A warning about credit card holds when you travel

When Perry Capurro rented a car from Hertz in Harrisburg, Pa., he got an early surprise: a required $200 “authorization” on the reservation.

“They were difficult to deal with the whole time, and they do not release the hold until midnight,” he says.

So what’s with the “hold”? Read more “A warning about credit card holds when you travel”

The 10 worst travel apps in the world

If you travel, you probably already know that smartphone apps aren’t that smart. In fact, they’re sometimes buggy, sluggish and hard to use.
Read more “The 10 worst travel apps in the world”

Want to live debt free? 4 signs you might be getting ripped off

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
If you’re a regular reader of my consumer advocacy columns, you probably already know that the word “free” should trip all kinds of alarms.

If not, don’t worry, I’ll get you up to speed: If you see the word “free” in a product offer, run!

But “free” can be used in another equally important context. Promises to make you “debt free,” for example, can leave you even deeper in the hole. There, too, my advice is identical — don’t walk, flee.

Debt-free, or “last dollar” scams, are, after identity theft, among the most complained-about swindles in America, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These scams are part of a broad group of cons that can involve selling you promises of a job, a government grant or some other money-making opportunity.
Read more “Want to live debt free? 4 signs you might be getting ripped off”

Would you shop at this store?

Would you take your kids into this store?
Read more “Would you shop at this store?”

Would you eat at this restaurant?

This is the sign that greets would-be patrons at a restaurant in a Midwestern tourist town.

I’m not going to reveal the name of the establishment — at least not yet.

Here’s a transcript.

No strollers [image] please.

To Our Valued Customers:

We are NOT a fast food restaurant.

Our kitchen is smaller than yours.

We are working hard to prepare and deliver your food.

It is possible, depending on what you and others in your party have ordered that your food may take up to on our to prepare.

If you are grumpy, inpatient, having a bad vacation, don’t like your family, can’t control your children, … etc.

There are dining options for fast food approximately 10 miles north of here.

Would you eat here?

And bonus points if you can guess the name of the restaurant and city in which it’s located.

Update: No one guessed the name of the restaurant (although a few came close). It is Wally’s Bar and Grill in Saugatuck, Mich. The reviews are pretty good.

TSA watch: Exploiting 9/11 for fun and profit

Here we go again.

With just a few days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, everyone who stands anything to gain from the day is amping up the rhetoric.

Let’s start with this curious travel advisory issued yesterday by the State Department, which warns American travelers of “threat” posed by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates.

But read closely.
Read more “TSA watch: Exploiting 9/11 for fun and profit”

Are new warning and tracking systems enough to make us forget about TSA agents’ misdeeds?

It’s been a “good news” kind of week for observers of our nation’s security apparatus. At least that’s how the government is spinning it.

But there’s plenty of bad news for travelers, too. More on that in a minute.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it had scrapped the color-coded terrorism alerts and was moving to a more “robust” two-tiered system called the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS).

The feds also issued a helpful guide (PDF) that explains NTAS. It’s an interesting read. It promises to only issue alerts “when credible information is available” and to include “a clear statement that there is an imminent threat or elevated threat.”

The implication, of course, is that under the previous system, there was sometimes no imminent threat and the warnings were vague. The guide also contains DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s favorite saying, which gives a lot of travelers the creeps: the Orwellian, “If you see something, say something.”
Read more “Are new warning and tracking systems enough to make us forget about TSA agents’ misdeeds?”

What you need to know now about traveling to Egypt

With Egypt descending further into chaos by the hour, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from readers about what to do.

Don’t go, and if you’re there, get out.

Here’s what some visitors saw (video, above).

The State Department has issued a stern travel warning to US citizens. So has the Canadian government and the British government. The advice is all pretty much the same: avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt.
Read more “What you need to know now about traveling to Egypt”

Is this enough compensation? Here’s a refund for your airline tickets, but there’s this little fee …

Karlin Lissa and her family planned to return to Sudan for the first time in more than a decade. But their plans were foiled when the State Department issued a travel warning in October, advising US citizens to defer all travel.

The Lissas wanted to go to Sudan — still want to go — but they can’t put their children in harm’s way. The government warning is anything but ambiguous:

U.S. citizens and citizens of European countries have been victims of kidnappings, carjackings, and armed robberies while travelling in Sudan. Armed militias have instigated sporadic violence and attacked locations in Southern Sudan. Threats have been made against foreigners working in the oil industry in Upper Nile state. Land travel at night should be avoided.

Why go to Sudan in the first place, let alone with four young kids?
Read more “Is this enough compensation? Here’s a refund for your airline tickets, but there’s this little fee …”