Saving money when traveling in unfamiliar cities

This past weekend, I have been in Las Vegas which really isn’t a city known for saving money for its visitors when they stay and play. But, the few stories and pieces of advice I have to share really can apply to any city in which you are unfamiliar. I have two examples to share with transportation and dining out that many can probably relate to in some form or another.

The first comes from when we took a taxi from the Las Vegas airport, which is simple enough to do, even with the wait. It was after we got in the car where it got complicated. The driver claimed that his credit card machine wasn’t working, or working well for that matter, “due to high-demand.” He’d have to process it manually, which could take time. Therefore, if we had cash that would be preferred. I have heard that line before, but since he made it sound like we’d have to get out and find another cab that took credit cards due to not having enough cash, we decided to chance it with his “faulty” machine.

Now, his machine could have been faulty or not working well, but more often in my experience, is that the cab driver doesn’t want to eat credit card fees, have any delay in getting tips paid to him, or report tip income (easier to avoid when paying cash). Granted, credit card fees are considerable, around 2-4% of the transaction, but trying to force your customers to pay cash while advertising credit card payment options is really a poor practice. Not only that, in Vegas at least, there has been a mandatory $3 voucher fee for using a credit card, regardless of fare price, for some time. This is supposed to offset the credit card fees as it is.

So, what’s the lesson learned for saving money in Vegas on cabs? Bring extra cash with you. You won’t get points for using a credit card, but you won’t get burned on paying their voucher fee. Alternatively, if the city in which you are in has it, use a service such as Uber and you won’t have to worry about credit cards not being accepted or miscellaneous fees being tacked on your fare. I just learned that Uber is having problems launching in Vegas, though, ironically.

Saving money in Vegas or other major cities can be challenging

saving money

Photo credit: Pixabay/acarabeis

Second, dining out does not have to be expensive, and there are plenty of strategies for saving money there. Choose a less expensive restaurant, order less expensive items, and perhaps split dishes. But, what if you aren’t aware that you might be charged for something? In my experience in Vegas, I ordered a seltzer water, because I like a little something to my water. Granted, I was in a hotel restaurant in Vegas, which is already a red flag for potential extra expense, but when I got my bill, I realized that they had charged $5 for the soda water. What!!? I was definitely a little miffed, but then again, it wasn’t clear to me to begin with if I should have been charged or if it would be simply complimentary. I have never been charged for something as basic as this back in DC, or anywhere else for that matter. Lesson learned, don’t assume any special requests will be free. I might have protested the charge, but I decided to pick battles elsewhere. Next time, I will ask ahead of time.

Saving money while traveling in an unfamiliar city is certainly possible, but it may require a bit more due diligence than you were thinking you would have to exercise. Especially on vacation, it is very easy to let your guard down, but from these experiences, don’t.



Emerging mobile payment wars: Softcard vs. Apple pay

Recently, there was a big deal made of the new Apple mobile pay option, called Apple Pay, which was available with the iPhone 6. That’s pretty cool, but it’s a little late to the party, in my opinion, for smartphone payment options. I have been using Softcard on my Samsung Galaxy 4 for quite a while now. There are some differences of course between the phones, such as the iPhone’s fingerprint security feature, but fundamentally, the payment technology, using Near Field Communication (NFC), is the same. But, I get it. It’s a Google vs. Apple vs. Samsung type of thing.

What I have been enjoying for the past several months is the $1 off (in the form of a statement credit) for all of my purchases I make with my mobile phone using the Softcard card. The promotion is good for up to $50/month and will last until the end of the year, which has been awesome. For example, I have purchased water for free at CVS after the rebate on many occasions. Free money! They have other promotions as well, such as discounts at restaurants and retailers.

Mobile wars


n Photo credit: CNET

What remains to be seen to be seen is if there will be a fight between Apple and Samsung (they don’t like each other, FYI) in which we can all benefit in the form of incentives thrown our way to win us over. Will Apple also have a $1 statement credit promotion to try to steal Samsung’s business? That would be cool. Since my wife has an iPhone, I will just use her phone to get the deal if/when Softcard’s promo runs out.

Apple is set to roll out their mobile payment option this month to several retailers. It will be interesting to see what the response is.

The bottom line is, at least for a short time still, Softcard users can benefit for adapting the NFC mobile payment option when they make a purchase.