Smart Ways to Manage Money When You Travel

There are plenty of ways to pay for your travel online – from bank transfers and debit and credit cards to third-party payment services like Poli, Bpay and some Buy now, pay later services which allow you to purchase a product immediately and then pay it off in instalments over several months.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe when you pay for your travel deal online or you buy stuff while traveling.

Depending on your choice of the payment method, you can get extra benefits such as reward points, complimentary insurance, interest-free period etc. However, some merchants can charge additional fees for processing credit card payments. These fees can add up to a significant amount, especially for larger purchases.

Security, purchase protection, extra financial benefits and fees should all be considered as important factors in any online payments.

Using a credit card can be the most expensive and most rewarding way to pay because of high fees and complimentary entitlements. However, many vendors happily absorb the transaction fees.

As of September 1, 2017, all Australian businesses were banned from slugging customers with excessive surcharges for using credit cards to pay for purchases. The ban means businesses will only be able to charge customers what it actually costs them to process payments for MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards, including bank fees and terminal costs.

Paying with a credit card can also offer you an extra level of protection, including the right to a 'charge back' if you fall victim to fraud. A charge-back means your bank reverses a disputed transaction in accordance with card scheme rules set by Visa, MasterCard or American Express and the paid money is credited back onto your credit card account.

If your credit card is linked to your PayPal account, you may be entitled to another layer of protection. This may also allow you to pay by a card (eg. Amex) which is not directly accepted by the online travel agency. Instead of giving your credit card number or bank account information to  every website you shop with, you can keep that information in PayPal.

Credit card charge-back can also potentially save your hard-earned money if your travel agent goes bust. Note that most travel insurance policies don't cover insolvency of the travel agency/agent.

Unlike standalone travel insurance, credit card insurance is usually generic (not location-specific) and allow you the flexibility of traveling to most places in the world (check the eligibility/insurance activation section and terms from your card issuer).

Although they usually have zero fees, payment methods without charge-back rights such as cash, bank transfers and Poli payments should generally be avoided if an alternative low-cost payment option is available.

However, when you are overseas, most credit and debit cards will charge a higher foreign currency conversion rate when you make a payment. If your travel requires a lot of foreign currency, you would be better off by taking out a Travel Money Card -  a prepaid card that you load foreign currency onto so it can be used overseas to withdraw cash at an ATM, in store, online or over the phone. You can usually load multiple currencies as well. Beware that the exchange rate offered by these travel money cards can sometimes be much worse than what you'd be charged using your regular credit/debit card.

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