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Travel Cards: How To Avoid Those Nasty Taxes And Fees

Travel Cards: How To Avoid Those Nasty Taxes And Fees

By Paul Marshman  

Travel reward cards: we all have them, and we love them. After all, free travel — what’s not to like? But for many Canadians who’ve travelled with reward miles recently, that picture has lost its rosy hue. The culprit: taxes and fees.

These days, the extra charges on air flights can easily be more than the fare itself — in some cases a lot more. And when you book the flight with your rewards card, you’re paying all the fees on top of your air miles.

The problem is worst on fares to Europe. Booking a simple return flight to Rome on Canada’s Air Miles system can cost an extra $650 in taxes and fees. Travellers booking business class tickets report paying as much as $1,000.

There’s a dizzying array of fees: fuel surcharge, navigation service fee, security fee, insurance fee, foreign taxes, airport improvement fees, something called a “peak travel premium” … the list goes on. Are all these really necessary? And more importantly, shouldn’t many of them be included in the actual fare, instead of shuffled into the small print so the rewards plans can charge them to you?

You can’t avoid paying taxes and fees if you fly on your card. But there are ways to use your travel miles without getting hit by this whopping surcharge. Here are five ways to avoid the bite:

Pick your spots: Some destinations don’t impose quite as much in the way of fees as the worst offenders. Browse your plan’s website for different destinations to see how the surcharges vary.Airport shot

Change your airline: In some cases, Canadians can save a few dollars by choosing flights on airlines that have low or no fuel surcharges. The list includes United Airlines, Air China, Brussels Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Swiss Airlines. 

Enhance your trip: Your rewards card likely offers travel services other than air tickets. For example, you may be able to get a seat upgrade, access to an airport lounge, or parking at the airport using your points. You might even be able to get a rental car, or train or bus tickets, and skip the air flight altogether.

Get merchandise: Most reward plans also offer merchandise rewards – everything from cameras to lawn furniture, iTunes credits and e-books. It may not be as good a deal as an air ticket for the points used, but then, you’re not paying all the extra fees.

Give them to charity: If these options don’t sound inviting, you can always give your miles or points to charity. Many rewards plans allow a direct transfer to a number of charities, which use the points for their work. This is a great option if your points are in danger of expiring – never hurts to check.

Taxes and fees are becoming a sore spot in the Canadian travel business. In fact, at least one credit card is feverishly advertising that it doesn’t impose them. Hopefully, more will follow their lead, and our “free” rewards flights will stop coming with a load of nasty baggage.

Paul Marshman is a Travel Blogging Specialist.  Being both a Boomer and a world traveler himself, Paul shares travel tips and stories on his popular blog – The Travelling Boomer. You can also follow Paul on Twitter at @Travel_Boomer.

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Paul Marshman is a writer, photographer and traveler living in Toronto, Canada. Paul is semi-retired from a 30-year career as a reporter, editor and photographer on Canadian newspapers and magazines where his travels have taken him to 50 countries. Paul’s articles have been published everywhere from the Toronto Star to Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and Paul now shares travel tips and stories on his popular blog – The Travelling Boomer.

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