Parting with money unnecessarily is a massive bugbear of mine, even if I know in time I will get it back. It seems to be happening a lot to me lately, hotels, restaurants, bars etc. putting a hold on my card, meaning I cannot then spend the cash until the hold drops off which can take up to 10 working days if my bank is not the same as their bank. Also, as well as being a blogger I also work full-time in a corporate job, where travel is expected of me. Unfortunately nowhere far-flung or exciting, but I’m still expected to lay out my own money to cover my costs and reclaim them at a later date, again leaving me out-of-pocket. So I have therefore looked at ways that my money can stay in my account on both pleasure and business travel through the use of debit v credit cards and virtual payment solutions. Read on to find out how and hopefully my recommendations will help you on your future travels.
When Mr ESLT and travel we put our money into a designated joint debit account, we both have a card for it and whilst we are away we use it for everything, meaning we do not need to use our own debit or credit cards. We find it works really well as we know where we stand with our cash and have done it for years. However on our recent trip to America we had so many problems, it nearly left us penniless.
We had booked all of our hotels through booking.com which offer the fantastic book now, pay at the property policy which is something we more often than not take advantage of and we will continue to do so. Every hotel was swiping our card and taking a hold for the full room rate plus incidentals on check in and then taking the amount we owed from the hold and refunding the difference when we checked out. This was not a big problem, yes we were a couple of hundred dollars down at all times but it was going back into our account just as another hold payment was going out, so we were never struggling. That was until we looked at our balance and realised we had less than $100 in the account and we still had a week left of our trip!
We were due to check out of our San Diego hotel when we realised that the previous hotel we had stayed at in LA had not swiped and refunded the difference but swiped for the hold of $1400 and then taken the actual room payment of $900 as well. We panicked, we swore, we sweated – we were a whole week’s budget down! We called the hotel, we didn’t get an apology just a half-hearted ‘oh we’ll release the hold’. We called our bank ‘it could take up to two working weeks to get the money back as the hotel’s bank is not a British one’ – great!
Of course we ran through our contingencies – using our own debit cards, credit cards and savings. We were always going to be ok, but what if we didn’t have that back up. Luckily after a lot of phone calls which were not only costly but difficult because of the 8 hour time difference, we did get our money back and the rest of our trip went smoothly – thank god! So here’s my top tips and ones we will be using whenever and wherever we travel again:
– Pay up front for the hotel, whether that be before we even arrive in the country/city via the booking agent or at the front desk when we check in. Then there is no need to swipe the card and hold the room rate, they can simply take it. This also gives us the option to pay in cash if we wanted.
– Travel with a credit card/spare credit card with a low credit amount on it (£500 max to avoid temptation), and have the hotel swipe that for incidentals. As the money is only held not taken and we will not be left out-of-pocket as our spending money debit account is separate.
As I mentioned above, in my job I am expected to travel and when I do I have to pay for things up front and claim them back through an online claims form. So depending on when during the month I travel depends on when I get it back. If I travel the first week of the month I only have to wait until my next payday 3 weeks later to get it back. However, if I travel the second week I miss the claim deadline for the month and have to wait 7 weeks until the payday after. A few pounds is not an issue but it results in me then out-of-pocket for weeks, which is a pain.
Sometimes however is can be a lot, especially if I have had to pay out for meals, transport and even hotels. My company does not issue credit cards where I could simply charge the amounts to it and then the company pay, well maybe it does for the big bosses, but at my level it is not even an option. Therefore some months I can be hundreds of pounds down.
Yes, I could pay on my own credit card and keep my fingers crossed that my claim comes in before my credit card bill does but getting the timing right can be quite difficult and again it could result in my bank balance being down. So when I heard about virtual payment solutions, it looked like a perfect way to ensure that as an employee I never have to pay up front for anything and my employer never has to process my claims.
A single use MasterCard credit card number can be generated which then allows the business travel traveller to use that when making a purchase which is linked to your businesses account. It can be fixed at a set fee. Major benefits included you never having to give out your account information, just a credit card number valid for one-time use that can have a set limit or period of validity and can be used anywhere that MasterCard is accepted, which is almost everywhere nowadays.
So with these options available, there is no need for you to be out-of-pocket again when you travel, whether it be for pleasure or business, meaning you don’t need to worry about your bank balance being down unnecessarily again.
- Post written in collaboration with airplus.com