Cheaper holidays on the cards

Credit companies offer their customers a range of discounts and other i ncentives to persuade them to use their plastic when they book their vacations
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CREDIT card holders can slash hundreds of pounds off the cost of their holidays - simply by using their flexible friend in a more efficient way.

The opportunity comes as card issuers compete to retain the loyalty of clients by offering extras, such as cheaper holidays, to people who use their cards and book with them.

Crucially, the discounts are on top of the cut-price deals on offer from travel companies, themselves in the middle of a bitter price war.

David Short, a director at Page & Moy, a Leicester travel agent, said: "Generally, the offers available on one card apply to most others, with different issuers providing slightly different deals, depending on what they perceive as their clients' needs.

"If people know what holiday they want, usually from a brochure they already have, they phone us up and tell us what card they have and book. Sometimes, they book through a separate travel service set up by their own issuer. It always pays to check with one's own issuer whether there are special deals available."

Mr Short said most credit card discount bookings through his company were for cruises or more expensive holidays.

Among the many discounts available, Barclaycard users can claim up to 15 per cent on holidays with 33 leading travel operators. These include Thomson Worldwide, Meon Villas, Bales, Freespirit and Norwegian Cruiseline.

Holidays have to be booked between 1 May and 31 October 1995. Payments must be paid for with a Barclaycard Visa or Mastercard.

Discounts start at £350. For bookings of between £750 and £999, the saving is £90; for those costing up to £1,350, the saving is £110. The greatest saving - £1,500 - is available for a holiday costing more than £10,000.

Another offer is a 20 per cent discount off brochure fares for two autumn cruises to Spain and Portugal.

Hoverspeed also offers a 20 per cent discount on its standard car return fares from Dover to Calais throughout the year.

Between £20 and £500 of "free" spending money is available from another 80 tour operators instead of the 15 per cent discount. This is sent to customers in the form of a cheque before departure.

A further advantage of paying by Barclaycard is that customers can use its International Rescue scheme, which offers a 24-hour advice service and emergency cash of up to £500.

Cover is also given for cancellation of travel fares, as is insurance for death or injury, up to a limit of £50,000.

Barclaycard ownership confers free membership of its Holiday Club. This guarantees members that their chosen holiday is the cheapest - if not the Holiday Club will refund the difference.

Leeds Visa customers who book through the Leeds' own travel service before 28 February can get up to15 per cent off holidays with 29 main travel operators between May and October 1995. For other dates, a discount of up to 10 per cent off the basic price is available from an even larger number of travel companies.

Savers are entitled to 20 nights' free hotel accommodation if the holiday is booked through the Leeds. However, breakfast and dinner must be paid for separately.

Save & Prosper also offers discounts on holidays through its Robert Fleming card. For holidays booked out of the May to October period, a discount of £20 for every £300 spent - up to a maximum discount of £500 - is offered. Up to 20 nights' free hotel accommodation is also on offer.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, through Thomas Cook Direct, has a series of discounts up to a maximum of £600 on a range of packages, with a 15 per cent discount on Sunworld summer holidays booked before 18 February. RBS, like the Leeds, provides a lowest price guarantee.

The Co-operative Bank Visa Travel Club offers a double deal: 5 per cent off all holidays booked through it with its Visa card, and an additional £10 off per person per £100 spent, for those taking out holiday insurance. The 5 per cent booking discount comes on top of any price slashing by the operator.

Alliance & Leicester Building Society gives a £1 discount for every £15 spent in advance on a holiday.

This covers not only packages, but also the separate booking of hotels, flights, car hire and rail tickets, which will better suit the more independent traveller.

Travelling light - some of the card deals 737 235.0 50

Card Accident Insurance Holiday booking service 737 235.0 50

Alliance & Leicester Free up to £30,000 Savings on reservations through Travel Giro Visa/Visa Connection; £1 refund (spending money)

0645 250250 on every £15 spent on all holidays and flights/ferry travel; travellers cheque and foreign currency ordering service 737 235.0 50

Bank of Scotland Free up to £250,000 Savings on Holiday Hotline - up to 10% or Classic Visa Mastercard £750 if you buy insurance and full amount Premier Visa plus refund of difference if holiday found Affinity MasterCard cheaper elsewhere 031 226 6336

737 235.0 50

Barclays Free Spending money of up to £500 available Visa, MasterCard through Barclaycard Holiday Club, plus 0116 251 6336 variety of package discounts 737 235.0 50

Co-operative Bank Free up to £25,000. Co-op Travel Care - 5% discount on Visa ABTA brochure holidays.

737 235.0 50

061 832 4565

737 235.0 50

Halifax Free up to £100,00 Up to £500 discount Visa 0114 272 3000. .

737 235.0 50

Leeds Free up to £50,000 Price difference refunded if cheaper .

Visa identical holiday found within 5 days 0116 251 3377 .

737 235.0 50

Midland Bank* Free up to £50,000

Access/Visa Local branch .

737 235.0 50

Royal Bank of Scotland Free up to £50,000 Holiday service up to £600 discount 01733 335566

737 235.0 50

TSB Free up to £50,000 18% discount on Cosmos Holidays, if Trustcard Visa/Mastercard £250 spent by 28 February; next-day Local branch postal delivery of travellers cheques *Midland also offers personal liability insurance of up to £1m.

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