How you can travel without a credit card

Do you need a credit card to travel? Not exactly. Though it’s true that built-in card benefits, like purchase protection and the ability to dispute a charge, make using a credit card often the easiest and safest way to pay for travel, not everyone wants to get a credit card — or is able to get approved for one. And yet, those individuals will still likely want to travel at some point.

If you fall into this category, you have several other payment options to choose from, depending on the type of travel you’d like to book. Here’s how to pay for travel without a credit card.

Ways to finance travel without a credit card

1. Use a debit card

You can use a debit card that is connected to your checking account to pay for various travel reservations. When purchasing a flight with a debit card, simply enter your debit card details in the credit card section. Be aware that if the money isn’t automatically debited from your account at the time of purchase, the airline may place a hold for the amount of the ticket until the flight purchase clears. The funds placed on hold in your bank account cannot be used to make other purchases.

If you put your hotel or car rental reservation on your debit card, the hotel or car rental company may place a larger hold on your card than the cost of the booking to safeguard for any accidents. For example, at Marriott, a hold may be placed on your debit card for the total cost of the room plus taxes, any applicable resort fees and a hold for incidentals (these daily fees can vary by location). The hold may remain on the card until five days after your departure. Be sure that you’re comfortable with the hold that is placed on your card because until the hold is released, that money in your bank account cannot be used for other purchases.

2. Get a PayPal account

You can use PayPal to pay for your flight, hotel or car rental. PayPal is a money transfer company where you can link your bank account and make online purchases. Using PayPal as a purchase method provides the security of paying for travel without entering your credit or debit card details with the airline or hotel.

3. Buy gift cards

Another way to pay for flights or hotels is to purchase gift cards where they are sold. For example, many grocery stores sell specific airline and hotel gift cards, as well as Airbnb gift cards. You can purchase those cards using cash or debit, and then use the gift cards to pay for your flight, hotel or rental booking when you’re ready.

4. Pay with cash

Although you cannot use cash to purchase a plane ticket online, many airlines will allow you to pay for tickets in cash at certain airports.

United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines’ websites all mention that they accept cash as a form of payment at designated check-in counters at specific airports.

5. Search for miscellaneous payment options

Depending on which airline or hotel you’re booking with, additional payment options may be available. For example, Uplift, which allows you to pay for purchases using an installment loan option, is listed as a payment method on United and Southwest.

6. Open a bank account that waives foreign ATM fees

International travel without a credit card is also possible. If you plan on using your debit card to pay for travel or withdraw cash when you’re away from your local bank, opening a bank account that waives foreign ATM fees is recommended. If you have a bank account that doesn’t waive ATM fees, you may end up paying two sets of fees:

  • Your bank may charge you to take out cash from another bank’s ATM.
  • The other bank’s ATM may charge an additional withdrawal fee on its own.

There are several banks out there that waive ATM fees or that waive a specific number of foreign ATM fees per month, so make sure you do your research when opening a bank account so you avoid paying unnecessary fees.

An alternative: Sign up for a no-annual-fee credit card that waives foreign transaction fees

If you’re planning on going abroad and don’t have a credit card because you don’t want to pay an annual fee, consider a no-annual fee card that also waives foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees can be as high as 3%, which can quickly add up — especially if you’re using your card abroad.

Although you may not get many travel-related perks like free lounge access or extra points on specific bonus categories, you can still get a card that you can use for international travel without paying a fee and without the hassle of dealing with ATMs or local currency.

If you want to try traveling without a credit card …

Although using a credit card to pay for travel is more convenient and safer than using other methods, you still have various options available to you that you can use to book your travel. PayPal, cash, gift cards and debit cards all make it possible to pay for travel without a credit card.

If a debit card is your preferred payment method, make sure you have a bank account that waives ATM fees so that you can avoid paying extra fees. If you are open to getting a credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee, consider a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee that you can use for purchases abroad. You’ll have more protections than paying with cash but won’t incur any fees.

Elina Geller writes for NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @elina_geller.

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How to Avoid Getting Sick on a Plane

Travel has been picking up lately as countries and states have been reopening for tourism. If you’re thinking of traveling internationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get fully vaccinated so that you’ll be less likely to catch and spread the coronavirus. However, even after you’ve been vaccinated, there are things you can do to keep yourself healthier while in transit.

Here are seven steps you can take to avoid getting sick on a plane.

Ways to prevent getting sick on a plane

1. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol

Wash your hands with soap and water when possible, as that’s more effective at killing certain germs than hand sanitizer. The CDC suggests that if soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizers with 60%-95% alcohol are more effective at preventing you from getting sick and spreading your germs to others.

Hand sanitizer comes in small sizes, and you’re now allowed up to a 12-ounce bottle of sanitizer in carry-on luggage. You can even get sanitizing wipes to carry in your bag.

2. Clean the airplane seat with sanitizing wipes

Due to COVID-19, airlines sometimes give out alcohol-based disinfectant wipes to passengers as they board. Use these wipes (or bring your own) to clean your seat, headrest, armrests, tray table, entertainment screen and anything else you may touch while sitting in your seat.

If you need extra wipes, don’t hesitate to ask, as they’re usually readily available on flights.

3. Wear a mask, even when not required

Currently, airlines require masks while traveling. However, even when masks aren’t required, wearing one when flying can provide additional protection from getting sick. A mask will also keep you from touching your nose and mouth with your hands. And according to the CDC, you should wear a mask in any transportation mode or hub while traveling, such as a train, subway, bus station or even rideshare pickup area.

4. Pick a window seat

Window seats experience less traffic than aisle or middle seats. When you’re sitting by a window, there’s no one passing by you. Conversely, when you’re sitting in an aisle seat, you’ll be near a lot of traffic: passengers walking to their seats or the restroom and flight attendants walking down the aisles to serve food and collect waste. All that extra traffic puts you in closer proximity to someone who may be ill. So to reduce your chances of getting sick, stick with a window seat.

5. Keep your things in overhead bins

While it can be annoying to keep your stuff in overhead bins instead of by your feet, it can make good health sense. Putting your backpack, purse and other items on the floor means they’re right next to your shoes (a haven of germs). Or worse, you might put your feet directly on top of your things.

By doing so, you’re exposing your personal items to all the germs on the airplane floor and your soles. In addition, you may be picking up germs from previous passengers who had their shoes and items on the floor, especially if the aircraft wasn’t vacuumed by your seat.

For things you want to keep close at hand, consider using the seatback pocket or a bag you’ll get rid of after the flight.

If you’re not in a hurry, you may want to check the bulk of your luggage instead.

6. Travel with your medicine

Avoid packing medicine in your checked luggage in case you need it during the flight or your luggage gets lost or delayed. Even if you’re traveling to a destination where you think the medication is easily accessible, you’ll save time and money (and stress) by carrying it on board.

Consider any prescription medications you take, as well as over-the-counter items you may need, such as pain relievers, indigestion tablets or vitamins. If you start to feel unwell on the plane, these medications can help manage your symptoms and keep you comfortable.

7. Travel with electrolytes

Traveling with a packet of dissolvable electrolytes for your water or purchasing a vitamin drink at the airport are good ways to hydrate yourself with more than just water. This approach can be particularly helpful if you’re already dehydrated or start to feel nauseous.

According to Healthline, a health and wellness advice website, electrolytes are necessary for controlling blood pressure, regulating fluid balance, helping muscles contract and maintaining appropriate pH levels in the blood. Electrolyte waters are usually enhanced with minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride, all of which help your body function properly.

If you’re trying to prevent getting sick on a plane, staying hydrated and replenishing with electrolyte water can be beneficial.

Decrease your chances of getting sick after air travel

Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate all chances of getting sick while traveling on a plane, there are steps you can take to mitigate your exposure to germs. Whether it’s packing a few extra health-related items or simply changing where you sit, you can increase the chances of staying healthy with some easy modifications to your habits.

Elina Geller writes for NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @elina_geller.

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