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Don't burn through your cash on holiday.

Byline: Martin Lewis

FANTASISING about white sands, tropical palm trees, warm crystal waters ...? Well, WAKE UP! Even if you''ve already booked an overseas holiday this summer, there's work to be done to protect your pocket, so you've more cash to spend on enjoying yourself (or to make it easier to stick within your budget).

It may seem early, but actually that's the point - the later you leave sorting out holiday essentials, the more difficult and expensive thinks get.

So long before you chuck your bikini or trunks in your case, follow my holiday money saving need-to-knows and save yourself hundreds of pounds.

Permanently holster unbeatable exchange rates. Forget cash, travellers cheques or bureaux de change. You can smash these exchange rates with ease for every holiday you go on.

The unexpected saviour here is a credit card - not just any card though, one of five specialist cards. These give special cheap spending when abroad, in the hopes you'll also holster the card at home. But don't bother - I pop mine in my overseas travel wallet and it only sees the light of day in the sun. To understand why they're good, you first need to know that all plastic providers get the Visa and Mastercard wholesale exchange rate, which is near perfect. Yet most add a hidden 3% load to the rate they give us. So spending PS100 worth of euros costs PS103.

Specialist cards are load-free worldwide, meaning you get perfect rates. These cards are Halifax Clarity, Saga (over-50s), Post Office, and, for Nationwide customers ONLY, its Select card. If you have a Santander Zero credit card, that's also load-free, but no longer available to new customers.

Only do this though if you pay off the card in full each month, preferably by direct debit, to minimise interest. For a full card-by-card breakdown, showing which is best and easiest to get for you, see www.mse.me/travelcards. | Beware debit cards abroad Bizarrely, the very worst way to spend abroad is on what I call the debit cards from hell. If you have a Santander, RBS, NatWest, Halifax or Lloyds card, then not only do they add a hidden load to the exchange rate, they also charge a fee of between PS1 and PS1.50 each time you use it. So buy something costing PS5 worth of euros and you'll pay up to PS6.50 for it.

Get travel insurance NOW or you might not be covered If you''ve booked and don''t have insurance, you''re not covered for cancellation or collapse. Go away more than twice a year - including city breaks - and policies covering a year's travel are usually cheaper. The current cheapest European annual cover is PS16 for a single person, PS30 for a family. Full explanation and top value picks at www.mse.me/travelinsurance. If you are going away just once time, then www.moneysupermarket.com, www.confused.com and www.gocompare.com will help you find cheap cover.

Turn off smartphone data roaming Even if you don''t use the web overseas, apps can download PS100s of data in the background. So you need to know how to turn off data roaming to protect yourself. Most phones have the option in settings - find it now. | Book cheap car hire sooner and beat hidden nasties. If you need car hire overseas this summer, sort it ASAP.

Car hire booked in advance can be as little as PS10/day. Use comparisons www.kayak.co.uk/ cars and www.carrentals.co.uk to find your cheapest. One thing to watch out for is many cheap firms charge up front for a full fuel tank and let you return it empty.

For low mileage drivers, this can add PS100 to the cost. Factor it in and pick a smaller car for a smaller fuel tank. Often car hire comes with collision damage waiver insurance that covers the car if you have an accident. Yet these often have huge excesses of PS500 - the amount you pay before insurance kicks in. To cover this problem car hire companies push costly no excess insurance. For cheaper excess cover go to www.MoneyMaxim.co.uk. | Find the cheapest foreign currency Never change your currency at the airport, you'll get hideous rates. If you're so late it's the only option, at least call up in advance and pre-order.

To find the very cheapest deal, ignore "commission free" sales spiel. Instead just ask "if I give you PS300 how many dollars will you give me after all fees?" and compare that way. Or go to www.travelmoneymax.com tool compares all the best rates. | Slash the cost of airport parking (don''t pay on the day) The sooner you book parking spaces the cheaper.

Comparison sites like www.aph.com and www.Skyparksecure.com hunt for you. Also consider booking a night in an airport hotel. They sometimes offer a week's parking with a night''s stay, which is occasionally cheaper than parking alone elsewhere.

Don''t Google to get/renew EHICs, passports and ESTAs. Many shyster sites appear, looking like official sites, but charge extra fees for nowt. Three to watch out for: 1. EHICs are always free. The European Health Insurance Card gets you treatment at EU state-run hospitals and GPs at the same cost as a local. So if it''s free for them, it''s free for you. Check yours is still in date - and always take it with you. The official site is www.nhs.uk/EHIC. 2. ESTAs only cost $14. If you''re going to the US, go via the official ESTA site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. 3. Passports via Gov.uk. Passports can be costly at up to PS137. To ensure you''re not paying more than needed, go to gov.uk/renew-adult-passport. | Get Martin's FREE tips and money-off vouchers emailed directly to you each week by signing up to www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 11, 2013
Words:981
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