PFD checks close at hand

Companies across the state pitch deals to draw dividend-related sales

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2004

ANCHORAGE - This week about 444,000 Alaskans will be rushing to check their bank accounts to make sure their Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks have arrived.

Approximately 157,000 or so other Alaskans eligible for the dividends will eagerly be scanning their mailboxes next week for their checks.

More than 600,000 Alaskans will receive nearly $920 this month. While it's a bit less than the $1,100 from last year, few are complaining.

Retailers and at least one utility company are scrambling to publicize their deals and draw in a share of the bounty.

Alaskans do a lot of different things with their money. Some put it all toward Christmas presents, while others splurge on new family toys.

Mountain View Sports Center in Anchorage plans to offer some specials on items customers normally wouldn't see on discount, such as guns and ammo, binoculars and fly rods, said president John Staser.

Jewelry is another popular item at PFD time. Ben Bridge Jewelers sees a spike in sales during PFD time, said manager Susan Bunker.

Others use the PFD money toward buying a new car. Worthington Ford has offered PFD specials for years. They generally begin in July or August. The dealership allows buyers to sign over their dividend checks to use toward a down payment on a new vehicle.

Last year, the dealership took in about $1 million in dividend checks, which were $1,108 each, said Calvin Worthington, president of the dealership's Alaska operations and son of the dealership's namesake, owner Cal Worthington.

"One family came in and plopped down 13 dividends," he said. "About a third of the people coming in now (mid-September), the first thing they ask about is how can they use their dividend now. We find that when the dividend comes out, sales fall off. The week the checks come out, we have OK sales, but the week after, they're way down."

Want a longer-term investment? First National Bank Alaska is offering a $275 discount on the closing costs of a new home.

"We're hoping the discount on closing costs will encourage folks to put money on something permanent," said spokeswoman Cheri Gillian.

Or you can invest in your local water utility company. The Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility is planning to sell $2 million in tax-exempt water revenue bonds directly to the general public. The money will go toward smaller-scale capital improvements, such as new water distribution lines.

"We thought it would be good to do this when we were pretty sure people had money in their pockets and could more readily take advantage of it," said utility spokesman Chris Kosinski.

Each bond will cost $650.29 - with a maximum purchase of $10,000 - at a yield of 4.35 percent. One bond at the end of 10 years will be worth $1,000, Kosinski said.

"If you don't know what to do with your PFD, here's something that you'll probably feel good about in 10 years," he said.

Alaska Airlines again is offering some special dividend fares. The airline is advertising fares as low as $98 - between Juneau and Sitka - and $600 to Mexico. Travel to the East Coast is around $500.

Hawaiian Vacations offers several PFD deals to Alaskans wanting a break from the freezing weather. How does Valentine's Day in Oahu sound? A PFD ticket through Hawaiian Vacations for six nights, hotel and car in Oahu costs just more than $1,000 each, roughly half the cost of a regular ticket bought on the agency's Web site.

Rather float than fly? Check out the Alaska Marine Highway. For $500, you can travel the state's ferry routes as much as you can stand from November to March. That's less than the cost to go to Bellingham, Wash., said Sharon Gaiptman, the water highway's marketing manager. The deal includes discounts for cabins and car space.

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