A foreign transaction fee for a U.S. travel booking? Now you’re roaming alone

By | November 6th, 2008

Brandy Hamill knows the importance of reviewing her credit card statement after booking a trip. If she hadn’t taken a look at hers, she might have missed the strange surcharge when she booked a flight on Travelocity.

And when I say “strange” I definitely mean it in every sense of the word. Weird, odd, mystifying — and a little troubling.

Hamill picks up the story:

I booked a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Toronto for December through Travelocity with Air Canada.

However, the charge showed up on my credit card from a ‘foreign’ location so my bank charged me a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. I was surprised, because I had booked with Travelocity and didn’t expect a foreign transaction fee, so I attempted to get a refund for the fee.

Hamill spoke with two Travelocity representatives and three supervisors for a total of nearly two hours. The online agency conferenced the bank on their call to resolve the transaction fee that had apparently been wrongly charged to her card.

In the end Travelocity gave me the $15 service fee back and a $50 gift card toward a future package from them (they offered $25, but I made a cogent argument I could just get charged a foreign transaction fee when using my gift card).

However, it should be noted that they would not change the charge from Air Canada, and from my understanding had no power to do so. They also did not want to give me the full amount of my foreign transaction fee, which came to a total of $16.71.

I contacted Travelocity on Hamill’s behalf. Here’s its response:

Chris, this is a technical error, as all of our charges are supposed to be generated out of San Antonio. If that had happened correctly, the customer would never have been charged the foreign transaction fee.

When our Customer Service Team refunded $15, they were actually refunding the Travelocity service charge, so we’ve submitted a refund request for an additional $1.71, to fully compensate the customer for the fee they were charged and alerted those who made the initial refund aware of the discrepancy. We will also explain this to the customer.

A couple of observations: First, I’m happy that Travelocity fully compensated this customer for her inconvenience.

Second, it’s probably not worth two hours of your time to recover a few dollars. Think of how much employee time Travelocity spent in this epic battle over $16? Wouldn’t it have been easier to credit the customer quickly?

And finally, and most importantly, Hamill was correct to review her credit card statement after making the booking. That’s a lesson we can all take away from her bizarre foreign transaction fee odyssey.

  • Ipadirvine

    It should be disclosed then confirming the cc purchase through the travel agent /online booking service.  The reason it is charged in a different country is to save the company the fees in foreign money conversion.

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