Are e-checks a safe way to pay for travel?

Stevanovich/Shutterstock
Stevanovich/Shutterstock
As she paged through Viking River Cruises’ glossy brochure one recent afternoon, Diane Moskal noticed a new way to save money: If she booked the Waterways of the Tsars itinerary sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg with something called an e-check, the cruise line promised to knock $100 off the fare.

An e-check is an electronic debit to your checking account, and it’s billed as a quick, convenient way to pay for your vacation that is “as easy as providing your credit card number,” according to Viking.

But like any smart traveler, Moskal wasn’t content with that explanation. “I see that the cruise lines advocate consumer savings if you pay by e-check,” she says. But she also found several complaints online, which made her hesitate. She wondered: Are e-checks safe?
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Something’s still “phishy” about vacation rentals

Gilles/Shutterstock
Gilles/Shutterstock
If you think the words “vacation rental” and “phishing” are all but synonymous, you’re not alone. Just talk to Ann Schutte, who recently found a rental villa with a “million-dollar” view in Sedona, Ariz., through the rental Web site VRBO.com.

A woman claiming to own the property quoted her a $645 rate for five nights if she wired her the money. “After a number of e-mails back and forth, I agreed to the rental,” says Schutte, a property manager from Phoenix. “I received a contract. Everything looked correct on the contract. It even had the rental property address and logo. I signed the agreement, and wired the money through Western Union to the U.K.”
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Hey, where’s that refund on my all-inclusive vacation?

cancunQuestion: I’ve read your columns frequently over the past several years and always wondered if I’d ever need your help. Well that day has come. I need assistance in obtaining a refund from Palace Resorts. I paid $2,785 for a seven-day, all-inclusive vacation at their Aventura Spa Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico a few months ago. I had no problems whatsoever with that reservation.

But last fall, the Palace had a sale, and I was able to cancel that initial reservation and book a new reservation for a cheaper rate, saving me $278. I was told by the agent that my refund would be processed in six to eight weeks.

It didn’t happen. The credit card with which I made the original reservation was lost, so I had to send additional information to the company. Since then, I have not received any communication from anyone at Palace Resorts regarding my refund. I have sent multiple emails, and have been told each time that someone else who can help with refunds would contact me. I’ve tried everything, including contacting their public relations manager on Twitter and using “live” chat.
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How to be a travel blogger: And now, a few words about money

Editor’s note: This is part four of my series on becoming a successful travel blogger. Here’s the first one, the second one and the third one.

Let’s talk about money.

If you’re going to be a successful travel blogger, you’ll need some to pay your Internet service provider and web designer. You’ll have to pony up cold, hard cash for the equipment I recommended in the second part of this series.

It would be nice to have a little left over to pay the rent, too.

People think you have to take the vow of poverty when you become a travel blogger, or that your “payment” is press trips. Not necessarily.
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