Q I’m booking our first proper holiday in years. It was an absolute nightmare trying to get refunds for flights and accommodation that we couldn’t use in 2020 because of lockdown, and I’m still nervous about things going wrong. What’s the best way to ensure I won’t be left out of pocket if anything happens to stop us going on holiday again?
A There are some choices you can make when booking holidays that will limit your losses if things go awry. And remember that you have rights as a consumer under Irish and European Union law, and you’re entitled to redress and even compensation in many circumstances.
Our Travel Hub, on Ccpc.ie, gives details on all your rights – from travel and accommodation to car rental and roaming charges. Flightrights.ie is the place to go if your flight is delayed or cancelled; you have strong rights under EU law, ranging from care and assistance to re-routing, refunds and compensation.
If you’re travelling in the EU, the EEA or to Switzerland, make sure you get a free European Health Insurance Card. This card gives you access to public healthcare for free or at a reduced cost.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you against a range of losses, including damaged or delayed luggage, missed departures, loss or theft of money or travel documents, and illness or injury. Terms and conditions differ between providers and policies, so make sure the policy you choose fits your needs. If you’re particularly concerned that you might have to cancel your holiday, check the cancellation terms and conditions beforehand. If your holiday involves activities like skiing or diving, you might need specialist cover. Always take the time to read your policy in full.
Check your health insurance for overlap: some health insurance policies may include cover for travel-related incidents, and there’s no need to pay twice for the same benefits. And if you have pre-existing conditions, make sure you disclose them to the travel insurer to make sure you’re covered in the event of an emergency.
Travel agents and other travel businesses often sell insurance as part of a package, such as with package holidays. But you may get better value by buying your travel insurance from a separate provider, so shop around before you buy. If you plan on traveling more than once during the year, it may be worth getting multi-trip (or annual) insurance instead of single-trip insurance.
If you need to make a claim (and I hope you won’t), hold on to all relevant receipts and documents, take photos and videos as evidence, and engage with your insurer as soon as possible. It’s important to check the terms and conditions of the policy to determine how long you have to report the incident in order to be eligible to make a claim. Finally, if the insurance company refuses to cover your claim, make sure you request the legal basis for the refusal in writing.
A package holiday might be a good option if peace of mind is a priority. Your package holiday provider is ultimately responsible for making sure your holiday runs smoothly, even if other businesses are providing the services.
You have fewer protections if you book everything separately. For instance, if your flights are delayed and you miss a night of your accommodation, you’re unlikely to be entitled to a refund for that night.
Finally, do watch out for accommodation scams, such as fake rental listings on genuine sites. Read the reviews for each listing and be wary if there are multiple reviews posted around the same time. If you’re booking through a site, make sure you pay through that site, as sometimes a scammer will encourage you to pay them off-site.
Paying by debit or credit card gives you an extra layer of protection as your card provider may agree to refund you if you are scammed or even just let down by a genuine service provider.
Q I have a credit card for emergencies only, and I haven’t had to use it at all this year. Do I still have to pay stamp duty on it in April?
Seán, North Dublin
A There is a Government stamp duty of €30 levied on all credit card accounts. It’s taken from your account by your credit card provider on April 1 every year for the previous year. For example, stamp duty taken from your credit card account on April 1 2022 was for the year 2021. So yes, stamp duty will be applied to your credit card account, regardless of whether you have used it during the year.
The €30 applies to the account and not to the card itself, so you will be charged €30 no matter how many cards you have on your account.
If you close your account any time after April 1, 2023, you’ll still be charged stamp duty for 2023. And you won’t be able to close your credit card account until the duty is paid. If you don’t pay it, interest will be charged and the amount you owe would continue to build up. This would also be recorded on your credit history.