News From Our Blog

Early Cell Phone Update Plans: Are They Worth It?

It seems that right after you get a new cell phone, a newer one with improved features comes out. Standard mobile service contracts allow you to upgrade after two years. Several major carriers are offering a new type of contract that allows you to upgrade sooner.

While standard phone contracts require you to pay only a portion of the phone’s full cost (up to $250), these new plans may require to pay the full cost of the phone ($600 or more). Before you sign up for these early upgrade plans, do your homework.

Some question to ask include:

  • Is there an upgrade fee?

  • Does the upgrade fee include insurance?

  • How soon after you sign your contract can you upgrade?

  • Are you required to pay a down payment? Is a down payment required for each upgrade?

  • Does your old phone have to work and be in good physical condition to upgrade?

  • How frequently can you upgrade per year?

  • How many months will you have to pay for the full price of the phone?

  • Is the early upgrade option available with all of the carrier’s plans or only select ones?

  • What percentage of the phone’s full value are you responsible for paying before you are eligible to upgrade? After how many months?

Keep in mind that if you have an early upgrade plan and pay the entire phone’s price, you may still be required to return the phone to your provider on your next upgrade. Also, if you owe money on the phone, you may not be able to switch carriers until the balance is paid.


Learn more about shopping for cell phone plans.

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Ask Marietta: Resources for Military Families

Video description

In this episode of Ask Marietta, Marietta responds to a letter from an Army base in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and shares some of the resources available in the Consumer Action Handbook for our military members and their families.

Video transcript

Hi, this is Marietta with the Consumer Action Handbook, and in this series, Marietta’s Mailbag, we read and respond to letters and emails that come in from readers like you, who have used the Consumer Action Handbook.

Today’s letter comes from Army community services at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Ed says, Dear Marietta, We provide classes in the consumer services, financial planning and credit reports, to help hundreds of service members and their families each month. 

The Consumer Action Handbook is a big help in these classes. We couldn’t do it without this publication.”

First let me say thank you to the service men and women for your sacrifice and service to our country.

It delights me to know the Consumer Action Handbook is a helpful resource in your life.

The Consumer Action Handbook includes so much information specifically for military families. Information on frauds and scams and knowing where to get resources that can help you.

If you have a question, send it in! We love to hear from you!

You can write us, you can email us or you can tweet us using the hashtag #AskMarietta

Did you know by taking one simple step you can boost your online security and keep your information safe? 

How to Pick a Contractor for Home Repairs

Home improvements and repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent consumer complaints.

If you need work done on your home, keep these things in mind when selecting a contractor:

  • Get at least three written estimates. Insist the contractors come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.

  • Check contractor complaint records. Your state or local consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau can provide this information.

  • Make sure the contractor meets licensing and registration requirements. Your state or local consumer protection agency can help you find out what these requirements are.

  • Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and inspection requirements. Be wary if the contractor asks you to get the permit; it could mean the firm is not licensed.

  • Be sure your contractor is insured. They should have personal liability, property damage and worker’s compensation insurance for workers and subcontractors. Also check with your insurance company to find out if you are covered for any injury or damage that might occur.

  • Insist on a written contract that states exactly what work will be done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments.

Be especially cautious if the contractor:

  • Comes door-to-door or seeks you out;

  • Just happens to have material left over from a recent job;

  • offers you discounts for finding other customers;

  • quotes a price that’s out of line with other estimates;

  • pressures you for an immediate decision;

  • offers an unusually long guarantee;

  • can only be reached by leaving messages with an answering service;

  • drives an unmarked van;

  • has out-of state license plates; or

  • asks you to pay for the entire job up front.


Get more tips on safely selecting a contractor for your home repairs.

Did you know you could get a copy of your rental history report for free? Find out how: