What the experts say

Data-driven car insurance; A better home appraisal; Credit card approval demystified

Data-driven car insurance

Tracking devices can help you save a bundle on car insurance, said Jessica L. Anderson in Kiplinger.com. With data from plug-in tracking tools, insurance companies are beginning to offer personalized “user-based insurance” based on how you actually drive. The fewer miles you log and the safer you drive, the bigger the savings. Progressive’s Snapshot program, available in 37 states, provides a palm-size tool that plugs into the diagnostic port in your car and tracks “the time of day you drive, your mileage, and your acceleration and braking rates.” Based on your performance, you can get up to 30 percent off your rate, and the company won’t raise your current premium based on the data. AllState’s Drive Wise program, available in Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio, collects similar data, with an automatic 10 percent discount at sign-up and up to 30 percent total savings. And since neither device has GPS, your whereabouts won’t be logged as you drive toward cheaper rates.

A better home appraisal

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Getting a house appraised can be “frustrating and often baffling,” said Paul Sullivan in The New York Times. Estimates tend to diverge greatly, and now “banks are increasingly bringing in appraisers from other towns” to comply with new regulations aimed at injecting more objectivity into the process. Unfortunately, these outsiders often make estimates that “fail to fully account for the central tenet of real estate: location.” But a few tips can help prevent appraisals that are widely off the mark. “Provide comparable listings, walk appraisers through the house, and point out improvements and unique features.” And think about when your property looks best; one homeowner unhappy with a low February appraisal got one that was 50 percent higher in June, when the flowers were blooming.

Credit card approval demystified

Take the mystery out of getting approved for a credit card, said Mitch Lipka in Reuters​.com. CreditKarma.com helps find the plastic that fits you best by comparing cardholder characteristics for hundreds of different credit cards. The “handy tool” lets you investigate “what credit scores it takes to get approved,” as well as cardholders’ average income, age, and credit lines. The better you can match your own profile with a card’s typical user before you apply, the more likely you are to be approved.

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