Filling up in U.S.?
Here’s a good credit card tip
READERS of this column frequently direct others to me for a question relating to using Canadian-based credit cards at United States fuelling stations.
When a card is run through at a U.S. filling station, a zip code is required for verification. Entering a Canadian postal code usually results in a rejection with a requirement to go into the location and prepay a designated amount.
This then means a second trip back to the station for a receipt, or alternatively a credit back to the credit card if the number of gallons used comes to a lesser price than purchased initially.
A reader some time ago suggested a formula that often works south of the border.
It is based on entering the three numbers of your postal code in order, then adding two zeros at the end. For example, my business postal code is R3L0L6. So the numbers I would enter after swiping my credit card would be 30600. Does it still work? It certainly does in Texas where I used it a couple of weeks ago. I made gasoline purchases at two different brand outlets, and they both worked fine.
I have no idea why it works, or even if it will work in every state or brand. But from the continued feedback I get from grateful readers, it does seem to be an effective means for a speedier fill-up in most states.
Question: When we were on a flight to Cuba this winter, we met people who were renting homes from local owners for their holidays.
I had never heard of this. Is it possible to do that around the resort areas of Cuba, and what is the quality of accommodation?
Answer: There may be a bit of a buyer-beware overtone to the quality of the various home or apartment options, but the availability is definitely there. However, most of them are in or around Havana.
I have met a number of people who have expressed satisfaction with the homes they have rented, usually for periods of a month or more.
Airhub, one of the larger home and apartment rental services, lists about 250 properties around the island. The prices are very attractive, as are the photographs of the residences.
However, I have learned from experience a good photographer can create a much better impression than the property deserves. References will help ensure the buyer is not snared into a problem.
I do believe the numbers of these units will grow with each passing year.
It should be noted the usual amenities available at resorts, such as Internet, quality television, or smoothrunning appliances, may not be available in all of the rental homes at this stage in time.
Question: We would like to take our next trip to the U.K. There are a couple of escorted tours that look great. What we need to decide is whether it would be better for us to take one trip of a longer duration (England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland) or break these into two or perhaps three shorter trips. Any advice on this? Much appreciated. (60 year old retired couple).
Answer: The answer to your question is not easy because it relates to your energy, health, and to some degree your desire to tour the rest of the world.
I love the countries of Great Britain and find I can never see them enough.
I have spent time in each of the countries you mention. England and Scotland alone are worthy of multiple trips, short and long. There is so much history to take in and truly two different cultures (or more) to experience.
While the history of Wales and Ireland are equally deep, the beauty of the landscape and a totally different people experience can also be worth a trip of its own.
Each traveller is different, but I frequently recommend extra time also be spent at the first and last points of the tour, whether they are the same or different. This automatically extends the days ‘on the road’.
If you feel you can handle a longer trip without being too tired, I would go for one of longer duration.
Often a huge part of the cost is the air transportation in getting there and back, which is obviously cut in half on one single, longer trip. As well, the multiple-week trips usually have builtin savings because of some economies of scale for the tour operator.
Question: Given the weakness of the Canadian dollar against U.S. currency, is a European vacation likely to be a better value this year?
Answer: While the euro has plunged against the American dollar as well, the reality is, that for us, the conversion will not benefit that much.
As the euro has suffered, it is against the U.S. greenback and not so much against the Canadian dollar.
Americans should be motivated to travel overseas this year, or to Canada for that matter, because they are the ones whose vacations will end up seeming value driven because of the U.S. dollar strength.
But I would not be deterred from going to Europe this year since the buying power between the Canadian dollar and euro is still attractive.
A motorist puts fuel in his car’s gas tank at a service station in Springfield, Ill.