3 Unexpected Travel Trends You Need To Be Aware Of

March 24, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
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The rapid pace of technological advancements brings increasing ease of communication and accessibility to travel  information, as well as new conveniences for making travel decisions and reservations.  There is a flip side to this equation however; new trends also provide opportunities for unintended consequences, potential new fees and electronic vulnerabilities.  Here are three emerging situations that savvy travelers need to be aware of – 1) Increased flight cancellations expected due to new DOT Flight Delay Regulations, 2) New foreign exchange fees charged by credit card companies for purchases made from foreign based companies, 3) Study finds hotels are new favorite target of sophisticated identity thieves. 

1)  New Flight Delay Regulations Likely To Cause Dramatic Increase In Flight Cancellations. For years the traveling public has clamored for a Flier’s Bill of Rights that would prevent airlines from holding passengers hostage on the tarmac for untold hours on end.  We’ve all heard the horror stories and thanked the powers above that we were NOT on those flights.  Beginning April 29th the Department of Transportation is enacting new regulations for delayed domestic airline flights.  Airlines will be fined up to $27,500 per passenger if a flight has left the gate and is delayed on the ground for more than 3 hours.  After more than 2 hours on the tarmac the crew must offer food, water, operational lavs and access to medical attention if needed.  So in the land of unintended consequences, this brings up all kinds of issues.  Will airlines risk being slapped with fines of  3-5 million dollars for each delayed flight?  I think not!!  As soon as runway congestion begins to back up takeoff times, flights will be proactively canceled, leaving passengers scrambling for free seats on later flights.  Pity the passengers flying late in the day, they may not reach their destination on the same day (did you pre-pay for that hotel reservation??).  Smart travelers will be aware of weather conditions that could cause flight delays and it will be more important than ever to fly as early in the day as possible. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance that compensates you for flight cancellations and delays.

2)  Beware of New Foreign Transaction Fees. Most credit card holders assume that foreign exchange fees are only applicable to purchases made outside of the United States – not any more!!  The new trend is for credit card companies to tack on a “foreign transaction fee” (up to 3%) to purchases made from a foreign company (even if your purchase was made in the USA).  Watch for the new fee when you purchase airline tickets from a European carrier, book hotel room reservations abroad, or shop online with foreign based merchants.  For instance if you purchase a Virgin Atlantic ticket through Expedia, you are likely pay the foreign exchange fee.  What’s the easiest way to avoid these new fees?  Add a Capital One credit card to your wallet and use it whenever you’re making purchases from foreign companies or when traveling outside of the United States.  Capital One has just released a new card with travelers in mind.  The Venture Rewards Capital One Card earns two reward points for every dollar spent, you can redeem points on any airline with no blackout dates, and they are one of the only credit card companies that do not apply foreign exchange or foreign transaction fees for foreign purchases.

3) Hotels have recently become a favorite target for credit card and identity thieves. I recently read an interesting article in International Travel News about a report by Trustwave (a credit card security firm), who reports that when investigating credit card breaches it discovered 38% involved the hotel industry – a far larger percent than financial firms or retail operations.  It turns out that identity thieves have discovered that many hotels do not have sophisticated IT Departments to keep their back-end security up to date, and they store a vast number of credit card and debit card numbers.  It’s important to understand that the breach does not come when you enter your credit card number for a reservation, or at the time you check in.  It’s most likely to happen months after your stay when a hacker breaks into a hotel’s unencrypted data files.  This means that it is increasingly important practice to check your credit card statements for any inaccurate charges.  Report any suspicious activity immediately to your credit card company who will reverse any unsubstantiated charges.

Two More Cautionary Trends if you can stand it….
Hotels are beginning to track minibar items electronically.  If you move an item in the minibar (let’s say you pick up a snack pack to read the ingredients and put it back) you will likely see that item on your bill at check out.

Rental Car Companies Are Adding Toll Transponders And Charging Extra Fees For Use. While toll transponders are a big convenience, they can also add lots of extra charges to your car rental bill.  My gripe is that most rental car companies do not disclose at the counter that the car you’re renting has a transponder installed – thereby not giving you an option to decline the extra fees – about $3.50 per day of use.  Even if you go through a manual toll booth and pay in cash, the transponder fees will be on your bill and they will not be removed unless you can provide receipts for all tolls paid with cash.

Just like the airlines, companies who provide services to travelers are becoming very creative in dreaming up new fees!

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Category: Featured, Money & Technology, Travel Health & Safety

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