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Debt-Lag is a condition which results from overuse of one’s credit card or other forms of credit while travelling. The debt itself can refer to the amount spent in the lead up to travelling, during the trip and any unexpected costs which come about from that trip, such as cross currency conversion fees and foreign ATM access charges. The condition of debt-lag may last months or even years after a person’s trip is complete, as long as the debt accrued within the travel period is still outstanding. It is recommended that sufferers of debt-lag seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid paying exorbitant fees in interest charges.
The term debt-lag is similar to jet lag in that both have to do with travel, however travellers can be affected by debt-lag without leaving their time zone. Jet lag refers to the condition sustained by the body after rapid long-distance travel which requires days of adjustment upon return. Debt-lag works in much the same way as it refers to a traveller’s need to adjust upon return as well, except it is more directly related to the traveller’s financial situation than their biological one.
Debt-lag is primarily attributed to spending on credit cards while abroad, including paying for items before travel such as transportation costs and accommodation. It is estimated that roughly 85% of travellers use their credit card while on holiday, presumably because of the ease of use, wide acceptance, ability to earn rewards points and security features of credit cards.
Debt-lag is not strictly tied to the distance or duration of a trip, but longer trips will typically cost more and thus cause more severe cases of debt-lag. It is a financial problem more commonly found in men than in women, with over two in five men suffering credit card shock upon return compared to less than one in three women.
The speed at which a person recovers from debt-lag is largely dependent on the individual’s financial situation and any extenuating circumstances met with while travelling. Lack of travel insurance in cases of emergency and/or disruption to travel can exacerbate debt-lag, especially with one in four travelling without cover. One of the most common unexpected costs incurred while travelling overseas is last-minute transport or accommodation changes, which could be covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
A common cause of debt-lag is tied to fees and charges by financial institutions to access their services while overseas. In fact, these hidden charges, such as currency conversion fees and foreign ATM access charges, are cited as the top “travel rip-offs” experienced by travellers.
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