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Three (3) Pro Tips when Flying with AirAsia

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AirAsia officially established in 1993 and start its first operation in 1996 led by CEO Tony Fernandes. AirAsia is known to be a pioneer for low cost traveling in Asia and cover an extensive route to more than 165 destinations both domestic and international flight. The main hub for AirAsia is in klia2, the number one low-cost carrier terminal in Kuala Lumpur.  

Together with their associate companies; AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia Japan, AirAsia India, AirAsia is set to make their slogan to become a reality for all of us, “Now Everyone Can Fly”.  

Operating as a low-cost airline, there are several things that we as passengers need to educate ourselves before flying with AirAsia since flying with them is quite different from flying with any other airlines. Here are three pro tips before we flying with AirAsia.  

i) Pre-book your Meals before flying  

Flying with AirAsia may be cheap for your budget, but in order to make the ticket cheap, the AirAsia business model needs to take away all your basic necessities including foods and drinks. Yes, no food and water will be provided to you if you are flying with AirAsia.   

So, the best advice for you when flying with AirAsia, it is better to pre-book your meals first as it is cheaper. However, for a short flight, you may want to skip this step unless you really want to eat onboard. For a longer flight, you will most probably get hungry and by pre-booking your meal, you know that there are food and water for you later during the flight.   

ii) Add on before flight–avoid buying on board  

The method for AirAsia to make a profit is not only by selling a flight ticket but also by up-selling their services and products. These include selling;  

  • Upgrading your seat/choosing where to sit  
  • Selling a blanket (no blanket will be provided for free during the flight).  
  • Wi-Fi onboard is available on certain aircraft and if you want to get connected to the internet, you have to buy it too.   
  • Selling food, drinks, merchandise, and duty-free items onboard.  
  • Buying extra baggage to put in the cargo. They only allow each guest to bring one piece of cabin luggage and one laptop bag or handbag onboard. Both of these bags must weigh no more than 7kg combined. If you need to bring more, you have to purchase extra luggage to store them in the aircraft cargo.  

Most of the things that need to be add-on could be done before taking your flight. The price will be higher if you purchase it onboard or right before your flight. So, it is highly recommended for you to think properly all your needs and purchase the add-on only if it is necessary.  

iii) Preparation before your flight  

In order to even minimize your budget while flying with AirAsia, there is another thing you could do that will save some of your bucks.  

  • Bring an empty water bottle  

Since water is our necessity, buying water onboard could be inevitable. Bringing an empty water bottle just be our easy gateway. After clearing customs clearance, you will spot a water cooler nearby boarding hall to fill up our empty water bottle to be used later during the flight.  

  • Bring your own pen  

Really useful when traveling to any international flight. We need a pen to fill in all arrival forms or custom declaration forms. Yes, you may borrow it from the crew but sometimes they will sell their AirAsia pen instead. Hence, it will be much easier for us to just bring our own pen.  

Plus, by filling in the form earlier, you may get a head start and save time during the immigration clearance.   

AirAsia BigPay Honest Review

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AirAsia has introduced BigPay; a digital wallet. On early January 2018, it attracted people’s attention as their group CEO, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes claims that;  

One day, BigPay will be worth more than AirAsia itself. 

Tony Fernandes

Curious to know what and how true this statement is; I quickly jump on board.   

i) Registration – Quick and on point  

You can download BigPay app on either IOS or Android. When you first open the app, you can immediately register your account with these 3 simple steps;  

  • Fill in your basic personal details. (for a referral code, fill in this code; X2YUADBKFG. You will get RM10 upon activation your card and I will get the same amount too. Let’s share the love.)  
  • Verify your identity with a picture of your IC/passport and also with a selfie.  
  • Add RM 20 into your account for your future usage.  
Show me some love – X2YUADBKFG (referral code)

After completing that, wait for around 3 – 5 days for your card to arrive and then activate your card through BigPay app and get ready for a full adventure of AirAsia’s BigPay.  

ii) The Usage – your typical debit/credit card with a twist  

AirAsia BigPay acts the same as any prepaid card out there and it based on Mastercard. Hence, any merchants accepting Mastercard will most likely accept BigPay too. It needed to be top-up first before you can use it. You can either top up your card via a credit card, debit card, online banking, or PayPal. Every RM 50 that you top up, you will get 1 AirAsia big point and every RM 20 that you spend using the card will earn you another 1 AirAsia big point. You can use these points to redeem AirAsia flight ticket. As for example, we can redeem 97,000 big points to grants a return flight ticket to Seoul, Korea. Or 14,400 big points to receive a return ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. I calculate both points for a flight from Kuala Lumpur. Another way to earn AirAsia’s big point is to spend at Booking.com and any other selected merchants associate with AirAsia.   

Whenever you made a purchase using BigPay card, a notification will appear on your phone showing that you have made a purchase. If you are using this card outside Malaysia, the app will show you the rate you will pay either in local currency or Ringgit Malaysia. But, for the best rate, please select a local currency and not RM.   

Other things that BigPay can offer is the actual analytics you can use to track your total expenses right in BigPay app. All their analytics is based on real-time so you can see all your total spending and all fees (if any) all right through the app. It’s really convenience especially if you are budgeting for your trip and wanted to control what you’ve been spending on.   

iii) Exchange rate – is it the best in town?  

This is another significant thing that is spat out from BigPay. In most of their ads, they will surely state they offer the best exchange rate. They base their rate from Mastercard itself with no added fees at all. You can refer to BigPay exchange rate by clicking on this link.   

But then, how much could you save if you use BigPay currency exchange compared to using a bank or even going out to the money changer? Here, let me help you break down all the calculation;  

So, let’s say you allocate your budget for your next trip to Bangkok, Thailand to RM 1000;

(I base the currency rate given at their respective website on 31/01/2019)  

  • Using CIMB Credit Card;
    • RM13.40 –> 100THB
    • RM1000 –> 7462THB  
  • Using the best rate money changer in Kuala Lumpur;
    •  RM13.10 –> 100THB
    • RM1000 –> 7633THB
  • Using BigPay;
    • RM13.07 –> 100THB
    • RM1000 –> 7651THB

So, in reality, if you are using BigPay, it is better than using CIMB credit card rate but when you compared it to using the traditional way which is using money changer, it actually almost the same. But keep in mind that going to a money changer will always cost you additional budget; petrol and toll to get to the money changer itself.  

But, here is the deal breaker. I still need some local currencies if I’m traveling. Going cashless is not an option. Paying for taxis, buying street food and buying from the small vendor always required me to have cash in hands.  

I believe in the market or niche that BigPay serving is not to eliminate the local money changer (I wish they could) but rather to compete with the bank which BigPay excel big time. During my time traveling, I do sometimes use a credit card to shop and with BigPay exchange rate, I will definitely use them in the future.  

iv) Zero processing fees – for booking flight with AirAsia  

Another perk that BigPay offer is zero processing fees when booking AirAsia flight. The fees usually cost you around RM24 and by using BigPay, these fees will be waived. And there is also an additional RM2 discount on a purchase of inflight meal and luggage.

v) Withdraw your money – local or overseas.  

Using your BigPay card, you can withdraw your money from any ATM that have Mastercard logo in it. The fees are fixed; RM6 for local ATM and RM10 for overseas ATM. If you are using BigPay card from overseas, please alert that some ATM charge fees differently depending on which country and what bank.

I find this as good things. But I will definitely not be using it too frequently because the fees are high. This will act well as an emergency fund if I’m short on cash. Overseas money changer overcharges tourists or even scam you and the bank rate for withdrawing money overseas is higher than BigPay itself. Let me help you calculate it so you will see the clear picture.

So, let’s say you want to withdraw RM 1000 at an ATM in Bangkok, Thailand;  

  • Using CIMB Debit Card;
    •   CIMB ATM Regional Link: RM1000 –> 7462THB + No fees
    • MEPS Overseas: RM 1000 –> 7462THB + RM8.48/transaction
    • Mastercard Overseas: RM1000 –> 7462THB + RM10.60/transaction
  • Using the best rate money changer in Bangkok;
    •  RM1000 –> 7562THB
  • Using BigPay;
    • RM1000 –> 7651THB + RM10/transaction

Based on this, using BigPay to withdraw your money is the best option you have in case you are in shortage of Thai Bhat. And this is something I will do while I’m out traveling.

What I can conclude is the market that BigPay aiming for is two; traveler and also to AirAsia passengers based on what this card has to offer. I will not replace my current credit card and debit card I have right now with BigPay for my daily use. However, if I’m traveling, BigPay will help me greatly. Plus, the points you could earn will be a bonus to someone who uses AirAsia flight regularly.  

There is a point I believe BigPay should improve to maximize their potential; the exchange rate needed to be better to dish out the competition out there. With that, if you are a traveler and find you are a frequent flyer with AirAsia, BigPay is a perfect match for you. 

P/S: Please do not forget to put in the referral code (X2YUADBKFG) when you sign up for a new account. Here’s the link to BigPay.

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