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TIPS ON MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS:

When traveling for business or fun, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have a reservation and learning your hotel reservations been lost, your room has one bed and not two bedrooms, or you thought your check-in time was noon, only to find out it is really 3:00pm. To help avoid these things from happening, there are a few helpful hotel reservation tips seasoned travelers recommend:

Always use a credit card when making a hotel reservation. A credit cards offers the guest some level of protection should the hotel stay go awry. Any disputes a guest may have with the hotel, or with the billing can more easily be rectified through the credit card company. The card company will act as a mediator once their client can show effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, if a dispute cannot be resolved, the credit card company has the authority to remove the charge from a client’s bill. If cash were paid, a hotel guest would have no recourse. Note: If you don’t use your own credit card to secure a reservation, be aware that the person whose name is on the card will be responsible for showing the card and signing at check in. If the card does not belong to the person staying at the hotel, notify the desk before leaving home (prior to arrival) and ask what their identification procedure is. They may accept a letter from the credit card holder authorizing use, and a copy of both the front and back of the card.

Ask for deals/discounts at each hotel. Many hotels offer corporate, AAA, senior, or even mid-week/off-season discounts. If one is not offered - ask about them. Many hotels now offer ‘rewards’ programs and some hotels reduce rates by $50 or more, for simply signing up for their program. If making reservations online, look for internet-only rates and shop various websites to find the best deals. Travel agents can often secure unadvertised specials or late check-in opportunities which can translate into huge savings.

When making reservations speak clearly and repeat spelling of all names. There have been many reservations lost because of inaccurate spelling and guests have been told they did not have rooms when a hotel or an entire city was booked to capacity. If any special requests are made, verify them and if possible get them in writing. Also make sure to get the name of the employee. Verify everything spell names and verify information/requests etc. Double check reservations prior to leaving for hotel and make sure names of all hotel employees you’ve spoken to are taken.

When reservations are made, changed and cancelled-confirmation numbers are given. Make sure all numbers are kept in a safe place until credit cards are billed and all charges are verified. Cancellation and confirmation numbers are often the difference between being charged for a hotel reservation that was cancelled, the possibility of a free upgrade when the hotel overbooks and you can prove when your reservation was made, and being stranded away from home without a room for the night.
Discuss hotel policies prior to making reservations, and verify them at check-in. Some hotels require credit cards at check in for any hotel charges, such as telephone usage, room service, meals in the hotel, or even take -out arranged through the hotel with area restaurants, etc. If a credit card is not available, a cash/check deposit maybe required for any services/fees that may accrue during the hotel stay. Determine when check-in/check-out times are, when cancellation policies go into affect and verify occupancy limits if staying in a room with multiple occupants.

Remember these hotel reservation tips when scheduling your travel plans. Whether by internet, through a travel agent, or by telephone, it pays to research the hotel and be meticulous when making arrangements. A little pre-planning when making reservations can save major headaches when traveling away from home.


DID YOU KNOW:
FINDING THE BEST HOTEL RATES:
Due to the internet, the manners in which hotel rooms are procured have drastically changed over the last couple of decades. Prior to internet access, guests called hotels directly to book rooms. While some guests continue to book rooms this way, many have learned that calling a hotel directly may not be the most economical choice. However, it is also been found that hotel rates also vary a great deal from website to website, especially discount travel sites.

Hotels are in constant competition with each other for your business. The goal of every hotel is to achieve 100% occupancy. Not only are they competing with each other, they are often competing with themselves. Look at how many hotels have various hotel chain subsidiaries beneath them. They must stay competitive, but still continue to make a profit while keeping their rooms occupied. This said, many hotels offer blocks of rooms to a variety of other entities to sell. Travel agents and online brokers typically compete to sell rooms for hotels, and they receive a percentage of the purchase price. The rate disparity comes into play two ways. First, the hotel is offering rooms at their standard rates or discount club rates. Second, because hotels offer these agents and booking websites various rates, someone who is getting a larger percentage of the sale price, can afford to offer the room at a lower rate than someone who is getting a small percentage from the sale.

Finding the best room rate:
If contacting the hotel directly, ask if they have any current specials. If your travel plans are flexible, inquire about any future specials, and the specific parameters of those specials.

If you’re a ‘select’, ‘rewards’ or hotel ‘member’, mention this, and ask if they have any special discounts available for members of their programs. Additionally, if you are affiliated with a corporate account, or a roadside assistance plan which offers travel benefits, mention that too. Sometimes guests are eligible for more than one discount and can pick and choose the one that provides the greatest savings.

When placing reservations online through a hotel booking service, first find the service that offers the best deal. The best deal may not be the one which provides the lowest price, but the service with the best room guarantee, who is willing to price match. If you’ve found the room for a lower rate elsewhere, tell your preferred vendor and ask them to match the price. Several websites will even provide a 30-day guarantee against lower prices - so even after booking your reservation, stay vigilant.

Hotel rates vary so much because there are numerous entities vying to secure your business by competing with each other. With a little investigative prowess, you can secure the best rates possible for your hotel stay, despite the varying rates.
REAL ESTATE TIP OF THE WEEK:

MORTGAGE CREDIT CERTIFICATES:
In the United States, a Mortgage Credit Certificate (more commonly referred to as MCC) is a certificate issued by certain state or local governments that allows a taxpayer to claim a tax credit for some portion of the mortgage interest paid during a given tax year.

The MCC program is designed to help first-time home-buyers offset a portion of their mortgage interest on a new mortgage as a way to help home-buyers qualify for a loan. Because it is a tax credit and not a tax deduction, mortgage lenders will often use the estimated amount of the credit on a monthly basis as additional income to help the potential borrower qualify for the loan.

The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) reduces the amount of federal income tax the borrower must pay, which in turn, frees up income to qualify for a mortgage. Homebuyers must not exceed household income and home purchase price limits set according to federal tax law and MHC guidelines.

The federal government allows every homebuyer to claim an itemized federal income tax deduction for all of the mortgage interest paid each year on a mortgage loan. The MCC will allow the borrower to take a tax credit equal to 25% of the annual interest paid on the mortgage loan for a single family conventional residence and 40% on a manufactured single family home. That is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of their federal tax liability. The remainder (75% conventional, 60% manufactured home) of the mortgage interest will continue to qualify as an itemized tax deduction. The specific dollar amount of the tax credit depends on how much interest the borrower pays on a mortgage loan. The amount of the credit cannot be more than their annual federal income tax liability after all other credits and deductions have been taken into account. In no case can the tax credit exceed $2,000 per year.

Generally speaking, homebuyers who wish to obtain an MCC must meet certain minimum guidelines:
-Buyers must not have owned a home in the previous three years.
-Buyers must meet income and purchase price restrictions.
-Buyers must intend to use the new home as a primary residence.

Some of these restrictions may be waived for certain circumstances. For example, following a natural disaster, state or local governments may raise or remove the income limits for affected municipalities temporarily to help spur redevelopment.

The amount of mortgage credit allowed varies depending on the state or local government that issues the certificates, but is capped at a maximum of $2000 per year by the IRS. As an example, if a homebuyer were to receive an MCC that offers a 30% credit on a $200,000 loan for 30 years with a rate of 6%, the allowable tax credit would be figured as follows (all numbers rounded):
Mortgage Interest Paid (1st Year): $11,933
x MCC Credit: 30%
= Total Credit: $3579

Because the total credit in this example exceeds the IRS limit of $2000, the homebuyer would report a $2000 credit on their tax return. The buyer may continue to receive a tax credit for as long as they live in the home and retain the mortgage.

Refinanced Mortgage Without losing the Credit:
You can refinance your mortgage without losing this credit if your  existing MCC is reissued and the reissued certificate meets all of  the following conditions:
• It must be issued to the holder(s) of the existing certificate for the  same property.
• It must entirely replace the existing certificate. The holder cannot retain any portion of the outstanding balance of the existing  certificate.
• The certified indebtedness on the reissued certificate cannot  exceed the outstanding balance shown on the existing certificate.
• The credit rate of the reissued certificate cannot exceed the credit rate of the existing certificate.
• The reissued certificate cannot result in a larger amount than would otherwise have been allowable under the existing certificate for any tax year.

To receive an immediate benefit from the MCC, the borrower must file a revised W-4 withholding form with their employer, which should reduce their yearly tax contribution and increase the borrower’s take-home pay, or take the benefit once a year through the federal income tax return to be filed.
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Survivor has become one of the most popular reality shows on CBS LIVE.
Survivor is an American version of the Survivor reality game show, itself derived from the Swedish television series Expedition Robinson originally created in 1997 by Charlie Parsons. The series premiered on May 31, 2000, on CBS. It is hosted by television personality Jeff Probst, who is also an executive producer, and also executive produced by Mark Burnett and original creator Charlie Parsons.

The show maroons a group of strangers (as one or more tribes) in a desolate locale, where they must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves, while competing in challenges to earn either a reward, or an immunity from expulsion from the game in the next of the successive votes for elimination. While much less common than elimination by vote, medical conditions, such as injury or infection, have eliminated several contestants. The last two or three survivors face a jury composed of the last seven, eight, or nine players voted off. That jury interrogates the final few, and then votes for the winner of the game, the title of Sole Survivor and a million dollar prize.

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