Dodge the overseas fees
SPENDING data from major banks indicates we’ve gone big on holidays this year.
This January, household spend at travel agents and airlines was up 83 pc and 76 pc respectively compared to last year, according to data from Barclays.
Lloyds Bank and Nationwide Building Society figures show a similar boom.
One sure-fire way to get ripped off abroad is to spend money with your bank’s debit card.
Often, they are riddled with fees for spending and even bigger ones for withdrawing cash.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to have a secondary current account. I use Starling because of its fee-free spending abroad — and I treat it like a savings pot so I can build up funds when a holiday is coming up.
I also like having half the money I’ll need in physical cash. I don’t know about you, but I still find it reassuring to have foreign currency in my hand abroad.
Currency fees feature in the long list of ways the major banks manage to keep profits rolling in. But bucking this trend, HSBC has launched a Global Money Account offering fee-free spending and cash withdrawals abroad.
The bank has clearly wised up to the fact that Starling and Co are hoovering up customers with this highly attractive perk.
One expert told me the account is a no-brainer for existing HSBC customers — although you can only apply for it through the bank’s app.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see other banks following suit. They already spend hefty sums on cash bribes of up to £200 for customers who switch to their accounts. But don’t wait around for your bank to act. It’s vital to make sure you have the right card as you head abroad this year — you really can dodge this particular bank ruse.
ON OUR honeymoon to Mauritius in 2019, Mrs B and I collected thousands of Avios points by booking with British Airways (BA).
Upon our return, I decided to bank those points by opening a BA Executive Club Membership — and then to keep stacking them up by getting a rewards credit card.
The American Express Gold card offered 30,000 bonus points for signing up if you spent £3,000 in three months. I hit the target by putting every penny of my everyday spending on the card.
After a year, I cancelled ( to dodge the annual fee) and moved to a fee-free version, where I get one point per £1 spent.
It has been a hard slog to build up points, and you have to play by the rules — that is, pay off the balance in full every month to beat high interest that wipes out any potential financial gains.
This done, I’ve subsequently been left scratching my head working out how to spend the points. The ‘clunky’ BA website certainly isn’t much help, as one expert explains on Page 33. And that’s putting it kindly.
However, a conversation with my brother-in-law finally unlocked the secret to a successful Avios flight booking — using the BA app.
It’s far easier to navigate and quicker to use than the website — and I’ve managed to bag that crucial 1p per Avios conversion rate on return flights to Dubai.
So, if you’re also getting frustrated with trying to spend points on the BA website, you’re likely to find the BA app a far better way to hunt down goodvalue Avios flights.
MONEY MAIL continues to receive more tales of insurance-renewal madness from readers in our postbag each week.
One reader, Philip, wrote in and attached his quote for car insurance with Tesco Bank. The renewal was an eye-watering £990.80, up from £282.83. Incredulous, he says he rang Tesco to cancel only to be told the renewal was ‘wrong’ due to a ‘systems error’. The onus, of course, was on him to call Tesco to find out this crucial piece of information.
He was then given a quote of £337.08. It begs the question . . . how could such a huge mistake be sent out in black and white to a customer without any kind of flag? And if he hadn’t seen it, would that amount have been taken from his account? Continue to keep an eye out for renewal shocks.