In all the excitement of booking and planning a holiday some important issues can get overlooked, but a little time thinking about the serious issue of money before you go can make for a smoother and cheaper break.
- Notify your bank of any travel plans before you leave as it may block your account if it spots any ‘suspicious’ transactions. You’d also be wise to ask for an explanation of fees for using your cards overseas.
- May banks charge a ‘foreign loading fee’ of two to three percent on overseas card transactions. Some even add a further flat charge on withdrawals and purchases.
- Whilst it can be very convenient to change money at an airport on arrival, be wary of the exchange rates offered. In many countries, the rates are very bad indeed as you are considered to be a captive customer with few options.
- Don’t assume that a sign saying ‘commission free’ automatically means you’re going to get a great exchange rate. In many cases you will be offered a worse exchange rate than the bureau itself receives, allowing them to make profit that way. Make sure you check the actual exchange rate. In some cases it is can even be worth paying a small fee for a better rate, especially if changing large sums.
- Make sure that you have access to some emergency money, whether this is cash or another credit or debit card which you keep separate from the main card you are using in case of loss or theft.
- If an ATM swallows your card or does not pay out the cash requested, go into the bank branch immediately, assuming the ATM is attached to one and report it to them. You also need to contact your own bank as soon as possible on their emergency assistance number.
- If you are travelling to somewhere that accepts US Dollars, Sterling or Euros, several banks offer pre-paid cards that you can use as in ATMs, or even as a debit card. This is a great way of budgeting, safer than carrying cash and also useful to give to children who are going on school trips. Companies can also arrange them for employees on business trips.
- If you are visiting a place with popular tourist attractions do a little research as you may be able to buy entry tickets ahead of time and get a reduced price. You may also be able to select a particular time as you don’t have to queue up for ages. There are also websites that offer cheaper tickets if you buy theatre or show tickets on the same day.
- Group buying deals have become popular in many countries, so it is worth checking to see if you can get discounts vouchers for restaurants, hotels, attractions and entertainment in the place you are visiting.
- If you like to use a particular hotel chain check to see if they have a loyalty programme. You will often be offered the best rates, upgrades, lounge access or free breakfasts. Once you have built up enough points they can be redeemed for free stays.
- Need to keep up with work when you are away? Hotels often charge for internet access, but many coffee shops or cafes offer free Wi-Fi so buying a coffee can be a cheaper option.
- Using your phone abroad can be very expensive and if you have data package, that is even pricier. Watch your usage or you will be presented with a nasty bill when you return.
- Theft from tourists is rare in the GCC, but sadly this is not always the case elsewhere. Keep your purse, wallet or bag closed and your money safe. Be discreet and stay aware. The same applies to your passport.
And above all – have a great holiday!
Keren Bobker is an Independent Financial Adviser at Holborn Assets and writes at financialuae.me