Here’s a trick to earn a bonus on all your purchases abroad (hotels, shopping, car hire, etc) – and to get the best exchange rate at the same time. You simply link a ‘rewards’ credit card, which gives you cashback or Avios on spending, to the Travelex Supercard – a new app-linked currency card, where you apply for the card and track your spending within the app.
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to get a rewards credit card (see goo.gl/D2NxHE.) But as with most credit cards, these charge hefty non-sterling transaction fees of 3% to 5% for any use abroad, so don’t whip these out at the till when travelling.
Instead, use the Travelex Supercard as a go-between. Download the Supercard app (free), where you can apply for its linked Mastercard (free). In the app, link the Supercard with your rewards credit card.
Now every time you spend abroad on the Supercard Mastercard, it moves that charge in sterling – for free – over to your UK-based rewards credit card. Because your rewards card sees that as an ordinary UK sterling purchase, you get the perks of the Supercard – fee-free spending and the best exchange rates available to consumers – plus all those rewards from your UK credit card.
Cash in hand
You’ll inevitably need some currency on your travels, but for that, another app-card beats the Supercard, which charges 2.99% for cash withdrawals. Download the Revolut app (free), and follow the same process as above to get its Mastercard (£5), which offers better rates for cash withdrawals (free up to £200, then 2%). But because it links to your current account, it won’t earn you those juicy reward-card perks, so use the Supercard Mastercard for overseas purchases and the Revolut Mastercard for cash withdrawals.
Avoid sky-high mobile-phone roaming charges and hotel-wifi fees by finding free hotspots at your destination. Download the Free Wifi Internet Finder by kapron-ap on Android (free) or Wifi Finder Free by Yurii Kobets (free) on Apple. Open these in the UK while you’re still on wifi, and hone in on your destination. Then when you arrive, you should be able to go into your phone’s settings, turn mobile roaming off – thus avoiding any charges from your mobile provider – while leaving GPS tracking on. GPS used alone doesn’t incur fees from your mobile operator. When you’re out and about, open the app and it’ll show you the nearest cafes, shops and other nearby locales with free wifi.
Not fussed about where you rest your head? You’re a prime candidate for one of the biggest bargains in travel – same-day hotel bookings. The free Hotel Tonight app offers some remarkable savings on last-minute bookings, especially with its ‘Geo Rate’, which shows discounts on hotels near your current location. When we checked, we found several boutique hotels in London for 30% to 50% off, and a central Hilton in New York for 60% off. The app allows you to book several days at a time, so no need to hotel-hop once you’ve made that initial booking. You can even reserve a few days ahead in the app, but the best deals tend to be on the same day for rooms within a mile or so of wherever you’re standing.
Skip the pricey car-hire satnav – typically around £70-100 per week – and instead get a free one on your phone. Download the Google Maps area for your destination before you go – see goo.gl/PRPNcB for how to do this – and you’ll find that it now includes driving directions. But you have to download one city or area at a time, so for longer road trips, splurge on the Sygic app. A lifetime license for all world maps costs £19.99 on Android and £17.99 on Apple at the time of writing.
Ditch the hefty guidebooks, saving yourself around a tenner and some space in your luggage, by downloading the free Triposo app. It pulls in data on sights, restaurants, hotels and bars from multiple online sources, including Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, World66 and Facebook, and displays it for you in an easy-to-use guide. Just make sure to open the app and download your destination – it covers most of the world – before departure. Enable GPS, and you’ll be able to use their free offline maps to see recommendations near your location, too.
Even if you’ve never used Groupon, it’s worth getting the app for the discounts it gives on sights, activities, food and drink on your holiday. If you download it in the UK, you’ll only get access to UK deals, so wait until you’re at your destination, then download the free app and sign up to the local Groupon (you’ll need a new local account, even if you already have a UK account, or you won’t see deals at your non-UK destination). On a recent trip to San Francisco, we nabbed 40% off on a meal for four at a retro drive-in diner, and 50% off a day’s bicycle hire for two.