Is pet insurance for our new puppy good value for money?
We are getting a new puppy for our family. I have bought all the essentials but I am wondering about getting pet insurance. My neighbour ran up huge medical bills when her dog was ill and she has said it is essential. How do I compare policies and work out if they really are value for money? Mairead, New Ross, Wexford.
Congratulations on the new addition to your family. Pet insurance can be a good idea if you are getting a puppy. However, as with all such products, there are different levels of cover from 'accident only' to 'lifetime cover' which covers vet fees if your pet has an illness or injury that may need ongoing treatment.
Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive so therefore the most expensive because it gives you the same amount of cover no matter how many times you make a claim. So think about what level of cover you want for your pet.
Compare prices online by using comparison sites or contact insurers over the phone. Speak to your vet about common medical conditions that your puppy may be prone to or research them online.
Your vet should be able to give you an idea of how much cover you need for your pet. Some insurers have restrictions on how much they will cover on certain conditions or if they will exclude cover for certain breeds.
The price of pet insurance will vary depending on where you live and your pet's breed and age. Some breeds of dog will only be insured up to the age of five. Check the age limit with the insurer.
Some insurers will offer discounts if your pet is micro-chipped or if you insure more than one pet. Finally, check the excess on your policy, which is the amount you will have to pay if you have to make a claim.
I am thinking about buying a new car next month. I have looked at some adverts online and there seems to be great deals out there. I've seen something called a 'personal contract plan' which has a very attractive monthly repayment. Traditionally I have always approached my bank when I have been buying a car. Do personal contract plans work the same way as a personal loan except you enter into an agreement with your car dealer rather than your bank?
Pat, Cabinteely, Dublin
A Personal Contract Plan (PCP) is a type of hire purchase agreement so it is important to remember that the finance company is the owner of the car, and you are essentially hiring the car from them.
PCPs may sometimes have small monthly repayments, which can be very appealing but they also may have a large final payment for you to make at the end of the agreement.
If you are thinking about signing up to a PCP, check to see if any final or 'balloon' payments are needed at the end of the agreement in order for you to own the car.
Always look at the total cost (deposit to be paid, interest rate and final/balloon payment) of the agreement and understand when and what payments are due.
Because of lower monthly repayments and the larger final payment, it can take longer to pay half the hire purchase price. This is important if you're ever in a situation where you need to avail of the 'half rule'. The half rule gives you the right to end a hire purchase agreement at any time.
You can still return the car even if you have not paid half the hire purchase price. However, you still owe the difference between the payments you have made and half the total purchase price.
Talk to your bank or credit union as well as looking at the finance offer at the dealership. Make sure that you know all of the types of finance options available to you. Compare the total cost and the related terms and conditions of each and see which works best for you.
I recently returned from a trip to Australia. When I was away I used my credit cards to pay for most things, and I also made a few cash withdrawals. My credit card bill arrived yesterday - and I could not believe the charges that I notched up. I used the same card when I was travelling in Europe earlier on in the year and it did not cost me anything. I can't make sense of the charges. Do I have any right to dispute any of them?
Helen, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
When you travel outside the eurozone, it can be very easy to build up charges when you use your credit card. If there are any charges or fees that you are unsure of, contact your credit card provider and ask how exactly these charges were applied.
In your case, the charges on your statement may be a combination of a number of different fees which you can be hit with when you use credit cards outside the eurozone.
The first is a currency conversion fee which is a fee you pay every time you use your credit card for foreign currency purchases. This is usually a percentage of the value of the transaction, but most credit card providers have a minimum fee per transaction which can be as much as €3 each time you use your card.
So, if you used your credit card a lot while in Australia, even for transactions of a small value, these charges can quickly add up.
You also mention that, while you were away, you used your credit card to withdraw money from ATMs. Most credit card providers will charge you for withdrawing cash. This charge appears on your statement as a 'cash advance fee'.
You will also be charged a currency conversion fee if you are using your card outside the eurozone countries. Many credit card providers also charge you interest from the day you take out cash.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.
While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.
Fergal O'Leary is the director of communications and consumer help at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Sunday Indo Business