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.

The 15 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Flying

The 15 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Flying

Excerpted article was written by

I said I would never do it again, but I did—I booked a late flight so I could put in a full day’s work before flying for a business meeting. Weather delays turned an hour-long flight from New York to Toronto into an eight-hour odyssey. My relaxing night became a few hours of pre-meeting sleep, and I was even delayed on the return.

After my business trip disaster, I checked in with the smartest travelers I know to get their flying tips. Here’s what they said.

Not booking your seat when you book your plane ticket. “Now, I always book my seats when I book my ticket. I forgot once and was seated in the back row—no incline, from the west to east coast for six very long hours. (During that trip, I also discovered people waiting in line for the bathroom don’t realize that their hovering invades personal space for those sitting on the aisle.” —Stacy Shoemaker Rauen, editor-in-chief, Hospitality Design Magazine

Dressing down for the flight. “Once, I traveled in torn jeans, flip-flops and a T-shirt to Aruba, where I had an important meeting with a client (who was not happy). My mission was to save the client. My luggage didn’t make it and my flight was delayed, so I had just enough time to go from the airport to the meeting in clothes that I would only wear for running errands. Needless to say, I didn’t save the account.” —Florence Quinn, founder, Quinn PR

Trusting your flight will have Wi-Fi. “I took a flight between two business hubs. I assumed the airline would offer Wi-Fi since the flight was not crossing an ocean. I didn’t bother to confirm and it turned out the flight did not have Internet. I was stuck on a five-hour flight with no Wi-Fi and my documents on the Cloud. Now I always check. If the flight won’t offer Internet connection, I download the files.” —Alex Zatarain, cofounder, Eight Sleep

Wearing uncomfortable shoes. “I’ve been doing more European travel and have discovered there can be a very long walk from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. I dealt with this recently at both the Frankfurt and Madrid airports. Racing for a flight in heels has been challenging, so I carry a pair of flip-flops to ensure I make my flights and protect my feet.” —Celia Rao Visconti, VP global marketing and e-commerce, Briggs & Riley

Forgetting to check your plans before you land. “I landed in Vegas after a long flight and was planning to go to my hotel to freshen up before meetings. I didn’t realize they were sending a car and the COO to pick me up. I desperately needed to clean up after a work dinner the night before and a 5 a.m. flight. Lesson learned: Know your plans before you land so you can be ready.” —Allie Hope, head of development and acquisitions, Virgin Hotels

Not bringing back-up cosmetics in your carry on. “I always pack a small freshen-up kit (baby wipes, toothbrush, deodorant, lipstick, mascara, powder) in my carry-on. A great tip if you are caught without anything when you land and need a pick-me-up? With a small purchase, most high-end beauty counters will freshen your face and make you feel presentation-ready in under 30 minutes.” —Alyssa Bushey, vice president, marketing, RockOrange

Not planning ahead to accommodate travel time from the airport. “When I’m traveling, I find it’s best to plan as much as possible ahead of time so once I land, I have stress-free travel to my appointment. I check the distance between the airport and my destination, taking into account my arrival time and the city’s traffic. I schedule a car to meet me at the airport and ensure I have a cushion of time.” —Troy Guard, chef/owner, TAG Restaurant Group

Forgetting to bring an extra tote. “I’m always collecting things on my travels, and when I’m packing up, sometimes I can’t shut my suitcase. Just in case, I keep one of those cheap shopping totes—a reusable 99 cent tote from Trader Joesstashed in the front pocket of my suitcase. That way, if I buy too many items and my luggage is overweight, I have a sturdy tote to cram it all into.” —Carey Reilly, lifestyle/travel expert and editor, Not So Skinny Mom

Booking an aisle seat. “While traveling on a company trip, I was given an aisle seat on a five-hour flight. I was next to a woman who I assumed was pregnant, because she got up at least 10 times for the bathroom. After inquiring, I found out she was not pregnant and had a bladder infection. The last two hours were uncomfortable. Now I make sure I book a window seat (and never assume someone is pregnant).” Jae Scott, motivational speaker and image consultant

Booking a window seat. “If I’m taking a long-haul flight, anything more than two hours really, I always book an aisle seat in advance. The window is so tempting for leaning against for an overnight flight, but if the person next to you is asleep, you are basically trapped there. I’m a frequent visitor to the bathroom—I hate not having easy access to it.” —Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director, Barteca Restaurant Group

Assuming you’ll get food on the plane. “I like to eat something light before so I’m not hungry during the flight. There’s a decent amount of good restaurants in airports now so it’s never too difficult to find something.” —Laurent Tourondel, owner of multiple restaurants, including the newly renovated and opened restaurant at The Betsy Hotel in South Miami Beach

Not getting a jump on jet lag. “For business travel with big time-zone changes, I try to book a flight that arrives in the late afternoon or early evening the day prior to my first appointment, sleep in spurts on the flight and consume tons of green tea. Then I hit the ground running and get to bed early. This formula works for me every time: short naps in flight + green tea + a run + early to bed = minimal jet lag.” —Tammy Peters, founder, Media Mixology

Suffering through coach (especially if you’re pregnant). “I was traveling for work while pregnant and booked a standard economy seat on the plane. We were delayed on the runway and I became extremely uncomfortable sitting in, what was for me, a cramped space. After that, I’ve always made sure to book at least economy comfort, even if it meant spending more.” Gabrielle Blitz Rosen, chief digital officer, Beautiful Destinations

Not planning ahead if you want to bring wine home. “If you want to bring home bottles of wine, you have to pack them in your suitcase. Bring some padded bottle sleeves that are resealable. They pack flat and can easily slide in your suitcase when you are not using them, but will protect bottles from breaking. If one does get damaged, the resealable bag will absorb liquid.” —Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director, Barteca Restaurant Group

Thinking the gate agent will be of help. “Skip the gate agent—especially if you’re an airline club member. The executive club concierge will understand your travel needs and will make sure all is taken care of in the most efficient manner. I’ve waited 45-plus minutes with a gate agent for an issue that took the ECC less than five.” —Howard Wein, founder, Howard Wein Hospitality and the Diplomat Restaurant Group at the new Diplomat Beach Resort

Better safe than sorry: travel tips for spring breakers

By Aislinn May, CBC News

As reading week gets underway this week for many Ontario universities, lots of people are headed off on vacation, but as travellers prepare for their holidays the Canadian government is reminding people to take the right precautions.

Global Affairs Canada offers consular services, which helps travellers when they get into trouble abroad.

It sees around 200,000 cases every year said Omar Alghabra, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs specializing in consular affairs.

“Obviously they vary in nature, but what that tells us is that there are a lot of people that need assistance at times when they are abroad,” said Alghabra.

Alghabra said that people often hear stories of travel incidents but they don’t think it’ll happen to them.

He said two of the biggest problems for travellers are stolen, damaged or lost passports, and medical emergencies.

Alghabra said that many people think their provincial healthcare will cover their medical needs while travelling. In fact the provincial coverage is limited and travellers could be left with a hefty bill if they don’t have traveller’s insurance.

According to the OHIP website, Ontario travellers will be covered up to $50 a day for outpatient services and up to $400 a day for inpatient services– this includes operations or intensive care.

Alghabra stressed the importance of travel insurance.

“They may think that they are different than other Canadians who end up getting into trouble but one day, God forbid, they might find themselves in a difficult situation and it’s much better to be prepared than to be surprised,” he said.

When the Government can and cannot help

Depending on the situation, the Canadian government might not be able to help.

” [Travellers] may think that if they’re ever in trouble Canada can get them out of trouble immediately, but that is unfortunately not always the case,” said Alghabra.

According to a Global Affairs pamphlet, Canadian Government officials can help travellers with:

  • Legal resources (including information for local police)
  • Replace a lost, stolen or expired passport
  • Lists of medical centres nearby, and hospitals in the area
  • Contact family or friends on your behalf (with permission)
  • Help in case of a death abroad
  • Advocate on the behalf of  travellers with the host government and refer Canadians to consulates nearby.

The government cannot offer legal advice, provide lawyers, cover health expenses, perform investigations into crimes or get travellers out of jail.

Alghabra said it’s important for travellers to educate themselves about the local laws and customs before their trip.

Alternative Spring Break

This week students from Western University and Carleton University will be heading off on trips for a program called Alternative Spring Break, which offer volunteer opportunities instead of partying.

This year some of the destinations include Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Peru. There are also trips offered within Canada.

Rick Ezekiel is Western’s Interim Senior Director for Student Experience and helps organize the Alternative Spring Break trip at the university.

He said although the trips are very organized, there have been instances where student have lost their passports or had a medical emergency.  He added students are not travelling alone, so they can easily get help or find a consulate if needed.

Students are advised to keep their personal belongings like passports, visas, and other important documents in secure place. Travel insurance, including medical coverage, is included in the trips fees for students at both Carleton University and  Western University.

Organizers for both trips also check the government’s travel advisory website for updates on their destinations.

For all travellers who do find themselves in trouble the government has emergency contact information. Other travel tips include checking travel advisories , and downloading the Smart Travel App for up-to-date travel advice and advisories.

iA Financial Group adds travel insurance to its individual insurance offer

In collaboration with established partner, TuGo

QUEBEC CITY, Jan. 17, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ – iA Financial Group is proud to partner with TuGo, one of the largest providers of travel insurance in the country, to offer travel insurance and provide its clients with TuGo’s recognized quality customer service and expertise. TuGo has more than 50 years of experience assisting travellers across the globe.

Distinguishing features of this insurance:

  • Simplified eligibility criteria
  • Reliable emergency assistance anywhere in the world, 24/7
  • Multilingual customer service
  • myTuGo online client portal

“Travel insurance meets the needs of most people who are concerned with being properly protected when they travel, states Pierre Vincent, Senior Vice-President, Individual Insurance and Sales at iA Financial Group. We are proud to extend our product offer through our partnership with TuGo, a company that is recognized for the quality of the service it provides.”

iA Financial Group’s new travel insurance product is exclusively digital and can be obtained from an advisor or directly at ia.ca. There are no medical eligibility questions for travellers under 60; travellers 60 or older are only required to answer five simple questions.

About iA Financial Group
Founded in 1892, iA Financial Group is one of the largest insurance and wealth management companies in Canada. It also operates in the United States. iA Financial Group stock is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol IAG.

iA Financial Group is a business name and trademark of Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc.

SOURCE Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc.

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips To Share

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips To Share

Snow is in the forecast across the country, from a chance of snow in Vancouver, to snow on top of more snow in Alberta and the Maritimes. Winter driving is an important skill in our country, and with the holidays coming up the roads will be busier than ever. Share these winter driving tips with your insurance clients and help keep everyone safe on the road.

1. Avoid the winter slip ‘n’ slide: To ensure your vehicle is ready for Canada’s changing winter weather, switch your all-season tires to winter ones before the temperature drops below 7°C. Winter tires optimize the performance and safety of winter driving. Not convinced you need them? Consider that the braking distance of a winter tire could be up to two vehicle lengths shorter than the braking distance of an all-season tire rolling at 24 km/h.

2. Defrost your windows well: Neglecting to defrost your windows might get you to your destination faster, but it’s a dangerous habit. Plan for a few extra minutes to clean all your car’s windows well. And don’t forget to clear off the top of your vehicle—snow could slide down the windshield and obstruct your view while the vehicle is in motion.

3. Winterize your trunk: Keeping a roadside safety kit in your trunk year-round is a good idea, but winter driving conditions require extra safety equipment. Make sure you’re carrying a scraper for the windshield, a small shovel, a sandbag, candles, and warm clothing like gloves and a hat.

4. Replace worn tires:  It’s important to check your tires each winter season because worn or bald tires can be dangerous. Tires have tread wear indicator bars molded into them. A solid bar of rubber across the width of the tread means it’s time to replace the tire.

5. Don’t mix and match:  Mixing tires with different tread patterns, different internal constructions and/or different sizes compromises the stability of the vehicle. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with four identical winter tires.

6. Top up your fluids: Always keep your gas tank at least half full. On very cold days, the condensation in the tank can freeze and cause problems. Also, don’t forget about your windshield-washer fluid – this is also extremely important on those sunny day!

7. Pump up your tires: For every 5°C drop in temperature, tires lose one pound of air pressure. To ensure optimum fuel efficiency and prevent irregular or premature wear, tire inflation should be checked monthly.

8. See and be seen: It is critical for drivers to see and be seen in low light conditions, and when blowing snow impairs visibility. Always drive with your headlights on.

9. Take a cellphone: For long trips, don’t forget to take a cellphone in case you need to call for help. Pull over to the side of the road and stop your vehicle before making the call.

10. 
Drop your speed to match road conditions: The posted speed is the maximum speed under ideal conditions. In winter, it is safer to drive below the posted speed. No matter how much experience you have, the way your car will move on snow or ice always has an element of unpredictability.

Stay safe over the holiday season! Are you an insurance agent looking for a greater understanding of vehicle insurance in your province? ILScorp has online courses for ICBC Autoplan Agents in BC and an Ontario Auto Expert continuing education course. Visit ILScorp.com to learn more about our online continuing education courses for insurance agents.

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