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Vacation from Fees? New Website Promises Just That

Feecation has mounted the latest online enticement to travelers: "Take a vacation from your fees" says the logo. Actually, what you get is more like a few hours off than a vacation, but the concept will interest many of you.

Here's the proposition: Buy into a yearly membership at $14.97 per month, and Feecation will pay some of the cost of a laundry list of optional airline, hotel, and car-rental fees. One membership covers either an individual or a family, but fee limits are per membership. The specific promise is $10 per instance for any and all of the most common optional fees you encounter:

  • Air-travel fees, up to $500 per year: Checked bags, overweight bags, seat upgrade, extra legroom seats, early check-in, early/priority boarding, in-flight TV, ticket change, cancellation, booking (in person or by phone), in-flight meals, and blanket/pillow.
  • Hotel accommodations fees, up to $250 per year: Booking, resort, fitness center, early check-in, early checkout, late cancellation, baggage holding (bellhop), and parking.
  • Car-rental fees, up to $250 per year: Booking, late cancellation, airport concession, GPS, drop off (returning car to different location), additional driver, equipment rental (ski rack, car seat, etc.), and early return.
  • Wi-Fi fees, up to $250 per year: Airport, in-air, hotel, restaurant, conference center, and rest area.

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Feecation covers only optional fees assessed by travel suppliers, not any government taxes and fees. And, at least for now, it covers fees for international travel only if the original receipts are in U.S. dollars.

To collect, you must provide documentation of the fee—an original sales receipt showing sales date—then complete and submit a rebate form either by mail or email. Feecation will provide a rebate within "three to six" weeks.

Although some of the promotional lyrics imply that Feecation will free you from fees, it frees you only from the small ones; it just helps offset the cost of the higher ones. And that means it doesn't fully cover the more expensive checked bag fees—typically $20 to $40—or extra legroom seats, which can cost as much as $100 per trip. On the other hand, it will fully cover some small-change items as onboard snacks and a pillow.

The obvious question is whether or not Feecation is a good deal—or, perhaps, deciding who can best benefit. And the clear answer is that Feecation will work best for travelers who regularly avail themselves of optional-fee services. Feecation says it can "save" you up to $1,250 per year, but that's only if you use all the fee categories to the max. Still, the math can look good if you travel a lot: The yearly cost is $179.64; with a cap of $10 per fee, that means you break even if you pay approximately 18 big-ticket fees or more for the small stuff. Many of you can easily run up that sort of bill, especially if you apply the membership to a family group rather than an individual.

You will also want to consider whether Feecation's business model is sustainable. Certainly, it wouldn't be if it rebated the entire amount of all the various fees it covers; you'd have a major incentive to pile on those optional services. But it doesn't let you off the hook for the big fees; it just cuts the rate, and you're still out of pocket. And presumably Feecation has done its homework about the percentage of eligible folks who never get around to filing for rebates owed them.

My take is that Feecation is worth considering for anyone who (1) travels a lot, (2) takes two or three trips a year as a family group, and (3)—most important—generally asks for and pays for checked baggage, extra legroom seats, and other such options. Feecation won't free you from those fees, but it will take some of the bite out of them. If you're interested, give it a try.

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Ed Perkins on Travel is copyright (c) 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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