Hurricane season preparedness: How to minimize prep costs
These tips will help you save on preparedness essentials and protect your home and finances
Making complex credit topics simple
Hurricane season officially kicked off June 1, so planning early can help you avoid last-minute scrambles to get storm-ready.
The first step is stocking up on essential hurricane supplies; the second is making sure you’re protected financially in case a hurricane hits close to home.
“Being financially prepared for a hurricane is just as important as preparing your property,” says Melissa Mickle, executive vice president of retail banking at PNC Bank Florida. “Taking the time now to do a few easy things can make the potential process of recovery much easier for you or your family.”
This hurricane prep checklist can make weathering a storm less stressful.
Shop strategically for hurricane preparedness supplies
There are certain things that are helpful to have on-hand for hurricane season. Charging those items to your rewards credit card is a smart way to pick up points, miles or cash back.
The key is using the right card. This table highlights some of the most important things to add to your hurricane shopping list, with card recommendations for maximizing rewards.
Hurricane preparedness shopping list
Supplies you can buy at a grocery store:
- Bottled water (at least 1 gallon per person, for three days, plus additional water for pets).
- A three-day supply of non-perishable food per person.
- Diapers, wipes and formula.
- Pet food and cat litter.
- Paper plates, paper towels, trash bags, disposable utensils.
Possible cards to use:
- Pick a card that gives you extra bonuses on grocery shopping. Options include:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year; 1 percent thereafter.
- Bank of America Cash Rewards: Earn 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined grocery and gas purchases annually.
Supplies you can buy at a warehouse store:
- Battery-powered radio.
- Flashlights and extra batteries.
- First-aid kit.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Power and hand tools.
- Generator and gas cans.
- Plywood and/or hurricane shutters.
Possible cards to use:
- Pick a card with a generous flat rate that gives you bonuses regardless of where you shop. Options include:
- Citi Double Cash Card: Earn 1 percent cash back on purchases and 1 percent cash back when you pay your bill.
- Capital One Quicksilver Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited both earn unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.
Travel-related expenses in case of evacuation:
- Flights, hotel stays and car rentals.
- Meals away from home.
Possible cards to use:
- Pick a card that gives you bonuses on gas, restaurant or travel purchases. Options include:
- Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi: Earn 4 percent cash back on gas (up to $7,000 annually; 1 percent thereafter); 3 percent unlimited cash back on restaurants and travel.
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Earn unlimited 2 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Earn unlimited 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
Stack savings on hurricane preparedness shopping
Remember to check out your card’s online shopping portal, which may yield additional benefits for hurricane purchases.
If you’re using the Citi Double Cash card, for example, Citi’s Bonus Cash Center features opportunities to earn 2 percent cash back at Home Depot and 1 percent cash back at Lowe’s.
Combining your credit card purchases with an online shopping app is another way to increase hurricane spending rewards.
- Ebates offers cash back at more than 2,500 stores, with deals including up to 10 percent cash back at Walmart, 2.5 percent cash back at Ace Hardware, and up to 7 percent cash back on travel booked through Travelocity.
- With Ibotta, you can earn additional cash back at grocery stores, pet supply stores, home improvement stores and gas stations.
- RetailMeNot and Coupons.com feature coupons and promo codes you can use in-store and online for hurricane spending.
Take advantage of storm season tax-free holidays
If you live in a hurricane zone, check to see if your state offers a tax-free weekend for hurricane shopping to save a few extra dollars.
The table below lists the states that offer tax-free weekends for storm season, usually known as disaster preparedness sales tax holiday.
If you missed the dates for this year, mark your calendar so you can plan for next year.
Disaster preparedness tax-free holidays
Alabama (Feb. 23-25)
- Generators (up to $1,000).
- General hurricane supplies (up to $60).
Florida (June 1-7)
- Generators ($750 or less).
- Bungee cords, anchoring supplies and tie-downs ($50 or less).
- Coolers and batteries ($30 or less).
- Flashlights and portable lights ($20 or less).
- Reusable ice packs ($10 or less),
Louisiana (May 26-27)
- Up to $1,500 in hurricane supplies. Eligible purchases include:
- Candles and flashlights.
- Portable radios.
- Batteries and phone chargers.
- Portable generators.
Texas (April 27-29, 2019)
- Generators (up to $3,000).
- Ladders and hurricane shutters (up to $300).
- First-aid kits, batteries, flashlights and other supplies (up to $75).
Virginia (Aug. 3-5)
- Generators (up to $1,000).
- Gas-powered chain saws (up to $350).
- Chain saw accessories (up to $60).
- Other hurricane prep items (up to $60).
Finalize your financial emergency plan
A hurricane can throw a wrench in your financial life. As you complete your emergency preparedness kit, remember to check off these money to-dos.
- Have cash at the ready. “It provides an added level of flexibility, allowing you to purchase items you need in the event of a power outage,” says Gary LoDuca, financial planner with Thoughtful Advisors in Tampa, Florida.
He recommends having a few hundred dollars in your wallet at a minimum, but says a few thousand in cash may be safer in case of a major disaster. “You can always redeposit the cash after hurricane season if you don’t like keeping it at your home.”
- Enrolling in online and mobile banking can make it easier to keep tabs on your money if a hurricane means a temporary evacuation and you need to review your accounts. “You can potentially pay your bills and see important account numbers from any location,” says Mickle.
You can also use your bank’s mobile app to transfer money between accounts, send or receive money and deposit checks with mobile deposit.
- Protect your most important documents. Flooding is a major threat associated with hurricanes and backing up key documents – such as birth certificates, passports, wills, bank statements, mortgages, titles and insurance policies – is a must.
“It’s prudent to keep your most important personal and financial documents in a securely protected, dry and fire-resistant location, like a high-quality safe or safety deposit box at the bank,” says Robert Grand, regional vice president, risk management at CBIZ Insurance Services in West Palm Beach, Florida.
For extra reassurance, “scan or take photos of each document and save them to cloud storage,” says Peter Duncanson, director of commercial operations at ServiceMaster Restore, a disaster restoration company. “Keep a USB flash drive in your emergency response bag that’s easy to grab during an urgent evacuation.”
- Create an inventory of your possessions. It can make filing a homeowner's insurance claim easier. “Having a digital home inventory is almost imperative for people who live in hurricane areas,” says Jon Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management software app.
Take photos of all your personal property, such as furniture, electronics and appliances, as well as your HVAC system and hot water heater.
- Check your flood insurance coverage. “Until it happens to you, the majority of Americans don’t understand the insurance limitations of covering losses in a flood,” says Tami Kurtz, an agent with New York City-based real estate brokerage Triplemint who experienced flooding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “Homeowner’s policies that would typically cover personal property don’t cover anything in the event of a flood.”
If you’re not sure what your flood insurance covers, don’t put off reviewing it, says John Dickson, CEO and president of NFS Edge, a private flood insurance provider. “Be aware of certain limitations in your policy, such as coverage for basements and enclosures.”
Grand says you should be checking your coverage at least a month before hurricane season begins so you have time to purchase flood insurance if you need it, since there may be up to a 30-day waiting period before your policy takes effect.
Remember to put safety first
Protecting your bottom line is a big part of prepping for hurricane season, but personal safety is your top priority.
- Check out local hurricane evacuation routes and make a list of emergency shelter locations nearby.
- Keep your gas tank full in case you need to make a quick getaway.
- Above all, avoid taking unnecessary risks when a storm approaches.
See related: Unexpected hurricane victim: your credit score
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