Flip-flops and rip-offs: Summer stingers to avoid on holidays

Posted: 4 December 2019 3:10 pm

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For many Aussies, summer is the ultimate time of year to escape the daily grind. A recent Finder survey revealed that almost half (49%) of us are planning a summer getaway, either Down Under or overseas.

But unsuspecting travellers can come home with more than they bargained, or budgeted, for as a result of holiday rip-offs. Card fees, phone bills and surcharges can blow up your bar tab as well as your bank account when travelling, which can come as a nasty surprise when opening your post-holiday bills.

Avoid coming home with a raging case of bill shock by dodging the summer stingers below (and we're not talking about box jellyfish).

Unexpected card fees

These can zap you when you least expect it: at the hotel reception desk, ATM or all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. If you'll be travelling overseas this summer, it's important to get your cash sorted beforehand.

Travellers have two main options for overseas spending, a travel money card or a credit card. Each comes with its own set of fees to be across, as well as pros and cons depending on your budget and destination. Let's take a look.

Travel money cards

These allow you to lock in your exchange rate and preload funds upfront. This means you'll know exactly how much moolah you have to spend abroad, which can be useful for budget travellers. Because funds are preloaded into the currency of your destination, you can also avoid the foreign conversion fees you'd be charged if you were using an Australian debit card.

But travel cards aren't entirely fee-free either. You may still be charged ATM withdrawal fees regardless of the currency. Some travel cards will also charge a fee to load and reload funds if you want to top up along the way.


  • Exchange rate is locked in which can bring peace of mind and help with budgeting.
  • Can load up to 10 currencies if you're visiting multiple destinations .
  • Carries less risk than a credit card if stolen.


  • Locking in your exchange rate means that if it drops while you're away, you'll be stuck with the higher rate.
  • Can carry more fees than a credit card.
  • Funds can take up to three business days to load onto your card.

Credit cards

Unlike a travel money card which loads a set amount of funds, credit cards act as a line of credit when overseas. If you choose the right credit card, you can avoid foreign conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees and annual fees. You can also enjoy perks like travel insurance and frequent flyer rewards.


  • Global acceptance: If you're using a Visa or Mastercard credit card, you'll be able to make purchases in millions of locations around the world.
  • Travel perks: Credit cards designed for travel can include bonuses like travel insurance, frequent flyer points and airline lounge access.
  • Security of access to funds: It's wise to have more than one option to access cash overseas. If you plan on using a prepaid card, credit cards can be a sensible back-up option in an emergency.


  • Fees: Using the wrong type of credit card overseas can result in a long list of fees. Make sure you're across any foreign transaction charges before signing up.
  • Temptation to spend: Knowing you have access to a line of credit can make it easier to overspend on holidays.

Excess data usage

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That poolside Instagram scroll can end up costing more than your holiday if you aren't careful, all thanks to global roaming. Last year, over a quarter of a million Aussies got stung by global roaming charges from using their mobile overseas.

To prevent blowing up your phone bill, make sure you sort your roaming before flying out. You have a few options to choose from depending on your destination.

Travel pack

Depending on your telco you may be able to purchase a travel pack for your existing service before heading overseas. These start from as little as $5 per day and include calls, text and data usage specific to the country you'll be visiting. Travel packs will differ between telcos, but typically come with a set amount of call and data inclusions for certain countries.

Purchase a local SIM when you land

You won't be using your Australian number, but you'll be connected to the local mobile network directly, rather than through an expensive roaming agreement.

Stick to Wi-Fi

If you really want to play it safe, put your phone in Airplane Mode and stick to the hotel's Wi-Fi.


Nothing snuffs out holiday spirit quite like a surcharge fee. Whether you'll be travelling abroad or remaining within Australia, there are a couple of sneaky summer stingers to look out for.

Premium location fees

If you arrange to pick up a rental car from the airport, you'll pay an additional surcharge for the honour. This can cost anywhere anywhere from 5–30% of your total car rental cost, which can really pack a punch if you've booked the car for a week or two.

Avoid premium location fees by catching an Uber, taxi or public transport to a hire car place that's well outside the airport. You might also be able to arrange a pre-booked shuttle from your hotel (which can sometimes be free).

Public holiday surcharges

Not all restaurants open their doors to diners on public holidays. Those that do will often add a 10% surcharge to your bill to cover public holiday award rates. This extra cost can add a hefty amount to a large group bill.

To avoid public holiday surcharges, swap a restaurant meal for a picnic at the park or host a BBQ at home instead. If you do plan to dine out on Christmas or Boxing Day, it's a good idea to call the restaurant ahead of time to see if you'll be pinged with a surcharge.

Holidays aren't cheap, but they don't have to be a total rip-off either. Getting organised ahead of time means you can kick back and relax during your trip, free from those pesky summer stingers.

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