The need for access to your money as we travel is one of the problems that all full-time Rvers must find a solution to. For us, the answer is found with a brokerage account with Wells Fargo Advisors. Since the deregulation of the banking industry, brokerage firms are allowed to perform certain banking functions. Our account has our cash it and draws interest based upon the rate charged for margin loans in the firm. This one account also holds our IRAs and the bond fund that the funds from the sale of our house are invested in. The advantage of this is that we can check on any of it via the Internet, we can manage all of our assets with one e-mail or toll free call. It is also just a matter of one call to change the investments, move money from one place to another, or to withdraw funds from our account. Additionally, we have a debit card that is issued by the bank that our firm goes through which works just like any other debit card. For cash, we just use "cash back" when making a purchase with our debit card. Most major stores now offer this service. All Wal-Marts do this, as does Home Depot, Lowe's, major grocery stores, and many more. This way we do not have ATM charges for getting cash. It has been about five years since we last had use for an ATM. It is important to select a debit card that has a different number for each user, as that allows you to block one person's care if you have a problem, yet continue to use the card of the other person.
We do carry two credit cards. We use a Master Card (our debit card is from Visa) and also an American Express card. We prefer the AmEx card as it gives us a 1% rebate on all things that we purchase, each year at the anniversary of our card. The Master Card is from Citi Bank and it is one that also has an annual rebate, but that one varies. At times they have things which are on special for a 5% rebate and also most fuel purchases have that rebate. With the present cost of fuel, 5% can often be as much as 15-20 cents per gallon. American Express is accepted at nearly all food and entertainment businesses but may not be at other types of business. In addition, by keeping two different cards, in the event that we should have any problems, we can block that and use the other. We track all credit card purchases on the computer just was we do our checking/debit card purchases and consider the money gone when the purchase is made. By doing this, we get the benefit of our money staying in our account for an extra month as well as the rebates, but pay no extra costs because we pay the listed balance at every billing date. We use only card with no annual fees and we also select only cards that have a different number for each user. This allows us to track who made all purchases and if a card should be lost, we are able to block it without blocking that care which is carried by the other person.
We have gone to paying nearly all of our bills via the internet. Be sure that you use only secure sites but nearly all financial sites now have the extra security of site to user encryption. This is very important as it prevents hacking by anyone, including the host Wifi, if you are in an RV park. I do not use any Wifi that is totally without password protection for this type of service because it would be more possible for a hacker to violate it and get your information. We even pay our utilities for the home-base that we purchased Jan. 2011 by the internet. We have all of our insurance and things which are the same amount each month on auto-pay and those which vary we have on electronic statements and we control the payment. With our credit cards, we can go on-line as soon as the bill arrives and set the payment up to happen on the date due. I normally set ours up for the business day just prior to the due day. We still carry a checkbook and use that occasionally. I think that RV parks are the most common place that we now use checks and we typically use fewer than 15 checks per year.
For us, this is a vital issue as Pam has asthma and need medication for that and several other issues on a daily basis. We have solved this by having all prescriptions sent to a mail order pharmacy. For one-time prescriptions, we get those at a local pharmacy just as you would if you were living in a site built house. We are now using Medicare, Part D for Pam's prescription coverage and I receive my medications through the VA with a cost of $9/month, for each medication. If you are using Medicare, be very sure that you understand the "donut hole" issue if you have many expensive medications as it can catch you by surprise!
We carry a current copy of our medical histories with us in a fireproof box as we travel. There is a summary document with the results of our most recent physicals and tests. We do not carry the entire history any longer as in our first eight years on the road, never once has any doctor that we have seen shown even the slightest interest in it, beyond that most recent part. You do need enough history so that you or your spouse can fill in a detailed medical history when seeing an emergency physician or in an emergency. The detailed records just don't get used. Should the doctor you visit have need for such information, his office will contact your doctor, directly. When we need to see a doctor, we have found the emergency medical services to be excellent to fill our medical needs. We also each carry a list of all medications and dosages which each of us take. We keep each one on our person when out and about with each list having the patient's name at the top so that anyone looking would see which meds are for each of us.
On the occasions that we have sought medical help, the service has been excellent, and we then add the page of medical history that they give to us, to our histories that we carry. We return to Wylie, TX each year for our annual physicals and at that time we give a copy of the new items to our doctor there. For dental care, we have annual checks when in Ft. Worth, and then go to a local dentist for cleanings as we travel. Prior to starting our travels, we took time to make an appointment with our doctor and explained to him what we were going to do. Now that he understands our lifestyle he is very cooperative in prescribing by phone when minor medications are needed. When we had a family emergency and were not able to return to Ft. Worth for our annual physicals when due, he worked with our son's family doctor to get the needed blood work and check-up in order to extend Pam's prescriptions for another six months.
Since going on the road we have changed doctors because we don't often have reason to go to Ft. Worth but we do have children/grandchildren on the far side of the city. We chose doctors who involve the patients in their own care and health decisions. As we are now both on Medicare and are ten years older, we do have more medical needs. Like most who are now looking back at 65, we have had some additional medical needs so we shopped for doctors who would understand our lifestyle and still be interested in us. We also have chosen to stay with the standard Medicare coverage because it has no limits on services or payments when traveling, like some private plans do.
Since the advent of the new federal health bill our company Medicare supplement has been forced out due to what was called "excess coverage" so we are now on a Medigap plan that is federally approved, but fortunately my employer has underwrtten the cost of it. Medicare has a very helpful internet site that you should investigate. I was also fortunate enough to have been approved for my primary medical coverage and drugs by the VA so now get all medications from them. Although I do have a deductible from VA, it is only $15 for a doctor visit and $9/month for each prescription.
For our mailing address, as well as our legal address for purposes of residency, we use the Escapees RV Club. The cost of mail forwarding is $85, $105, and $125 dollars, depending upon the level of service required. We chose the middle level, which meets our needs very well. It allows us to have our mail sent out to us once each week, or as needed. If we are traveling, we just call on a toll free line, or send an e-mail to let them know when we want our mail sent out and where to send it. When traveling we usually have it sent to general delivery to a postal office where we will be in a few days. If we are hosting at a park for a period, they will send it out automatically each week to our location, for however long that we wish. They will also accept packages from the delivery services as well as the postal service. If we are looking for a particular important item of mail, we can call and if it is there, we can choose to either have it sent immediately or they will open and read it to us if we wish. The service over the past 10 years has been outstanding!
Since we purchased our home-base in Jan. 2011, we now have a fixed address for some things. We use it for our voter registration and motor vehicle registrations and insurance. When we travel we put a postal forwarding order on our mail address to the Escapees address for the duration of the time that we will be gone. If you have a home base with an addres, such an order is only good for six months and must then be renewed.
We stay in touch primarily via the Internet and cell phones. In June of 2009 we dropped our portable internet dish from Starband and went with cellular data services from Verizon. This service is also available from AT&T and Sprint. We maintain e-mail addresses via this web site so that, if we change ISP services, we will keep the same e-mail address. We also carry a laptop computer (actually we each have one) which can access internet when wifi is available. We also have two cell phones, to make and receive calls. We have a "One Rate" plan from with no roaming or long distance charges, and roll over of unused minutes. After taxes the actual cost is about $70/month. At some Host Sites we also have a "land line" phone. We have our cellular modem connected to a wireless router so that we can now both be on the internet at the same time. That also allows us to provide service to our neighbor if they have a wireless ready computer, just by supplying them the pass code for our router. We us an "air card" from Verizon for internet.
To improve our communication when in remote areas where cellular signals are weak, we also have an outside antenna installed on the motorhome, a Wilson Repeater/Amplifier, and a flat panel antenna on the inside of the RV. There have been very few locations where this did not allow us cellular service, but it does happen.
We spend more than half of our time stopped at one location or another, volunteering in a public park, wildlife refuge or historic site in return for our site and utilities. It is very easy to find new places to spend some time as a park volunteer in nearly any location. And as you get experience it becomes even easier to do. Most sites provide a level pad with full hook-ups. Occasionally there is a telephone line to the site, but you usually have to pay the bill. Occasionally, propane is provided. In some parks there is a small stipend for such service, or there may be some extra work available for a small additional pay. We have found that the best source of leads for new locations to be the magazine, "Workamper News." For us, these volunteer positions not only provide a cost free place to stay, but they also fulfill the need to have a place to belong, a feeling of contributing, and we gain an instant social contact with the local community as soon as we arrive. Because of this we find that there is no need to belong to any of the camping associations like "Coast to Coast." We typically spend an occasional night in a parking lot; others parked at the home of friends or at the free locations that are provided by other members of the Escapees RV Club. When we do pay for a site, we first check Passport America (a half price group), the Escapees list of discount parks since they offer a 15%. We have discontinued membership in Good Sam because we rarely use their parks and the cost has continued to rise. We typically pay for a campsite less than 90 nights per year.