Don't even think about exchanging money at the airport
What travel insurance is right for you? Are Air Miles credit cards worth it, and which should you choose? Sonja Stephen, editor at financial comparison website compareit4me.com explains that planning ahead will save you money, and leave you to enjoy your well-deserved break.
It’s official – steamy sunglasses season has arrived, which means you are counting down to that holiday you’ve been dreaming about since you booked it weeks ago. Chances are you didn’t just close your eyes, randomly point at a holiday on booking.com and book it. You put time in to research where you wanted to go, which airline to use to get you there and which hotel you should stay in. After all, you want the vacation to be perfect right? But along with the hotel and flights, dedicating a small amount of time to researching the best deals for foreign currency and travel insurance will ensure your trip is just as dreamy and drama-free as you deserve it to be.
Like most of us, your pre-holiday to-do list probably includes things like, get a mani-pedi, cancel the cleaner, get a new bikini, take cats to the cattery and pay DEWA, but what about arranging your spending money? Or obtaining a credit card that gives rewards for spends abroad? Are they on your list?
Here are a few handy tips to help you get the best bang for your buck and make your holiday spending money go a little bit further.
It’s always handy to have a bit of foreign currency with you when you travel, to quickly and easily pay for things like taxis, tips, water etc.
Buying your foreign currency at the airport will see you paying not only inflated exchange rates, but also commissions. Instead, plan ahead and compare exchange rates. Shopping around for your currency will ensure you get the cheapest and best deal. The most competitive rates are usually found online, so start searching. Left it too late? Don’t panic. Pre-ordering your currency to collect from the airport, even a few hours before you’re travelling, will still save you some cash.
Most of the time your trip will go to plan, but there is always the chance that your flight might be cancelled, you’re suddenly not able to take the holiday, or you’re just stuck in nightmare Sheikh Zayed Road traffic and miss your flight. Worse still, you could show up at the airport on time only to find that your flight is overbooked and you’re the one to miss out. Horror. Arranging travel insurance before you head off means that you not only get to enjoy your well deserved break worry free, but you also avoid expensive hassles should an incident occur.
Typically, a travel insurance policy will cover trip cancellation/curtailment, emergency medical and dental expenses, loss of documents, delayed personal possessions, valuables, missed departure and more. All of this peace of mind comes at a fraction of the cost of your trip and means you will never be that person who has to wear the clothes they flew in to the beach because your bag got lost and didn’t arrive at your destination. With travel insurance, should that happen, you can put a call in to your insurance company and they will likely suggest you buy new clothes and any other items you have lost and they will reimburse you. All you need to do is provide them with proof that your luggage didn’t arrive and receipts for the new purchases. Doesn’t that sound so much nicer and less stressful than the alternative?
That’s just one example of how travel insurance could be your new best friend. And if you are a frequent traveller, you can save money and hassle by buying an annual multi trip policy – this will cover you for all of your trips for a year. It could actually be significantly cheaper than buying a fresh policy every time your travel too. Double win.
There are great deals on travel insurance, so don’t just sign up for the first policy you see. Shop around, research and find the best policy for your needs at the right price. You’ll be glad you put in the time. Sites like compareit4me.com do all the boring hard work for you and find you the cheapest price on the policy of your choice.
Taking your credit card on vacation saves you having to carry around a load of cash, which is both more convenient and safe. However, using the wrong type of plastic abroad could see you paying an absolute wedge in charges. Most cards charge fees if you use them abroad for purchases. The American Express Platinum Credit Card, for example, charges 2.80 per cent on oversees transactions. Some cards also whack on fees for making withdrawals from ATMs – 2.99 per cent on the amount you withdraw, for example.
Remember too, that if you withdraw any cash on your credit card you’ll be charged interest from the second that money comes out of the machine, even if you pay off your balance in full that month. This kind of interest varies from card to card, but it’s usually a high rate so be very careful.
The good news is many credit cards are actually designed especially for use abroad. Some even reward you with extra miles or reward points for purchases overseas and help you avoid fees. As always, compare all of the options available before adding plastic to your wallet to ensure you’re getting the right card for you.
Prepaid cards are nice alternatives to credit cards or debit cards. You can use them in the exact same way as you would your regular cards, but you just top them up with funds before you travel. These cards are great if you’re on a budget, because you can only spend what’s on them (although you can top them up again if you need to). They are also a safer alternative to cash, because if your card is lost or stolen, only the amount on the card at the time can be spent.
Many of the UAE banks now offer prepaid cards, including NBAD, RAK Bank and also Visa and MasterCard. Often this type of card is cheaper than using a standard credit or debit card, as there are no cash withdrawal fees if you use them in the correct currency. Plus, you get the exchange rate on the day you load or buy, not when you spend, so currency fluctuations are avoided. Be aware that there are a few places that don’t accept these cards, mainly car hire companies and gas stations. Again, be sure to compare your options and read the small print so you fully understand what your chosen card offers.
The best Air Miles credit cards
Most credit cards come with amazing benefits, including Air Miles. Earn enough and those wonderful little things could make your flights cheaper (or free!) and more comfortable (goodbye economy, hello business). Here’s what to look out for to ensure you’re getting the best Air Miles card for you
Bonus sign-up points
Does the card offer a load of bonus miles just for signing up? Extra miles? Yes please!
Miles per spend
How many miles you earn varies from card to card. Some offer one mile per Dhs1 spent, others one mile per Dhs4 spent. Others give miles based on your range of spending. Research to see which would get you the most.
Some cards are affiliated with certain airlines and as such, the miles can only be used on that airline. If you prefer to travel Emirates, a card that earns you miles on Qatar Airways would be a waste for you. Again, read the terms thoroughly.
Is there an annual fee attached to the card? Or is it free for the first year and then there’s a fee? Often with these cards, the fee is worth it as you quickly earn your money back. But if you are signing up for a card with a fee, make sure you know. That way you’ll avoid any nasty surprises.
It’s important to always pay off your credit card bill in full, every month. However, in case one month you are unable to, it’s important to know you’re not going to be charged a huge rate.
Minimum monthly salary
Most Air Miles cards require a minimum salary. Again, this varies from card to card, but be sure to check. You don’t want to get all excited about adding a new card to your wallet only to find you’re ineligible.