for cable or satellite? Do an Internet search for other websites that offer free television shows.
10. Free telephone calls. Services like Skype and AIM let you communicate with other users for free. Always calling a loved one long distance? If you both get copies of something like Skype, you can talk all you want without paying a dime. And with a service like Google Voice, you can get all of your cell phone calls free, too.
Return to Thrifty Spending Issue 96