Financial Moves for a Great Vacation

No matter where the road may take you, there are ways to plan smart, save money and keep your finances secure while you’re away.  Here are some tips to make your future journeys more enjoyable.

Travel Planning: DIY or Travel Agent?

Thanks to the Internet, many consumers have become well-versed in online vacation shopping to snag the best travel deals. However, sometimes you may want to consider using the services of a travel agent, which can be a real time-saver, and in general, costs about the same as a do-it-yourself booking. Getting that expertise may be worth it when you have specific travel dates and destinations in mind for a special getaway, and you can sometimes save a lot on airline and hotel costs. And don’t forget the travel benefits that may come with your credit card. For instance, SchoolsFirst FCU MasterCard® Rewards Card1 offers both the MasterCard Concierge Service, designed to help you plan and book travel, and Priceless Cities, which offer one-of-a-kind deals on hotels, restaurants and shopping. Both are free.

Rack up Rewards with Your Credit Card

Seasoned travelers often use their airline or rewards credit cards for everyday purchases—gas, food, clothes, etc.—to take advantage of earning points or rewards which can be redeemed for free airfare, hotel stays and more.  Most come with generous sign-up bonuses, so you can use those points toward your next vacation. The trick here is to use your credit wisely and pay your bill off monthly to enjoy the benefits without accumulating debt.

Travel Layaway Plans

If you plan a vacation six to nine months ahead, a travel layaway plan may be an option to consider because it’s a pay-as-you-go scenario. Many cruise lines, tour companies and resorts now allow you to reserve your spot for a minimum deposit, and spread out your payments over time, which is great for a family on a budget. But all plans aren’t created equal, so make sure there aren’t costly services fees involved. Also, if you want to avoid formal plans, consider setting up your own vacation savings account with automatic monthly contributions. This may give you more flexibility, particularly if prices drop on the places you’re planning to travel to.

Car Rental Loyalty Programs

Even if you only rent a car once or twice a year, you may want to consider joining a loyalty program, which comes with incentives such as free upgrades or rate reductions. But the best benefit comes down to one little word:  time.  As a rewards member, you’ll avoid the long lines and  the usual sales spiel designed to beef up your rental costs by adding  features you probably don’t need, like more insurance, a navigation system or satellite radio. As a rewards member, your information is kept on file and you can get your car quicker; sometimes you can just go straight to your car and find your keys in the ignition. Check to see if your credit card offers specific coverage for rental cars. For instance, the SchoolsFirst FCU Reward, School Employee, and Inspire MasterCard all offer a car rental collision damage waiver which cover you in case of an accident or other event that causes damage to your rental car.

Staying Secure on the Road

When you’re ready to go, make sure you do your part to keep your financial accounts and personal information safe. Set up travel alerts with your financial institution so your accounts won’t be tagged and frozen for “unusual account activity”and SMS text alerts to monitor any suspicious account charges. Make preparations for someone to collect your mail at home, or have it held at the post office, so your private information stays private.

Reduce what you carry in your purse or wallet by taking a debit card, credit card and just enough cash for planned spending. Never access your private accounts on public Wi-Fi networks, and use safer ATMS found in shops, banks and hotel lobbies that have surveillance in place. Finally, make sure your credit card has EMV-chip enabled protection and services that can help with things like fraud, identity theft, lost luggage, and medical and legal issues.

Helpful Links:

Consumer Affairs Best Travel Agencies for 2016

Best Travel Sites Reviews for 2016

Travel Security Tips

1. APR = Annual Percentage Rate. SchoolsFirst FCU’s credit card program features a range of interest rates based on a variety of factors, including the applicant’s credit rating. As of 12/19/16, Rewards card rates range from 12.00% – 17.90% APR. Rates are subject to change, are variable, and subject to increase after account opening. 

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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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