facebookUltimate Travel Hack Guide: These Tips Will Help You Save Money on Your Overseas Trips!

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091223 Travel Hacks Singapore Guide

Ultimate Travel Hack Guide: These Tips Will Help You Save Money on Your Overseas Trips!

profileJustin Oh

Planning for your next overseas getaway and want to make sure that you are maximising your spending?

You’ve come to the right place!

Source: Giphy

We’re the personal finance experts and have compiled the ultimate travel guide so you can get the most bang out of your hard-earned cash for your holidays!

Let’s jump right in!


TL;DR: The Ultimate Travel Hacks Guide

This guide is going to be very in-depth and hence, long. So to make it easier for you to navigate, we have split this article into the following sections (click to jump):


Must-Haves Before Any Trip

Credit Cards to Maximise Your Travel Spending

As they always say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” And this couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to saving money on travel.

Travel spending will set you back a few thousand dollars at least, so why not optimise your spending and possibly save yourself hundreds of dollars with rewards, cashback, and more?

Travel spending comes in two main categories:

  1. Flight and accommodation expenses
  2. Spending while overseas

Flight and accommodation expenses

For flight and accommodation expenses, the best way to pay is by using credit cards such as these:

Credit CardEarn RateMin. Annual Income
DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card

Apply Now
10 mpd on hotel transactions at Kaligo (Valid till 31 Mar 2024)

6 mpd on flight and hotel transactions at Expedia (Valid till 31 Mar 2024)
$30k
DBS Altitude American Express Card

Apply Now
10 mpd on hotel transactions at Kaligo (Valid till 31 Mar 2024)

6 mpd on flight and hotel transactions at Expedia (Valid till 31 Mar 2024)
$30k
UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard

Apply Now
6 mpd on vacation rentals and hotels worldwide via Agoda (Valid till 31 Dec 2024)

6 mpd on accommodations, flight, car rentals and activities worldwide via Expedia (Valid till 30 Apr 2024)
$30k
UOB PRVI Miles Visa Card

Apply Now
6 mpd on vacation rentals and hotels worldwide via Agoda (Valid till 31 Dec 2024)

6 mpd on accommodations, flight, car rentals and activities worldwide via Expedia (Valid till 30 Apr 2024)
$30k
UOB PRVI Miles AMEX

Apply Now
6 mpd on vacation rentals and hotels worldwide via Agoda (Valid till 31 Dec 2024)

6 mpd on accommodations, flight, car rentals and activities worldwide via Expedia (Valid till 30 Apr 2024)
$30k
UOB Lady's Card

Apply Now
6 mpd (Travel must be chosen as a preferred category, capped at S$1k per month)$30k
UOB Lady's Solitaire6 mpd (Travel must be chosen as a preferred category, capped at S$3k per month)$120k
DBS Vantage Visa Infinite Card

Apply Now
6 mpd on Expedia (till 31 Mar 2024)$120k
HSBC Revolution

Apply Now
4 mpd on contactless spending and online transactions (Limit $1K per month, excluding MCC 4722 (Travel Agencies and Tour Operators) and 7011 (Lodging – Hotels, Motels, Resorts, Central Reservation Services))$30k
DBS Woman’s World Card

Apply Now
4 mpd (Limit S$2k per month)$50k

If you’re not a frequent traveller or prefer cashback, here are some of the best cashback cards to consider:

The general rule of thumb here (even if you don’t have a specific credit card) is to ensure that you ARE earning the most rewards you can since this is the biggest spend you will make!

Pro Tip: Do read the T&Cs of your credit card and make sure that travel-related spending qualifies for rewards! You can also use this service, Max, a website launched recently that utilises the Visa Merchant Lookup API to furnish MCCs.

Spending while overseas

Whether you qualify for a credit card or not, or whether you are a cashback or miles person, we’ve detailed the best travel spending cards that you need to get before your next trip here:

These cards ensure that you get the most out of your daily expenses, such as dining and shopping while you are overseas.

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ShopBack Account

What if I told you that you could enjoy credit card rewards AND get EXTRA cashback with an account that doesn’t even need you to earn at least $30,000 in annual income?

That’s the ShopBack account!

I’m sure most of us are familiar with hotel/flight booking websites such as booking.com, Agoda, Expedia, and Trip.com. With a ShopBack account and the ShopBack plugin installed, you can get an additional cashback of up to 5.5 per cent!

Plus, ShopBack has a ton of deals for not just travel-related things but your daily shopping needs in Singapore as well.

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Planning for Your Trip

Now that we are equipped with our money-saving tools, it’s time to plan your trip and start booking all the necessary things, such as flights, accommodations, and experiences!

How to Save Money Buying Flight Tickets

The first big thing we need to do is buy our flight tickets. Aside from waiting for fare deals for discounts, you can make use of the following sites to compare flight prices:

  • Cheapflight.com.sg
  • Skyscanner.com.sg
  • Kayak.sg
  • Expedia.com.sg.

Personally, I’m not too much of a fan of such third-party websites, as you’ll never know if your booking actually went through with the airline. Thus, I usually use them to suss out which airlines are cheaper and then book directly with the airline.

Some of us may also know of the “go incognito” or “use VPN” method to get a flight cheaper because of currency conversions and whatnot.

However, there is a risk that the airline may not honour your tickets (as with the fiasco of some cheapos buying super cheap business class tickets due to technical errors), and you may not be able to get help if you do need it locally. So I’d avoid that risk.

The real way to get cheaper flights, though, is to do the following (with reference to a flight to Japan):

Book Early

Regarding flight booking, the common tip is to book your flight at least two to three months earlier for cheaper fares.

What Days Are Flights Cheapest?

Depending on the airline, there are also certain days when flights are cheaper.

Source: Singapore Airlines

As you can see, for Singapore Airlines, flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays while being more expensive on the weekends and Mondays.

Based on what I found out, Mondays and weekends are typically more expensive as more people are going on business trips during those days, and Mondays are also the day when airlines review the flight ticket prices.

Fly During Off-Peak Seasons

For Japan, January and February are some of the cheapest months to fly as these are the off-peak months. If you want to experience the Cherry Blossom season, which starts in mid-March, you’ll have to fork out more.

For cherry blossom lovers, I’d advise booking a flight to Japan during the last few days of March, as you’d be paying less compared to the peak month of April!

Off-peak seasons vary from country to country, so you’ll need to do a little more research if you want cheap tickets.

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Best Websites for Accommodation and Experiences

Got your flight tickets settled? The next step is to plan your itinerary and book your accommodations.

If you’re budget-conscious, the go-to site I’d recommend first is Airbnb.

You can find really great and affordable places and immerse yourself in what it feels like to live like a local.

Otherwise, hotels are your next best option.

Compare, compare, compare! Just with flight tickets, if you are willing to do your homework, you can save hundreds of dollars by comparing prices on such third-party websites and the official site of your chosen accommodation!

For example, I saved about a couple hundred dollars by booking directly with the hotel instead of using Trip.com, even with its vouchers! Of course, I’m not bashing Trip.com but prices are different because hotels reserve a portion for direct booking and another for such third-party reservations. These prices then fluctuate based on demand and supply. That’s what I heard, at least.

Most of these sites also list experiences that you can add to your itinerary. But be sure to read the reviews and research thoroughly before booking. My personal recommendation, if you are travelling within Asia, would be Klook.

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Best Trip Planning Apps

When you’re planning, you may also want to use an itinerary planning app to make things easier:

Itinerary Planning AppsDescription
InspirockInspirock enables users to quickly and easily explore a destination’s offerings and create personalized sightseeing itineraries by utilizing local expertise and cutting-edge artificial intelligence
Kayak TripsTrips lets you plan, build and manage your perfect itinerary for adventures of any length, in any location
TripCaseTripCase lets you manage flight itineraries, hotel bookings, and rental car reservations in one app
TripHobo Plan your trips with detailed itineraries, attractions, and activities
TripItManage your travel itineraries, bookings, and important documents in one place

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Best Ways To Exchange Foreign Currency

If you are overseas, you are going to need foreign currency. While cash is important, there are two other ways to spend in foreign currency: credit cards and multi-currency accounts. We’ve already covered credit cards for overseas spending above, so we will focus on the ways to exchange for foreign currency.

Best Multi-Currency Accounts And Cards

Spending with credit cards incurs a foreign currency conversion fee. And while they do earn rewards when you spend with them, not all cards have rewards that offset the currency conversion fee.

This is where multi-currency accounts and their associated cards come in. Most offer no currency conversion fees and a better conversion rate than what the banks offer.

Multi-Currency Card/AccountCurrency Conversion FeesNo. of Supported Currencies (Exchange & Store Currencies)No. of Currencies Available for Overseas SpendOverseas ATM Withdrawal FeesNote
Revolut

Apply Now
0% - 1%

Weekdays:
0%

Weekends (between Friday 5pm (New York time) and Sunday 6pm (New York time):
1%
33

(AED, AUD, BGN, CAD, CHF, CLP, COP, CZK, DKK, EGP, EUR, GBP, HKD, HUF, ILS, INR, JPY, KRW, KZT, MXN, NOK, NZD, PHP, PLN, QAR, RON, SAR, SEK, SGD, THB, TRY, USD, ZAR)
150+Free for first S$350 or first five withdrawals (Standard members) per rolling month

2% thereafter or $1.49 whichever is higher
Expensive to use on the weekends
YouTrip0%10

(SGD, USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, HKD, AUD, NZD, CHF, SEK)
150+Free cash withdrawals of up to S$400 per calendar month, 2% thereafterUnable to transfer money out
DBS Visa Debit Card0%11

(AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, NOK, GBP, SEK, THB, USD)
11

(AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, NOK, GBP, SEK, THB, USD)
Up to S$7 per cash withdrawal depending on ATM2% cashback on all foreign spend with S$500 min. spend and cash withdrawals limit of S$400 and below in the same month.
amaze wallet (Instarem)

Apply Now
0%10

(SGD, EUR, USD, JPY, THB, GBP, AUD, CHF, NZD, and CAD.)
150+2%1% cashback in InstaPoints
WiseFrom 0.43%
(dynamic, depends on forex market and currencies)
51

(AUD, GBP, HRK, HUF, JPY, MYR, NOK, NZD, PLN, RON, SEK, SGD, TRY, USD and more)
150+Free for first S$350 & the first 2 withdrawals per 30-day cycle

1.75% thereafter for amounts >S$350 + S$1.50/transaction fee after first two free withdrawals
$8.33 - $8.55 card issuance fee
WireX0%12

(AUD, CAD, CHF, CZK, USD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, MXN, NZD, SGD)
150+Free for first S$200 per 30-day cycle

2% thereafter
2% cashback in WXT (cryptocurrency)

$5 card delivery fee via SingPost

Best Money Changers

While there are plenty of ways to pay in developed countries with digital payments, you’ll still need cash when you travel. So here are some of the best money changers in Singapore to get you sorted:

Locking in a Good Exchange Rate

If you convert currency way before your trip, you could lock in a favourable exchange rate and have your dollar go even further.

However, this method requires you to be knowledgeable about foreign currency exchange and general trends. If you know that the foreign currency you need is going to be stronger compared to the Singapore dollar in the future, it is a good idea to lock in the exchange rate now.

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Leading Up to Your Trip

Finally! It’s just a couple weeks left till your flight! But there’s still some work to be done for a pleasant trip.

You’ll need essentials such as travel insurance and travel data, plus know-how on how to get tax refunds and more!

Best Travel Insurance

I know, I know. Insurance? Again? Urgh.

As repetitive as it is, travel insurance is imperative whenever you go overseas! It can cover you when you have a mishap overseas, catch some mutant variant of COVID, or lose your baggage.

But hey, guess what? We have it all sorted for you, too: 

 

If you’re considering travel insurance, make sure you check out Seedly Travel Insurance! And yes, the basic plan, Seedly Travel Safe, covers up to $5,000 for trip cancellation!

Built from the ground up based on what users want in a travel insurance plan, Seedly Travel insurance includes COVID-19 coverage, personal accident benefits per child, and all your travel essentials covered!

Sign up now and enjoy 25% off Seedly Travel Insurance, and receive a 3GB Airalo Travel eSim. Plus, you get a chance to win a S$600 Klook Voucher (Equivalent to a Pair of Return Tickets to Bali) and a Samsonite Volant Spinner 68/25 EXP (worth S$480).

Apply Now

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Best Data Roaming and Portable WIFIs for Your Data Needs

Could you survive without data? Well, maybe. But most of us need the internet for lots of things, so here are the best travel eSims, data roaming and portable WIFIs for you:

 Travel eSimData RoamingPortable / Pocket Wi-Fi
Costs1GB/7 days: From $4.501GB/7 days: From $8 Unlimited/7 days: From $17.01
Pros- Flexibility to choose from different providers- Better for individuals who generally use more data while travelling- Cost saving as you can share with more people
- Better for group travelling and multi-country hopping
- Once daily data usage exceeds the limit, router speed will slow down but can still connect and use
Cons- Need to adjust phone settings such as Access Point Name
- A constant need to turn on-and-off
- Limited to data roaming plans provided by your telco
- Might be limited to a number of countries only
- Need to adjust phone settings such as Access Point Name
- Requires charging
- Need to place a deposit and can be chargeable for any damage or loss of router
- Travel group must stay together to surf the web

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Useful Apps For Travelling By Country

Just like how Singaporeans use Grab, Google Maps, Telegram and so on, it is also good to research useful apps in your destination country, which will help you save time and money.

If you’re going to Bali, for example, having Grab and WhatsApp handy is essential for uber cheap (get it?) ride-hailing and communication with local contacts.

Generally, make sure you have Grab for Southeast Asian countries and Uber for the West. In terms of communication, WhatsApp is pretty universal.

For places like China, Japan, and South Korea, though, you’ll need to download other apps.

DestinationNavigationTransport / Ride-hailingCommunicationDiningFood Delivery
AustraliaGoogle MapsUber
Ola
WhatsApp
Messenger
Opentable
Yelp
Menulog
Deliveroo
IndonesiaGoogle Maps
Waze
Grab
Angkas
WhatsApp
Messenger
Grab
Foodpanda
JapanGoogle Maps
Japan Travel
Japan Travel
Japan Taxi
LineTable Log
GuruNavi
Uber Eats
South KoreaNaver Map
Kakao Map
Kakao TKakao Talk
Line
Telegram
Mango PlateYogiyo
Shuttle
TaiwanGoogle MapsGo! Taipei Metro
Uber
Bus+
LineUber Eats
Foodpanda
ThailandGoogle MapsGrabLine
Messenger
WongnaiGrab
Foodpanda
United KingdomGoogle Maps
Citymapper
UberWhatsApp
Telegram
OpentableJust Eat

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Complimentary Lounge Access

Taking a layover flight or just want to have a relaxing time before your flight?

Remember to check your credit card benefits for complimentary lounge access where you can get free flow refreshments and snacks, free WIFI and more:

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How To Get Tourist Tax Refunds

Remember our friend Goods and Service Tax (GST)? Yep, there’s a GST, or Value-Added Tax (VAT) whenever you purchase goods overseas as well.

In some countries, you can get a tourist tax refund on goods that you’ve bought overseas if you meet the minimum spending requirement.

For the love of money, please don’t be a blur sotong and just pay taxes overseas when you don’t need to!

Here is a list of countries that have or do not have tourist tax refunds:

DestinationTourist Tax RefundGST/VAT
AustraliaYes10%
AustriaYes20%
ChinaYesVaries
FranceYes20%
GermanyYes19%
IndonesiaYes11%
ItalyYes22%
JapanYes10%
MalaysiaNo10%
South KoreaYes10%
SpainYes21%
SwitzerlandNoN/A
TaiwanYes5%
ThailandYes7%
United Arab EmiratesYes5%
United KingdomYes20%
United States of AmericaDepends on state6% - 7%
VietnamYes10%

If your destination does offer a tourist tax refund, keep the receipts of your purchases and go to the tax refund counter at the airport before you leave the country to file a claim.

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Post-trip

Make Use Of The Duty-Free Store

Sick of GST and the recent GST hikes? Well, you’re in luck as you can shop at the Changi Airport Duty-Free store!

But remember not to just buy more for the sake of “saving”. Just get what you need!

Should You Keep Your Spare Foreign Currency?

After your holiday, you will inevitably have some leftover foreign currency, be it in cash or in your multi-currency account.

If it’s a small amount and you’re returning to that country in the future, it’s fine to keep it there. However, if you have, say thousands of dollars worth, it’s better not to leave it lying around!

Why? Well, you’ll be exposed to foreign currency exchange risks, and your 100,000 yen, which was worth SG$1,000 then would drop in value to about SG$968 now. Such drops in value far outweigh the conversion fees if you were to convert the foreign currency back to SGD.

Secondly, leaving money around in your tin can or your multi-currency account is just letting inflation eat up its value. Your thousands of dollars in foreign currency could instead be in an account with high-interest earning money for you.

Pro Tip: If you have a friend who is going to the same country as you did, you can skip conversion fees and just exchange the currency with them!

Using YouTrip and have money stuck on it? You can send it to another YouTrip user, too!

As for Revolut users, remember that you can send your spare money back into your bank account to earn interest.

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Claim Cashback

If you have used ShopBack, or other websites such as Trip.com with cashback rewards, remember to check on them and claim them after your trip!

For frequent travellers, it is wise to stick to one of these platforms so you can fully utilise whatever cashback you have earned if it is stored on a platform such as Klook, where you earn coins to spend on a future expense.

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How Are You Saving Money While Travelling?

Phew, that was a LOT of information! But that’s not even close to everything I want to cover. At least not yet! There are still topics such as how to redeem your miles for flight tickets, selecting travel destinations based on budget, getting the best out of duty free shops, and more!

So, bookmark this article for future reference, as we will update this mega guide soon!

In the meantime, what are some ways you are saving money while travelling? Share with us below!

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About Justin Oh
Your average Zillennial who is obsessed with anime, games, movies and of course, personal finance. Join me as I break down personal finance into easily digestible and fun bits!
You can contribute your thoughts like Justin Oh here.

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