Whether it's a road trip or a jet flight across the world, chances are you'll be using a credit card on those travels.
Before you depart, here's a roundup of some good-to-know credit card travel tips.
CALL BEFORE YOU GO: Especially if you're travelling overseas, it's always wise to alert your credit card company. Otherwise, if you leave and start charging purchases in Canada, for example, your credit card company will likely flag those transactions as suspicious. They might try contacting you by phone to verify the transactions. Or they could simply freeze your card, playing havoc with travel plans.
To avoid those scenarios, pick up the phone and call your issuer, using the number on the back of your card. Many card issuers let you do the same thing online. Log onto your account and look for "travel notification" or a similar tab, where you can fill in the dates and countries where you'll be traveling.
"We strongly encourage our customers to contact us when traveling, whether they're in the middle of a trip or about to leave," JPMorgan Chase spokesman Rob Tacey said.
In some cases, he said, the company notifies its frequent travellers that it's not necessary to notify the company in advance, because it's already aware their card is often used far from home. But generally, it can't hurt to call your credit card issuer and alert it of impending trips.
KNOW THE NUMBERS: Keep a copy of your card's toll-free customer service numbers with you, separate from your wallet, in case you need to report a loss or theft. Bury one in your luggage; send a copy to a friend or family member, just in case it's needed.
Also, many travel experts recommend carrying two credit cards, keeping one as your backup in case your main card is lost or stolen.
GET YOUR FREEBIES: Many consumers aren't aware of little-known benefits that come free with their credit cards, said Ed Perkins, US-based writer for SmarterTravel.com. Depending on the card and the issuing bank, the perks can range from free referrals if you need a lawyer or doctor in a foreign country (the referral is free, not the professional services) to hotel room upgrades.
Among the best freebies: Coverage for lost or damaged checked baggage, up to $US500 ($A534.07) beyond what you might receive from the airline. Most US airlines will cover up to $US3,400 ($A3,631.68) in cases of lost baggage, said Perkins, but certain items are excluded, including cash, family heirlooms or expensive technology, such as computers.
"If you packed an expensive camera in your checked baggage, some cards will cover up to $2US50 ($A267) per lost item. ... It's not a lot, but it can make a difference," Perkins said.
The biggest benefit, said Perkins: Coverage for damage to a rental car. If the damage occurs in the US, the credit-card reimbursement is generally secondary coverage that kicks in after you first file a claim with your insurer. If it's an overseas rental car, which usually isn't covered by US insurance, the credit card coverage may be your only option to recoup the cost of damages.
"It's one really big-dollar benefit. It can amount to hundreds of dollars," he noted.
Some card issuers also offer small amounts of compensation for delayed flights.
In all cases, to find out what your card covers, read the fine print in your service agreement or look it up online.
MINIMISE FEES: Most credit cards add a 1 to 3 per cent currency conversion fee to the cost of any purchase outside the US, even when you pay in dollars. Some cards however, like Capitol One, have eliminated it entirely. If you have more than one credit card, you might want to check the fees and use the one with the lowest foreign transaction fee.
When travelling overseas, you will likely be hit by ATM fees when you're getting cash withdrawals in local currency. There are a couple ways to minimise these fees, which can be as high as $US5 ($A5.34) per transaction.
-Call your card issuer to ask if it has partnerships with bank ATMs in other countries.
-Use a debit card from a credit union, which tends to have lower fees than a bank card.
-When doing ATM cash withdrawals, get large amounts so you're not making frequent ATM stops and incurring fees.
-Perkins said he typically uses a Bank of America debit card, which charges no fees for ATM withdrawals at its partner banks in France (BNP Paribus), Germany (Deutsche Bank), Canada (Scotiabank), China (China Construction Bank), Mexico (Banco Santander), Italy (BNL d'Italia) or Britain (Barclays).
In general, Perkins recommends using a debit card to make cash withdrawals (because of lower fees compared with most credit cards). For large purchases, like hotel stays, car rentals, shopping, etc., he says, use your credit card.
And Perkins noted: At all costs, avoid going to a currency exchange office or airport kiosk, which typically charge high currency conversion fees.
CHIP OR NO CHIP? If your credit card has been around a while, it's probably not imbedded with a microchip, a security feature that makes it harder for cyberthieves to steal your credit card info. These so-called microchipped cards are standard in Europe, but many Americans don't yet have one (although they're becoming mandatory by October 2015).
In most cases overseas, "a standard old American (magnetic-) striped card will work most of the time, in most places," said Perkins, who uses both chipped and non-chipped cards and rarely encounters a problem. He said certain situations, such as trying to use a self-service gas station or ticket kiosk, may cause a card to be rejected.
Overall, "If your bank offers the option of getting a chipped card, I recommend it because it decreases the chances of running into a problem."
PAY BILLS IN ADVANCE: Don't forget to pay off credit card bills before leaving, so you don't come home to unanticipated late fees or other penalties. Especially if you'll be gone for an extended period, you can pay your monthly bill ahead of time or set up an online automatic payment.
CHECK YOUR LIMITS: If you'll be charging lots on your trip, be sure you've got enough available credit on your card. Let's say your card has a $1,000 limit and you exceed that while renting scuba gear: Your card transaction could be denied or you could get hit with penalties on your next bill. To avoid those unpleasant surprises, contact your card issuer now about raising your credit limit. Otherwise, monitor your travel spending so you don't go over the card limit.
Companies are increasingly insisting on their staff booking business trips online. In fact, a recent survey of European and US business travellers suggests 66 per cent now have access to self-booking tools and 60 per cent are using them regularly.
Take-up rates for self-booking are even higher among Australian companies. Local travel agents say 90 per cent or more of clients are booking their domestic business trips using customised self-booking tools (SBTs).
The results of the survey of European and US booking practices, by travel distribution company Amadeus, were disputed by key European corporate travel figures when the findings were released late last year. British travel agents said that 60 per cent of business travellers do not book themselves – a strong claim borne out by the amount of business transacted through specialist business travel agencies, known as Travel Management Companies (TMCs).
But in Australia organisations of all sizes are requesting TMCs and airlines to provide self-booking technology as part of a travel services contract.
For obvious reasons. Just as leisure travellers have embraced the internet for purchasing holidays, today’s executives are comfortable with booking online. More important, the use of an SBT saves time and money.
Australian companies are well aware they face costly extra charges and rebooking fees if staff book trips outside of a company travel policy stipulating what suppliers and standards of travel should be used. By insisting on the use of an SBT that restricts executives to booking preferred fares and products, employees are far less likely to stray outside policy. They must book company-approved hotels, for example, rather than more expensive boutique properties they have chanced upon in Perth or Singapore.
One major advantage of using an SBT is the “low-touch” cost for processing bookings. Airlines and travel agents charge considerably lower transaction fees for self-booked trips compared with those that require hands-on work by an agent.
There’s a high level of acceptance of self-booking by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Voyager Travel and Flight Centre’s corporate travel arm, FCm Travel Solutions.
FCm global leader Gregory Lording says some clients are booking 90 per cent of their domestic flights with self-booking tools.
INTERNATIONAL ITINERARIES MORE COMPLICATED
International itineraries tend to be more complicated. Executives often opt for circle itineraries and will visit multiple cities.
A multilevel travel policy frequently applies to international trips, too. Executives are required to fly in economy on some flights; they are allowed into the premium economy or business class cabins once the flight-time exceeds a certain number of hours.
These complexities mean international travel arrangements usually require more agent assistance – whether it’s by email, phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
But Lording says booking a trip to New Zealand is much like booking a domestic flight and many executives are relaxed with booking their own trips further afield. “Sydney-Singapore return is pretty simple,” he says. “Our proprietary online booking tool allows travel consultants and agents to book on the same tool that we offer our clients, which is fairly unique in the industry here.
“Our consultants can be first level of support if a client gets stuck.”
The best SBTs drive a travel policy by displaying contracted fares and preferred hotel and car-rental rates, and also provide all fares that are available online, including the fares of the web-based carriers. This gives executives the autonomy to make their own selections, choosing lower fares where possible. Organisations can maximise cost-effectiveness through non-agent-assisted bookings and reduce booking errors with real-time measures such as instant ticketing.
Many companies operate “best airfare of the day” policies, which are programmed into an SBT. When a staff member self-books he or she may receive a screen prompt advising that travelling on another flight departing an hour earlier will save $200, and that taking the cheaper option is policy.
Likewise, someone trying to book a V8 coupe can be prompted to rent a four-cylinder sedan instead.
Melbourne-based Voyager’s clients include Coles, Pacific Brands, Harvey Norman, Clayton Utz and Monash University, all of whom use Voyager’s SBT called Serko. National business manager Lyn Harris says these clients are heavy bookers of point-to-point domestic trips, and 95 per cent self-book.
APPROVAL PROCESSES POLICY-DRIVEN
“It’s policy-driven,” she says. “Some customers have an active approval process: the online booking is made and it is sent to a travel approver; the Serko has a multilevel approver system, which is very effective. Serko also has a passive approval system that sends out a for-your-information message to a manager or approver.”
Organisations should set clear objectives when implementing an SBT.
Apart from making savings, objectives could include providing a range of booking options and lifting policy compliance.
Business travellers are more likely to choose cheaper fares when they’ve been provided with a range of options and experience “visual guilt”.
SBTs can be configured to display preferred options, flag out-of-policy alternatives and decline non-compliant bookings. They also provide management information and traveller tracking tools that give real-time intelligence about business travel.
A recent study by the Business Travel Research Centre at Britain’s Cranfield University looked at more than 400 companies worldwide. It found SBTs were helping many organisations save time and money, but other companies were missing out on the benefits because the tools were not being properly adopted.
The report uncovered several interesting facts – for example, variations in adoption rates do not seem to be driven by company size or by location, but by company organisational structure and internal culture.
Researchers surveyed 424 travel managers working for corporations with an average annual travel spend of $US35 million ($37.1 million)..
While 66 per cent of these organisations had some form of SBT only 53 per cent of all air travel tickets were purchased online. Among those, high-tech, consulting services, and logistics companies had the highest levels of adoption.
Power utilities and agriculture enterprises achieved the lowest levels.
I booked a vacation from Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours and I can say it was the best vacation ever. They booked me at Pullman Jakarta Indonesia Hotel and I couldn’t be more happier with their choice. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first set foot in the hotel, the place was simply stunning. My expectations from a 5-star hsotel were all met. I love my stay at the hotel and it made my whole vacation more enjoyable.
It was so relaxing that after a long day of exploring the city I look forward on going back to the hotel and pamper myself.
The first thing I tried was their sauna and the outdoor pool. Perfect after a long air trip. All the tiredness were all gone. Although I did not try their wellness centre and the fitness centre because I have no time to do so, I did try to visit and check it out. I was so impressed with all the facilities, all were modern and up-to-date. Too bad I didn’t get to try an executive floor and a poolside snack bar. But of course I checked them out too, those wouldn’t skip my eyes. Not to mention all the staff were very friendly and approachable.
I am a self confessed workaholic and I couldn’t afford not to check on my business every once in a while even though I am on vacation. I am very thankful that Pullman Jakarta Indonesia provides Wi-Fi within the hotel, meaning I never had a problem staying connected during my whole stay.
All rooms were air-conditioned, I didn’t feel any discomfort at all. My room was very modern and large, I have a mini bar and a flat-screen TV. And my private bathroom and shower, I was impressed! I just loved it, very comfortable. My only complaint was I couldn’t adjust my air-conditioner’s thermostat. I ended up too cold in the middle of the night, but that was just it.
The hotel restaurant is open for breakfast and serves Japanese, International and Asian dishes and of course the authentic Jakarta dishes were also served.
I also loved the fact that the hotel has a very convenient location, it is within a 10 minute walk of Merdeka Palace, Jakarta Cathedral and Gedung Kesenian Jakarta and within a 20 minute walk is the National Monument. The multilingual staff at the hotel will make sure your stay is comfortable. But just a warning though, be very cautious with the scam some taxi drivers are pulling more especially to tourists.
Here are some general information, I thought these might help you.
Room Service, Restaurant, Bar / Lounge, Air Conditioned, Mini Bar, TV, Shower, En suite, Private Bathroom, Private Toilet, Poolside Bar
Fitness Room/Gym, Massage / Beauty Centre, Bath / Hot Tub, Garden, Salon, Massage, Spa & Wellness Centre, Beauty Salon
Business Center, Concierge, Elevator / Lift, 24-Hour Reception, Dry Cleaning, Babysitting / Child Services, Banquet Facilities, Conference Room(s), Currency Exchange, Multilingual Staff, Safe-Deposit Box, Secretarial Service, Porters, Wake-up Service, Meeting Rooms, Laundry Service, Photocopier, Ballroom, Executive Floor, Luggage Storage, Shops in Hotel, Self Laundry
High-speed Internet is available at this hotel. Wireless internet on site
Valet parking is offered at the hotel
2014 marks the biggest change in health insurance since Medicare. For the first time ever, health insurance is mandatory for most Americans under age 65. The biggest change is that those people with pre-existing medical conditions will now be able to buy quality health insurance without fear of being declined, or facing a surcharge or a waiting period for pre-existing conditions that won't be covered.
The second biggest change is that those who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level -- $45,000 for individuals or $95,000 for families of four -- will now be able to qualify for premium discounts on health insurance costs. The requirement to qualify for the discount is that insurance must be purchased on one of the new health insurance exchanges, aka marketplaces.
1. Work with a knowledgeable health insurance agent.
Eliminate about 80% of the difficulties of buying insurance online. A good agent can help you navigate the exchange site, help you determine whether you qualify for a discount and, if you do qualify, help you choose from among the various plan options and even help you enroll. They will be able to answer your questions as they come up. Best of all, having an agent help you doesn't cost a dime extra.
2. Don't buy insurance on an exchange if you don't qualify for a discount.
Insurance companies that participate in the exchange in most cases offer many more options for qualified health insurance beyond what they make available on the exchange. You can go to individual insurance company websites to see what each company has available. Or, you can have your agent do that for you.
3. Work with an insurance agent to plan health coverage for your family if dependents aren't covered adequately by your employer plan.
If you have dependents covered under your group health insurance plan at work, unless the employer is paying for some of the cost, work with an insurance agent who will help you determine if you can get better coverage for less money on your spouse and/or children. Chances are if you have employer paid group insurance on yourself, you won't be eligible for an individual plan. But that doesn't preclude your spouse and children from having one, especially if the employer doesn't contribute anything toward dependent coverage costs.
4. Before choosing a health plan, be sure the doctors are "in network" and you can see specialists without a referral.
Less costly plans often don't let you see specialists without a referral from your primary care doctor.
When you are considering plans, don't just choose the cheapest. Pay attention to who is and is not in network. About 90% of the time, it probably won't make a difference. But, that 10% can be a life-and-death situation.
In Minnesota where I'm from, the gold standard of choice is the Mayo Clinic. I won't pick a plan myself or recommend a plan that doesn't include the right to go there without begging for a referral.
5. Hire an expert insurance agent or consultant to audit your insurance program.
Look for someone to make sure that all the major risks in your life are well-protected for risks such as major lawsuits, major damage to or destruction of your residence, premature death, long-term disability and, of course, major medical expenses.
An expert can help you identify where the gaps are and recommend custom endorsements to plug those gaps. I have done several hundred audits over the years and typically find at least 15 to 20 coverage shortfalls or inconsistencies.
6. Protect your income with long-term disability insurance.
Some employers provide it. However, benefits that you receive while disabled usually are taxable income. So, if the benefit is 60% of your salary, you will be lucky to yield 45% after taxes.
Unless you can live on that 45%, contact your employer. Request that the company include the premiums it pays you for long-term disability insurance in your taxable income. By doing this, you will have paid income taxes on the relatively small premiums so that if you become disabled, you can collect those benefits tax-free.
If your employer can't or won't do that for you, buy a supplemental individual policy that will cover at least the income taxes that you will have to pay on your group benefits.
If you don't have coverage at work, talk to a knowledgeable agent to help you qualify for and buy a privately owned long-term disability insurance policy. Because you're buying this policy with after-tax dollars, benefits will always be tax-free to you!
7. Buy an umbrella liability policy to cover insurance gaps in your primary policies.
All umbrella car or homeowners insurance policies cover lawsuits. Typically, these policies will provide a base layer of coverage, usually $300,000 or $500,000 per claim. Then, if you're sued for more than those limits, an umbrella policy will pay excess amounts up to the umbrella limit of $1 million or more.
The real advantage of an umbrella policy is that it will defend and pay some judgments against you from personal lawsuits not covered by your primary auto or homeowners policies.
Never worry about the price of an umbrella policy. Instead, focus on whether it is broad enough to cover those uncovered risks in your life not covered by auto or homeowners insurance.
Here are just a few examples of lawsuits not covered by auto or homeowners insurance that can be covered by the right umbrella policy:
8. For a townhouse or condo unit, be sure you get the "deductible assessment coverage."
The rates for condominium master policies have been on the rise. To keep the premiums affordable, many associations have opted for higher deductibles of $5,000, $10,000 or even $25,000. Not only does that keep the premiums affordable, it also minimizes the number of claims made against the master policy, which helps keep the rates low.
Here's the problem: If the loss is caused by you from, say, a kitchen fire or dishwasher overflow, or is confined to your unit, most associations will require you to pay the deductible on the master policy.
"No problem," you say proudly. "I have loss-assessment coverage on my homeowners unit-owner policy." Virtually all laws on assessment coverage limit deductible assessments to $1,000. If that wasn't enough bad news, it also requires that the assessment be against all unit owners.
The bottom line is that you will need to get a relatively new coverage -- separate coverage -- called "deductible assessment" coverage. Find out what your association master policy deductible is and buy deductible assessment coverage for that amount from your insurance agent.
9. If your home is for sale, watch out for vacancy exclusions.
With the housing market in the dumpster the past few years, this common problem has arisen. A couple buy a new home before their existing home sells. They move into the new house, leaving the old house empty. Three months later, vandals break into the old home, have a wild party and completely trash the place, causing $50,000 in damage, and the owner has no coverage.
Homeowners policies exclude glass breakage and vandalism damage if the house has been vacant, that is without enough furniture to be lived in, for 60 days or more. There are high-risk policies you can buy to cover a vacant house, but the coverage is watered down and the premiums are three to four times greater than what you've been paying for homeowners insurance.
The better way to keep your homeowners policy and still have vandalism coverage is by keeping enough furniture in the house so it can be lived in, such as a kitchen table, a couch and a lamp in the living room, and one bed.
10. For all of your insurance needs, pick an insurance agent with great expertise.
What most people don't realize is that you can get an insurance expert for the price of an intern. Since all agents work on commission, an agent with a lot of experience costs exactly the same as a less knowledgeable agent.
The biggest mistake that people make when they buy insurance is that they shop based on price and end up with the agent who gave them the best quote, often with very little expertise. In fact, they would be much better off coverage-wise and price-wise if they shopped for the expertise of an agent first, then had the expert design insurance coverage with the right specifications and had the expert shop for that coverage.
Shopping for the best price first leaves you with a good deal but the wrong coverage. Shopping for expertise first leaves you with a competitive price for the right coverage.
When you have a serious claim, which choice would you make?