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puzzling Visa charges in Santorini and Naxos this summer

Can anyone explain why I was charged an additional 4% at the ferry office in Santorini and 3% at Giannis Taverna in Halki, Naxos on my Chase Visa card? The explanation given on the receipt, which I didn't read until we got home says something to the effect:

"I have chosen to pay in USD and understand that my choice of currency is final. The exchange rate is based on Euronet Exchange rate, plus an international conversion fee of 4%. This service is provided by NBG in association with Euronet. " The other receipt says: "I accept that I have been given a choice of currencies for payment and that my choice is final. I accept the exchange rate including markup. The final amount and that the selected transaction currency is USD. Todya's DCC service and rates are provided by Euronet. Cardholder could have paid in merchant's pricing curency (Eur)."

I was never offered a choice in currencies at either place and never would have accepted the conversion service so I'm confused about how this could have happened. I checked receipts from other shops and restaurants during our travels in Greece and only these two places seems to have added the extra fees. I'd very much appreciate some clarification. Thank you.

Posted by
189 posts

I forgot to add that the food at Giannis Taverna in Halki was fabulous and would highly recommend it! We all agreed that it was one of the best meals we had on our Greece trip.

Posted by
850 posts

Unfortunately, some places figure you won't look at the receipt while there. I always say I want to be charged in euro as I hand over my card.

Posted by
2019 posts

This is DCC - Dynamic Currency Conversion - at its worst. The merchants deliberately withheld the charge screen from you so that you would not see that this was being done, and is approving the transaction for you. Very unscrupulous, and the merchant is likely given a portion of the mark-up on every one of these they can pass through. The receipts are not sufficient, as the receipts are not issued until the transaction is completed. You must see what the charge device is trying to approve for you before it is approved.

These mark-ups may not seem like much on an individual basis, but then again, neither did the fractional cents that Richard Pryor's character was diverting to himself in Superman III, until he suddenly had all of them.

Posted by
3197 posts

Yeah, DCC is supposedly a “convenience,” allowing a customer to be charged in their home currency, at an amount that will supposedly make more sense to them than being charged Euros, Pounds, etc.

ATM’s on our trip to Morocco earlier this year gave us the option of withdrawing Moroccan dirhams but the transaction being conducted in US dollars. We ignored the offer, and hit the Dirham icon on the screen.

This may not provide any solace, but 3 or 4 percent is, at least, less than a 10% sales tax or 19% value-added tax. Hope your trip was otherwise good!

Posted by
2416 posts

Philip, we oldies who weren't in the Military during the Vietnam Era may not be familiar with BOHICA ... google, folks.

Posted by
189 posts

Thanks for the responses, everyone. This is very disheartening news! The woman at the ferry office in Santorini was so kind and helpful and the waitress and staff at Giannis so attentive and warm. You couldn't ask for a more pleasant village than Halki. I thought for sure that the replies from this forum would point to something more in the line of unavoidable bank charges, etc. but deliberate and calculated theft? Yuk.

So does everyone else like Liz (thanks for the tip) always make it clear that they want to be charged in euros? And is this only in Greece? We've traveled more recently in England, Italy and France and have never encountered such problems.

Otherwise, we had a wonderful trip, thanks to all the help from this forum. Naxos was a revelation and we plan to return, next time much more prepared when it comes to using our Visa card. And yes, I too googled!

Posted by
5284 posts

Got caught by this in Prague -- didn't put my glasses on before I signed the credit slip. The € amount show on the register was what I expected, but there was a clause on the receipt that by signing I accepted their exchange rate.
Reading glasses now go on before each receipt!
Look out for DCC in Switzerland, too -- many credit card screens are set up so that you need to specifically reject DCC rather than just clicking through on the "accept" button.

Posted by
3197 posts

In Scotland several years ago, an Edinburgh restaurant (very good lunch) handed us the credit card machine to approve our credit card payment, but the choice between selecting pounds or dollars was very obvious and we were easily able to hit pounds. The waiter didn’t make an effort to pursued us either way, nor to offer any advice about not selecting dollars. Sounds like some places are being more surreptitious now. The ATM in Ouarzazate, Morocco is still puzzling . . . We were withdrawing Moroccan money, so why would we select anything other than Dirham?!?

Posted by
4804 posts

I would not necessarily castigate the wait staff or the person at the ferry counter, on their part they may have no idea what the system is doing, or think that it is "the way it is supposed to be" when you use a foreign credit card. It's up to you to know and check, try to correct (if that works) if it occurs.

Posted by
189 posts

I would agree except that in both instances, when I was asked to sign for the charges, the information about the conversion fees was not provided. It only appeared on the receipt that I was given after I had signed. In fact, at the ferry office I was asked to sign on a small signature pad that was the size of an iPhone. I wonder what would have happened if I had read the receipt then and there because the receipt clearly states that "the choice of currency is final" and whether an argument could have been made that I was never given a choice/option.

It sounds like from what others have posted on this thread that the DCC practice isn't pervasive but something certainly to look out for. Thank you everyone for your input. I learned a new travel skill.

Posted by
2938 posts

I’m going to disagree with your conclusion. DCC is pervasive throughout Europe. You should be diligent with each and every transaction.

Posted by
573 posts

DCC is world wide, if i travelled to the US i would meet the same thing. It is up to us as travellers to be aware.
The blame for this is squarely with the banks. They introduced it, and it has appeared on our work cc machine aitomatically, i certainly wasnt ask and i cant remove it. I only know cause i researched it, and so never give cistomers the chioice other than to pay in £. But if a business owner just accepted it they wouldnt know. Especially as members of the euro zone as they are rarely going to meet this issue on their travels round Europe.

Posted by
16734 posts

The prevalence of DCC varies by country. I haven't been to Greece recently so cannot compare, but I have had problems in Spain (way back in 2016), Hungary and Poland, and I have observed a lot of DCC offers in many other countries. The trick is to keep your credit card in your hand and your eyes on the card-reader at all times.

It is not always sufficient to state that you want to pay in the local currency. I've had four instances when my preference was ignored and I had to be very persistent to get the transaction rescinded and re-run properly. I have learned always to pay my hotel bill the night before departure. Leaving that task until check-out time is very risky. The hotel staff know that you are on the way out of town, quite likely by train or plane, and can't afford to spend a lot of time arguing with them. If they are the sort of people who try to slip DCC past you, they will just stonewall you, claiming they don't know how to void a credit card transaction, until you are out of time and have to give up.

In some places the annoyance factor is so great that I don't add any tip to the check, waiting to see how the card-payment process goes before I tip in cash. If I have to argue with the staff about DCC, there is no tip. Obviously, this isn't a viable option in places where a service charge is automatically added to the bill.

You absolutely have to be on guard against DCC at ATMs, too.

DCC has been more in evidence every year since 2015. I don't think it's going to go away. Folks who haven't encountered it yet have been lucky or haven't traveled to the right countries recently.

Posted by
5817 posts

It has regularly come up when I have paid with my credit card in the US and not just in tourist centres.

Posted by
3220 posts

DCC can be done everywhere you use your card. All is required is you have a foreign card (for the location you are using it). They have made it very simple to set up and easy for the merchants to use regardless of the type of card processing machine used.

EDIT: The setup is by the merchant, not the card holder. There is no option for you to tell your card issuer you don't ever want to participate in this. It would be nice if there was.

Posted by
573 posts

From my end i didnt 'set it up' one day it just was there, was not given any choice. Would be suprised if it was different any where else as cc machine companies are global. Not sure about ATMs.

Posted by
2701 posts

DCC can be done everywhere you use your card

Right but the majority of US merchants don't see any foreign transactions. Then the next big chunk is those who see 1-10 transactions per year. Are those people going to bother to set something up? And restaurants I think still not possible outside Puerto Rico.

Posted by
5817 posts

Yes hotels, but not just hotels. It has definitely popped up when shopping in Chicago and New York. Also I remember it happening at a restaurant in Tennessee.

I really doubt it has much to do with the retailers, they aren't the ones converting the currency. If they sign up to the credit card processing service I doubt they have much say in it although I presume they might be getting a small cut.?

Posted by
2701 posts

Originally Posted by RobUAIntl View Post
Is there anyway I can get banks/credit card companies to set my account to refuse any foreign transaction that comes in USD? That would seem to solve the problem.

There isn't to my knowledge a way to refuse transactions that come in from overseas in USD. There are international locations that use the USD as their native currency, officially and unofficially, without DCC being applied. There are also multinational companies who will have a US storefront but process their payments, regardless of currency, in their home country. This is the case with some airlines, and I was once hit with a 3% foreign transaction fee due to this before 0% FTFs became a common feature of US cards. There is no way to determine which transactions are coming through as DCC versus not and systematically blocking foreign USD transactions might decline transactions that you do want to go through.

There are several protective measures that you can take. For hotels, rental cars, etc. never select the express checkout/return option. Insist on a return at the front desk/counter with the transaction processed at the time you depart. This avoids back office DCC. For restaurants and retail transactions, use contactless/mobile payments as much as possible, which deflects 99% of DCC. (There was a single report of this not being the case at the Zurich Airport a few years ago.) When checking in to a hotel, rental car, or anywhere else the merchant does a preauthorization, have it go on an AmEx. AmEx does not support DCC. Upon checking out/returning the car, tell the cashier that you would like to use a different payment card. Furthermore, if AmEx, Discover, JCB, or UnionPay are an option, especially in high risk DCC locations, use those payment methods. Even if the rewards earning is inferior, DCC would erode any marginal gain in rewards.

As a last resort, request that the merchant void the transaction and rerun without DCC. If the merchant feigns ignorance and/or suddenly seems to lose all knowledge of the English language, cross out the DCC verbiage on the receipt, circle the local currency amount, sign the receipt DCC REFUSED, and take a photo with your phone to assist in the dispute process. File a chargeback with your card issuer saying that you were refused the option of paying in local currency.

Fortunately there have been fewer reports recently since people have wised up to the DCC scam, and there are viable countermeasures that were unavailable even a few years ago. There have also been a couple of merchants who got sick of receiving chargebacks so disabled DCC on their end.

Interesting reading from Flyertalk. https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/credit-card-programs/1815666-dynamic-currency-conversion-dcc-42.html
Noted a new angle there, that the currency choice may not show up till many seconds after the transaction appears to be complete and the customer has left.

A new method (to me) of DCC in the UAE, at St Regis Hotel Abu Dhabi.
Bill presented in AED.
Cashier confirms AED.
Card inserted and AED amount shows asking for PIN.
PIN typed in, terminal says approved, remove card.
15 seconds after card removal, terminal says DCC check in progress.
Terminal then offers AED or (in my case) GBP. No presentation of the rate offered, just amounts of AED or GBP. The GBP was 7% > > over the rate I obtained from my bank, using AED.

So unless you loiter by the terminal after you've paid and taken your card, you won't see the DCC prompt, and may have lost control of the terminal at that point, so unknowingly get DCCd.

Posted by
4468 posts

DCC is sold to merchants as a revenue scheme, so don't be surprised that it exists in the USA. Indeed some of the biggest (maybe even notorious) promoters worldwide are American companies, such as Euronet, which despite the appearance of the name has its home in Kansas.

Contactless payment defeats DCC nearly all of the time (not completely impossible). Also the likes of Amex don't have it. Visa and Mastercard probably would stop it too if they could, but that move is considered anti-competitive.

Posted by
5618 posts

This happened to us at one of Europe’s top 5 star hotels when we checked out. We made them do our bill over which they did not want to do. But of course, they did it. You have to check every receipt. Sorry it happened to you.

Posted by
189 posts

After re-reading all of the helpful responses, it sounds like we're all going to have to be more vigilant about making sure that we don't get snookered when we travel abroad when using our charge cards. It's good to know that folks have successfully argued that the DCC charges be reversed/eliminated from their bill despite the statement on the receipt indicating that the "choice" was final.

I've noticed that the ATM machines are beginning to sneak the conversion charges as well. There is a BNP Paribas ATM in Paris that we have consistently used over the years without any problems until this summer when I got stuck with what amounted to an additional $18 charge from withdrawing 500 euros because in my jetlagged state I was careless and kept mindlessly hitting the button to move the transaction along. It was a vexing mistake that I made only once after that. Interestingly, I found that the ATMs in Naxos that I used did not indicate an option to process the transaction in USD so I couldn't avoid any of the DCC charges while there. Thanks again everyone.

Posted by
3220 posts

The merchants doing DCC now get up to 70% of the markup. The markup can be as much as 15% over the current bank rate, but most stay around 5%. The cut is negotiated with the company providing the credit card machines to each merchant. So more than a small amount.

This was devised and implemented by Visa and MasterCard at the demand of the merchants to help offset some of the fees they pay on every transaction they accept which is done on credit or debit cards. The likelihood that Visa or MasterCard will be pushing for repeal of it is slim to none.

Since the setup does not cost anything to the merchant, the software running the credit card machines all have the option built in, probably more merchants even in the US have it available to them than you might expect. I know for certain every airport with international arrivals in the US has it enabled in all of their shops. In my home city there is a large number of foreign tourists in the major shopping centers and the shops mostly have it enabled. You just don't think about it when it never gets offered to you since you have a local" card that can't be charged through DCC.

And that "new" way of terminals switching transactions to DCC after the customer has left will only result in more chargebacks, which cost the merchant way more than the amount of the transaction in fees from Visa and MasterCard and can result in them being removed as an approved merchant meaning hey cannot accept credit cards at all. There would be absolutely no way the cardholder would lose a chargeback if they have a receipt for the transaction showing one amount and the merchant pushes through the same transaction for a different amount.

Posted by
3220 posts

ATMs in Naxos that I used did not indicate an option to process the transaction in USD so I couldn't avoid any of the DCC charges while there

Then you were not charged DCC. You may have simply been charged an ATM use fee like most ATMs in the US do for everyone who does not have an account with the ATM owner if there was any amount over the exchange rate charged at the ATM. Did the ATM receipt have the dollar amount and exchange rate on it? Only if it did were you hit with DCC.

Posted by
189 posts

You're right, Mark. I just checked my bank records and the withdrawal amount is consistent with ones I made elsewhere in Europe for the same amount except for that time in Paris with BNP Paribas. I know it's sounds funny but I feel better knowing that so thank you.