Avoid Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

Before you head off on an international trip, give some thought to the method you are going to use to get cash and pay for things during your stay. Ways of avoiding ATM fees have been discussed in an earlier blog, but what about credit card fees?

In many cases, when you use your credit card while outside the country, you will be charged a foreign transaction fee, which is normally at least 3% of the purchase price. It’s not too difficult to find a card with no foreign transaction fees, but these usually charge you an annual fee. Remarkably, you can still find a few cards that don’t charge you either of those fees.

  • Capital One is one of the most popular, since it has several cards which have no fees. Some of these also have cash back or travel rewards.
  • Discover Card has some no fee cards also. However, it is not as widely accepted in foreign countries.
  • Bank of America has a travel rewards card that doesn’t impose fees.
  • Credit Unions – Many credit unions issue cards with no fees.

These are a few of the most known cards, although it doesn’t hurt to check with your local bank or your current card holder to see if they have any similar offers. Remember, also, to let your credit card company know when you are leaving town so they won’t withhold payment.

Save Money on Cruises Now

Due to all the problems that cruise ships have been having lately, it’s a good time to take that cruise you’ve been thinking about. Airplane travel has seen a big jump in prices, but cruise lines have had to lower their prices to entice customers.

Although there is no guarantee that your trip won’t be free of problems, you have to remember that, just like flying, most cruises complete their journey without incident. Besides, it is likely that the companies that offer cruises are being extra vigilant to prevent any more damage to their reputations.

Car Rental Precautions

Renting a car while on business or vacation is pretty easy to do, although it can be time consuming. If you can compare rates and reserve a car in advance, you will be able to shorten the wait. Although car rental insurance has been covered in an earlier article, there are some other things to remember when renting a car.

  • Most car rental companies have unlimited mileage. However, don’t assume that this is the case. Make sure you ask before signing on the line.
  • Don’t be afraid to inspect the car thoroughly. Usually the agent will go out with you to check the condition of the car. That inspection protects both you and the rental company. Take pictures of any damage.
  • Take note of the time you agreed to bring the car back so that you won’t be hit with a big penalty fee. If you are delayed, call the company. That way you may be charged their normal rate instead of their penalty rate.
  • Unless you get a tremendous deal and need a big car, go for the smallest one. They will try to entice you with a larger vehicle for only a few dollars more per day. Sometimes, you get a larger car anyway, because they may be all out of the economy ones.
  • Plan on filling your gas tank before you return it, and don’t forget. Don’t accept their offer to fill it for you at a predetermined price. In most cases, it will cost you more.

When Travel Insurance Saves You Money

Most people probably don’t give a thought to purchasing travel insurance. When you buy airline tickets, you are also given the option of buying insurance. It’s hard to think about spending that extra money for something that may or may not happen when you have already laid out a small fortune for the tickets. However, there are times when you might actually save money and come out ahead by having insurance.

  1. Are you going on a tour or cruise where you have to pay for most of it in advance? If you have to cancel because of illness in your family, you probably won’t get your money back.
  2. Do you have to fly to get to that tour or cruise? If your flight is delayed or canceled and you miss your cruise or tour, travel insurance will cover your losses.
  3. What if your cruise line or tour company goes bankrupt?
  4. Do you have health issues? Will you be covered if you need medical care or even evacuation?
  5. Do you have elderly parents? An unexpected illness may force you to cancel your trip plans.
  6. Are you going out of the country? If so, you are probably spending more money for airplane tickets, and making reservations ahead of time.
  7. If your money and/or passport is stolen, travel insurance will help you replace them quicker.

These are just a few of the unplanned problems that can occur, where having travel insurance can cover your losses.

One important note: If you decide to purchase travel insurance, don’t get it from the airline, cruise line or tour group. If they go bankrupt before your trip, you’ll be out of luck.  In addition, make sure you read the fine print so you will know exactly what is and is not covered.

Do You Need Car Rental Insurance?

Whether you rent a car frequently or only on occasion, you are always asked if you wish to buy insurance. If you are living and traveling in the U.S., you might have coverage through your own car insurance company, or perhaps with the credit card you use to pay for the rental. It’s always a good idea to check with those companies before you rent to determine exactly what kind of coverage you have.

If you are traveling outside the U.S., you are most likely not covered by either your credit card or your own car insurance. Try to find out the details of car rental insurance in the country to which you are traveling before you leave. You may be surprised to see that not only is insurance fairly expensive, but the deductible is very costly as well. It may be less expensive to purchase car rental insurance through a company such as Travel Guard (http://www.travelguard.com). If the deductible is more than you feel you want to pay, consider additional insurance to cover it too.

Save on Airline Baggage Fees

Airline travel has become more expensive as gas prices rise, and most airlines charge for checked luggage. If you are trying to reduce the cost of travel, there are some things you can do to lower or eliminate the baggage fees.

  • Pack light. If you can get by with just a carry on bag, you won’t have to pay the fee. Make sure that it doesn’t exceed size and weight limits or you’ll end up having to check it.
  • If you are checking bags, remember to weigh them so you aren’t charged an excess weight fee. Usually, the maximum weight is 50 lbs – another reason to pack light.
  • If you have a choice, consider airlines that don’t charge for the first checked bag such as Southwest and JetBlue.
  • Some airlines offer frequent flier benefits which may include free baggage checking. If you are eligible, this may be a consideration when you buy your ticket.
  • Additional bags have even higher fees so learn how to pack light and tight.
  • It may pay for you to mail your luggage, particularly if you have more than one bag. You could just pack it in a box and save the added weight of a suitcase. An added benefit of shipping all of your luggage would be that you could get out of the airport sooner when you arrive.

Travel Insurance Policy Info

Travel Insurance covers you for medical expenses and financial and other losses incurred while traveling. There are specific kinds of travel insurance such as trip cancellation insurance or medical/evacuation insurance. In addition, there is the common and popular comprehensive insurance commonly known as a package plan. All the policies vary widely and may have different types of coverage and exclusions, but below are some of the common provisions.

A typical package plan will cover: trip cancellation, missed connections, lost baggage, travel delay, emergency medical treatment, theft of personal possessions and money, legal assistance, funeral expenses, return of a minor child, repatriation of remains, medical evacuation and 24/7 assistance. A typical package plan might cost between 5 – 7% of the cost of the trip.

Trip Cancellation/Interruption coverage will cover you if your trip is canceled for a variety of reasons such as weather, sudden illness or death, jury duty, emergency military duty, and bankruptcy of airline or cruise line prior to departure.

Travel insurance for medical emergencies will reimburse you for such things as the cost of doctor visits, medication, and sometimes even medical evacuation out of the country. In the past, I have used TravelGuard.

Save Money on Rental Cars

Here are some tips to get the best deals on rental cars.

Shop Around. Don’t just call one company and pay whatever price they ask. To get the best price, comparison shop. Expedia is a good site to check prices for multiple rental car companies.

Lowball Your Own Price. During non-peak season, you will probably get the best deal by using the Name Your Own Price feature on Priceline. Remember to make your first bid low, since you can raise it later.

Insurance. Your rental car might be insured by your auto insurance policy or your credit card. If so, don’t pay for the rental company’s rip-off insurance.

Expensive Gas. Don’t go for any of the rental company’s gas schemes. Some of them seem like a good deal at first – but they are always a ripoff. Fill the tank yourself before you return the car.

Save on Hotels

Different Rates. If you want a good price, don’t just call a hotel and reserve a room. Hotels charge different rates to different customers. The phone rate is usually the highest rate. For chain hotels, the lowest rates are usually found on the internet.

Shop Around. The internet has hundreds of hotel sites that compare prices and offer reviews. AirNinja offers a hotel search where you can search many of the most popular sites at once.

Lowball Your Own Price. At DollarTimes, we are a huge fan of Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature. It is usually the best way to get deals. Here’s a tip to getting a great rate: always lowball your first bid. You will get the option to increase it later, so why not start low?

Ask for Discounts. Are you a senior? An AAA member? A veteran? Ask the hotel if they can give you a discount. It never hurts to ask. Also ask about weekly rates.

Haggle. Try to negotiate. Many independently-owned hotels will bargain with you over the phone, especially at the last minute. Remember that an empty room doesn’t earn the hotel anything, so don’t be embarrassed to start low.

Hostels. Youth hostels can be an inexpensive option, usually around $20/night per person. In my opinion, HostelBookers.com is the best site for booking hostels and reading reviews.

Make New Friends. Stay for free. CouchSurfing.com is a social networking site that connects travelers and people willing to host them for free. A rating system helps to prevent bad experiences.

Free Vacation Activities

When you’re traveling, don’t waste money on tourist traps. For instance, for a family of four it costs $64 to go to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. But the view from Kerry Park is just as good – and free!

Before you get to your destination, research free ways to have fun – things like factory tours, brewery tours, nature hikes, free festivals, and live tapings of TV shows.

In addition, many museums offer free admission one day a week. Take advantage of it!