Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

Ask Liz: Heating Bills, Return Policies & Gift Cards

By Liz Crenshaw and Katie Roberts
|  Friday, Dec 13, 2013  |  Updated 6:14 PM EDT
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News4's Consumer Watch reporter Liz Crenshaw answers your winter and holiday-related questions in this week's Ask Liz.

Liz Crenshaw

News4's Consumer Watch reporter Liz Crenshaw answers your winter and holiday-related questions in this week's Ask Liz.

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How do you keep costs down when it comes to your heating bill?

We turned to Pepco for this answer. It says that there are easy ways to save money on your electric bill during the colder months. First, set your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night (if you can stand it). By dressing warmly and lowering your thermostat, you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree you lower it. Next, change your furnace filters about once a month. This helps maintain your heating system by making sure it’s running efficiently.  Lastly, winterize your windows by using weather stripping and caulk. This will help keep the cold air out and warm air in.

Why do some stores change their return policies during the holidays?

According to the National Retail Federation, stores do this for a few reasons.Some make their policies more lenient because they understand there's a lag time between when a gift is purchased then received. Others will tighten their policies in order to deter return fraud and shoplifting. To see if there are any changes at your favorite retailer...look for the return policy online, on the back of your receipt, or on the wall at the store.

What are some things to look for before buying those gift cards?

The Federal Trade Commission and BankRate.com for this answer. It says to always buy your gift cards from known and trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites, as cards sold there may be counterfeit or stolen. The FTC also says to be sure to read the fine print before buying. And check for any added fees. Also, be sure to include the original receipt with your gift in case the card gets lost or stolen. Bank Rate.com adds that store-brand gift cards (like Macy’s or Target) typically charge fewer fees than all-purpose bank or credit card gift cards (like Visa or Mastercard).

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