Tuesday 25 October 2016

Six holiday howlers that could leave you broke

From €70 for a short phone call to thieves in security queues, be wary on holiday

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

by Tom Halliday
by Tom Halliday

Schools around the country started to close for the summer last Friday - and so the exodus of Irish families to sun getaways is under way. Even if you have already paid for your holiday, it could burn a bigger hole in your pocket than you expected if you're not careful. Here are six financial no-nos worth knowing before you head off.

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Don't phone home while sailing

A five-minute phone call from your mobile at sea could set you back as much as €72 - so don't be tempted to call home to brag about the sunset on the horizon if you're taking the ferry.

Making a call on your mobile while in transit will cost you a lot more than you will pay when you reach your holiday destination. It costs €14.39 a minute to make a call with Tesco Mobile while travelling by sea, €14.80 a minute to receive a call and €3.20 to send a text message.

"When travelling by sea, mobile calls are routed through a satellite system as traditional mobile networks are not available," said a spokeswoman for Tesco when asked why the cost of making calls at sea was so expensive. "The satellite service providers set a wholesale rate, which determines the higher rates customers pay."

It costs €2.99 a minute to make or receive calls on a Vodafone phone when on a ferry or a flight, and 70c to send a text message. You'll pay €2.29 a minute to make a call on a ferry or a flight with Meteor, €2.19 a minute to receive a call, and 39c to send a text message.

Three is the cheapest for in-transit calls. You'll pay between 80c and 88c a minute to make or receive a call on a Three mobile when on a ferry or a flight, depending on whether you're travelling peak or off-peak - as long as the operator providing the in-transit mobile service has an agreement with Three. It costs 39c to send a text message.

As long as you're not in transit, it should be a lot cheaper to use your mobile phone when holidaying in the EU this summer as charges for roaming (that is, using your mobile while travelling abroad) have been slashed since April 30. Under new rules, you can't be charged more than 5c more per minute for making a call on your mobile when travelling in the EU than you would be at home. You also can't be charged above 1c more per minute to receive a call than you would be at home. Texts shouldn't cost you any more than 2c above what you pay to send a text at home. The rules don't apply to the use of your mobile when in transit and they typically won't apply in non-EU countries either, including Switzerland and Turkey.

Don't get distracted in the security queue

The long security queues in airports have presented opportunities to thieves to steal valuables such as mobile phones, jewellery, watches and cash from passengers' trays.

"The queues are so long that people can't watch the things they've put into their tray," says Sarah Slattery, founder of the travel website, thetravelexpert.ie. "Keep an eye on your tray."

Don't forget your debit card

As you can't be charged any more to use your debit or ATM card in the eurozone than you would be at home, using one of these cards to take money out of your account while away is one of the cheapest and safest ways to arrange your holiday money - if you're travelling in the eurozone.

However, should you be travelling outside the eurozone, you will be hit with fees when using your card - so limit the number of withdrawals you make with it. Most banks hit you with a minimum fee each time you use your debit card when travelling outside the eurozone. As that minimum fee could be as much as €3 a pop for cash withdrawals, those fees will add up if you use your card to make multiple withdrawals. You will also be hit with foreign exchange fees.

Be aware that there are daily limits on the amount of cash that you can withdraw from your account using your debit card. You can't withdraw more than €600 in cash a day with an AIB debit card, more than €500 with Bank of Ireland and more than €700 with KBC or Permanent TSB. With Ulster Bank, the daily cash withdrawal limit is between €350 and €1,200, depending on the type of current account you have. The ATM you use while abroad could also have a limit on the maximum amount of money you can take out at any one time.

Before heading off, check with your bank if your debit or ATM card will be accepted in your holiday destination. As long as it has a Maestro or Visa symbol, you should be able to use your card abroad.

Don't withdraw cash with your credit card - unless you're with AIB or Permanent TSB

Using your credit card to withdraw cash can be a handy way to manage your holiday money - but only do so if you have a credit card with AIB or Permanent TSB.

These are the only banks that allow you to withdraw cash from your credit card account without hitting you with interest from the date of the withdrawal. So as long as you repay your bill on time, you can avoid interest on the cash withdrawal. However, you will still be charged a cash advance fee equivalent to 1.5pc of the amount withdrawn - up to a minimum of €1.90 with AIB or €2 with Permanent TSB. For this reason, it is usually cheaper to use your debit card than your credit card to withdraw money. Remember too that you will be hit with foreign exchange fees if using your credit card outside the eurozone.

Bank of Ireland, KBC, Tesco Bank and Ulster Bank all hammer you with interest from the minute you use your credit card to withdraw cash. As the interest charged on credit card withdrawals can be as high as 21pc, making a cash withdrawal with a credit card from one of these four banks is one of the most expensive ways you could go about arranging your holiday money.

Don't check in your kids' bags

Baggage charges can mount up if you're flying with children - and checking in a bag for each of your little ones. "Buy a cheap carry-on bag for the children instead," advises Slattery.

Should you be travelling by ferry, bring food and snacks for the sailing - as they are expensive to buy on board. Pack a fun-size carton of breakfast cereals if it's an overnight crossing - as these boxes are typically over-priced on ferries. Should you be planning to visit a theme park, pre-book your tickets as you could knock a fifth off the price by doing so, according to Slattery.

Don't overlook any terrorism loopholes in your travel cover

This year, many holidaymakers are worried about the threat of Isil terrorist attacks. Your travel insurance could let you down should a terrorist attack force you to cancel your holiday or pay for alternative accommodation or transport home.

Although travel insurance policies typically cover you for medical and repatriation expenses should you be injured during a terrorist attack abroad, many won't cover any travel disruption costs incurred as a result of an attack.

Similarly, should you decide to cancel your holiday because terrorist activity prompted the Government to advise against travel to a particular area, with many travel insurance policies - including those sold by the VHI and AA - you won't be able to get back the money you have paid for your holiday. You may, however, be able to get a refund from your tour operator or holiday company or be able to rearrange your holiday.

Most travel insurers won't cover you should you travel to an area that the Government has advised against travelling to.

"If the Department of Foreign Affairs advises against travel to a specific area, then the policy would not cover a customer to travel to that destination," says a getcover.ie spokeswoman.

"However, if the warning was put in place after the customer purchased their policy and trip, then cancellation cover would operate as normal."

With multitrip.com, you may be covered for cancellation if the Government only issues such advice within 14 days of your trip.

Given the pervasive nature of Isil attacks, it is worth checking the fine print of a travel insurance policy before you buy it to see where you will stand should terrorism rear its ugly head during your holiday.

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