November 2006:
Travel Expense Payment Options:
How to Spend Your Holiday Vacation Dollar

November, December, and January are heavy with holidays and because of that, they are the months that many people travel to see friends and relatives or to just get away from it all. When paying for all those vacation-related expenses though, don't just hand over your cards take a moment to learn how to charge and spend smart.

Hotels
Just can't bear Aunt Flo's hide-a-bed this year? Then you may be staying in a hotel. If so, you have a couple of payment methods to consider.

One of the benefits of credit cards is the ability to dispute charges. In most instances your stay will be satisfactory, but errors do happen. If you are wrongly charged for a $12 pack of minibar peanuts, take it up with the hotel. Not budging? You have the right to dispute the charge with your credit card company and won't be responsible for payment until the matter is settled.

If you are trying to keep your debt load down, you may opt to reserve your room with a debit card. However, if you do, know that hotels often place a hold on the amount of money that you might spend during your stay. This overestimated sum could leave you with less cash in your checking account than you may need. Be sure to ask the reservationist about their policy concerning debit card holds.

Airfare
Have you used your credit card diligently for years, and with each purchase built up precious air miles? If so, now's the time to cash them in. You may have the choice between a free flight and a seat upgrade from economy to business or even first class. Consider both options before deciding on one.

If you have forgotten about your miles, you are in the majority: an estimated 75 percent of all air miles are never redeemed! Remember that rewards have no value if you don't use them. Analyze your need for air miles. There are a lot of reward credit cards on the market, so make sure you have the one that works best for your lifestyle.

Car rentals
A credit card is often required to rent a car, but be aware that many rental companies make a refundable charge of hundreds of dollars when you drive away.

While most companies won't process the charge unless you break the contract, some will. If they do, not only will it dent your spending limit (at a time when you may want to buy presents) but it could bring you near or even over your credit limit definitely not good! When you make the reservation, ask the company representative about how and when they process this charge. You may even be able to pay for the deposit in cash.

If you will be leaving home this season, don't just charge though the holidays! Be aware of the up and downsides of payment options for travel expenses.