6 Unexpected Travel Expenses To Consider

You booked your next international trip! Exciting!

But no matter how experienced a traveler you may be, there are a few unexpected costs of traveling abroad that you will want to consider when planning your next trip. These unexpected expenses add up quickly and can sabotage your travel budget if you’re not prepared.Read More

5 Things to Consider Before Applying for A Reward Credit Card

I feel like reward credit cards are all the rage right now. Well in my circle they are the rage anyway. I won’t lie, I felt like I had officially made the credit card clique when I got accepted for my first reward card. In retrospect my first reward card is my weakest reward card. However, I have decided against closing it the card because doing so would erase all of the positive payment history I have accumulated. I don’t want that to happen you you.

L, who doesn’t want their money working hard for them?

But seriously, it's 2015. If you are going to spend your money it should work for you. Click To TweetWell when you say it like that Tonya… sheesh, I want my money to work hard for me)

“Well when you say it like that Tonya… sheesh, I want my money to work hard for me.”

There are various reward card options available to consumers with good to excellent credit. They range from gasoline cards to airline cards and everything in between.

I am not an avid supporter of cash back cards. However I do have one in my possession because my Capital One Quicksilver card was converted into one. I prefer travel cards (shout out to Chase). I recently cashed in a few points and booked a room in Puerto Rico at the Courtyard Marriott for my trip next week for FREE.99. <<– Don’t get snippy here. I know I had to spend money to earn the points. The point is that I would have spent the money anyway.

Whether you are a pro credit card user or a you are a novice credit card user, here are five facts to consider before adding rewards cards to your credit portfolio.

#1 Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses are Invaluable. Shop Them Wisely

If you aren’t getting a receiving a sign-up bonus, you are on the short end of the stick. I do not sign up for a card that provides less than 30,000 points. If your credit is decent enough to apply for a rewards card, you become more attractive to lenders. Use this to your advantage and shop around. Sites like Nerd Wallet and The Points Guy offer awesome comparisons.

Check The Points Guy Site for Credit Card Reviews

Credit card companies use bonuses and offers during the advertisement period to lure in new card users. I also look for perks such as a free-night , early check-in, free-checked bags, etc.

#2 Find a Reward Credit Card That Fits Your Needs

If you are afraid to fly, then an airline rewards card does almost nothing for you. If you want to take advantage of reward credit cards, then you need to get a card that will suit your lifestyle, not just because someone on the internet says it’s a good card. When considering a card,  think about your lifestyle and your spending habits. Where do you spend the most? For example, if you spend more time on the road, then get a credit card that will allow you to get gasoline cheaper. When you actively use a card, the chances of earning reward points or cash back offers increase.

#3 Can You Handle a Rewards Card

Most reward cards require a hefty minimum spend to receive a bonus.  I also take note of maximum spend amounts and any additional perks when comparing cards. For example, to receive my Chase Sapphire bonus points I had to spend $3,000. If a card has a minimum spend greater than $3,000, that is not the card for me right now. I’m uncomfortable with exceeding that amount. After all, I’m a rehabilitated over-spender.

I once saw a card with a $25,000 minimum spend.

Before you apply for a card, you need to ask yourself whether or not you have the will-power to pay the monthly balance. Many people fall into credit card debt under the guise of earning “rewards points.”

#4 What’s The Annual Fee?

As someone who just had two annual credit card fee bombs dropped onto her statement I want to tell you, be aware. Be very aware.

Eyes

An annual fee for your card essentially means that, even if you didn’t charge a single thing for the entire year, you are still responsible to pay an annual fee to keep the account open.

Some cards have no annual fee ever and that’s awesome! I wasn’t looking for that when I signed up for my current cards but it’s something you should keep in mind.

#5 Interest rates can neutralize those rewards perks

I saved the best for last.

Interest rates. The other cost of having the card.

Rewards credit cards have a slightly higher interest rate. Listen to me very carefully, if you have poor spending habits & carry high balances, chances are that you will pay more in interest than what you would earn in rewards.

Go zero percent interest whenever you can and keep that balance low once the promo entrance period ends.

I hope this post makes your decision that much easier. Think I left something off? Lend a helping hand and share your tip below.

My Fab Travel – Ghana

After visiting Paris and London last year I vowed that I would travel to Africa before visiting another country. There is very little than anyone could have said or done that would have prepared me for the trip to Ghana. As my boyfriend describes it, our trip was filled with high highs and low lows.

GhanaNeighborhood

Getting to Ghana is not particularly budget friendly. There are hidden costs of traveling abroad which you can find here, but there are ways that you can cut corners. Our tickets cost us $1550. For instance there were less expensive times of the year to purchase flights (in November tickets are as low as $907). You can also opt to fly a cheaper carrier. Neither of these were options in my case.

I wanted to visit Ghana as a 30th birthday gift to myself. Cape Coast was significant in the slave trade and because I am the descendant of slaves this was important to me. I felt like visiting Africa was something I needed to do as I ushered in the 4th decade of life on this earth. We traveled with my good friend Belkis who is Ghanian but has not been home since 2000.

As far as selecting an air carrier, I knew we were in for long flights (13 hrs to Dubai and 8 hrs to Accra) so in that case my comfort was more important than my wallet. There are times in a frugalista’s life when you have to make those decisions. I opted for Emirates which included extended layovers in Dubai, which we used as an opportunity for a mini vacation. It was about $200 more than other carriers.

cedisOnce in Ghana your stay becomes relatively affordable because the dollar is strong there. 1 dollar equals approximately 3 cedis. So I exchanged $150 USD and received $460 cedi. Not to mention everything is relatively inexpensive so your money goes a long way. The trick is to do business in cedi’s when possible and to tour with someone who has your best interest at heart because vendors will know you are not from Ghana and you will have a dollar sign dangling over your head for a good portion of the trip. And understandably so.

So let’s talk about the highs:

The Children. Such pure laughter. Such innocence. Real innocence not that “my mom listens to Beyonce and I know all the words” innocence. We had the opportunity to interview two children and their view on society and the current government floored me. These children are polite yet powerful and they have something to say.

Visiting Cape Coast. I’m not exactly sure where my ancestors were from in the Gold coast but there’s a good chance they came through Elmina castle some 200 years ago. I felt like I owed it to them to return. My life is what it is because of their experience and I don’t take that for granted one bit. Returning was as emotional as I expected it to be.

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Unplugging – Ghana forced me to unplug. In a country where the government turns the power off just about every other day you are forced to entertain yourself the old fashioned way. Life without social media goes on and as long as the people around me are okay I’m content with being unplugged.

Connecting- Ghana in its lack of development allows you to connect with other individuals and the earth on a level I have become unfamiliar with. I was made more conscious of my actions and more aware of the world around me. I travelled to the north of the country, the west, and Accra in the south. Gods earth is beautifully perfect.

The lows

The Struggle is Real- This became the motto of our trip. We said it so much that our travel companion Belkis’ brother began saying it. I’ve never in my life witnessed poverty on this scale. I hate to compare struggle and I hate when people do it. I will just say that this trip made me realize that there are people happy with less than what I have. The children playing among trash, the girls foregoing school to sell items atop their heads or carry goods for strangers, the lack of medical care and oversight, and the governments disregard for it citizens. Power outages and fetching water every morning are a way of life. If they can smile through life I can smile through a stuffy subway commute and all of the other minor stuff I gripe about.

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The Inequality– We have inequality in the states but our inequality is a molehill compared to the mountain of inequality in Ghana. We went from shacks in the heart of the city to mansions with security guards and pools in a country where the majority of residents don’t even have running water. The inequality was disgusting and sobering.

The Judgement- Oh I was judged. Because Ghana is a very religious country (Muslim in the north, Christian in the south) I received strife for my decision to wear shorts that fell above my knee and my tattoos. Never in my life have I felt so judged. I felt more comfortable in Dubai than I did in a Ghana. At one point I was even told that my hair was “not my fault” as if something was wrong with my coils. Thankfully Belkis’ father was very welcoming and helpful as well as her cousins and brother. They welcomed us into their home and did their best to keep our bellies full. Other than that I received a few Akwaaba’s but felt no connection to the majority of the people and received several disapproving stares which fell short of the romanticized “homecoming” I envisioned.

If anyone plans to go to Ghana make sure you have a strong itinerary and guides who are used to working with tourist. You can tour on your own in place like Puerto Rico, but Ghana taught me a valuable lesson, every destination is not ripe for a budget vacation.

This is not my last trip to Africa. I plan to visit Senegal, South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Egypt and I am looking forward to experiencing those countries and all that they have to offer.

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Have you visited Ghana? what was your experience?

 

The Hidden Costs of Traveling Abroad

This month I made my lifelong goal of traveling to Ghana become a reality. After spending time in Europe last year I decided what better way to bring in my 30th birthday than with a trip to Africa.

inghana

When it comes to traveling I’m a pretty savvy traveler. I splurged slightly more on my airline ticket costs because I have always wanted to fly Emirates and wanted to make sure I was comfortable in transit. While I expected this to be my largest expense I was not expecting the other expenses to come. These expenses occurred after my ticket purchase but before I even set foot on a plane.

If you are planning a trip abroad factor the following costs (time too) into your vacation budget.

US PassportsPassport- I renewed my passport back in undergrad but had I not or if my passport was set to expire I would have had to pay the $110 processing fee.

Visa- Our visa cost $60. Add the photos required and that Visa cost us $70. Fortunately I live in NY and we have a consulate here. Unfortunately the consulate was not very close to our apartment so I ended up taking time off of work to go back and forth. Make sure you look into the country you are visiting and check their visa requirements. (I didn’t need one for Paris, London, Dubai, nor Jamaica)

Immunizations- In order to receive my visa I was required to get the yellow fever shot. The CDC also recommend that I get a Typhoid and Hepatitis A shot. Because most insurance companies don’t cover travel immunizations the Yellow fever shot was $125 and I ended up paying $240 for the typhoid and Hep A shots.

Medication- Malaria pills were also strongly recommended and boy are they needed. My friends uncle who lives in Ghana ended up catching Malaria our last few days. I asked him how frequently he catches it and he said every 2-3 years. The one thing my insurance did come through on was my. I paid $10 for my prescription but my boyfriend who doesn’t have insurance paid $108.

Power Converters- Because most of the world does not use the same voltage we had to purchase converters that cost us $15 a piece. Luckily we now have them for future travel, but if you don’t, add them to your list.

Also:

Don’t forget to turn off cellular service to your phone. I have an iPhone and enabled wi-fi only so that I could avoid roaming charges and a surprisingly high bill upon my return.

iphonecellulardata

And notify your bank and card companies that you will be traveling abroad. Nothing like trying to find a phone connection abroad to call your bank after your card has been frozen. Also note the credit limit of your cards. Did you know that in some countries you can be arrested for exceeding your limit?

Traveling abroad is amazing and I’m looking to do more of it. I learned valuable lessons that I will recall as I prepare for my next trip which will be either Spain and Morocco of Mexico City.

Did I leave any costs off this list? Sound of in the comments below regarding your upcoming or last international trip and the surprising hidden costs associated.

 

 

Travel on a Budget- Dubai

I recently had an opportunity to visit the exquisite city of Dubai. From the moment I disembarked from the plane I knew I was in for a treat. You hear about the splendor of Dubai but I wasn’t prepared for it.

And the best thing of all is that I was able to visit Dubai for two days for under $100 USD!

Yep.

That excludes activities, dining, and shopping but does factor in hotel accommodations and flights. How did I do it you ask?

Our flight to Ghana was $1550 RT. I used a coupon code from RetailMeNot.com to saved an additional $60 so $1490. We were going to Ghana regardless and Dubai was an inexpensive bonus quick trip since we were able to take advantage of extended layovers and see two cities for the price of 1.

I booked my flight through Emirates because I was fully aware that this airline has a superb stopover paid by carrier policy. If the first available flight of the day to your destination has a layover of eight hours or more Emirates will provide you with a complimentary hotel room at one of their partner hotels, complimentary airport transfers and will provide you with meal vouchers for those applicable. Our layover en route to Accra was in Dubai and was 24 hours so we received breakfast, lunch, and dinner vouchers.

 

This was my first time flying the airline. We flew economy class which looked a little something like this:

EmirateEconomySeat

Each seat came had headphones, a blanket, pillow, and an overnight kit that contained socks, an eye mask, and toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Khomari and I in Dubai's grand airport.

Khomari and I in Dubai’s grand airport.

A very helpful piece of advice that I wish we would have known is that you will not get your luggage so pack your carry-on bag accordingly. We ended up spending 3 hours of our first layover attempting to get our luggage because we didn’t have any of our toiletries nor a change of clothes).

The hotel is pretty much you pay for what get. We stayed at the Copthrone on our first layover. It’s not high-end but it’s better than the lower end chains we have here in the states. Showers are warm and amenities are decent (be aware that they do not provide face towels).

Since we only had 24 hours and arrived around noon we booked the desert safari through our hotel. The safari comes with pick up from and to the hotel, an exhilarating dune bashing trip through the desert, scenic views and sunset picture opportunities, camel rides, hookah, a belly dancing show, dinner, and complimentary soft drinks. All of this costs around $55 American dollars per person.

Our drivers allowing their cars to cool off from the dune bashing while offering us photo ops.

Our drivers allowing their cars to cool off from the dune bashing while offering us photo ops.

The desert facility where you enjoy the hookah, dining, and entertainment.

The desert facility where you enjoy the hookah, dining, and entertainment.

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We returned to the hotel, got a few hours of rest and embarked on the Ghana leg of our trip.

Our route home between Accra, Dubai, and NYC had a 20 hour layover in Dubai. Although 4 hours shorter than our other layover this was plenty time to go exploring.

Our transfer experience on the way back went slightly smoother. Since we opted for a flight that wasn’t the first flight out but had an extended layover we had to pay for the hotel. After much research we settled on the Premier Inn at the airport and I’m glad we did. This time we were prepared and had our toiletries and a change of clothes on our back.

premierinnIt was a very pleasant check in experience, our front desk agent Ahmed might have been the happiest person I encountered on our journey and I dare say life. The hotel cost us $60 USD. The hotel has complimentary airport shuttles that run every 30 minutes.They also offer complimentary shuttles to Dubai’s major attractions.

We checked into the room and slept for 3 hours then showered and went downstairs to hop on the tourist attraction shuttle. We were dropped off at the legendary Dubai Mall. There were shops and restaurants new and familiar such as Zara, Forever 21, G-Star, Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, Le Pain Quotidien and more.

Dubai Mall Fountain

Dubai Mall Fountain

After doing a fair amount of shopping here we took a taxi to the Gold Souk (approximately $12 USD). Taking a taxi is  a great way to see the city. I caught great views of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Perhaps the next time I will be brave enough to climb it.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

I went in search of gold bangles but ended up leaving with tunics and abayas. The price of a gold right now is at a high and while the gold in Dubai is among the most beautiful I have ever seen, the price points did not fit into my budget.

Belkis and I at the Gold Souk

Belkis and I at the Gold Souk

After a little fun exploring the spice and perfume Souks we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel and get some rest. Because we were pressed for time we opted to eat dinner and watch the World Cup match at the hotel. I had the most delicious grilled chicken sandwich, perhaps the best I have ever had. We also skipped out on the public transportation system this time but I plan to take advantage of it the next time I am in Dubai.

It is also worth noting that we did not plan our trip during the World Cup intentionally, however there is something magical about being in countries that are ecstatic about futbol during the tournament.

I am surprised by how much I loved Dubai. The city is a lovely blend between tradition and modernity.

You can pack a lot of adventure into extended layovers. I know that Turkish, Ethiopian, and Malaysia Airlines provide STPC which means Stopover Paid By Carrier. Take this into consideration when booking your next getaway and you could see two destinations for the price of one.

I look forward to returning and experiencing more of what it has to offer.

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My Fab Finance Is on Vacation

Hi Loves!

As you may have noticed things have been radio silence quiet over here. I haven’t abandoned you, I’m on a life changing vacation in Ghana.  At the moment posting from an internet cafe.

Upon my return to the states and solid internet service I will post two articles (one for the Dubai leg, the other for the Ghana leg of my journey) documenting how I saved money on my trip and will include plenty photos of the experience.

Until next week,

Be fabulous!

At Elmina Castle

At Elmina Castle

 

ABOUT
Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.
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