Best Travel Hack: Ditching The Credit Card For Discounted Airfares

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Tigerair, Scootair, Jetstar – such low cost carriers (LCCs) have revolutionised the way people travelled. We are very likely, to persuade ourselves on a quick getaway because of how cheap the fares can be.

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Needless to say, cheap fares come with caveats. Many of us would have come to learn that ancillary charges for check-in luggage, meals, or even seat reservation can add up fast.

Just when one thought he can heave a sigh of relief and be done with all the fine print for check-in luggage, meals, seat reservation and what have you not, he can’t. The final segment of the booking process may have some unpleasant surprises if not watched carefully.

Our Love For Credit Cards

Making purchases online with our credit cards comes so naturally that we often do not question our payment methods decision.

credit cards for airfare

Credit card payments at the supermarket and restaurants usually come with no charges. This is due to supermarkets and restaurants paying for the charges incurred for credit cards payment instead of the consumers. At times, consumers may even get rebates for using a certain card when footing the bill. Budget carriers, however, do not provide this service free of charge. 

To understand the impact of credit card charges on airfares, we look at fares on these 3 routes as samples:

  • Singapore to Boracay return (on Tigerair)
  • Singapore to Kuala Lumpur return (on AirAsia)
  • Return for Singapore to Bangkok (on Scoot)

While the samples are certainly not exhaustive, they should serve as a good reference since they are among the largest LCCs operating out of Changi.

Tigerair: Singapore-Boracay Return

So I did a quick search on Tigerair for a return flight from Singapore to Boracay, Philippines, a fairly popular beach destination. The departing flight is on 19th Oct while the return leg is on 23rd Oct.

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At SGD 188.24, I would say it’s quite a bargain!

However, at this point, costs would begin to add up if one does not watch his screen and fingers carefully. Besides the usual rhetoric involving luggage, travel insurance, seat selection, meals and what have you not, let’s narrow down on the last component of booking your tickets: PAYMENT.

When paying by credit card, the Tigerair website charges S$18 as booking fee (S$9 per leg). Considering the ticket price is only S$188, the fee is an additional 10% to the overall price.

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In comparison, the use of AXS terminal decreases booking fee by about two thirds to S$6 (S$5 charged by the carrier and S$1 by AXS). On top of that, AXS terminals are conveniently located near MRT stations.  

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AirAsia: Singapore-Kuala Lumpur return

Well, if a 10% surcharge is not sufficient to dissuade you. Let’s take a look at this. Again I randomly pulled out the itinerary for an AirAsia flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The departing flight is on 11th Oct while the return leg is on 13rd Oct. This amounts to a total of S$58.

Similar to Tigerair, AirAsia also levies a S$18 processing fee for payment made via credit card. Remembering that the airfare being only S$58, the fee easily amounts to a surcharge of more than 30%.

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In contrast, when paying via eNETs, which requires internet banking facility, the fee will decrease S$4. That is more than three-quarters of the initial fee.

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Scoot: Singapore-Bangkok return

Technically Scoot and Tigerair are both SIA subsidiaries, so it’s small wonder that the approach to payment is fairly similar. I pulled an itinerary for Bangkok, departing 18th Oct and returning 25th Oct. At S$102.68, it’s a so so deal, but can still be good for a quick getaway.

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Credit card payments again attract a S$20 processing fee, which adds about 17% to the package.

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Payment for Scoot has its limitations. It is restricted to either credit cards or voucher. An important point to note will be that such vouchers are limited to only Scoot flights. Scoot does not really inform their passengers about the limitations of the vouchers up front. I have had a rather unpleasant surprise because of this not too long ago).

It was until recently when I saw that payment via SingPost post office or SAM machines can be an option. Without a doubt, it is likely to be cheaper than paying via that plastic card. While the queues at post offices can be quite challenging at times, SAM machines are often conveniently accessible (much like their AXS counterparts).

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I suspect paying via SingPost is still on trial for Scoot, since that option has been intermittent. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that the processing charge will remain S$0 (there is no free lunch in the world, less so on budget carriers). Nevertheless, judging by Tigerair’s practice, the processing fee for paying via Singpost is likely to be significantly cheaper than paying via credit card.

Scoot allows their vouchers to be purchased. While it is technically possible to purchase a voucher and use it to book tickets at zero fees, there are risks associated with it. For one, ticket prices fluctuate and you might find that the voucher is insufficient to cover the ticket price, and you have to pay the balance by credit card (imaging paying S$20 as processing fee for a balance of S$5!). Secondly, note that Scoot sells Tigerair itineraries on its website, but vouchers cannot be applied for those bookings.

Conclusion:

Having invested the effort to do your research and budgeting carefully, it is unwise to allow unpleasant cost surprises at the final mile of planning ruin your holiday. It’s great practice to always have your iBanking token ready or start to know the AXS around you.

Cheers to a great holidays!

Disclaimer:

Prices taken are as of 21 Sep and 25 Sep 2016.

Some prices may appear different as ticket prices may fluctuate at times of taking screenshots.

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