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Pay in advance and save

Snaring a discount can sometimes be a matter of timing. Paying upfront, or prepaying, can get you up to 60% off the regular price of fuel, parking and much more so Money reports on where some of the best prepayment savings can be found.

And bear in mind that, if you have the cash on hand, it never hurts to ask for the best possible price when you pay in advance.

Fuel
Prices swing enormously – sometimes in a few days – so it’s a no-brainer to lock in a low fuel price with the 7-Eleven Fuel App.

The app lets motorists search their five nearest 7-Eleven fuel stores to find the lowest price using real-time data.

Users then register for a digital wallet and select the type and volume of fuel they would like to purchase and lock in an amount, up to their wallet balance, for seven days.

From here, you can fill up at any 7-Eleven fuel outlet and complete the transaction in-store by scanning the barcode on the app. If the price of petrol at the store is lower than the price you have locked in, you’ll pay the lower price.

The pluses: The app helps drivers avoid fuel price spikes, and it is available on both iOS and Android.

The minuses: You may be able to buy cheaper fuel at another outlet. Shop around before committing to 7-Eleven bowsers.

Parking
Finding a city centre parking spot is often a struggle and then the real challenge comes when you see the bill.

Charges in major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne can top $40 for three hours. Prepaying is a simple way to secure a spot and save.

Car park operators offer a host of prepaid options. As a guide to the savings available, Secure Parking’s Secure-a-Spot deal can save up to 60% on the drive-up rate and prepaid evening parking can cost as little as $10.

Bookings can be made up to 30 days in advance.

If you plan longer-term parking, the savings can really stack up. Parking for, say, three days at Sydney’s domestic airport can cost up to $178.50. Prepay online and the price comes down to $134 – a discount of almost 25%.

The pluses: Along with discounts, prepaying can speed up the parking process as a driver simply uses a personalised code to enter and exit the station.

The minuses: If you don’t use the car spot you may lose your money. Secure Parking, for instance, does not offer refunds or credits for prepaid parking that isn’t used and if you overstay your prepaid time regular hourly charges will apply for the extra time.

School fees
It’s not for everyone but, if your children attend a non-government school, it’s worth asking about a discount for paying fees in advance. Schools don’t always advertise these discounts publicly, though many offer them, so it’s worth inquiring. Some, such as Sydney’s Knox Grammar and Nambour Christian College in Queensland, offer a 3% discount for prepaid tuition fees.

The pluses: Rising school fees make it worth exploring prepaid discounts, especially if you’re certain your child will continue to attend the school.

The minuses: Prepaying doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid fee increases. You could still be asked to stump up more cash if fees rise after you have prepaid. If your child leaves the school, you may not get all your money back – a portion, often 10%, may be withheld.

Car rental
If you’re heading off for a break and plan to hire a car, paying in advance can put money back in your hip pocket. Hertz offers “pay now” discounts to drivers who book and pay for car hire in advance.

For example, hiring a Toyota Yaris for seven days can cost $266. Book and pay in advance and the rental drops to $242.51 – a discount of almost 9%.

The pluses: Drivers have a week’s grace to change their minds about the prepaid booking before fees apply.

The minuses: After the seven-day grace period, a $70 cancellation fee applies and a complete no-show incurs a $150 fee.

Car insurance
Comprehensive car cover is a must-have but it’s far from cheap, so it makes sense to look for ways to save. Most insurers offer a discount if you arrange and pay for cover online – ranging from a $100 saving with AAMI through to 25% off the premium with Budget Direct.

Progressive car insurance goes one step further, offering an early shopper discount to drivers who arrange and pay for comprehensive cover before their current policy expires. According to Progressive, the discount is a percentage of the regular premium, and is in part shaped by factors other insurers may not consider, such as marital status and a driver’s education level.

Money put Progressive to the test and found the early payment discount can be impressive. Comprehensive insurance for a 2012 Nissan Navara was quoted at $473.93 for cover starting on the day of the quote. The prepaid premium to insure the same vehicle six weeks before cover with another insurer expired was $356.51 – a saving of $117.32.

The pluses: No matter which insurer you use, paying your annual premium upfront is often cheaper than making 12 monthly instalments.

The minuses: Discounts shouldn’t be the only reason for choosing an insurer. Other issues to take into consideration include the value you can insure your vehicle for, the quality of the company’s claims service and whether you can transfer a no-claim bonus from your current insurer to the new one (Budget Direct, for instance, allows this).

Air fares
No matter whether your air travel is domestic or international, most of us book and pay for flights ahead of time. The question is, how far in advance should you book and prepay to secure the best deals?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, the sweet spot for discounts is paying 17 weeks in advance – a time frame that provides a discount of 5% on average.

The ideal time to prepay depends on your destination. If you’re heading to Japan, for instance, booking and prepaying 21 weeks before departure can mean saving an average of 12% on fares. If you’re flying between Melbourne and Sydney, aim to book and prepay four weeks in advance to pocket a discount of 25% on average.

The pluses: Booking and paying early also means getting the seat you want, the date you want and the airline of your choice.

The minuses: The longer the time between prepaying your flight and departure date, the greater the odds are that something could go wrong and prevent you from travelling. So get in early with travel insurance, too. That way you’re covered if anything goes wrong in the lead-up to your flight.

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