I Narrowly Avoided a Very Common Travel Credit Card Rip-Off Today — Here’s How

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I Narrowly Avoided a Very Common Travel Credit Card Rip-Off Today — Here’s How

Scott LiebermanI Narrowly Avoided a Very Common Travel Credit Card Rip-Off Today — Here’s HowMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Scott:   I absolutely HATE junk fees.  So when I saw the restaurant bill this morning, I almost lost my lunch while paying for breakfast.

Keep a Sharp Eye Overseas When You Pay With a Credit Card to Avoid Getting Stung!

First of all, do NOT use a credit card that charges nonsense foreign transaction fees.

I’m in Europe and I’ve been using my trusty Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.  (This is our #1 credit card for beginner travelers AND it has no international fees.)  Anyway, in Europe you don’t hand the waiter the card then wait for your server to return.  Instead, they bring out the little credit card machine to your table and you insert your card.

Now here’s where I almost messed up.

I forgot that you have to remind them — every single time — to charge you in the LOCAL currency.  What if you don’t?  You’ll get charged a “currency conversion” fee!

That’s outrageous!  Some of you lavishly wealthy folks would shrug your shoulders at the 3% add-on to your bill.  But I’m a guy who doesn’t go out to eat tacos on Monday because I know they’re on sale Tuesday.  I’m all about Big Travel with Small Money, not, Big Travel with Small-Stupid-Fees-That-Add-Up-to-Eat-Away-at-Your-Eating-Out-at-Restaurants-Budget-Money.   

My bill was rung up in US dollars with the added fee.  So I had to have it voided and run again, this time in local currency.  Beware of this at any and every place you hand over your card.

It’s just the principle of the thing.  I have no foreign transaction fee credit cards for a reason.  Because I don’t like junk fees!  I like to pay for things I value, like freshly squeezed orange juice that I can pollute with vodka.

Bottom Line

When traveling abroad, insist and ensure that you are paying in that country’s currency and NOT in US dollars.

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“I forgot that you have to remind them — every single time” I have to take issue with this. DCC has been around for years and used to see it frequently when traveling, which made me very vigilant. On our last 2 trips (2016: 9 countries around the Baltic for 6 weeks; 2017: Iceland and Germany) we did not see DCC once. And no, it wasn’t that we didn’t notice; we always check for it, SO is always bugging me to make sure.

This scam is called DCC – Dynamic Currency Conversion. It’s completely separate from the 3% foreign transaction fee on some credit cards. It can be charged on any Visa or Mastercard. Many foreign clerks don’t understand it, and will give customers bad advice. Some merchant card readers are confusing (for example, they may quote you an amount in US Dollars only – you need to press the red “cancel” button to get charged in local currency). Bottom line – as Scott says, always insist on paying in local currency. And, if you are scammed, you can request a chargeback with reason “incorrect currency”.

Scott Lieberman

UAPhil, you’re exactly right. The waiter wasn’t being malicious — it’s confusing on the machine. Now I actually will hold the card machine myself to be sure the process goes through in the local currency.

First of all, don’t assume that most people who are rich would be happy about a 3% add-on fee. Bad and incorrect generalization!

The only one who may not care is a callous employee on an expense account.

But thank you for the reminder to be vigilant. I would not have tipped AND reported the offense to the management.

what “offense” would you report to management. The server brings out the machine with the default setting. They have absolutely no way of knowing which is a better deal for you. By the way it isn’t 3 percent and has nothing to do with the credit card company charge for a foreign transaction. Your article is completely inaccurate as this has nothing to do with the credit card companies choosing.

Yea, this is not a scam by the server it WOULD be managements policy. They make extra money off it and has been around for years now.

Actually the advise is simple. Always ask to pay in local currency. End of story. The rest is not relevant (in particular when the writer confuses the source of the fee !)

so you are suggesting that management orders special credit card machines to screw foreigners. Laughable. Again people should know facts before writing public articles.