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Make your credit card work for you - not the bank - on holiday

Lucky enough to be going on holidays this year? Well, you won't feel lucky if your credit card is busy at work while you're away. Interest rates have shot up this year averaging 19pc -- the highest in over a decade.

Last year, we paid off €200m from credit card debts, but women are still the guilty parties -- using credit far more than men. For holiday purchases, though, a credit card is a necessity, and you don't want to be wandering around foreign parts with bundles of cash. So how do you have a smart holiday as well as a safe one?

When you're booking: Paying by credit card can attract additional fees of up to 2pc with travel agents. Pay by debit card or cheque instead.

Before you go: Load up your credit card in advance with your spending money. This way you're paying it off before you spend it and you won't pay interest. It's easy to do online or with a bank transfer.

While you're there: Taking out cash on your credit card abroad is a big no-no. You'll pay hefty interest from the minute you withdraw it plus additional charges and foreign exchange fees. Organising an overdraft on your current account is cheaper.

When you get back: Ah, yes, dealing with the bill is never nice. But you can put off the dreaded day by becoming a card tart. Switch your balance to another credit provider on your return. NIB, One Direct and PTSB all offer an interest-free six-month 'introductory' period. AIB's Click and BOI's Clear cards are similar. Check www.itsyourmoney.ie for comparisons.

But don't add new purchases to the card. Need help curbing the urge? Cutting up your card is hardly practical. What you really want is a delaying tactic. My favourite is to put your card in a plastic sandwich bag, put it in a small container filled with water, and pop it in the freezer. While you're waiting for it to defrost, you can consider just how badly you need that purchase. Oh, and don't cheat by putting it in the microwave, it'll ruin the metallic strip. You've been warned!