Fall 2012 MB E-Direct Issue #4
Fall 2012 issue of Member Benefits E-Direct Newsletter
Fall 2012 A quarterly digest for all your Member Benefits news Member Benefits E-Direct Issue 4 5 ways to AVOID online Shopping perils! Inside this issue: Dealing with Disasters .....................pg 6 Heating with Propane .......................pg 7 15 Smile Fun Facts ...........................pg 8 Proper Child Seat Safety ..................pg 9 800 Troy-Schenectady Road Latham, NY 12110 800-626-8101 M-F 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. memberbenefits.nysut.org NYSUT Member Benefits Trust NYSUT Member Benefits Corporation ©Copyright 2012 2 | Fall 2012 Table of Contents We’ve got a lot going on! Find out from Director Lynette Metz what’s new in Member Benefits and what’s on the horizon. Fall 2012 | 2 From the Director........................................................................................................................................ 3 5 ways to avoid online shopping perils .................................................................................4 Make sure your online shopping experience this holiday season is a safe and secure one. Preparing for the worst & hoping for the best....................................................................6 Take the proper steps to put your life back together after a natural disaster strikes. Are you heating with propane? ................................................................................................7 Get the most out of your propane dollar with tips from another of our newest endorsed program providers. 15 smile fun facts ............................................................................................................................8 Learn more about the benefits of smiling from one of our newest endorsed program providers. Kids Korner: Proper child seat safety......................................................................................9 Have a child or grandchild on the way? Get your vehicle ready for your little one! How much is that pet in the window?..................................................................................10 Tips to consider before surprising someone with a pet (or getting one yourself) this holiday season. Member Benefits E-Direct is a quarterly publication produced by NYSUT Member Benefits designed to educate NYSUT members about a variety of topics and issues of importance to them and their families. The goal of this e-newsletter is to serve as an educational and informative piece that helps our hardworking members to make better informed decisions in their lives. For information about any of our programs or about contractual endorsement arrangements with providers of endorsed programs, please contact NYSUT Member Benefits at 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. Agency fee payers to NYSUT are eligible to participate in NYSUT Member Benefits-endorsed programs. 3 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 3 From the Director Hello again, and welcome to the Fall 2012 issue of Member Benefits E-Direct! It’s hard to believe that this is our last issue of the year. Seems like just yesterday that we were launching this new publication, and here we stand almost one year later. It’s been another busy year and we have a lot on the horizon. First off, we’re very excited to announce our newest Member Benefits Corporation-endorsed programs: 1800Flowers.com and Propane USA! NYSUT members now have the opportunity to save 20% on fresh flowers, gourmet gift baskets, chocolates, spa baskets, and much more through 1800Flowers.com. Meanwhile, Propane USA is a brand new benefit for NYSUT members that negotiates lower prices on propane from top-rated local dealers and also eliminates unnecessary propane fees. In addition, we’re looking at adding a number of new discount programs in the near future. Our popular discount programs are one of the main reasons why members visit the Member Benefits website, so we’re continually looking to expand these offerings by offering new quality endorsed programs. Several enhancements have been made to our endorsed Legal Service Plan. Effective October 1, 2012, the Business Rider has been enhanced to include the following services at no additional cost to participants: free telephone consultations, free letter writing (limit of 10 per Plan year) and free document review (limit of six pages per document). For those of you that may be landlords, consider purchasing the Business Rider and have your next tenant contract reviewed by an attorney. On the insurance side of the house, our original endorsed Catastrophe Major Medical (CMM) Insurance Plan is now closed to new applicants. Our new CMM II product has been filed with the New York State Department of Financial Services, but it could take the NYSDFS up to a year to approve the new plan. If you would like a brochure, enrollment materials when the program has been approved or to be added to the waiting list, please contact Marsh U.S. Consumer – the plan administrator – toll-free at 888-386-9788. We’re still looking into a new Long-Term Care Insurance program. The long-term care industry remains quite volatile so we are taking our time in researching our options for a new carrier; we want to be certain that we are making the right decisions for our members. Make sure you check out our feature story this issue for some helpful hints on avoiding those “too good to be true” deals as we enter the holiday season. We at Member Benefits want to help our members have a safe and secure online shopping experience. Finally, our thoughts and prayers are with all NYSUT members affected by the recent Superstorm Sandy that devastated the Northeast. Check out page 6 for a special story about preparing for and dealing with natural disasters. Remember that you can always call us with any questions at 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. -- Lynette A. Metz Director, NYSUT Member Benefits Trust CEO, NYSUT Member Benefits Corporation 4 |Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 4 5 Well, the holidays are fast approaching and we all know what that means... it’s shopping season! “Cyber Monday” (taking place on the Monday immediately following Thanksgiving) has quickly joined “Black Friday” as one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and we at NYSUT Member Benefits want to make sure that you have a safe and secure online shopping experience. According to various sources, consumers now spend approximately $1 billion on Cyber Monday each year. In addition, 80% of all online sales take place in the four weeks between Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means there are a number of merchants looking to offer special purchasing incentives and a lot of people looking for great discounts; it also means these same potential buyers are leaving themselves wide open to potential scams from unscrupulous online thieves. Always exercise caution and good judgment when it comes to online deals. The old adage ways to online sh per has never been more accurate when it comes to online shopping: “If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.” While we all want to believe that ad offering a 60” LCD flat screen television for $100, we know in our heads that this is just not realistic. Check out the following tips from wikihow.com to make sure your online shopping experience this holiday season is a safe and secure one: #1: Know who you’re dealing with – Make sure that you know the identity, location and contact information for the online retailer. D You 53% o f smar t and 64 % of ta b to do h oliday s h o device s -- Mo bi Dail Besides learning these details, it’s also smart to make sure that the company has a positive online reputation. Do an online search to find out what others are saying about their experiences with the company. While one or two negative reviews about a product should not dissuade you from 5 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 5 o avoid hopping rils! purchasing it, be leery if the majority of product reviews are negative. Trust your instincts! #2: Learn about additional billing, “special charges” and guarantees before you buy – Always look for any additional costs and payment details prior to submitting your credit card information. Oftentimes, merchants will offer the lowest prices... and then make up for them with excessive shipping & handling charges. with reputable vendor sites that have good online reputations. #4: Keep a record of your purchase details – Always print the details of the time, date, receipt number, and order confirmation after purchasing an item online. #5: Look for your CVV code – A reputable site will request the three-digit CVV (Card Verification Value) code on the back of your credit card whenever you make an online purchase (American Express uses a four-digit code on the front of the card). Keeping all of this in mind, make sure you have fun with your online shopping! Don’t let a few bad apples ruin your holidays. Remember that you can always look to our Member Benefits-endorsed discount programs to assist you with your online shopping. You may also want to consider enrolling in our Equifax Credit Watch Gold program for some added credit protection this holiday season. And if you happen to find a legitimate 60” television for $100, let us know! Did know? tphone owner s blet ow ners p lan opping on tho se ile Com merce ly Before you buy any item, find out about these delivery charges, when you’ll actually be billed and how to return the product if necessary. #3: Only use secure sites for online purchases – Never supply your credit card information online unless you are using a secure site. Always check the address bar in your browser to see if it changes from “http” to “https”; the “s” in the address bar means that it is a secure site. It’s also a good idea to stay 6 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 6 Preparing for the worst & hoping for the best With millions of East Coast residents struggling to recover from the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy and total repair costs estimated to be in the billions, it’s crucial to take the proper steps to begin putting your life back together as quickly as possible. The NYSUT website has a variety of information related to the storm and those affected by it. Click here to learn more. Many people make the mistake of not knowing what their homeowners insurance policy actually covers. Do you know whether your policy covers full replacement or an agreed upon amount for items? The last thing you want after a disaster strikes is to find out that your policy doesn’t cover what you thought it did. Check out the following tips from the New York State Department of Financial Services and State of New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance to help put the pieces of your life back together in Make note of the following tips to help better prepare for the next natural disaster before it occurs. Create a fully-stocked Disaster Supplies Kit – Your kit should include at least three gallons of water per person; canned food; a battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries; a wellstocked first-aid kit; clothing and bedding; and essential medications for each family member. Learn about flood protection – Flood damage is not covered by most New York state homeowners policies; it is normally offered as a separate policy. Assemble and secure important documents – Shrink wrap and store your documents in a small, portable, waterproof kit that includes Social Security cards; birth certificates; marriage certificates; important family photos; Wills; Health Care Proxies; insurance policies; and copies of medical prescriptions. Prepare an emergency contact list – It is crucial to keep an emergency contact list with you that contains the addresses and phone numbers of family members, close friends, physicians, attorneys, insurance agents, etc. the wake of the most recent natural disaster to strike. Take stock immediately following the disaster – After it is safe to return to your home, assess and take photos of the damage for your insurance company. Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it for your claim. Handling the claim – Your insurance company will send an insurance adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Make sure to be present when the adjuster inspects your property. Repairing the damage – To avoid the potential for fraud, check licensing and references before hiring a contractor. Be very leery of unlicensed contractors who show up in your neighborhood looking to remove debris for a fee. After you rebuild – Conduct a home inventory after you re-establish your home following the disaster. After you have completed the home inventory, contact your agent to make sure your homeowners policy is enough to cover your new investments. Remember that if you’re a NYSUT member who has purchased our endorsed MetLife Auto & Home homeowners insurance policy, we are here as your advocate. If you ever feel that information is not being disclosed to you properly or are having issues that need to be resolved, we are on your side to assist you. Call us at 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. 7 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 7 Are you heating with propane? Did you know that millions of Americans use propane each year, and not just for grilling and cooking? Propane is a versatile fuel that can be used to heat your home or hot water, or even power your appliances. If yours is one of those households, you know that propane can also be quite expensive. In addition to the cost of the fuel itself, many companies charge you fees on everything from renting a tank to making a delivery. Check out the following five tips from Propane USA to get the most out of your propane dollar: fees, low usage fees, and more. Pick up the phone and tell them that you think it’s too much. You’re paying for the propane... why should you pay for all of the extra add-ons? Tip #4: Be careful with pre-buys – There are Tip #1: Purchase your own y per unit of v o l u m than n atural e gas. a number of propane companies that offer pre-buys before the beginning of the season. This can mean shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars before you’ve gotten a drop of propane. If you do pre-buy, make sure that you’re confident the price is right and the company is Propan financially stable and able e more e provides to deliver on its promises. nerg Di You kd now? Tip #5: Join Propane USA – propane tank – By purchasing your own tank, you won’t have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in leasing fees every year, and you won’t be locked in to one supplier. Propane USA is a brand new benefit for NYSUT members that negotiates lower prices on propane from top-rated local dealers and eliminates fees. There are no tank rental, delivery or environmental compliance fees. Tip #2: Shop around – Whether you own your tank or not, it pays to shop around. The next time that you get a delivery, check the price and then call around to see if you’re getting a good deal. NYSUT members also receive $50 of free propane and a $100 gift certificate good towards the purchase of your own propane tank so that you can save even more! Learn more about Propane USA by calling toll-free 888-767-9185 or visiting propaneusa.info/nysut. Tip #3: Challenge excessive fees – Many propane companies charge a laundry list of fees to their customers, including tank rental, delivery 8 | Fall 2012 Smiling is the universal sign of happiness. Handshakes, hugs and bows all mean different things to different people... but smiling spans across all cultures. There are a whole host of benefits that come from smiling – which can come in handy as the days get shorter and shorter. Check out the following tips from 1800Flowers.com to learn more about the benefits of smiling. Smile Fun Facts Facts: It’s scientifically proven that people are attracted to those who smile and are pushed away by those who frown or scowl. Fall 2012 | 8 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: You can trick yourself into being in a better mood simply by smiling. Smiling helps you relax and boosts your immune system. Smiling lowers blood pressure. Smiling releases endorphins and relieves stress. Smiling is sometimes referred to as a natural pain killer! Smiles are contagious. It takes 43 muscles to frown... but only two muscles to smile! The two muscles that create a smile are the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi. Other muscles can simulate a smile, but only the two mentioned above create a genuine, involuntary smile. Duchenne smiles are the scientific name for genuine smiles. The crinkling in the corner of the eyes is a tell-tale sign of a genuine smile. Babies start smiling in their sleep as soon as they are born; they begin to voluntarily smile as soon as four weeks of age. Smiles are the most easily recognized facial expression – recognizable from more than 300 feet away. A dog smiles by wagging its tail! For more information about 1800Flowers.com, please call 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org. 9 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 |9 Kids Corner: Proper child seat safety parent (or grandparent) for the first (or second or third) time! You’ve planned and prepared and even baby-proofed your home. Good job! But, is your vehicle as prepared as your home? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), thousands of young children are killed or injured in crashes each year – mainly because three out of four child safety seats are not properly secured or not restrained at all. All 50 states in the U.S. along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require child safety seats for infants and children that fit specific criteria. And violating these laws is not something that is taken lightly. Great news... you’re about to become a Nearly every child seat and the majority of vehicles manufactured since September 1, 2002 are required to use the LATCH system – which makes it easier to ensure that child safety seats are properly secured every time you hit the road. The NHTSA website offers a variety of helpful installation instructions and videos to assist you along the way. If your child seat is not equipped with the LATCH system, always follow the manufacturer-provided instruction manual. The NHTSA website also offers a locator tool to help find a child car seat inspection station near you. Certified technicians will inspect your child car seat free of charge (in most cases) and show you how to correctly install and use it. The NHTSA offers the following child seat recommendations: • All children under the age of one should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. • Keep children from one to three years old in a rear-facing seat as long as possible to keep them safe. • Children four to seven years old should be in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. • Keep children eight to 12 years old in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. Luckily, it is easier than ever today to learn how to install a child seat safely and correctly thanks to the NHTSA’s LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) campaign. With the colder weather and inclement conditions on the way, don’t take a chance with the little ones. Visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm for more information. 10 | Fall 2012 Fall 2012 | 10 How much is that pet in the window? Are you thinking about giving or getting a new pet this holiday season? While there are plenty of pets who need a good home, make sure your home – or the recipient of the pet – is ready for the demands and responsibilities of caring for a two- or four-legged friend. Consider the tips from VPI Pet Insurance at the right before surprising someone with the gift of a pet. And remember, regardless of where you acquire your new pet or what the seller says, always take it to see your personal veterinarian within the first week of bringing your pet home. Tip #1: Make sure the recipient wants a pet and is financially prepared – Be careful about giving a pet as an unexpected gift to a family member or friend. Pets require a considerable investment of both time and money and aren’t right for everyone. Tip #2: Don’t buy a pet on an impulse – Pets on sale at shopping mall pet stores may look cute... but they often have health issues. If you’re serious about buying a pet, do your research and find a responsible breeder, shelter or rescue group. Tip #3: Consider adopting an “easier” pet – If you’re thinking about giving a pet as a gift to a child, you may also want to consider easier options such as fish, turtles, mice, rabbits, or guinea pigs. Tip #4: Create a toxic- and danger-free home for pets – Household toxins can threaten the lives of curious pets. Make sure that all household chemicals, human medicines, poisonous houseplants, and breakables are out of reach. Tip #5: Choose a local veterinarian – Choosing a veterinarian is the first step in ensuring a pet’s wellbeing. Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations, so make sure that you get any records containing the pet’s history; this will help a veterinarian to determine exactly which vaccinations are needed. Americ a approx ns spent $50 bil imately in 2011 lion on pet s Produ -- American cts As P sociat et ion Did You kno w? For more information about the Member Benefits-endorsed pet insurance program, please call 800-626-8101 or visit memberbenefits.nysut.org.