4 little-known travel tips that can save you money



a person sitting on a bench next to a body of water

Young people are more likely to prioritize spending on travel than older generations, sometimes to the detriment of their savings accounts.

But seeing the world doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are four easy ways to save money while traveling that you might not be aware of.

1. Call the hotel to ask for a better rate

If you use an online travel agency like Expedia or Orbitz to book a hotel, you might not get the best deal. These OTAs, as they are called, charge commissions on room bookings and some hotels add additional fees when you book through an OTA to recoup part of the commission cost. Calling the hotel itself and asking if they can beat the price — and keep all of the proceeds — could save you a few bucks, especially because hotels aren’t typically offering the OTAs their best deals to begin with.

One more benefit of calling a hotel directly: It’s easier to cancel a reservation or make a change if something comes up, without having to deal with a third party.

OTAs are convenient search tools. You can use them to comparison shop, but then call the hotel directly to make your reservation.

2. Use credit cards when you travel abroad

While traveling abroad, the best option for paying for things is to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. But even if your card has a fee, it could be a better deal than converting currency at a kiosk, according to a recent study from WalletHub. In fact, using a credit or debit card is likely cheaper than converting at most banks and credit unions. WalletHub found that a card with no foreign transaction fees saves travelers 9.31% compared to Travelex, a popular currency exchange service, and 7.14% compared to the average bank or credit union.

“Why waste the time exchanging physical currency, not to mention risk carrying it around, when a credit card will handle everything automatically and give you the best exchange rates,” writes WalletHub. “Plus, plastic provides a $0 liability guarantee for unauthorized transactions should your card be lost or stolen.”

If you’re paying with a card abroad and a merchant asks if you want to pay in local currency or U.S. dollars, always pick the local currency.

“The rate at which they are converting the currency is always worse than the rate your bank will give you,” writes Matt Kepnes, a travel blogger. “Pick the local currency and let your credit card company make the conversion. You’ll get a better rate.”

3. Take advantage of your travel credit card’s insurance

Travel credit cards are great for racking up rewards and miles, and getting access to perks like travel lounges. But they can also bail you out of a tough situation.

If you’ve used a travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or United Explorer to book your flights, hotels, etc., then you can use the card’s trip cancellation, delay or baggage loss insurance if something goes wrong. Perks vary by card, but if your bag is lost somewhere along your trip, for example, your credit card issuer may reimburse you for select replacement items, like new clothes or toiletries, up to a certain amount of money each day.

That said, read your card’s coverage carefully. Some cover significantly less than others. For example, some cards cover up to $1,500 in nonrefundable expenses from a trip, while others, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, cover up to $10,000, according to CreditCards.com.

4. Ask for cash if you’re bumped from a flight

Airlines routinely overbook flights, then ask for volunteers to take a later flight. There’s usually a voucher up for grabs, which can be enticing for budget-conscious travelers not in a hurry to get to their destination.

But if you don’t volunteer and end up getting involuntarily bumped from the flight, under federal law you can ask for cash instead of an airline voucher. The benefits are twofold: for one, you can use cash for anything, and two, cash doesn’t expire, while vouchers do, in some cases. The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on the length of the delay and the price of the ticket, and if you were involuntarily bumped or not, but the maximum compensation is $1,350 for a domestic flight.

How much money you’ll receive will depend on the airline. United, for example, has passengers bid on the amount they are willing to take for being bumped from the flight.

And if the airline is asking for volunteers and you decide to raise your hand, asking for cash instead might be an effective way to haggle for a larger voucher. Airlines would much rather hand out a voucher than cut a check.

Watch: Why do airlines overbook flights?


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