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Martin Lewis' money saving agenda

Whether you're feeling cautious about car hire, panicking about parking or intrigued by travel cards, Martin Lewis is here and on his money saving agenda today it's all things holiday.

Today Martin also gave us some advice on dealing with loan sharks - the helpline is: 0300 555 2222

1. Book holiday car hire now

Holiday car hire can cost a fortune done wrong. Wait until you’re away and it can cost £52/day in August or £28/day in June for a family car in Malaga, Spain. Yet booking early, such as now for the summer, and you can get the same for £21/day in August or £8/day in June.

Speedily find the cheapest with comparison sites. Don't go direct to one car hire firm when you can find scores of prices in seconds via a comparison. To bag the best deals, try Kayak and Carrentals.

Check out the fuel policy charges - they can add €100+. In Europe, hire for 3+ days, and some charge for a full tank and say "return it empty". If you won't drive too far, the unused fuel can cost more than the hire. If this'll hit you, AutoEurope lets you filter hires by fuel policy.

Beat the excess insurance scare trick. When you collect the car, hire firms often say: "Without our excess insurance, you'll pay big for a scratch." Buy it from them and it can be £27/day, yet you can get it for £2/day from a specialist standalone firm. Use Moneymaxim's excess comparison.

2. Act now to bag perfect exchange rates in every country

Forget bureaux de change, forget bank cards. The cheapest way to spend abroad in every country is by pocketing specialist (no annual fee) credit cards that give you cheap spending overseas in the hope you'll use them here too. So grab one just for use abroad, and ensure you repay it IN FULL each month to minimise interest, and you’re the winner.

While most cards add a 3% load, so spend £100 of euros and it costs £103, with a specialist overseas card £100 of euros costs £100.

Of the cards that do this, my top pick is the Halifax Clarity credit card, which is load-free worldwide, so you get the same rate as the banks do, which is near perfect – smashing bureaux de change. Yet crucially, unlike other specialist cards, it doesn’t charge ATM fees for cash withdrawals (though you do pay interest on them - even if you repay in full - at its standard rate, which works out at about £1/month per £100 – but that still beats foreign bureau). If you don’t fully repay each month, it is 12.9% representative APR.

Other specialist cards are Saga Platinum, the Post Office credit card, Aqua Advance and Nationwide Select. If you’ve already got one of these, then I wouldn’t bother switching.

For poorer credit scorers, the Capital One Classic Extra accepts some with older defaults or CCJs and also gives cash back of 0.5% on UK spending. However cash withdrawals have a 3% (minimum £3) fee and you pay the full 34.9% representative APR (around £2.50/month per £100). So it’s best for spending rather than cash withdrawals. Of course fail to fully repay, and you pay the horrid 34.9% on everything – so avoid that.

There’s a debit card from Norwich & Peterborough’s Gold Classic current account that’s load-free too. But as you can do it on a credit card, and other bank account perks are better, I wouldn’t ‘spend’ my bank account switch on this.

It’s worth noting too, that if you have a debit card from Halifax, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, RBS or TSB, these are my debit cards from hell, as they charge up to £1.50 on spending on top of the load and are some of the most expensive ways to spend abroad.

3. Book your airport parking now

For many, public transport is the best way to the airport. But if you’ve a big family or small children, that can be difficult or costly. If you are travelling by public transport, don’t leave it until the last minute as you may struggle with availability and prices tend to be higher.

If you want to park at the airport, the trick is to book early and spread your net wide. This could cut the cost, though the exact saving depends on when and where you're booking. For example, an eight-day stay at Gatwick Airport in August would cost £70 if you booked now as opposed to £104 on the day, while a 15-day stay at Manchester Airport in August would cost also cost £70 if booked now as opposed to £190 if you turned up on the day. A number of websites compare prices including Holiday Extras, SkyParkSecure and FHR Airport Services.

Armed with the cheapest price for the big car parks, it's worth trying smaller ones to see if you can cut the cost further. Often, people who live close to airports offer their own parking services on any spare land they have. You can search for spaces using websites including Park At My House, Park Let, Your Parking Space and Park On My Drive.

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