If you’re skeptical about a postcard you received in the mail or phone call offering a free cruise or vacation, you have every right to be. While some are legitimate, many are not. At the very least, they will ask you to attend a high-pressure sales pitch for a product or ask for a substantial sum of money up front, presumably for taxes, fees, service charges or other hidden charges.
A little detective work will usually let you know whether the travel provider is legitimate. Start by reading the fine print. Are there black-out dates or restrictions? Are there extra charges and fees involved? Check to see if the company is listed with the Better Business Bureau or perform a “Google” search to find out if there have been any complaints. Sites such as “rip-off report dot com” or “complaintsboard dot com” are good places to start.
Never give out any private information or credit card details unless you initiate the transaction or you’re confident that the promotion is for real. If you decide to pay in advance for a trip, be sure you know what you are paying for and what happens if you change your mind – will you get your money back. If they can’t give you the details in writing before money is exchanged, then walk away.
Everyone wants a free cruise or vacation, and the best offers are those in which you make the reservation yourself and not through a shady third party. For instance, casinos are famous for rewarding their high rollers with free cruises. The customer receives a voucher with instructions for making the reservation directly with the cruise line. It’s a very easy and uncomplicated process. The cruise line sends you a written confirmation, and you know exactly what transacted.
If you decide to take advantage of one of the postcard promotions, however, always pay with a major credit card allowing you some protection in case things go very wrong. In buying into one of these travel schemes, just be forewarned that you could end up paying much more for that “free” cruise than if you had booked with a respectable travel agent.
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