Travel is back with a vengeance in these post-Covid times, and I'm writing this from London. Our original plan for the trip started with a Qantas return flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles to visit the grandkids, but the travel agent pointed out it would be no dearer to continue to London from Los Angeles and then fly home with Emirates. It was too good to resist.
There were some challenges though. The first was travel insurance - once you turn 80 the options shrink. But I did my research - using Choice - and opted for Medibank. The cost was $933.
It was interesting that once you get to 80 you cannot buy 12 months' cover, you have to pay a premium for each trip.
The next challenge is money. Experience has taught me to carry more than one card in case one gets stolen or stopped.
I opted for a combination of the Latitude Credit Card and the ING Orange Everyday Visa debit card, plus an American Express card for backup. The debit card is useful if you need to go to an ATM for cash.
It's recommended that you tell your credit card issuer if you're travelling. This was easy with ING - its app has a button that lets you advise dates of travel and destination.
Latitude said via social media that it wasn't necessary to tell them you're going overseas: they will know the moment you start making overseas transactions and will get in touch if they seem suspicious.
I like these cards because there is no annual fee and their exchange rates are the best in the business (at least, so they claim - it's a complex thing to verify).
The debit card is good because you can't overspend, and the credit card is also useful because you've got the extra money via your credit card limit if you get an unexpected expense.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, both cards immediately worked without a hitch. Each has a great app which shows transactions in real time, so you can cry in horror when you see that the cup of coffee you just enjoyed cost $A12 including tax, tips and conversion.
When we arrived in London, I put the two cards to the ultimate test. The moment we checked in at the hotel, I took out the Latitude card and the ING card and asked the hotel to charge the same amount to each card.
Both transactions were instantaneous - there was no pin needed and no signature, and within a minute, I could see the Australian equivalent of both transactions on my phone. The difference was minuscule.
Both cards passed with flying colours. The ING card has a slight advantage as a deposit to it from your bank account normally shows within five minutes; Latitude seems to take 24 hours.
The main reason I take the Amex card is the requirement from most hotels to register a card on check in, to cover possible expenses. The hotel then adds a notional sum for contingencies.
I've been caught before with this: it may be blocked for days, and if your card has a small limit, it can leave you short.
This is why I carry the American Express card: its purpose is solely to act as a guarantee for check-in.
This leaves me free to use the other cards without fear of them being blocked.
Travel is so much easier now thanks to e-passports. It took less than 15 minutes at Los Angeles Airport to get from touchdown to the baggage carousel and it was just as quick at Heathrow.
Those long queues at passport control appear to be a thing of the past. Let's hope so.
- Noel Whittaker is the author of Retirement Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. Email: email@example.com
- This advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.