Sarah Hluchan says American Airlines stranded her in Myanmar after she missed a connecting flight. To get home, she has to buy a new ticket. Why won’t her airline refund the extra fare? “American Airlines stranded her in Myanmar. Refund, please?”
Processing a credit card charge for overseas purchases used to be pretty simple. You swiped your card while on vacation, your bank changed the money from pesos or euros into greenbacks, and the amount you’d spent appeared on your bill. Maybe you paid a small conversion fee, but you also got a competitive exchange rate.
Not anymore. Just ask Jae Cuadra, who recently tried to buy a round-trip train ticket between the Swiss cities of Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. The purchase, at a train station in Interlaken, went on his Capital One Visa card, which doesn’t charge to convert foreign currencies. But “for the first time, I was offered a choice,” says Cuadra, a registered nurse from Westbury, N.Y. “Did I want to pay in dollars or Swiss francs?”
“The dangers of dynamic currency conversion”
Hold on to your wallet. Businesses don’t just want to get their hands on your cash when you’re on the road — they also want more of your money, and on their terms.
Take what happened to Gordon Angell when he was visiting La Paz, Mexico, recently. Many restaurants in town display the “Visa” and “MasterCard” stickers, signifying that they accept credit cards.
But on Angell’s first evening, after finishing a meal at a restaurant, his server informed him the credit card machine didn’t work, and pointed to an ATM. He paid in pesos.
“The following evening we went to another restaurant called The Three Virgins,” he says. “We made sure that we asked them if they accepted credit cards and they said ‘yes.’ Surprisingly, when we offered to pay our bill, it was a repeat of the previous evening. Their machine was ‘not working.’ They told us to use the ATM.”
“Not so funny money tricks the travel industry likes to play”
As Jay Berman and his wife were checking out of the Henley House in London last month, a clerk asked if they wanted to pay their bill in dollars. It seemed like a good idea at the time, because they’d avoid Bank of America’s three percent foreign transaction fee.
Or so they thought.
“Exchange rate rip-offs, and how to avoid them”