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How to Avoid Travel Fees


Tips for Avoiding Travel Fees
©iStockphoto.com/ZekaG
©iStockphoto.com/ZekaG
If your hotel doesn't offer free Internet access, try to find a nearby coffee shop that does.

Many people realize they'll likely have to pay a luggage fee when they fly, but there are numerous add-on fees that catch travelers unaware. Before you even reach the airport, for example, you may have unwittingly paid anywhere from $5 to $45 extra for your seat if you made your reservation over the phone or in person. Almost every major air carrier levies such a fee, so making your own reservations online is the way to go to save money. You can certainly speak with an agent if you have questions, but in the end, make the purchase yourself via the Web [source: Nardini].

The type of credit card you have can also make a difference to your bottom line, at least when you're traveling overseas. Many credit cards charge a fee for making a purchase in a foreign country, plus a currency conversion fee. The fees can be quite steep, so if you'll be traveling abroad for an extended period or frequently, sign up for a card that doesn't levy these charges. Capital One's VISA Signature card, for example, doesn't assess any fees for foreign purchases, plus it affords travelers lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance and a 24-hour concierge service [source: Capital One]. Chase's OnePass Plus MasterCard lets you check one bag free on all Continental and United flights, plus gives you priority boarding. If you hold American Express' Delta SkyMiles card, you're entitled to one free checked bag on any Delta flight, and you can share that privilege with as many as nine of your traveling companions [source: CNN]. And remember -- when using your credit card in a foreign country, always ask to be charged in the local currency. This is generally cheaper than being charged in your home currency, for which you may incur a double conversion hit, first when the merchant's bank converts your charge to the local currency and assesses a fee, and then again when your bank treats the charge as a converted debit (even though the charge comes through in your home currency), and assesses another fee.

When you arrive at your destination, you may be renting a car. Don't blindly agree to pay for any insurance offered on your rental. Often your own car insurance already covers you when you're driving a rental car, plus some credit cards provide insurance if you use them to pay for the rental. Call your insurer and credit card company ahead of time to see what your coverage is.

Now that people are used to constant Internet access, some assume it's gratis everywhere. It's not. When traveling, there's often a charge for wireless access at pricier hotels (as much as $25 per day), while ironically, it's often free at budget establishments. If there's a charge for in-room Internet access at your hotel, see if there's free access in the lobby or if there's a courtesy computer. You can also look for a coffee shop nearby with free access. Or, if you have a smartphone with a data plan (and you're in an area where you won't be charged extra for using it), try using that to surf the Web instead.

Before your next trip, remember to read the fine print before you book anything. And once you've arrived at your destination, ask everyone, from the hotel clerk to the rental car agent, what additional charges may apply so you don't experience any unhappy surprises.


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