Whilst I am yet to achieve “cruise fanatic” status, my partner and I do cruise every other year. As Australians, we always use the services of a qualified cruise agent (such as SuzyCruisy.Com) in the United States because of the level of knowledge and professionalism they provide, which adds to having a stress-free holiday.
Once you have planned that ultimate vacation time, and made your reservation, it’s time to think about cruise payment. Now, you may not have been realising it in the past, but payment by your credit card issued in Australia is not the most cost effective way of settling your account! Why, do you ask? Well, a card issued in Australia is normally going to be hit with a double whammy in costs.
The first is what is known as a “foreign currency conversion fee”. These days, this is 2.5% of the total transaction cost that you place on your card. Now if you consider the average cruise payment is USD$1,000 per person, that’s AUD$50 you have immediately lost from your holiday budget.
The second is the “foreign exchange rate” or what rate the card issuer will convert your cruise cost at. Now, when you pay on card you have no choice as to when the final payment is settled by your cruise company. So, sending your credit card details in good faith when the dollar is sitting at AUD$1=USD$0.75 will not result in you necessarily achieving this rate of exchange. All card issuers “hedge” (protect) foreign transactions, and keep a little on the side for themselves (they cover their costs here). So you could easily drop another 0.01 – 0.015 cents here again, which could be another AUD$55 from your budget.
Losing over AUD$100 from your vacation spending money before you have even left home is just not good sense. Thankfully, there is another way. Here in Australia, you can go to your local bank and ask for what is known as a US Bank Draft (which is a US Bank Cheque). Now, two great things about this – you immediately are advised of the rate of exchange prior to commencing your transaction (so you can opt out if the dollar is moving around a bit and wait a few days more), and the cost is fixed. At ANZ which is who I bank with, the current fee is AUD$35. The US Bank Draft is issued on the spot, and as it is bank issued funds, there is no waiting for clearance (like a personal cheque) when received by your cruise agent. Speaking of “cheques” – in the US they are “checks”. Don’t berate your agent for spelling or grammar issues as a result of our differences!
For peace of mind, you can pick up a “Registered Post” envelope from any Australia Post shop for just under AUD$10 and send your bank draft to your agent. It is generally received in 4-5 business days in the US from Australia. You can alternatively send it normal post, but allow at least another week. Oh, and take a copy of any documentation you put in the mail. You should keep it with your cruise documents just in case.
Well, as I start planning my packing and our next cruise off into the Caribbean, I can feel relaxed that my cruise is paid for on the terms I wanted and with a saving of at least AUD$50 in the whole process. Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to put that on my shipboard account and have the first cocktail of the day.
Suzy note: This article was written by my client Ash on 11 February 2006. I felt it was helpful and informative and humorous, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Of course, you need to inquire at your own bank in your own country about the fees involved for you.
Up until this time in my career, whenever I’ve had clients in foreign countries, they’ve always just used a credit card to pay for their cruises. I always thought that was the easiest way for them due to the currency differences between their home countries and my US $ bookings.
Obviously though if you read Ash’s article to the left, that may not be the case and you need to evaluate your individual situation.
Still ANOTHER idea that surfaced from one of my UK clients is not even dealing with a paper check at all. She learned that the fee from getting the check in US $ was about the same as sending me a bank-to-bank “wire” of funds in US $. I researched it at my own bank and determined it was a great low-cost way for me to go as well. By doing a “wire” we then didn’t have to be concerned with the check being lost or delayed in transit.
Lastly, you need not be concerned with mailing me a check or sending a wire and your funds not being “safe”. I had to go though lots of security and extra effort to be a "seller of travel" in the State of California, USA. I was required to open a separate bank account, called a client trust funds account, where I'm bound by law to deposit all cheques written out to my business for clients' travel payments. (I'd have you wire into this account as well.) And then I write checks out of that account directly to the cruise lines or tour companies. These monies are not "mixed" at all with my regular bank accounts where my income comes in and my expenses go out. As a matter of fact, the trust account is at a different bank than I normally use because my bank didn't have the ability to do a "client trust account".
Please remember that US agencies are not allowed to book clients on Oceania Cruises or Costa Cruise Line. There are lots and lots of other great cruise lines and land vacation companies SuzyCruisy.com can help you plan a holiday with though