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The advantages of Renter’s insurance

A lot of uncertainty surrounds renter’s insurance. What is it? What does it cover? Is it worth the money? Despite its advantages, a 2014 Insurance Information Institute poll conducted by ORC International found that, among renters, only 37 percent said they had renters insurance compared to 95 percent of homeowners who had homeowners insurance. Being covered can make a huge difference in the event that something happens to your home and makes getting back on your feet a lot easier.

Renter’s insurance can be defined as a form of property insurance that provides coverage for a policyholder’s belongings and liability within a rental property. In short, renter’s insurance covers a great deal, (Liability, theft, damage to property, repairs, etc.)

The major points of coverage are Personal Property, Liability and Additional Living Expenses.

Personal property coverage is there to cover the expenses linked to replacing your personal belongings following a fire, burglary or other incident in the apartment. It applies to all daily use items, from the basic kitchen utensils to more expensive belongings.

Renter’s insurance also covers smoke or fire damage, vandalism, electrical issues, property stolen outside the property & damage from windstorms. It does not cover damages caused by earthquakes, floods or insects, nor does it cover damages done to the property by a guest.

Renter’s insurance, through its liability coverage also covers the cost of injuries sustained by guests in the tenant’s home. For example, if a guest injures themselves while in the property, the tenant is liable for medical costs and for costs linked to any potential lawsuit. Renter’s insurance can be used to cover the expenses when the accident was caused by the tenant’s negligence or actions

Additional living expense coverage protects from expenses caused by the inability to stay in the apartment. This includes the cost of living arrangements, eating out, and other expenses that stem from the fact that the apartment cannot be lived in. 

Compared to other insurance policies, renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive. An average policy costs around $16 per month in New York City and covers up to $30,000 in damages, which means that for less than $200 per year, a renter can be protected from unexpected damages and burglary. 

Insurance is a service we pay for and hope we never need to use. It is important to weigh the cost of going without coverage and the renters insurance cost; spending a little each month now may save thousands of dollars in the future. Coverage differs policy to policy so it is important to compare offers and read the small print in order to be sure that all needs are covered. Once you have found your new home, Expat US can assist you with taking out renter’s insurance.

New York Museum Mile

The wealth of world-class museums and cultural institutions along the Upper East Side’s stretch of  Fifth Avenue has given the blocks the moniker, “Museum Mile,” offering the most diverse art-viewing opportunities on any given mile in the country.

Museum Mile cultural groups are listed below in the order they are located, North to South along Fifth Avenue, between 110th and 82nd streets.

Museums on the mile

110th Street – Museum for African Art (opened fall 2012)

105th Street – El Museo del Barrio

103rd Street – Museum of the City of New York

92nd Street – The Jewish Museum

91st Street – Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution)

89th Street – National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts

88th Street – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

86th Street – Neue Galerie New York

83rd Street – Goethe-Institut New York/German Cultural Center

82nd Street – The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Additionally, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 70th Street lies the Frick Collection, though this is not part of Museum Mile.

If you are interested in museums, you cannot miss this wonderful museum mile in Manhattan! Why not check their official websites and see their hours/admissions/exhibitions and more?

East Village Community in New York

East Village is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, lying east of Greenwich Village, south of Gramercy and Stuyvesant Town, and north of the Lower East Side.

The area was once generally considered to be part of the Lower East Side, but began to develop its own identity and culture in the late 1960s, when many artists, musicians, students and hippies began to move into the area, attracted by cheap rents and the base of Beatniks who had lived there since the 1950s. The neighborhood has become a center of the counterculture in New York, and is known as the birthplace and historical home of many artistic movements, including punk rock and the Nuyorican literary movement. It has also been the site of protests and riots.

The East Village is still known for its diverse community, vibrant nightlife and artistic sensibility, although in recent decades it has been argued that gentrification has changed the character of the neighborhood.

Boasting the best of, well, everything, the East Village’s inexhaustible grid of beyond-hip bars, bookshops, cafes, clubs, and galleries cater to even the most exacting tastes. As stylish as it is, the East Village preserves a laid-back attitude so even outsiders feel welcome when in this classic New York City neighborhood. From early morning to late-late night, the East Village brims with activity for socialites and scaliwags alike.

Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

Prepaid service plans are business service plans that require that payment be made in advance in order to receive a service offered by a particular vendor or provider. Sometimes referred to as a pay as you go plan, the prepaid service plan allows the consumer to actively control his or her usage of the service offered. This in turn makes it much easier to manage the overall cost of the service from one month to the next.

One of the most common examples of a prepaid service plan is with cellular phones. Service plans of this type often require that the subscriber purchase his or her mobile phone, then select and pay in advance for a certain number of airtime minutes. Those minutes can be used for making and receiving telephone calls, or for sending and receiving text messages. Today, there are a small but growing number of pay as you go mobile service providers that are also offering limited access to the Internet .

In some countries, it is also possible to make use of a prepaid service plan in order to secure natural gas for heating and cooking purposes. Vendors provide the natural gas when the customer pays for the order up front. Generally, this type of prepaid plan for natural gas is available in rural areas rather than in cities or towns.

When it comes to a prepaid cell service plan, the actual rate per minute charged is often higher than on subscription plans that offer a bank of minutes each month for one low price. However, for someone who has credit issues or who simply does not use cellular services very often, going with a prepaid service plan can be the ideal approach. Anyone on a tight budget can carefully monitor his or her usage and make sure they do not exceed the amount set aside to purchase minutes in any give month. Low volume users can sometimes purchase a small amount of minutes and have no more cell phone expenses for two to four months.

Selecting the right prepaid service plan can take some time. As more providers have begun to offer cellular and other services using a prepaid platform, the competition for these services has increased significantly. This has led to some pay as you go vendors offering incentives to attract and retain customers, while others have simply lowered the rate per minute they charge customers. Because the service plan contracts required with prepaid services tend to be open-ended, a customer can always switch vendors with no fear of paying penalties for going with a different vendor. This means that prepaid services usually rely on a combination of quality service and good rates to keep growing.


Examples of Prepaid Plan:

AT&T Prepaid: With GoPhone service, you can choose from a wide variety of plans, shop for some of the latest phones including 4G smartphones, and enjoy convenient payment options.

Verizon Prepaid: Join over 5 million prepaid wireless users on America's most reliable wireless network with no credit check, hidden fees or charges. Basic Plans starting at $35 per month.

T-Mobile Prepaid: Get started today with T-Mobile’s unlimited plans and amazing devices—without annual contracts.


Shop Tax Free in NYC

Now, every week is tax-free shopping week in New York City. In the past, New Yorkers had to wait for special tax-free shopping weeks twice a year to avoid paying city or state sales tax on clothing and footwear items under $110. 

Then, in September of 2005, New York City permanently eliminated the city sales tax of 4.5% on clothing and footwear purchases under $110. Later, the state of New York followed suit and repealed its portion of the sales tax (4%) on these items. 

The result is that the five boroughs of New York City are the only counties in the state of New York that charge no sales tax on these purchases. 

Note: A September 2010 amendment to the New York State sales tax exemption dictates that clothing and footwear purchases under $55 (per item or pair) will be exempt from sales tax from April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012. On and after April 1, 2012, the original less-than-$110-per-item clothing and footwear exemption will be restored.

New York City and New York State Sales Tax Rates

The New York City sales tax rate is 4.5%. The New York State sales and use tax is 4% and the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) surcharge is 0.375%. That makes the total sales and use tax 8.875% for qualified purchases in New York City.

What items under $110 are exempt from sales tax? All clothing and footwear, clothing material (fabric, thread, buttons, etc.), hats and neckwear (ties and scarves), formalwear (purchased), and diapers (including disposable diapers).

What items are not exempt from sales tax? Jewelry and watches, handbags, umbrellas, rented formalwear, sports equipment (pads, helmets, etc.), pet or doll clothes.

NYC Tax Free Shopping Tips

Don’t forget to check out the following New York stores for bargains under $110:

Macy's Herald Square: The world's largest department store, Macy’s has ten floors and half a million items for sale. You’re sure to find something that looks fabulous on you.

Bloomingdale's: Bloomie’s is another shopping hot spot. Designer clothes, a fully-stocked shoe salon. There’s always a sale going on somewhere.

Lord & Taylor: This famous department store has seasonal sales that can save you a bundle.

Century 21: With deep discounts of 25% to 75%, you can find major steals on designer names like Armani.

Loehmann's: Loehmann’s always has bargains on designer apparel. New York magazine calls it ‘the mecca of off-price shopping.

Brief Introduction to U.S. Cell Phone Carriers

Selecting a wireless carrier is just as important as picking a phone. The provider, after all, delivers the network that makes your handset work. And since you'll probably end up paying a healthy amount for that privilege, there's no point in sticking with a bad user experience.

Fortunately, CNET is here to help guide you through the decision process. Read on for the major factors that you should consider when choosing a carrier, followed by brief descriptions of each of the major players that CNET reviews. Also, be sure to consult CNET's cell phone buying guide if you need help buying a phone.

1) Coverage is key

You can't do much on your phone without a signal, so make sure that you can get coverage in the places that you'll need it. That means looking beyond carrier slogans and coverage maps (though the latter is a good place to start) and doing your own research.

The best way to gauge coverage in your area is to ask your neighbors. See which carrier they use, and ask if they're satisfied. You even can borrow a friend's phone and use it at home and in your workplace to see if you'll get the reception that you need. Sure, it's a very unscientific method, but personal experience is really the best tool.

Just remember that no carrier network is perfect. Gaps exist, even in urban areas, and reception can vary by your precise location. For example, a carrier's signal may not penetrate deep into buildings and underground, and it will vary according to how many people are using a network at a given time (think about how hard it is to get a signal at a big public event).

Another point to consider is whether a carrier uses GSM or CDMA. GSM (think T-Mobile and AT&T) is the dominant global technology and is used in almost every country around the world. So if you're a globe-trotter and want to take your phone on your travels, make sure it supports GSM. Though strong in North America, CDMA (think Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and most smaller carriers) is present in only a handful of countries outside of the United States. If your phone is CDMA-only, your international coverage will be limited. Fortunately, handsets that support both technologies are widely available. GSM phones also are easier to unlock, meaning that you can take them to another carrier as long as your chosen device supports the necessary cellular bands.

2) Data speeds

Of course, making calls is just one thing that you'll do on your phone. And if you're like a lot of smartphone owners, it may be the last thing. That's why you also need to carefully evaluate data networks. Data networks enable your handset to access the Internet, send e-mails, stream music and video, and download the apps that have become so popular.

Most U.S. carriers in the United States are now locked in an always-evolving race to build the largest and fastest 4G LTE data network. So just like with a provider's voice network, data coverage and strength will vary widely by area. If you want LTE (and really, why wouldn't you?), know where the carrier has 4G coverage and how fast it is. And just like with calls, make sure you've tried a carrier's data network before committing.

3) Plans

After coverage, your service plan is the most central component of your carrier experience. It dictates how long you have to stay with a carrier, how many calling minutes and how much data you'll get, and the price that you'll pay each month. Prices will largely depend on how many calling minutes and the amount of data that you expect to use. Be sure to get what you need, but don't overspend, either. And remember that monthly taxes and fees will add more dollars to your final bill.

The benefit of signing a contract is that you'll get a heavy discount on the price of your phone. If that's not your thing, month-by-month prepaid plans bring more freedom, but the services and available handsets may be more limited. Also, without a subsidy that comes with a contract, you'll pay more for a handset up front. Here again, just think carefully about what's right for you.

Pay equal attention to the plan's terms. Though carriers now offer unlimited calling, some providers still have plans that limit the amount of minutes that you can use during weekdays (often called "anytime minutes"). Minutes for nights and weekends, on the other hand, are always unlimited. Messaging brings its own charges so be sure to explore your options. You're better off buying a message bundle or paying for unlimited messaging than paying for each message that you send.

Data plan types also vary widely. Some deliver unlimited data while others restrict you to a certain amount for each month (what we call tiered plans). Once you go over your set data amount, you'll have to pay big fees. Alternatively, if you're getting service for a family or group of friends, shared plans will pool voice and data use across multiple devices. Note also that some carriers charge extra if you want to enjoy 4G speeds.

4) Your phone

If your heart is set on a particular phone that's available with only one carrier, then you may have skipped the previous points entirely. But if you've yet to decide which handset you should buy (again, see CNET's cell phone buying guide for more help with that process), don't assume that each carrier's device lineup is the same. Selection varies widely, so it pays to think about which kind of phone you'd like and which carrier(s) offer it.

A welcome trend over the last year is that popular devices like the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 now land at multiple providers. That may help make your decisions easier, but keep in mind that even on these common phones you can have a vastly different customer experience depending on your carrier choice.

5) Customer service

Unfortunately, there's no way to predict this. For everyone who has a horror story with a provider, there probably are almost as many people who have had no problem. Also, though consumer studies singing the praises of different carriers continue to get headlines, there are no guarantees. So all you can do is make your choice, hope for the best, and be your own advocate if you aren't pleased.

by Kent German  (

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