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The Bargain Corner

Take Off for Discounts

March 01, 1987|JACK ADLER

The Take Off Card is a relatively new entrant on the discount scene. It's issued as an offshoot of an Annapolis, Md.-based outfit that functions as both a retail travel agency and wholesaler. About 400 people subscribe to the program, which began late last fall.

This card works in several ways. You can book any sort of travel in advance and get a discount, including breaks on already discounted prices, through the agency rebating part of its commission back to you. This would amount, for example, to around 5% off domestic air fares and up to 40% off some international fares, according to a Take Off Card spokesman.

With cruises, the discounts can vary from 10% to 40%. The agency might hold some blocks of cabins and thus be operating from its own inventory with some cruise lines. The agency also handles all standard shipboard arrangements for members.

Card holders can also, if they choose, make their own bookings and ask the agency to take care of the ticketing. The discount would remain the same in either case, the card spokesman said. As the agency can more easily check what fares are through its computer systems, this is the better option. But in some cases travelers want to fly on a specific airline. You earn the same frequent-flier bonuses when using the card.

Distress merchandise, where you have to be able to travel on short notice, is another facet of the Take Off Card. Discounts can go as high as 65% with this type of travel, which includes charter flights, tours and cruises, the spokesman said.

The card costs $29.95 for a one-year membership on a single, couple or family basis, with this period only starting once you make a booking. Your card is numbered so you can identify yourself when you call a toll-free number for information, including what the published fares are for a specific flight/cruise/tour, and to make reservations.

Members also receive a newsletter outlining various offerings, including the agency's own tour packages.

Payment can be by credit card. There are no service charges other than those imposed by airlines for prepaid tickets. As one of its added benefits, Take Off Card offers a lost luggage retrieval service. You get personalized luggage tags and can call the toll-free number for help in getting back your baggage.

Contact the Take Off Card at 1700 Melvin Ave., Annapolis, Md. 21401, (800) 222-8285.

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