By Teresa McUsic,
THE SAVVY CONSUMER
Other Free Online Services:
1) The Social Security Administration allows you to sign up for retirement benefits online, bypassing the lengthy waits on the phone or having to make an appointment with the local office. Fill out the application three months before your retirement date. You can also check on an estimate of your future benefits or apply for a replacement SSA card online at www.ssa.gov.
2) Check your three credit reports annually at www.annualcreditreport.com. For a free look at your TransUnion credit score, go to Discover’s service (you don’t have to be a card holder) at www.creditscorecard.com or get your Equifax and TransUnion scores and free credit monitoring at www.CreditKarma.com
3) Renew your Texas driver’s license or car tags online with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles at www.txdmv.gov. It is usually not necessary to wait in the long lines at the DMV. New this year is the Dude, Where’s My Sticker? feature that lets you track your tags to your mailbox.
If you’re wondering where that refund check, credit card bill or birthday card from your Dad is, now you have a new way of finding out—via email.
The U.S. Postal Service rolled out a new service this month across the country that will send you an email every morning to tell you what’s going to show up in your mailbox that day.
It’s part of a larger outreach of updating the agency’s services to the public through technology, said Twana Barber, Dallas spokewoman for the post office.
“With advanced technology and new ways of communicating anybody can use their smart phone or computer, so we are seeing a decrease in mail,” she said. “We’re looking for ways to innovate to stay in the game.”
The Postal Service has been taking black and white images of every letter-sized mail piece since 2013 as part of an internal efficiency program to further automate sorting, Barber said.
Now those images can be sent to your email account every morning ahead of delivery that day.
The program is called Informed Delivery and sign up is free and easy at www.MyUSPS.com.
There are several security questions to go through in order to prove your identity, similar to what you go through when checking on your credit report. I was asked to identify from a short list the last four digits of my Social Security number, current or past phone numbers, names or former names and type of work I do.
“If you can’t pass the security measures, you can’t sign up,” Barber said.
Once you pass the clearance hurdle, however, you will get a daily email with images of up to ten pieces of letter-sized mail. If you think you may have more than that, you can access other images on the online dashboard at MyUSPS.
Barber said the new feature is especially popular with those waiting for their IRS refund.
“If you know that refund check is going to be in your mailbox, you may want to leave work a little earlier and go cash the check before the bank closes,” she said. “It’s all about convenience for the customers.”
Many aren’t aware of other features the Postal Service has added in recent years, Barber said.
For example, if you sign up for package tracking at MyUSPS, you will receive an email or text when the postal carrier does the last scan of the package at your doorstep. This is particularly helpful during the holidays, Barber said. You can also leave instructions of where you want your package delivered around your home at the portal.
“My grandmother signed up and when she receives a package and she’s out of town, she’ll get a text then call a neighbor and ask them to hold it for her,” Barber said.
MyUSPS also allows you to print your own shipping labels for packages, which you can then leave for the postal carrier to pick up. You can also buy stamps online at the portal and have the stamps delivered with your mail.
“It’s like a mini post office in your home,” Barber said. “It can save you so much time.”
Many post offices do passport processing as well. In the past few weeks, 30 post offices have held passport fairs with extra personnel, so you don’t have to wait in line or make an appointment, she said.
Passports may become an important document for citizens of four states, including Missouri, Main, Minnesota and Montana, which are not in compliant with Homeland Security for their state driver’s licenses. If the states don’t become complaint with the Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, citizens of those states will need other forms of ID besides a driver’s license, such as a passport or identification card, to fly even domestically by next year.
Currently Texas has a waiver to the deadline as it prepares to become complaint with the Homeland Security requirements for driver’s licenses.
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net