Sunday, November 10, 2013

A GOOD review of Care Credit

I have a Care Credit card. That seems like something you'd admit at some sort of recovering addicts meeting, but it shouldn't be that way. Before I used my Care Credit card for the first time, I googled it, like you do, and basically saw ONLY negative reviews. I thought... geez. Do I really want to get mixed up in all this? But the common theme in all the reviews was that people didn't pay off the card before the interest hit. I knew I was going to be able to do that, so I used the card with ease. Here, let me start from the beginning...

I had a toothache. I was recently married (though I hadn't yet changed my name) and preparing to move 2000 miles away from home in a month, so I figured I should get it taken care of ASAP. I went to my regular dentist and he said, "I think it's cracked." (Not "It's cracked." Just, "I think it's cracked.") They said I'd need some kind of procedure that would cost over $500, and I told them I didn't that kind of money (my regular credit card, with an embarrassingly low credit limit, was maxed out from the wedding - soon to be paid off!, but still maxed out). My dentist directed me to the Care Credit card. He didn't call it that - he just told me I could apply for a healthcare line of credit.

So I did.

And shockingly, I was approved, for $3500 (this is more than 3x the limit on my regular credit card, by the way). I thought that was pretty cool. So, card in hand, I went back to my dentist to get my possibly-cracked tooth taken care of.

Except... when they did the "cracked tooth test" to confirm, it didn't hurt any more. Turns out, I just had an overly sensitive tooth that day. So, no procedure.

So, oh well. Now I had fine teeth and a $3500 healthcare credit card (aka Care Credit, I now knew).

Fast forward 10 months... my husband and I moved 2000 miles to NYC and lived life. We were both insured through the military, since he's in the National Guard, and didn't have too much to worry about, healthcare-wise. We have a regular doctor, I have an optometrist (and the worst eyes ever), and we have a dentist out in Brooklyn. She told my husband he needed his wisdom teeth out, ASAP. This made sense because A. he's 29 and still has them and B. he's a musician and has never had a 'good time' to take them out. Now seemed like the perfect time since he was working a non-music job and his Juilliard audition was still 8 months away. PLENTY of time to recover. So, we went to an oral surgeon in Midtown to schedule his surgery.

Even with insurance, it was going to cost $650.


We did not have that much extra cash lying around, and again, that's nearly the entire limit on my regular credit card, and we didn't want to max it out. What were we to do?

Enter: Care Credit

The surgeon mentioned that they take Care Credit. We were making enough at the time to pay about $200/month. So, as boring as it sounds, we paid for the procedure with my Care Credit card. Then, we paid it off in 3 months, though we had 6 months to do so before the ridiculous headache of interest would hit the account. Is that really all it takes to warrant a good review of this credit card? I think so.

I should add - I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with their customer service two days before my husband's surgery.


In those 15 minutes, I confirmed I was able to use my card (since I hadn't ever used it, I was worried), I added my husband as an authorized user, I ordered my husband his own card for the same account, I ordered a new card for myself with my married name (since I still had my maiden name when I applied for the first one), and I updated my mailing address (I hadn't bothered to do so when we moved since I hadn't used the account). The person on the phone was incredibly helpful with this laundry list of tasks and took care of everything. The card usage was uneventful and the new cards arrived shortly thereafter.

So - Care Credit? Have no fear. Find out how much time you have before the interest will hit the account (usually 6, 12, or 18 months, depending on the cost of your medical procedure) and then pay off the account before that time hits. It's really that simple. Don't be stupid with credit cards, and don't give them bad reviews just because you didn't follow the rules. You should have known the rules before you started playing the game.

My Second Great Experience with Fresh Direct

If you've followed my culinary adventures since this summer, you might be happy to know that my meal planning did catch on and I've kept up with it very well, trying new recipes each week and keeping our grocery shopping at/around $70/week, which is pretty good for all meals for 2 people in NYC every week.

Usually, I teach recorder on the weekends to a student on the UWS, and after our lesson, I meet up with my husband and we travel to Garden of Eden and Westside Market to do our weekly grocery shopping. If we need some staples, I might stop by Trader Joe's and/or Food Town on Monday to pick them up. That's our system, and it's been working great... until this week.

This week, my recorder student is on vacation in Morocco AND my husband is away with the NY National Guard. I've tried doing the shopping on my own, but it's so heavy! My tiny arms can't carry it all. If I split the shopping by stores, it just takes soooo long to do.

What's a girl to do?

Why hello, Fresh Direct.

I had a coupon to use, plus a credit, plus they're offering free delivery right now, so it was like the stars were aligning, telling me to have my groceries delivered. PLUS, we're nearly out of toilet paper and paper towels, and those items are so bulky - it sucks to have to buy them along with regular groceries, and it sucks to get them on a trip all by themselves.

This was another AWESOME experience with FD - I placed my order on Friday evening and received it at 9AM on Sunday (my delivery slot was 8AM-10AM). My produce look and smell great, and my meats have gone straight into the freezer. Last time, I mostly ordered meats. This time, it was a mix of our regular, every-week grocery items and a few big-ticket meats.

Here's the receipt, subbing for most of our weekly shopping this week:

From the deli:
Boar's Head EverRoast Chicken Breast deli meat, 0.27lbs@$6.99/lbs (on sale): $1.89
FD Monterey Jack cheese (sliced), 1.74lbs@$5.99/lbs (on sale): $10.42
FD Premium Lite Buffalo Turkey deli meat, 0.30lbs@$6.99/lbs (on sale): $2.10
FD Smoked Off The Bone Ham deli meat, 0.27lbs@$6.99/lbs (on sale): $1.89
FD Smoked Pepper Turkey deli meat, 0.29lbs@$6.99/lbs (on sale): $2.03

(We usually buy about 0.75lbs of meat and 1.0lbs of cheese for sandwiches each week. Westside Market has by far the best prices on deli meats, averaging $6.99-$8.99 per pound for each of their in-house-made meats. FD had a sale on several different meats, so we didn't have to spend any extra to get these than we usually do on deli meats, and we got quite a sampling, so we'll know if they're any good for future reference. We have leftover bread from last week, bought mid-week, and plenty of mayo and horseradish-mustard for toppings.)

Red Jacket Orchards Fuji Apples, two 3.0lbs bags@$2.99/bag: $5.98

(We buy hand fruits each week to take with deli sandwich lunches. We usually buy whatever apples are on sale that week from Garden of Eden. These apples are at a lower price than we pay at Garden of Eden (usually $1.25 per pound) and someone else carried them up the stairs, so I bought two bags. Plus, I know they're local.)

Annie's Naturals Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing (on sale): $2.99
Bounty Paper Towels, 2-pack ($0.25 off): $4.74
Honest Tea Half & Half Tea with Lemonade, 59oz: FREE!
Seventh Generation 12-roll toilet paper: $9.99
Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter, 28oz: $6.59

(We get salad dressing about twice a month, rotating different flavors - got this one because it was on sale. The Honest Tea was free!! - a giveaway for some reason. I've been wanting to try the Seventh Generation toilet paper; I use their cleaners and I like them, and I like their philosophy. Also needed peanut butter - we usually get JIF. I hope Skippy measures up.)

From the butcher:
Boneless Chicken Tenders, 10-12 piece pack, 2.90lbs@$3.99/lbs (on sale): $11.57
Rib Lamb Chops (frenched and vacuum packed), 1.02lbs@$19.99/lbs: $21.39
Rib Eye Steaks (1.5" think, local angus, no antibiotics, vacuum packed), 2.5lbs@$15.99/lbs: $39.98

(The tenders were on sale for the same price as whole breasts, so I went ahead and got the cut-up stuff. The chops... well, they're the most amazing meat known to man, so even though they are ridiculously expensive, they are amazing. The local, no-antibiotic rib eyes were on sale for the same price as the regular ones, so I opted for the "better" meat. I am really looking forward to eating all this meat! Our freezer was recently emptied of all the previous FD meat, so it feels good to start restocking.)

Celery, 1 bunch: $1.99
Zucchini (one), 0.49lbs@$1.49lbs: $0.73
Russet potatoes, 5lbs bag: $3.99
Spanish onions (four), 3.08lbs@$0.69/lbs: $2.13
Yellow zucchini (two), 1.18lbs@$1.49/lbs: $1.76

(We usually get all this stuff from Garden of Eden, but we don't usually get potatoes and onions in such high quantity. However, since their prices were AWESOME and someone else was carrying up the steps, I didn't mind buying in bulk produce that does not quickly spoil.)

So - not only does this give us some awesome meats to pick from, but it takes care of most of my weekly grocery shopping as well. I still need to drop by GoE for salad fixins (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots - the FD prices were just too high to justify, knowing the prices so well at GoE) and maybe oranges or plums. I plan to get a block cheese on sale at WSM (they usually have cheddar on sale for $4.99/lbs, which is great), and then some basics and cheap meat at Trader Joe's ($2.99 ground beef can't be beat; we also need ground turkey, tortilla chips, soup, and cereal). I may pick up some staples at Food Town this week, too - we're out of butter, sugar, and tortillas. This is an odd week where we've run out of several staples at once, so it was nice to have someone else deliver the bulk of the groceries for us. Plus, we're leaving for Texas in a couple weeks, so I can't buy too much produce, or we'll end up leaving it to go bad. I hope this helps someone else's Fresh Direct experience and grocery shopping planning!

My Praise of Trader Joe's Items: Petite Cocoa Batons and Potato Chips

We've started shopping at Trader Joe's more lately, mostly for inexpensive dry goods like peanut butter, spices, cereal, tortilla chips, etc. I also pick up meat and produce there, occasionally - I guess it just depends on what we need that week and if I'm in the neighborhood. This has led to trying more and more new products, especially semi-specialty products that can only be found at Trader Joe's. I've heard their Cookie Butter is amazing, but it's not really up my alley. However, I've found 2 products that I can't even bring myself to buy anymore because they can't survive in my house. (Of course, we continue to buy them... now they're used for training our self-control)

Product Number One: Petite Cocoa Batons
I was shopping for a semi-homemade picnic - I just needed some dessert. Now, the picnic was just for me and my husband, and we can be classic over-eaters, so I wanted to get something that, if we ate the whole thing, it would not be a diet destroyer. At the same time, I didn't want to get just a chocolate bar or something boring - and in particular, I didn't want to get something that could melt, either, since it is August in NYC and quite sticky most days.

Solution, after 15+ minutes of searching(/wandering) the store:

After doing a petite bit of research about them, I've found that these can be a controversial item because:

1. They are tres petit
2. They're not that sweet.
3. There are only 4 servings per box, at 17 pieces per serving.

In my experience, they were AMAZING because:

1. There are only 4 servings per box, at 17 pieces per serving. 2 people can TOTES pig out and not feel all that guilty afterward. It's still less calories/sugar/fat than a milkshake or 2 handfuls of regular cookies.
2. They are tres petit - the perfect end to a picnic of tortilla chips with bean dip and salsa, and fresh fruit. You can go easily between nibbling watermelon, to nibbling chips, to nibbling these little niblets.

Product Number Two: 

These chips probably need little explanation, but I love to talk, so... these are AMAZING. Very tasty, super crunchy, and addictive. We've bought them for lunch in the past and have to sort them out into tiny one-serving bags to prevent ourselves from eating the entire bag in one sitting. They are one of my favorite foods. Buy with caution!!