Fly now, pay later: Are travel loans a good deal?

By Amrita Jayakumar

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dreaming of a spring getaway with white-sand beaches and a cool drink in your hand?

A search for airline tickets can bring your dream down to earth, if the steep fares charged by many airlines outstrip your savings.

What if you could book your trip today and pay for it later without maxing out your credit cards?

Major airlines including American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines integrate buy-now-pay-later concepts into their online booking. Working with technology startups that provide the financing, they offer loans to travellers who would rather pay a fixed amount over time than dip into savings or use high-interest credit cards.

Financing a trip may be a reasonable option in a few situations for trips that are important and have inflexible dates, for example, or for emergency travel. But if you don’t know how you’ll pay, borrowing isn’t a good idea, experts say.

LOAN OR LAYAWAY

“We are trying to help people take the trips of a lifetime,” says Brian Barth, founder and CEO of UpLift, a Silicon Valley startup that gives travel loans through four major airlines’ websites.

Travel lenders say they appeal to people with average credit scores who may not qualify for travel reward cards that require excellent credit. The loans also can make sense for people who are building credit and prefer the discipline of fixed payments over credit cards’ revolving payments.

It’s not just airlines offering financing for travellers. Travel deal sites such as CheapAir.com, Expedia and Groupon Getaways offer loans through Affirm, a San Francisco-based online lender. Airfordable and FlightLayaway.com offer layaway-style plans, in which you pay off your ticket in online installments before you fly. Other sites like STA Travel market financing to college students.

Some experts advise against going into debt for travel at all, whether you use travel loans or credit cards. “Taking out debt (to travel) is risky and can be harder to pay off in the long run,” says Brett Snyder, president and founder of airline industry blog Cranky Flier.

THE COST OF CONVENIENCE

Even when a travel loan might make sense, know how you’ll pay it back, such as by carving money out of your budget or using a tax refund, Snyder says.

Before you choose a loan, understand all the costs, says Graciela Aponte-Diaz, director of California policy for the Center for Responsible Lending, a non-profit advocacy group.

The typical UpLift customer borrows $500 to $2,500, says Barth, and the company charges annual percentage rates from 8.99 per cent to 36 per cent, based on your credit profile. If you borrow $1,500, for example, and pay it back over 12 months at 17 per cent _ UpLift’s average rate for borrowers _ you’ll pay $137 per month and a total of $1,642.

Affirm charges 10 per cent to 30 per cent APR, and travellers borrow $1,400 on average, says spokesperson Elizabeth Allin. Airfordable charges a one-time service fee equal to about 13 per cent of the ticket cost, according to a calculator on the website.

Lenders may also charge cancellation and modification fees if your plans change, or try to sell you travel insurance.

THE CREDIT EFFECT

Both UpLift and Affirm say they perform soft credit checks _ essentially a background check of your credit report, which won’t hurt your score. If you are approved, the loan and your payment history will show up on your credit report. Paying on time can build your credit score; not paying will hurt it, and you may be charged late fees.

UpLift considers borrowers with average to low credit scores and looks at data beyond credit scores, such as the person’s travel history with an airline, says Barth. The lender has approved people with scores as low as 475, he says.

Affirm which targets those who are new to credit  says it may ask applicants for permission to scan checking account transactions to gauge financial behaviour. More than 70 per cent of Affirm travellers have credit scores between 620 and 729, says Allin.

ALTERNATIVES TO TRAVEL LOANS

Saving is the cheapest way to fund your dream getaway.

In some cases, charging the trip to your credit card and paying more than the minimum monthly payment may be cheaper than a travel loan with interest, as long as you pay it off within a fixed time frame, says Aponte-Diaz.

Still dreaming of that beach? Find an affordable version of it, says Snyder.

“You don’t have to go to Bali. Go to Florida without putting yourself into debt,” he says.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: ajayakumar?nerdwallet.com. Twitter: ?ajbombay.

March Spring Break: How to avoid an airport meltdown

March Spring Break: How to avoid an airport meltdown

By Eric Foss and Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News

It’s been a long, cold winter in many parts of Canada, and as spring approaches, many lucky Canadians have made plans to escape to warmer climates.

March Break, which for many Canadians starts next week, is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports, and while frequent fliers have a pretty good sense of the do’s and don’ts of travel, many Canadian vacationers aren’t aware of the rules and new services available at international airports across the country.

March Break is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Arriving at the airport with the wrong travel documents or items that are not approved for airline travel can quickly change a dream vacation into a stressful and frustrating experience.

So before you imagine yourself walking barefoot on a sandy beach, you might want to reacquaint yourself with some useful airport travel tips and Canadian Customs rules.

1. Before you arrive at the airport

Consider using your airline’s online check-in, which opens 24 hours before your departure. Online check-in will secure where you’re sitting – you may even have a better choice of seat if you haven’t already reserved one. As well, you can avoid long check-in lines the following day at the airport.

Screenshot your boarding pass and save it as a photo. That way, you have an image of your boarding information on your smartphone in case wi-fi is spotty or too costly to access.

Also, check to make sure your flight is still departing at the scheduled time, especially on days when the weather is in question.

If you share custody of your children and the other parent is not coming along, or if you’re travelling with children that aren’t yours, it’s recommended you carry a consent letter to provide authorization to show Canada Customs when you re-enter the country.

2. Arriving at the airport

Make sure you arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight — at least two hours before a domestic flight and three if you are going international.

Know what choices you have for parking. The closer to the airport, the more expensive it can be. If you decide to leave your car at the airport, make sure you find the right location for the duration of your trip. Public transportation is often cheaper and more reliable.

Familiarize yourself with the airport’s facilities. Toronto’s Pearson International, for example, has many restaurants, a gym facility and places of worship. Modern airports have changed dramatically in the last decade, offering many different services.

Make sure check-in bags are under weight and within size allowances. Overweight bags will incur additional charges, or you will be required to reduce the weight on site. If you decide to carry your luggage onto the plane, make sure those bags are within the airline’s baggage allowance for size and weight — every airline is different.

If you haven’t checked in online or require boarding passes, consider using the self check-in kiosks. Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, these are great time savers allowing you to view your itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes.

3. Going through security

Make sure any sharp objects — including files and scissors — are in your checked bags. See the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority site for the latest on what is allowed through security.

Be prepared to remove your shoes, belt, watch and anything that has a substantial metal content. Bins are provided to keep loose items together.

Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, self check-in kiosks are great time savers that allow travellers to view their itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes. (Eric Foss/CBC)

If you’re carrying a laptop, remove it from its case or bag and place that in a separate bin.

Keep your ID and boarding pass available to show security screeners.

Jewelry and valuable items should be removed before entering security.

4. Before you board

It’s not a bad idea to eat something before you fly. Many airlines charge for food items and the selection may not be to your liking.

5. Boarding your aircraft

Most airlines will start boarding a flight at least 30 minutes before takeoff, even earlier with some of the larger aircraft.

Delays in boarding affect all passengers and can result in a missed travel slot for the aircraft. Make sure you board when the flight is announced and listen for your row. Families with small children, as well as people with disabilities, get prioritized boarding on most flights. 

6. Finding your bags

Once you have disembarked from your plane, follow the signs to Baggage Claim. When you arrive, check the monitors to find the carousel that corresponds to your flight number.

Have your bags, entry documents and ID ready for inspection if you are coming off an international flight. Be prepared to show items that you purchased to customs officers if asked.

7. Canada Customs

A passport is the preferable piece of identification for entry into Canada. Other acceptable identification includes an enhanced driver’s license, a birth certificate with accompanying photo ID (such as a regular driver’s license), a permanent resident card, a citizenship card or a certificate of Indian status.

Souvenirs can be a fun way to remember your trip abroad, but certain goods are prohibited from entering Canada, including some food, plant and animal products. Be aware of what goods are prohibited from entering Canada by consulting the I Declare brochure.

Whether you are leaving or returning to Canada, you must declare if you are carrying more than $10,000 Cdn.

JLT CANADA appoints Steven Godfrey as National Aviation Leader

Press Release:

February 26, 2018 – Toronto, Ontario

Jardine Lloyd Thompson Canada Inc. (“JLT Canada”), a subsidiary of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group plc. (“JLT”), one of the world’s leading providers of insurance, reinsurance and employee benefits related advice, brokerage and associated services, announced today that it has appointed executive Steven Godfrey as Aviation National Specialty Leader and Managing Director.

Steven is an accomplished executive with an illustrious background in aviation, having started his long-standing career as a pilot and flight instructor. He brings first-hand knowledge of ongoing issues faced by JLT Canada’s clients in that space and will help deepen the company’s expertise in this key specialty growth area.

“JLT Group’s strength within the aviation sector is unparalleled, making it the right time to hire someone like Steven to lead our Aviation business here in Canada,” said David Richards, Chief Executive Officer. “I am excited we were able to attract such impressive talent as we continue playing our part in becoming the leading global and specialty risk advisor and broker.”

JLT is currently one of the world’s leading aviation insurance brokers, representing 40 percent of the world’s commercial airline operators. Its Aerospace and Aviation team offers access to a one-stop shop for a wide range of risk management services, going well beyond standard aviation insurance provisions.

ENQUIRIES:

Chris Lapworth
Vice President, Manager, Marketing and Communications
416-941-9551
clapworth@jltcanada.com

So you have a drone: Does your insurance cover damage?

So you have a drone: Does your insurance cover damage?

Excerpted article was written by | By Elizabeth Dinan

PORTSMOUTH — State insurance regulators advise property owners who fly drones, or have family members who fly drones, to review their insurance policies to ensure they’re covered for liability, while some insurers are limiting or eliminating drone-related coverage.

“It is not unusual for the insurance market to develop forms to address new and emerging risks,” said Danielle Barrick, director of communications for the New Hampshire Insurance Department. “Drone liability would qualify as an emerging risk. To that extent, it is a new trend.”

Barrick said a standard homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for drone damage. What is new, she said, is that some insurers are adding an “exclusionary endorsement,” sometimes called a rider, that removes or limits coverage otherwise provided by the policy.

“Thus, if a drone user wishes to be protected or to have greater protection, the drone user should either have their current insurer issue a policy without an exclusionary endorsement related to drones, or find an insurer that will issue such a policy,” she said. “As the homeowners insurance market is a competitive one, the drone user should be able to obtain multiple quotes for the desired level of coverage.”

Professional drone photographer David Murray of New Castle said he has a specific insurance policy for his drone operation and thinks all drone operators should be responsible for any damage or injury they cause.

“Just like automobile operators,” he said.

But, Murray added he also thinks insurance companies shouldn’t back away from claims for damage caused by drones.

“I think kids playing in the back yard with a ball and bat can do similar damage,” he said, noting there aren’t insurance exclusions for those accidents. “Why one and not the other?”

Murray said there are insurance options that cover single drone flights and blanket policies to cover periods of time, like an auto insurance policy.
“Drones are new so people want to fixate on them and be afraid of them,” he said. “In terms of the danger they pose, you can do more damage with a car. And you certainly can do more damage with a gun. I think it’s appropriate to step back and reasonably look at it.”

According to the state Insurance Department, “the competitive homeowners insurance market allows residents to choose a policy that will provide coverage for drones.” Barrick said people with drones should ensure they have the coverage they want while the market also allows people without drones “to seek a policy that excludes liability coverage for drone use, which might result in a lower premium.”

“This is how a competitive market is designed to operate,” she said.

The Insurance Department does not collect data detailing how often an insurer includes “a particular endorsement,” like drone limits or exclusions, adding “exclusionary drone endorsements are a fairly new type of coverage form.”

Murray said drone hobbyists tend to fly small, lightweight drones and would “have to work pretty hard to cause some damage.”

“Most are made of toy-grade plastic and weigh less than two pounds,” he said. “Most have less mass than a seagull.”

He said some drone controls have more intelligence for piloting than others, meaning some require more work to control than others. He said it also takes many hours of practice to master drone flying.
“I think some people have a good experience when they start flying and get overconfident,” he added. Some insurance policies are also now citing exclusions of coverage for damage caused by drones that interfere with aircraft. Murray said that’s ”

Some insurance policies are also now citing exclusions of coverage for damage caused by drones that interfere with aircraft. Murray said that’s “a major source of potential concern” that could cause loss of life, but is highly unlikely to occur. He said anyone who flies a drone should know it’s prohibited within five miles of an airport or tower and that the law is printed on drone packaging.

He said that’s why the FAA requires all drones weighing more than a half pound to be registered and marked with identifying numbers.

“The department’s advice for drone owners and all insureds is to work with their insurer and/or insurance agent to ensure that they have the appropriate level of liability coverage and to not be reluctant to shop their insurance to find the insurer and policy that best fits their needs,” Barrick said.

Source: SeaCoastOnline

Lithium, Luggage and Airline Travel

New airline regulation on battery safety and carry-ons is challenging luggage brands to come up with smart luggage designs that go way beyond the regular road warrior duty.  Canadian travellers accustomed to judging luggage on the criteria of size, flexibility and weight must now ask themselves an all-important but simple question:  can the lithium battery be taken out?

Effective January 15, 2018 a handful of major U.S. airlines including American, Alaska, and Delta no longer allow passengers to fly with smart bags that contain non-removable lithium batteries.  This revised policy applies to both carry-on and checked baggage.  Some luggage manufacturers already sell smart luggage that comply with the FAA protocol, but the shift has ignited an industry-wide sweep of innovation as other firms move to regain compliance.

The policy stems from the safety concerns that lithium batteries are “susceptible to emitting smoke, catching fire, and even exploding”.  With 160 documented incidents, the new rules have come earlier than anticipated.  IATA (the International Air Transport Association) expects most carriers to follow the recommendations.  While most airlines will still allow lithium batteries in carry-on, American in particular is insisting that they must be removable.  The carrier will not require travellers to take out the battery if they are bringing the bag into the cabin.  But they must be able to check the bag if there is not enough space in the overhead bin and therefore they must be removable.

With standardized practices being the norm in the industry, Canadian airlines are sure to fall in line with the standards set by their American counterparts.  Globetrotters from both sides of the border should begin to re-evaluate their luggage choices or risk being denied boarding.

Luckily, there’s no better time than the present to invest in a new bag. According to a recent article in the Herald-Tribune, “Between now and March is an ideal time to purchase new luggage: Last year’s luggage is on sale, and the time frame is before the summer travel season – and price uptick.”

In recent studies and tests, Travelpro smart luggage has been found as not only one of the safest choices, but a top choice as the go-to and must have luggage for 2018.  Travelpro Crew 11 carry-on (CDN $269.99 at Hudson’s Bay) has pulled away from the pack as one of the Top Picks, boasting an affordable blend of size, reliability and durability, and sporting the newly-crucial removable batteries.

Travelpro Crew 11 carry-on with USB Port
SKU: 4071660
Sold on: Hudson’s Bay
Retail Price: $269.99 CDN
Colours available: black

https://www.holiday.ca/en/shop/products/travelpro-crew-11-collection-21-expandable-spinner-luggage/1882

For more information or high-res images, please contact Rebecca Cohen at rcohen@jessonco.com or Nicola Blazier at nblazier@jessonco.com.

SOURCE Jesson + Company Communications Inc.

Top 20 Worst Mistakes To Make in an Airport

By Yuki Hayashi for readersdigest.ca

Mistake #1: Leaving your bag(s) behind: “My husband and I were taking a family vacation to Orlando with our three sons, and one of us left one of our bags on the ground, right by the door of our minivan, in the airport parking lot in Buffalo. We left it behind as we rushed to catch the airport shuttle bus, and didn’t realize the bag was missing until we were checking our baggage,” says Sonja Babic, of Toronto.

Fortunately, this didn’t ruin their vacation – but it could have been worse, had medication or valuables had been in the bag.

Upshot: Note how many bags your party has and conduct regular bag counts before you leave the parking lot, check-in counter, airport Tim Horton’s, baggage claim, etc.

Mistake #2: Being stuck barefoot: Wear socks with your shoes, or pack ankle socks in your carry-on and slip into them in the security line, so you don’t have to hobble across dirty floors barefoot.

Mistake #3: Not packing snacks: Always pack snacks in your carry-on. If you’re stuck in a long security line and run out of time to buy food in the departure lounge, or if your plane doesn’t sell anything you actually want to eat, you’re covered.

Mistake #4: Not scouting the arrival airport: If you’ve got a connecting flight, plan your route to the second gate, before you get off your first flight. If your stopover is under an hour, it could make the difference between making or missing your next flight. Refer to a map of the arrival airport on your mobile device, or rip out the map page of the in-flight magazine.

Mistake #5: Arriving late: True story: a few years ago, my family drove nine hours from Toronto to Newark, NJ – after wasting three hours in a futile attempt to fly standby – because we missed the first leg of a three-plane journey to the volcano island of Montserrat, West Indies. We desperately needed not to miss the second leg of this trip, a twice-weekly fight from Newark to Antigua. If we missed that flight the following morning, it would effectively cancel a bucket-list trip we’d spent over one year orchestrating and pre-paying for.

We made it to our destination – a day late – and with $700 in additional fees, all because we got to the airport with under an hour to spare on a CDA-US flight during peak-travel March Break.

Lesson learned: on busy travel days, arrive at the airport 3 ½ hours before an international flight, 3 hours before a US flight, and 2 hours before a domestic flight. Paranoid? Maybe. Better that than the alternative!

Mistake #6: Parking in the most-expensive lot: You’ll pay a premium to park in the lot closest to the airport terminal. Discount lots save you big-time, but they require a short shuttle drive. Savvy park-and-flyers arrive early so they can be choosy about parking.

Mistake #7: Over-packing: Overweight baggage results in steep penalties. Cumbersome carry-on bags make travelling uncomfortable, particularly if you have young children with you. Solution: edit, edit, edit! Pack less and you’ll stress less.

Mistake #8: Waiting in the loooooooong security lineups: If you travel to the US more than once a year, apply for the joint US-Canada NEXUS program. Cardholders sail through dedicated border clearance lines, making the $50 program fee (free for kids) a bargain in time and aggravation saved.

Mistake #9: Bearing an about-to-expire passport: Some countries won’t let you in if your passport expires within three or even six months of your planned date of entry. Check the entry requirements for the country you plan to visit, and renew your passport in advance, so you don’t get turned back at the airport.

Mistake #10: Not bringing a “permission slip” for your daughter or son: Travel consent letters aren’t just for divorced parents, as Toronto mom Ceri Marsh discovered a couple years back when she tried to fly from Toronto to New York City with her then 2-1/2-year-old.

“We were meeting my husband in New York. I had been told by the Canadian passport office and the airline that I didn’t require a notarized letter from my husband to fly with her on my own. They both said since we’re not divorced, it wasn’t necessary. Of course, in retrospect that’s ridiculous: you can’t tell someone’s marital status from a passport or airline ticket,” says Marsh.

Upshot: Marsh and her daughter were detained by US Customs agents, missed their flight, and had to wait hours for the next available flight. Airline and customs agents are trained to spot possible child abductions, so if there’s a second custodial parent, always carry a notarized permission letter on cross-border, solo-parent trips. “This was about the least pleasant travel experience of my life. Throwing a 2 year old off her schedule is never a good idea,” says Marsh.

Mistake #11: Losing your cool with airport personnel: From callous gate agents to creep-tastic transportation security personnel, everyone has a complaint about airport personnel. But, the fact remains, there are more good apples than bad, so chill.

Also: venting is more likely to get you delayed or arrested than en route to your vacation.

Mistake #12: Not gate-checking your bags: Why pay to check your bags, when you can gate-check them for free? (Provided they are carry-on size, of course).

Mistake #13: Slowing down the security line: Do your bit to keep the security checkpoint moving. Wear easy-on, easy-off shoes. Take your jacket off in line so it’s ready for the bin. Empty your pockets and get that laptop out of your briefcase. Done and done.

Mistake #14: Crowding the baggage claim carousel: Unless you have catlike reflexes and are in great shape, don’t join the scrum right where the bags first drop onto the carousel. Ditto if you have a common-looking bag: a black nylon soft case, for instance:

“Ooops. That wasn’t mine. Can I just squeeze past you to put it back…Oh, sorry for hitting you with that. Hey: is that my bag—excuse me, I need to squeeze past again…”

If you need to use both hands and some swinging action to get the bag off the carousel, pick a spot where you’re less likely to have a neighbour within hitting distance.

Mistake #15: Not IDing your bag properly: For your personal security, check bags with a discrete tag marked with your name, cell phone, and email address – or your business card – never your home address.

Mistake #16: Not IDing your bag flamboyantly: To quickly identify your bag on a luggage carousel and prevent baggage theft, tie a ribbon, use a decorative luggage strap, or decorate the bag with stickers or colourful duct tape.

Mistake #17: Packing valuables into your checked baggage: Just one word: don’t.

Mistake #18: Sketchy airport transportation: Planning ahead saves you money and headaches when it comes to transportation from your destination airport to your accommodations, so don’t even get on your flight without having done your advance recogiscence. In big cities, grab a marked taxi from the official lineup (don’t try to save money on a “gypsy cab”), but if you’re headed to a resort destination in an unfamiliar country, pre-book transportation with your resort.

Mistake #19: Not knowing when to cut your losses: Sometimes you’ll slip up and pack a liquid that’s over 100mL, or forget your Swiss Army keychain is, technically speaking, a knife. Upon being faced with confiscation, you may want to rush back and check the item within a bag. But if it’s a particularly busy travel day, doing so may cause you to lose your flight. Smart travellers know when to cut their losses.

Mistake #20: Not spending when necessary: Yes, the noise-cancelling headphones at the gift shop cost nearly double what they did at Best Buy. But… if you forgot to pack yours, consider that you’ll be spending the next six hours packed like a sardine next to potentially snoring/humming/crying/muttering/mouth-breathing strangers… Sometimes, paying that airport-retail premium may just salvage one airport mistake, preventing it from morphing into something worse: a plane ride from hell

 

 

 

 

 

 

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