Don’t look now, but travel could be getting even more expensive. The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has proposed increasing the air travel security fee. Currently, airline passengers pay a $2.50 fee per flight segment, up to a maximum of $10 per round-trip ticket. A doubling of that fee plus a series of smaller hikes in the future would bring the maximum to $15 per round-trip ticket by 2017.
But the government isn’t the only bad guy when it comes to nickel-and-diming travelers. Airlines, hotels, cruise ships, credit card issuers and rental-car companies all have sneaky ways of making an extra few bucks at your expense, some of which you might not even realize.
1. The list of ancillary fees and surcharges airlines levy for everything from talking to a live human being when you book your ticket to securing an aisle seat is long and annoying, but the one that takes the cake comes via Irish low-fare carrier Ryanair. If you book a ticket using any credit card that’s not Ryanair’s branded prepaid MasterCard, you’ll get charged a £6 or €6 fee. (The Financial Times points out that it costs £6 just to purchase the card, and it carries numerous other fees typical of prepaid debit cards.) Ryanair has previously pulled pranks such as announcing a plan to charge passengers to use the airplane bathrooms, but this fee is no joke. Worse yet, other European airlines like Lufthansa have added fees for credit card purchases.
2. Like airlines, hotels slip in all sorts of fees and add-ons, everything from $20 for Wi-Fi in the guest rooms to room service menus that tack on both a “delivery charge” and a “service charge.” But the one fee that seems to get travelers’ dander up the most is the resort fee. Often in the $20 or $30 range (although one resort in Puerto Rico charges $60 per day!), this daily fee generally covers a grab bag of things like in-room Internet, the newspaper you trip over when you leave your room in the morning, fitness center access and parking. The hotels tend to argue that one flat fee is less annoying to travelers than a slew of small fees for each individual amenity, but travelers still resent the fee. Since resort fees don’t always appear on third-party booking sites or may be buried in the fine print of hotels’ own sites, the potential for unpleasant sticker shock is high.
3. If you’re traveling overseas, experts recommend using a credit card to get the best possible exchange rate. What’s often lost in this bit of advice is the fact that the majority of credit cards will charge you a foreign transaction fee of around 3 percent — which could negate any savings you get from the exchange rate. Even bookings made in the U.S., such as an overseas hotel reservation, can fall under card issuers’ definition of “foreign transaction,” even if you’re charged in U.S. greenbacks. If you travel to foreign countries frequently, it might be worthwhile to seek out a card that doesn’t charge these fees.
4. Would you pay $9 a gallon for gas? You’d probably say, “Of course not!” but you could wind up doing exactly that if you rent a car and bring it back with the gas tank empty. Earlier this year, a USA Today investigation found prices of up to $9.29 a gallon at 13 major airports. The article points out that if a customer rents a big vehicle like a full-sized van, they could be on the hook for $325.15 at those prices if they return it with a nearly empty tank. A cheaper option is to prepay for a tank of gas when picking up the car. It’s even cheaper just filling it up yourself right before you return it.
5. If you think paying $2 or $3 to use another bank’s ATM is highway robbery, you’ll think this is outright piracy: Cruise ships have a captive audience, and the prices they charge passengers to get cash reflect that. Royal Caribbean says it charges $5.50 for onboard ATM use, while people who post in Carnival Cruise Line’s traveler forums report paying $6 per transaction. Keep in mind, this is on top of whatever your bank charges you to use an out-of-network ATM, so make sure you bring enough cash for your entire journey.