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Travel Hack: Ditching Your Credit Card for a Discounted Airfare

Tigerair, Scootair, Jetstar – such low cost carriers (LCCs) have revolutionised the way people travelled. We are likely, at some point in time, to have persuaded ourselves on a quick getaway just because how cheap the fares can be.

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Needless to say, cheap fares come with caveats, and many have came to learnt that ancillary charges for check-in luggage, meals, or even seat reservation can add up fast.

However, 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, the last segment of the booking process may have some unpleasant surprises if not watched carefully.

Our love for credit cards

We are so used to making online purchases with credit cards that We often don’t think twice when asked for our payment methods.

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Yet, in a stark contrast to how credit card payments are free when buying groceries at the supermarket (the supermarket pays the bank and VISA or Mastercard, not the consumer) or eating out at restaurants (you might even get cash rebates for using certain cards), budget carriers do not provide the service free of charge.

To understand the impact of credit card charges on airfares, let’s take a look at fares on these 3 routes as samples:

  • Singapore to Boracay return (on Tigerair)
  • Singapore to Kuala Lumpur return (on AirAsia)
  • 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, which is 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 SGD 18 as booking fee (SGD 9 per leg), which considering the ticket price being only SGD 188, easily adds another 10% to the overall price.

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In comparison, if one were to opt for payment via one of the friendly AXS terminals which can be found islandwide, usually near to MRT stations, the booking fee decreases by about two thirds to SGD 6 (SGD 5 charged by carrier and SGD 1 charged by AXS).

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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 SGD58.

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

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In contrast, when electing to pay via eNETs, which requires an internet banking facility, the fee will decrease by more than three quarters to SGD 4.

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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 SGD 102.68, it’s a so so deal, but can still be good for a quick getaway.

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As usual, credit card payments attract a SGD 20 processing fee, which adds about 17% to the package price (just think of it as service charge plus GST?).

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The issue with Scoot is, for a very long time, payment has been restricted to either credit cards or voucher (which can only be used for Scoot flights, but Scoot doesn’t really tell passengers upfront, leading to a rather unpleasant surprise for me not too long ago).

That is until recently, when I saw that payment via Singpost post office or SAM machines can be an option. While I am not exactly sure when did this service come out, it is likely to be cheaper than paying via that plastic card. Although the queues at post offices can sometimes be quite challenging, 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 SGD 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 is also special in offering vouchers to be purchased. While technically one can purchase a voucher and use it to book tickets at zero fee, 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 SGD 20 as processing fee for a balance of SGD 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, your holiday should not be spoilt by unpleasant surprises at the final mile of planning. 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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