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Two Pennies Earned

Because a penny saved is two earned.

Updated: 2018-01-30T13:31:12.168-08:00


Free Graze Box Promo Codes


Graze raspberry and coconut muffin snack
Would you like to get a free box of interesting, tasty snacks in your mailbox?

If so, you should try Graze. It's a snack company that will send you a box of four individually and attractively packaged snacks twice a month. I tried Graze after hearing an ad for it on Spotify and using a promo code to get my first box free. At the end of this post, you'll find a promo code so you can try Graze free, too.

I am a frugal person, and assumed that I would cancel after I got my first box for free, but I liked it so much that I've remained a subscriber. Here's what I like about Graze.

For $6.99 either once a week or once every two weeks (delivery is free), you'll get a box of surprise snacks in your mailbox. You don't have to sign for it and, while you don't get to pick your snacks, the surprise is part of the fun.

However, you can tell Graze what not to send you, so if you have an allergy, are on a diet, or just don't like, say, nuts, you can tell Graze that you don't want to get these items in your snack box.

Speaking of diets, if you're thinking that snack foods like dried fruit and nuts are calorically dense and not the type of food you want to eat a lot of, Graze has a solution for that: You can sign up for the calorie-counter box subscription. With the calorie-counter boxes, you won't get any snacks that exceed 150 calories. Plus, since the snacks are individually packaged, they offer a greater level of portion control.

Why do I like Graze so much even though I could seemingly get the same thing for a fraction of the cost by buying a few bags of dried fruit and nuts at the store?

1. The affordable luxury factor. Yes, $6.99 is a lot to pay for about 4 ounces of snacks. But it's a fun surprise in my mailbox every two weeks for a low price.

2. The uniqueness factor. Graze puts together interesting combinations that I wouldn't think of on my own, like the amaretti drops, raspberry-infused cranberries, almond slices and coconut flakes that make up the raspberry and coconut muffin snack. Even if I could think of this combination on my own, I don't know where, or even if, I can buy amaretti drops at the store.

3. The convenience factor. I can grab one of my Graze snacks on my way out the door if it's been one of those days where I've been so busy that I accidentally skipped a meal. They're also great to take hiking and on the airplane.

If you'd like to try Graze, you can get your first and fifth boxes free if you use the coupon code below. I get a free box if three people use my referral code, and then $1 for each referral thereafter.

Graze Coupon Code / Graze Promo Code: AMYF57G5B

How to borrow money to fix up a house


Kevin Quinn's 1866 home, before restoration
Have you ever been watching an episode of House Hunters where a young couple with a modest homebuying budget finds a fixer upper that's under budget and says they can use the savings to repair the house?

I've always wondered where they get that money from, since they probably barely have enough money for a down payment. Where would they find the cash to fix the hideous kitchen and the outdated bathrooms, or to replace the dingy carpet with gorgeous hardwood floors?

While House Hunters doesn't get into the details of homebuyers' finances, there are home loans available that will help you finance a fixer upper, and I've written about two of them for

Kevin Quinn, owner of Bartlett Home Improvement in Memphis, used one of these loans to fix up a house that was in such bad condition that he was repeatedly urged to tear it down and start over.

But he's a big believer in historic preservation, and wanted to restore a crumbling 1866 house.

The before and after photos you see here show what home renovation loans make possible.
Kevin Quinn's 1866 home, after restoration

If you're interested in buying a fixer upper, too, but don't have enough cash to make both a down payment and all the improvements, you can get the details on how these loans work and how Kevin used a renovation mortgage in my article, How to finance a fixer-upper.

Don't get stuck with a tough-to-sell condo


Photo: The Pug Father

Condos are great if you don't want the maintenance hassles of a single family home. They can also be a more affordable option.

But condo life isn't part of most people's long-term home ownership plans. The National Association of Homebuilders says that more than half of condo owners move within six years of purchase.

If you're shopping for a condo, you'd be wise to think about its resale potential before you buy. Do you know which floors, bedroom counts and layouts are the most desirable? Which amenities buyers care about most? Which locations within the condo building your should avoid? My new article, Don't get stuck with a tough-to-sell condo, has answers to these questions and more tips for making the best condo-buying decision.

How to replace your front door


Photo: Ken Doerr

Did you know that replacing your front door is one of the most effective ways to increase your home's value? Your front door is part of your home's curb appeal, and it will influence what people expect to see when they enter your house. In other words, making a good first impression is valuable.

Front doors come in three materials: fiberglass, wood, and metal. You'll also need to decide what color to paint it, whether to add a storm door or a metal security door, and whether to repair or replace your front door yourself or hire a pro.

For help making these decisions and more, see what the real estate and home improvement experts I interviewed have to say about making smart choices for your front door in my article, How to replace your front door.

How to buy a condo with confidence


Photo: Mesa RoyaleBuying a condo is trickier than buying a house, because you’ll be sharing living space and financial responsibilities with other condo owners.Buyers should look at a condo purchase as an investment in not just a property, but also a business: the homeowners association, says Gail Pizetoski, who owns Condo & HOA Smart, which provides due-diligence reports on homeowners associations for prospective buyers.Make sure the association is not just financially sound, but also structurally sound, by reviewing HOA meeting minutes and talking to building residents, she says.“Many owners aren’t aware of the full range of their responsibilities before they buy their condo,” Pizetoski says.After all, the HOA manages the structure, community maintenance and landscaping.Buyers should ask for the association’s audited financial statements, current statements and budgets to see if there is enough money to fund the operating budget and if enough is being put aside for repairs and long-term improvements, says Katie Wethman, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Washington, D.C.Learn more in my article that covers 5 smart moves to help you choose the right condo.    [...]

A Free Tool for Deciphering Your Investments' Asset Allocation


Photo: Doc Trader

Suppose you and your spouse each have a retirement account, but yours is at Fidelity and your spouse’s is at Vanguard. How do you know if your combined portfolios are invested properly to meet your goals?

A free online service called LikeAssets makes it easy to see your combined investments and asset allocation. It can also show you the combined asset allocation of multiple college savings accounts and other investment accounts so you can make sure you've chosen the correct investments for goals with different time horizons.

I’ve written before that most people don’t earn very good investment returns because of fear and risk aversion. Research shows that we underperform the market over the long run, and that we manage to lose money even when the stock market shows gains.

If you’re like most people, you’re one of these underperforming investors. LikeAssets provides a bit of insight that might help you improve. Read my complete review in my article, Service keeps tabs on your many investment accounts.

What Management Accountants Do


If you like keeping track of a company's income and expenses but also want to hold a position with significant responsibility and authority, management accounting could be the job for you.

In my latest article at, I provide an overview of the profession of management accounting, from a management accountant's job responsibilities, skill set and formal educational requirements to the professional designations that can help you get ahead, as well as the career ladder for a management accounting job.

Photo: (rinse)

HARP 2.0 can make it easier to pay your underwater mortgage


Photo: crimfants

HARP 2.0 has helped hundreds of thousands of underwater homeowners refinance their homes since its inception one year ago.

The original Home Affordable Refinance Program, a government initiative to stave off foreclosures, began in 2009. It was so restrictive that few homeowners benefited.

HARP 2.0 expanded eligibility by removing the 125% loan-to-value (LTV) cap that prevented many homeowners from refinancing under the first HARP’s rules.

Last year, homeowners refinanced 228,144 mortgages that exceeded the home’s value by more than 125%. In 2011, homeowners refinanced 0 homes with that LTV, states the a report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It also shows that in December 2012, 25% of loans refinanced through HARP had an LTV greater than 125%.

Jim Duffy, a senior loan officer with Cole Taylor Mortgage outside Atlanta, says that before HARP 2.0, many homeowners felt trapped and were constantly seeking options.

“Do they aggressively pay down their underwater mortgage, do they short sell the home and move?” he says, pointing out that short sales damage credit, thereby limiting relocation options.

Those who have refinanced now have peace of mind and can get on with their lives, Duffy says.

But HARP 2.0 isn’t right for everyone who qualifies.

“If a homeowner’s plan were to sell their home in a short time period, it may not be financially smart to refinance, as there are costs associated with a refinance,” says Sue Pullen, vice president and senior mortgage advisor at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Tucson, Ariz.

Also, “If the home is not working for you and your family, then saving some off the payment will not fix the location or the commute or the school system or whatever it is that makes you really want to move,” Duffy says. In that case, a short sale might be more sensible.

Get the full story in my article, HARP 2.0: Mortgage program reboot has boosted refis.

9 Tips To Earn Your Credit Card Bonus


Many credit card companies offer sign-up bonuses to convince you to apply for their card.

Sometimes these bonuses are incredibly easy to earn: make one purchase, get $100.

More often, you have to jump through a few hoops to earn the bonus: spend $1,000 in your first three months as a cardholder, get $250.

The upside is that the bonuses that require extra effort to earn are often significantly larger.

The downside is that it's easy to make a mistake and not earn your bonus.

I've recently written an article based on my own experiences winning and losing with credit card sign-up bonuses. I've taken advantage of dozens of great offers over the last seven years, since I first became aware of these promotional offers.

To make sure you don't miss out on earning a credit card bonus you're working toward, follow the tips I've provided in my article, 9 Tips to Earn Your Credit Card Bonus.

4 Reasons To Use Your Benefits Before Year-End


The holiday season has arrived and your calendar is filling up with obligations.

Although your time is already limited, it might be worthwhile to add a few medical and dental appointments to your schedule.

Yes, you'll be extra busy, but you might save a significant amount of money by taking care of these appointments now, instead of waiting until next year.

Find out why in my Investopedia article, 4 Reasons To Use Your Benefits Before Year-End.

Deflating the biggest myth about starter homes


Photo: MJ/TR

Many people are eager to "stop throwing away money on rent" and want to buy a home as soon as possible, even if they can only afford a home that they expect to outgrow in a few years. They hope that they'll later make enough money on the sale of this "starter home" to have a down payment for their next home.

But buying and selling a home incurs thousands of dollars in transaction costs. People also tend to overlook that home ownership comes with expenses that renting doesn’t, such as insurance, taxes and property maintenance. These expenses can run you thousands of dollars a year.

By renting instead of jumping into home ownership prematurely, you might accumulate more savings and be in a better position to buy that long-term family home.

Buying a home could also affect your income and career prospects. Owning a home decreases job flexibility, so upwardly mobile young professionals might be better off renting so they can easily move for a better opportunity. Also, anyone whose job is at risk and who might gain better job prospects by relocating could be in a better financial position by renting and keeping their options open. Those unemployment checks don't make much of a dent in the monthly mortgage payment.

So many variables affect how much you’ll spend on home ownership that it's impossible to state that buying a starter home categorically does or does not make financial sense. But it's often presented as being a good idea no matter what.

Some variables are determined by choices you make, but others depend on market forces that you have no control over and a future you can’t predict. If your timing is right, a starter home can be a winning proposition. But if your timing is wrong, you could end up underwater and unable to move. You could also find yourself paying thousands of dollars to get out of your starter home and into a home that's large enough to start a family.

Find out more about why buying a starter home doesn't make sense for everyone in my article,
Deflating the biggest myth about starter homes.

Save money by refinancing into a shorter-term mortgage


Photo: Bohman

If you want to refinance your existing 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, your first thought is probably to refinance into another 30-year home loan. But with interest rates so low, you should also take a look at refinancing into a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage. Here are the major differences between the two options.

When you refinance into a 30-year mortgage, you’re basically starting over. If you aren’t that far into your mortgage, you’ve mostly been paying interest. True, you are starting over with a somewhat smaller principal balance (as long as you aren’t doing a cash-out refinance), but you’re back to having 30 years of mortgage payments ahead of you. Despite this drawback, you could save in the long run if your new interest rate is significantly lower than your old one, especially if you keep your mortgage for a long time.

But there might be a better option. Learn more about it in my article, Save money by refinancing into a shorter-term mortgage.

A settlement statement helps you compare estimated, final costs


Photo: Ken Doerr

Before you close on a mortgage, you’ll need to make sure the final costs of the loan are in line with the estimates you were given when you applied.

That’s where the settlement statement comes in.

A settlement statement, also called a HUD-1, is a 3-page form that shows your actual closing costs when you sign your loan papers and finalize your mortgage. This line-by-line itemization of costs allows you to see exactly where your money is going when you close on a mortgage. It’s used both for home purchases and refinances.

Learn how you can use this form to make sure you're not getting cheated at the closing table in my article, A settlement statement helps you compare estimated, final costs.

Why you might have to buy flood insurance


Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Is your property located in a flood zone?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the answer is yes. FEMA says all properties are in flood zones — it’s just a matter of whether that zone is considered low, medium or high risk.

There are two types of high-risk areas: special flood hazard areas and coastal high hazard areas.

FEMA says homes in special flood hazard areas have a 26% chance of experiencing a flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Coastal high hazard areas are subject to damage not just from floods but also from waves.

If you live in an area known for flooding, you might already be considering flood insurance. But if you have a mortgage, you might not have a choice. Your lender might require you to purchase this coverage. Learn why in my article, Why you might have to buy flood insurance.

A Broker's Open House Can Help You Sell Your Home


Photo: PhotoAtelier (Glen)

If you're selling your home, you might want to consider holding a lesser-known type of open house called a broker's open house or broker's preview.

This event gives the selling agent an opportunity to market your home to other agents who might see that your home matches the requirements of a buyer.

Find out how a broker's open house differs from a traditional open house, whether a broker's open house can help you sell your home faster, and more in my Investopedia article, A Broker's Open House Can Help You Sell Your Home.

What it means when your mortgage is sold


Photo: mbush_utah

When you borrow money to take out a mortgage, you owe principal and interest to some entity that owns your mortgage.

These entities include investors such as banks, hedge funds, pension funds, governments, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Just like investing in stocks and bonds, owning mortgages gives investors the opportunity to earn money.

Sometimes investors decide to sell their investments, and that includes your mortgage. Does this selling activity have any affect on you? Learn what it means when your mortgage is sold in my article.

The Income Property: Your Late-in-Life Retirement Plan


Photo: Eneas

Suppose you're in your fifties or sixties and know you don't have nearly enough money to retire. One possibility for generating the income you'll need is an investment property.

The real estate market can present bargains that will help you earn a high return on investment compared to your other options.

But owning a property is not always the passive, easy investment it's made out to be. You need to understand both sides of what you're getting into before you start shopping.

Find out how much you can expect to invest and earn, how to choose a location for your rental property, and problems that might derail your plans if you aren't careful in my Investopedia article, The Income Property: Your Late-in-Life Retirement Plan.

Which Companies Provide the Best Customer Service?


Photo: andrewarchy

I've had a few great customer service experiences lately that are worth mentioning.

-Discover. I noticed that I hadn't received my bonus cash back for any online purchases I'd made through Shop Discover for all of 2012. I assumed there was a problem with my browser, but couldn't figure out what it might be.

I emailed Discover to ask about the missing cash back. I gave them a list of all my purchases since January on which I thought I should have earned a Shop Discover bonus. Within just a few hours, a representative replied saying that I would receive credit for each of these purchases. She provided a detailed list of how much credit I would get for each one.

That email plus a few minutes of research meant $42.28 in cash back that I otherwise would have missed out on. I can redeem $40 of that for $50 in gift cards. I was impressed that I didn't get any pushback from Discover and the response was so fast and through.

(In case you didn't already know, Shop Discover lets you earn extra cash back on online purchases made through the Discover website using your Discover card. The bonus cash back is usually in the 5% to 10% range. I used Shop Discover to earn extra cash back on pet food, clothing, tax software and home improvement purchases.

-eBates. I had the same problem with eBates that I did with Shop Discover, which was why I suspected a browser issue and not a provider issue. But eBates did have tracking tickets for my purchases, which made me think my browser setup was probably correct. So why wasn't I earning any cash back? Again, a quick email and a quick response put the missing money in my eBates account. All I had to do was provide the details of my order.

-Gap. I recently bought a workout top from and when it arrived, it didn't fit. I called up customer service to exchange it for a different top. The call only took a few minutes, and I had the new shirt in two days, with free shipping, even though I don't live near their distribution center. I received similarly fast shipping the last time I placed an exchange. I'm sure it costs them extra to provide this service, but it makes me feel like they care about my business. It also relieves the disappointment of getting something you were looking forward to and having it not be quite what you expected.

A credit card that helps pay down student debt?


Photo: baaker2009

Sallie Mae, the giant student lender, says you can use the rewards you accumulate from its cash-back credit card to pay down eligiblestudent loans.

But if I were a student -- or a recent graduate -- I'd hesitate to sign up for this card, despite its sign-up bonus and benefits.

Find out why in my article, A credit card that helps pay down student debt?

What is title insurance? Why do you need it?


Photo: Karsun Designs

Title insurance is a policy that protects your mortgage lender from potential claims against your property.

The property serves as collateral for the mortgage, so a lender does not want to give someone money to purchase real estate, then have a third party dispute the borrower’s right to that property.

For this reason, lenders always require that you pay for a title insurance policy when you take out a mortgage. The process of issuing title insurance looks for any existing problems with the title through a process known as a title search.

Get the essential information you need in my article, What is title insurance? Why do you need it?

You’re not likely to collect on Allstate’s auto insurance satisfaction guarantee



Have you ever thought your insurance company was great--until you had to file a claim?

Maybe you've seen Allstate's advertising for its Claim Satisfaction Guarantee, a promotion that addresses consumer dissatisfaction with the auto insurance claims process. The company says it will give you a 6-month credit on your premium if you’re unsatisfied with your claims experience. (However, presumably for legal reasons, Allstate says the payment of the credit doesn’t mean that it agrees with the reasons for your dissatisfaction.)

A six-month credit is worth a lot of money. According to, the median six-month insurance premium in 2011 ranged from a low of $436 in Idaho to a high of $1,1111 in Louisiana.

And the only reason you might get a lesser credit is if you haven’t actually paid Allstate a full six-month premium because your policy was canceled during the period when your covered accident took place.

In that case, your credit would be no more than the prorated premium you actually paid on that vehicle.
In other words, if you take out a policy in September, get in to an accident in October and cancel your policy in November, you won’t be able to make money off of Allstate by getting a check for a six month premium when you only paid a two month premium.

That sounds fair, especially since Allstate would probably already have lost money on you from paying your claim.

In most states, the offer ends for policy periods beginning June 1, 2013 or later. So if you become an Allstate customer this year in part because of the Claim Satisfaction Guarantee but have an accident in July 2013, you’ll be out of luck if you’re not satisfied with your claim experience.

Allstate might be using this promotion to improve its image and its ranking with consumers. Two recent J.D. Power and Associates studies show that Allstate is just average among auto insurers.

USAA, which only writes policies for military personnel and their families, consistently received the highest scores of around 900. The lowest score any insurer earned in any region was 705. Allstate's scores ranged from 759 to 806.

Besides improving its general image, if the Claim Satisfaction Guarantee gets you to stay on as an Allstate policyholder despite a bad experience, it could be money well spent for the company.

If you remain a customer, Allstate gets to keep collecting your premiums. The company also saves money by not having to replace your business with that of a new customer, and acquiring new customers is expensive.

To get the full scoop on Allstate's Claim Satisfaction Guarantee, read my article, "You're not likely to collect on Allstate's auto insurance satisfaction guarantee."

Fidelity offers an alternative to traditional checking accounts


Photo: -JvL-

Fidelity's Cash Management Account offers a no-cost alternative to expensive big-bank checking accounts.

It has no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement and no pesky “gotchas” like requiring a monthly direct deposit.

Checks are free, and there are no fees to use your debit card or pay your bills online.

Here are three more things I like about the account besides it's zero-cost features.

1. Fidelity’s cash management feature helps you maintain just the right amount of money in your checking account so that you’re neither in danger of not covering your bills nor letting excess cash sit idle when it could be earning more in an investment account.

2. If you invest with Fidelity, having your brokerage account and your checking account all in one place gives you added convenience. Personally, I've had nothing but excellent experiences with Fidelity and have no qualms about recommending them.

3. The account will automatically help you avoid overdraft fees and bounced payments.

The only thing this account could do better is to offer a higher interest rate.

Get the full details on Fidelity's Cash Management Account in my article, Fidelity offers an alternative to traditional checking accounts.

Why you shouldn't buy a home on leased land


Did you know you could buy property without owning the land it sits on?

You're familiar with mobile homes, right? They're the most well-known example of a home you can own while paying a monthly fee to rent the ground it sits on.

But you can do the same thing with an actual house, or even a condo. You’ll find different types of leased land properties in different parts of the country. Some leased land communities are retirement or vacation home communities.

How can you identify these properties, which are often disguised in real estate listings?

-The property might have a regular street address but also have a lot number.
-The home might be priced far below similar homes in the area, or be far nicer but priced like an average home.
-The price might be a dream come true given the location, like waterfront property for the price of an inland property.
-The listing might describe the home as being in a planned development or master planned community (though traditional homes can also fit this description). 

Sometimes, it may simply appear that the property is governed by a homeowners association (HOA) because the listing might mention the association features you’ll have access to, like a community pool and playground. However, the HOA fees will be sky-high, double or triple the standard HOA rate for your area. That's because part of the HOA fee will go toward community amenities; the rest will cover your land lease fee.

I don't think these arrangements really work out in favor of homeowners, as I discuss in my article, Why you shouldn't buy a home on leased land.

There are also lifestyle issues to consider. Land lease communities, like other HOA properties, can have restrictive rules such as how long guests may stay with you or what types and sizes of pets you can own.

Indeed, leased land properties often belong to HOAs. That means you not only need to understand the details of the leased land arrangement, but you should also understand what you’re getting into when you buy a home in an HOA. Learn how they work in my articles, 9 Things You Need to Know About Homeowners Associations and What Living in a Homeowners Association Means.

Ways to Make Necessary Travel Affordable When Money Is Tight


Photo: Amy FontinelleSometimes you're forced into going on "vacation" whether you want to or not. You might be a member of the bridal party for an out-of-town wedding or have a family reunion or milestone birthday party to attend in a distant city.I think Suze Orman has it right when she says “people first, money second,” but that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a bad position financially to be there for the people you care about. There are things you can do to minimize the cost of your trip no matter where you’re going. Here are a few suggestions on how to cut back.Airfare: Do you have frequent flyer miles you can use? If not, if you’re close to an award ticket, consider buying a few miles to top off your account. It may not be the best deal in the long run, but if you have to travel now and you don’t have money now, it’s better to spend $150 to buy miles and use a frequent flyer ticket than to spend $350 to buy the ticket outright.If you have a few months until your trip, try signing up for a credit card that awards a generous number of frequent flyer miles for new signups to get enough miles for your trip. Keep in mind that the miles will take a while to post to your account, and frequent flyer seats get snatched up fast, so if your travel dates and times aren’t flexible, you may have a hard time actually using those miles. I know we have at least one out-of-town wedding coming up in about a year, so I've been using this technique to rack up enough miles on a variety of airlines so at least one of us can fly for free.Also look at flying on Southwest, because if the fare drops after you buy your ticket, you can get a refund for the difference. You can do this on other airlines, too, but their ticket change fees usually eat up the savings from the lower fare.Other options include trying your luck with Priceline and adjusting your trip so you’re traveling on unpopular days and/or at unpopular times. On a recent trip, we flew home from New York on the fourth of July because it was the least expensive option. We didn't get to attend any barbecues or go to any fireworks shows, but seeing a few fireworks from the plane and saving a couple hundred dollars was worth the trade off.Transportation: Renting a car can be expensive especially if you reserve it at the last minute. If you’re traveling specifically to attend an event, you might be able to catch a ride with someone else (and offer to pay for gas or help offset their rental costs)--that's what we did when we attended a wedding in Puerto Rico.And while navigating public transportation in an unfamiliar city is never fun, it might be worth figuring out if it means the difference between an affordable trip and an unaffordable one. You might also be able to use a flat-rate car service instead of taking a cab--that saved us money on airport transportation in New York. Instead of paying for every minute we were stuck in traffic, we were able to relax knowing that we had already locked in a flat fee, and our driver had an incentive to get us to the airport as quickly as possible so he could get his next fare.I've also had good luck securing inexpensive rental cars through Priceline. Renting cars from the airport can be less expensive than renting from a neighborhood location, but sometimes there are airport taxes that make it cheaper to rent a car near where you're sleeping. I've also borrowed friends' cars while visiting them i[...]

Summer’s mortgage rates fall to new lows — again


Photo: tallpomlin

Mid-July’s mortgage rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen all year. With the average home loan selling for about 3.75%, you’ll be getting a great deal if you apply today.

To get the best interest rate, you need to know how and when to lock your rate. You also need to know how to not get taken advantage of by an unscrupulous lender.

“Many lenders do not require an upfront fee to lock. If they do, it must be applied as a credit, usually towards the discount points or another fee on the HUD-1 settlement statement that the borrower approves at closing,” says Ray Eickhoff, regional vice president of Fairway Independent Mortgage in Mill Creek, Wash.

For more expert tips from mortgage industry insiders about how to get the best rate lock and for more news about today's low mortgage rates, read my latest mortgage story for, Summer’s mortgage rates fall to new lows — again.

And for more information on mortgages and homebuying, check out the Homebuying 101 section of my website, where you'll find links to all of my articles on how to buy a home.