Travel Booking Sites and Airbnb Fees
Here are a few simple tricks to stop you paying extra on travel booking sites for hotels, flights and even Airbnb fees.
Travel Booking Sites
I just booked accommodation in Belgium for next week. On Airbnb, because my UK credit card is on my account and my preference set to (GBP) I was shown the price in pounds.
However, I realised that the accommodation listings I was browsing should be in euros (Belgium’s local currency). At the final stage of payment, the price was still in pounds and no option to pay in euros.
The reason I wanted to pay in euros was because I know travel websites make money on the exchange rate. Airbnb also grows sneakier at finding ways to increase the price without you knowing you are paying extra.
Read How to find the best hotels and accommodation to see how I do it.
Airbnb Fees – Save up to 6%
The Airbnb fees are 3% to exchange from euros to pounds. but as a normal user I would never know that because I had my preferences set to browse in Pounds and this is done automatically by Airbnb in the background. Airbnb doesn’t want you to know about this because first, it is more convenient for you to browse in the currency that you are used to and they don’t mind charging you 3% on top of your bill for the privilege.
I browse in Pounds first, choose the place I want to stay, then go into settings and change my preferences to the local currency. This is quite easy to do if you are browsing on your phone, but on my laptop, I had to first delete the UK credit card I had on my account so there were no cards on my account. Then I was able to go to settings and browse in Euro’s and when I checked out, the price was 3% cheaper!
Also, the cleaning/admin fee that gets added to your bill is a percentage of the total price. Since the total price just went down 3% the admin fee also went down slightly as well.
Now I added back my UK debit card and paid my bill in euros. I have a great bank that doesn’t charge for European transactions in Euro’s which helps and is the reason I bank with them. No foreign transaction fees are great, but many banks do charge a percentage, but most don’t charge as much as 3%. If I used my HSBC credit card it charged me 2.75% or 2.5% on my HSBC debit card.
It is also good to know what your bank or credit card company charges you for paying in another currency. To get a better bank see the best bank accounts for travellers 2016.
Airbnb Fees Update
Airbnb has updated its policy and just changing the currency isn’t enough to get around their 3% fee. However, I just tried a new experiment that worked. Change the country of your credit card to the currency you want to pay in. I wrote my credit card country as “Spain” so I would pay in euros for a place in Cyprus. My card is a UK card, but the transaction went through in euros and I didn’t pay the 3% Airbnb fee!
These numbers don’t sound like a lot, but when you spend 10 months a year travelling, that money starts to add up! The worst is when you pay this conversion fee twice or even three times, like some people unknowingly do.
You have a UK bank account and want accommodation in Japan, but you have your settings set to euros because you live in Spain. So you go to pay in euros, Airbnb charges in euros and you pay 3% to convert that to Japanese Yen, but the credit card company in the UK also charges 2.75% to pay in euros. Now you just paid 5.75% in Airbnb fees.
This happens on all travel booking sites so watch out for it. Always pay in the local currency!
Booking Flights Online
The price savings can be even bigger when using travel booking sites for flights or trains like Eurostar and international coaches. This is because they offer you prices based on which country you are from. They determine the country by what currency you pay in or the country of your credit card.
I use Skyscanner to search for flights, but I have saved 40% on a short flight by switching the currency. Next, I booked a flight from Hong Kong to Taipei, Taiwan and the website showed me prices in pounds. I switched my currency preference to Hong Kong dollars and the price went down $20 US dollars, I then switched it to Taiwanese dollars because the airline was Taiwanese the price was even lower another $40 US dollars lower!
The price of the flight was 40% lower in Taiwanese dollars or US$ 60 dollars cheaper!!
Even though I had to pay a fee of $9 US dollars to my bank for paying in Taiwanese dollars, it was worth it because the price was US $60 lower, so I save $51 US dollars.
I went through the travel booking sites in Chinese, but with Google translate, that was easy and worth $51 US dollars. (I regularly get return flights within Europe for less than that, it cost me £23 for return flights to Denmark from London!)
The prices to search for are the local currency of the airline, the start country and destination country. Flying Emirates from London to Hong Kong check the price in dirhams (The airline is from the UAE = dirhams) pounds and HK dollars.
Always Choose Local Currency
If given a choice of which currency to pay in at a restaurant always pay in the local currency. The restaurant will charge you and then add an exchange fee and/or bad exchange rate to increase your bill. This happens if you pay in US Dollars for example while in Europe. You are paying up to 6% extra without realising.
Hotels also do this same trick to earn some extra money.
Even ATM’s do this in foreign countries! An ATM in Copenhagen Airport, Denmark let me withdraw Danish kroner and then charge me in euros or dollars. I wasn’t given a choice, it was the only option the machine gave. This machine charged two terrible exchange rates one from pounds to euros and a second from euros to kroner. The ATM machine is taking 5% to 8% of your money!
To read more see how to manage money for travel and learn how and where I use cash.