I love to travel, but I absolutely hate the fees and charges that can come up. It’s a bit ridiculous when you think about it. There are more than a few things that are designed to get more money from travellers. It may not seem like a lot at first, but once you start adding them all up, it can easily run you a few hundred dollars.
It’s like you can avoid all of these fees, but if you can reduce the amount that you’re paying, that’s more money you can spend on your trip. Once you know about the fees and charges below, you can take the steps to avoid them. Always take the time to look over your trip details so you’re not paying more than you have to.
Foreign transaction fees
A lot of travellers don’t realize that they’re likely getting charged 2.5% whenever they use their credit card to make a purchase in a foreign currency. What makes this foreign transaction fee even more annoying is that it can go as high as 3.5% when you use an ATM. Plus, you still need to pay any one-time fees. As you can imagine those
The good thing is that you can avoid this fee if you use a credit card without foreign transaction fees. If you need to get cash, I recommend using STACK, this prepaid card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees or ATM fees (although some foreign ATM fees may charge a one-time fee). Best of all, if you sign up with my referral link, you’ll get $5 for free! You must click the link via your mobile device for it to work.
Dynamic currency exchange
Here’s another fee that is hidden in plain sight. Sometimes when using your credit card abroad, you’re given the option to pay in your home currency or the local currency. Always select the local currency since the home currency option (known formally as the dynamic currency exchange) is set by the merchant.
It’s not uncommon to see the dynamic currency exchange set at a higher rate compared to the formal exchange rate set by the credit card issuer (Amex, Visa, Mastercard). Even if you have a credit card without foreign transaction fees, you’ll be charged extra if you select to pay in Canadian dollars (since the fee is baked in already). Keep in mind that quite often the prompt for your home currency or the local currency is in the local language, so don’t let the sales rep just keep pressing OK or continue for you.
International data plans have become cheaper over the years, but there are still ways to save. Generally speaking, you should never just roam with your regular plan. You need to purchase an international plan with your home carrier or get a vice and data plan with a different provider such as KnowRoaming.
The best part about KnowRoaming is that they use a sticker that attaches to your home SIM card so you can still take calls from your home number when abroad. Alternatively, they have a SIM card option which might be more convenient for some users. If you’re interested in KnowRoaming, my referral code gets you 50% off the SIM sticker and a $10 credit. The referral code is also good for the SIM card, but you don’t get additional credit.
Checked baggage fees
Just about every airline now charges for checked baggage when flying within North America so it’s your best interest to pack carry-on luggage only. Packing may seem impossible at first but it’s easier than you think. Remember, you’re technically allowed to carry on 2 items; one standard article, and one personal article, plus there’s nothing stopping you from wearing layers onto the plane. A family of 4 who uses carry-on luggage only can avoid this travel fee and instantly save $200 on their trip.
If you fly WestJet a lot, the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard gives the primary cardholder and up to 8 additional people on the same itinerary their first bag checked free. Both TD and American Express have announced that their new Aeroplan credit cards will also come with free checked bags on Air Canada flights.
Car rental insurance
You obviously need auto insurance when renting a car, but you may already have it. If you own a car at home, your standard insurance policy usually carries over to rental cards which means you can decline any insurance that the car rental agency offers you.
Even if you don’t own a car, you might still have car rental insurance. Many of the best travel credit cards in Canada offer travel insurance as a standard benefit, so when you make your reservation, be sure to use a credit card that will cover you in the event of an accident. Keep in mind that to qualify for your credit card insurance, you need to decline any insurance offered by the car rental agency. Don’t forget to read your own car rental insurance policy before you depart just so you know what you’re covered for. For example, it may or may not include third-party liability insurance.
Tolls aren’t very expensive but if you’re renting a car you really need to be mindful of them. Many highways and bridges no longer have a physical person collecting tolls, instead, a transponder is required, or they’ll take a picture of the license plate and invoice the owner later.
When you can, use the cash fare lanes. It may also be worthwhile to get a rental car that includes a transponder (which may cost extra). Some car rental agencies will allow you to pay for your tolls after you’ve returned your car, but that requires you to keep a detailed log of your travels. If you fail to inform them, you’ll be sent a bill later and you’ll likely have to pay an additional administration fee.
Let’s be clear, the only way to avoid resort fees is to book a property that doesn’t charge them. I’ve only listed resort fees in this article as they are something that can surprise you if you weren’t expecting it.
Quite often the resort fees are charged the day you check out and they can cost you $25 – 50 a day which is no small amount. You can obviously charge it to your credit cards, but imagine you’re ready to go home and then you find out you need to pay $200+ in fees? That would just be annoying so look into them before you make any reservations.
Once you leave home, the cost of healthcare can be quite expensive. A quick trip to the emergency room in the U.S. could you hundreds, if thousands of dollars, so make sure you have travel medical insurance.
Interestingly enough, there’s a good chance you already have free travel insurance. Some employers offer travel medical insurance as a standard benefit. Alternatively, if you have a travel rewards credit card, make sure you book your holiday on that since it’ll usually have a comprehensive insurance policy which might include trip cancellation/interruption and lost/delayed baggage.
In a worst-case scenario, you can easily purchase travel insurance on your own for just a few dollars a day.
Travel fees and charges are an absolute pain, heck anytime you need to pay something when it can be avoided sucks. When travelling many people tend to ignore their spending but that’s a huge mistake. Any money you’re able to save can be used towards your next vacation so try your best to avoid these travel charges whenever you can.