A reader who is a USAA member questioned whether the USAA MemberShop portal really is a bargain.
Kyle Chambers said he was searching for strollers on Overstock.com and found the one he wanted for $579. He then went to the USAA MemberShop portal and saw the same stroller priced at $670 through Overstock.com, one of about 500 vendors on the USAA discount site.
He would get a "cash back" reward of 5 percent for shopping at Overstock through the USAA portal. But at $670, that would be just $33.50 off still more than he would pay by going directly to Overstock.com, he figured.
USAA spokesman Michael Kelly said merchants update their page feeds to USAA every three to five days. Prices change in the interim, so there will always be cases where the price on USAA MemberShop does not match the price on the vendor site, he said.
"If he would have stayed within our MemberShop site and clicked on the Overstock.com link, he would have seen the lower $579 price," Kelly said. "Our prices are as up to date as what we get fed from the vendors every three to five days. The safety catch is the member always sees the lowest price by clicking through to the vendor page."
By buying through Overstock.com rather than through the USAA MemberShop, the reader didn't get the $28.95 cash-back reward he could have received on his $579 purchase.
The lesson here, Kelly said, is to follow the links through to the vendor sites to see the most accurate price and take advantage of the rewards program.
Who can use investment tools?
Retired Army Lt. Col. James Willman asked whether retirees have access to the free online investment research and tools being offered under a new contract between the Defense Department and independent investment research company Morningstar.
Yes, said Carling Spelhaug, a Morningstar spokeswoman, but retirees may have to go through their own service portals, such as Army Knowledge Online, Navy Knowledge Online and the Air Force Portal. The Morningstar service also is available through Military OneSource, but retirees do not have access to OneSource, which is funded as a readiness support program.
Willman checked back in to say he was able to log into AKO, and clicked "Self Service," then "My Library," then "Morningstar."
The Morningstar service normally costs $18.95 a month, or $174 a year.