In Brief

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MINIBARGAIN Travel by Americans is at a 14-year peak, which indicates that hotel prices could be stiff this summer. Yet an industry building boom has added almost half a million hotel rooms since 1997, outpacing demand in major U.S. cities. For instance, at the Comfort Suites in Seattle, rates are down by $5 to $10. But remember, low rates may be offset by increased parking and minibar prices.

Room for Cheap
City -- Change in average room rate -- Change in available rooms
Dallas -- (0.1%) -- 5.7%
Denver -- 0.5% -- 7.8%
Phoenix -- 0.4% -- 6.7%
Seattle -- (0.4%) -- 7.0%
U.S. average -- 4.0% -- 3.4%

Source: Smith Travel ResearchNORTHERN EXPOSURE International-minded investors looking to diversify their portfolios haven't had to go far to get good returns. This year U.S. funds dedicated to Canadian stocks have surpassed most other international funds. Unlike the volatility experienced by Asia, Canada has maintained double-digit gains for the past five years, with an average rate of return of 13.17%. The cheap Canadian dollar has helped its exporting companies, such as telecom supplier Nortel, as well as domestic industries, such as tourism.

PRICEY PLASTIC Cardholders, beware! Major credit-card issuers have raised their fees--again. It's all there in the fine print. It used to be a good deal to travel abroad with a credit card--when foreign-transaction fees were at 1%. Card issuers such as Chase Manhattan have raised them to 3%. Other fees, like cash-advance charges and balance-transfer fees, have risen for holders of Bank of America's and Citibank's cards. Don't forget to pay those bills on time. Late fees have leaped to $29.