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Dynamic currency conversion MANDATORY

Just arrived in Spain, and every restaurant we've been to has to process our bill in dollars. There is now NO WAY to avoid DCC, we've tried at every place. Spanish banks are now REQUIRING US cards to be processed in US dollars only. This is really a shame.

Posted by
6377 posts

I guess I am not in a position to disagree with you, but I remain a skeptic, only because it obviosly benefits them, so it makes sense to play "dumb" and say that you have to.

Spain was one of the first places that I encountered DCC at ATMs and businesses (Ireland at Dublin airport was the first, London after Spain)

I would be interested if others have run into this, I think I would insist that they process the transaction in euros, maybe even contact Mastercard or Visa to get their take. Otherwise, pay cash.

Posted by
4862 posts

I don't think the banks are requiring it. I think it may just be the restaurants saying that because either they don't know how to override it or they don't want to be bothered with reversing the transaction. There are some shops that will by default charge in the currency of the card. If you try your card again, tell them that you want the transaction in Euros BEFORE they swipe your card.

There is an easy way to get around it. Get cash at an ATM (where you should have a choice) and pay your bill in cash.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks, Paul. We DID insist, every time. And every time, the computer running the charge would. NOT ALLOW the charge to go through in Euros. And when we asked to cancel it and pay in cash, it was too late. This happened to another fellow traveler, too. We will pay cash for everything from now on.

Posted by
16 posts

Laura: thanks. We did exactly that, and the waiter showed us how his card reader would only allow it to charge us in dollars because we have a US-issued credit card. There's nothing else we could have done short of grabbing the card reader and doing it ourselves. :( Next time I'll take photos & show you exactly what we saw on the screen.

Posted by
4862 posts

That's ok, I believe you. However, this may be how they configured the device. There should be a way to override a default to DCC (but the wait staff may not know how to do that).

Posted by
16 posts

I'm considering telling the restaurant that I will tell the others in our group (there are about 35 of us) to steer clear of any restaurant or shop that does this, and also register a complaint in their complaint books (which all merchants in the EU are required to keep).

Posted by
4862 posts

By the way, this is what Visa says about DCC. I know that when you are dealing with another country and another language, what VISA states is the policy is not necessarily followed by the merchants ...

If you do not want to use DCC when making a purchase, then you have the right to refuse the offer and have your transaction billed in the merchant's local currency, which will then use Visa's conversion rate. If you did not agree to DCC, but see it on your bill, then you should ask your issuing bank to contest the charge.

See more detail here:
http://usa.visa.com/personal/card-benefits/travel/exchange-rates-faq.jsp

Posted by
6 posts

I'll sure be following all DCC posts closely. We've got 8 months to see how it shakes out before our trip to Spain. Reading Laura's link to VISA seems to indicate this is a {service} offered by merchants, not mandatory. But if the central banks say it's required, then they must be gettin' their fair share of the 2.5% markup. If this policy stands, then we'll be packing Euros for the duration... Mark

Posted by
29221 posts

register a complaint in their complaint books (which all merchants in the EU are required to keep).

I'm a merchant in the EU (UK, but that's part of the EU the last I looked) and I don't have a complaint book nor have I ever been asked to get one.

Posted by
15327 posts

I got stung once in Spain with the conversion issue on a minor souvenir purchase. After that, I just paid cash in shops and restaurants. I had no problems with hotel payments. I seem to remember using the card for entrance fees and supermarket purchases without a problem. It was easy to just get cash from ATMs.

Posted by
984 posts

'register a complaint in their complaint books (which all merchants in the EU are required to keep).'
Spain, yes. I am not aware of any other country.

And all suggestions, wherever they come from, whoever advises, that dynamic currency conversion is mandatory is nonsense or a lie.
Avoid all, or as many as you can, card transactions in countries where, generally, cash is still very much the king.

Posted by
1388 posts

This issue quickly caught my attention so I dove into several travel blogs, international newspapers, google searches and the like; in an attempt to learn if this is a valid mandated bank regulation in Spain.
Short answer: No, the banks have not mandated DDC.
Longer answer: on an international level merchants have become shrewd and unscrupulous in crafting ways to charge DDC or a fee for not using DDC. Examples: online purchases of air travel on discount airlines where you select not using DDC when placing the selection into your "basket", but at checkout it has been converted. Another example, relevant to the original poster, is merchants hand held devices only display DDC claiming there is no option. What is occuring is the third party providor of the DDC service (which is not the bank, but an independent service) has programed the software interface with the merchants POS to not offer a choice. Hence the merchant claims there is no option and creates a story about a bank mandated rule. To be clear, the bank is not mandating a change, the third party DDC providor is attempting to do so.
Protection: both visa and mc require an option be provided at checkout to decline DDC. The issue is the predominance of handheld credit devices where there is a space only for you to click "accept" and then Sign your name. Protesting at the point of sale is futile since the merchant is aware of what they are fostering upon the customer and willing to participate in the ruse. So you are left without evidence of your refusal unless you do the following: click the "accept" button and in the signature area write "no option given to decline DDC". Make sure you obtain a paper copy of the receipt with this written and take a photo of the print out. Some folks have taken to photographing the pos device. You will need to contact your card providor, send them the evidence and gain resolution after the fact. You can choose to decline the charge, but be prepared to argue w the merchant and you will still need to find a method to pay for the expense, if you have consumed it.
At this time the third party DDC providers are content w having to ask forgiveness since they are still collecting the profits (just as the merchants are getting their share). Over time it will be up to visa and mc to enforce their consumer prorection regulations upon the unscrupulous merchants to end this practice.
However, another ruse is merchants are now charging a fee to not use DDC. Again this is not allowed by card issuers, but you will need to fight the battle after the fact. If you find a sign stating there is a charge for not using DDC please take a photo of the sign and the merchants name. Submit this evidence to your card provider and also post on tripadvisor.
What you can do today....... Is to ask before making the purchase if the DDC is mandated and walk away if the answer is yes. This is problamatic as the number merchants particpating in the ruse appears to be growing. Another solution is to let the merchant know you will be making a tripadvisor post complaining about their tactics. Tripadvisor has become a tool the tourist industry merchants have come to respect and even fear. A growing number of merchants regularly monitor tripadvisor comments and strive to control adverse comments. I suspect a groundswell of online protests will be part of the impetus to change this practice.
Of course, even though tipping is generally not a European practice, you should not leave any tip if you are not given the option to decline DDC.
This info is what i learned as of now, any updated clarifying info will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
4535 posts

An interesting update on this issue. It's a little hard to tell just yet if it's the merchant pushing this or if they are stuck with it from their credit card processing operators. But either way, the merchant will have to deal with the fallout if people make a fuss.

You should be able to decline a transaction by simply not accepting it (most credit card transactions require you to press a button accepting the charge and then signing or entering your PIN). If you have the cash, you can decline the transaction and then pay in cash. Otherwise, I agree with the above poster and decline to provide any extra tip since the merchant is already getting extra cash on the fee. Posting negative reviews on this issue would also be helpful as I suspect many of the restaurants are popular with tourists.

Posted by
6997 posts

I only encountered this on a recent Spanish trip at an ATM where I foolishly pushed the wrong choice once not being particularly aware of this issue. We were not forced to use it in restaurants we frequented in Seville and Madrid and for the most part we used cash on any smallish purchases. We did have to be on the constant lookout for bill padding and cheating though. Even the merchant in the Tabac selling a bus card in Seville added a couple of Euro to the charge. (I knew she was cheating because I had previously bought the same thing a few days earlier)

Posted by
25 posts

Quoting Laura:

If you did not agree to DCC, but see it on your bill, then you should ask your issuing bank to contest the charge.

Has anybody tried this? This would seem to be a way to discourage merchants from trying to pull this little maneuver. If the charge is successfully contested and the charged amount changed and charged back to the merchant, I would think that the resulting hassle would deter banks and merchants from doing this.

Posted by
2525 posts

Restaurants? Interesting. The only time this was tried on our credit card while in London last summer was at a pub, which said it was mandatory, the server claimed she did not know how to avoid it. I noticed it and had them cancel the transaction.
But banks - we had 3 attempts by bank-owned ATMs there to collect DCC, the choice was given, but the wording so small and badly written that the quick initial read (who wants to stand at an ATM for a long time?) made it appear that directly continuing to get the withdrawal stopped DCC but actually that accepted it; it took close reading to figure out how to get the money sans DCC.
In theory we are talking about a very small piece of money taken from people who can otherwise afford expensive trips, money that is essentially irrelevant to most of us on a per-transaction basis. But on the other side of this, we are talking about large financial institutions raking in huge amounts of additional income for doing nothing but offering someone the chance to pay for something totally unnecessary and hidden from them, a deceptive and abhorrent business practice.
If this seems trivial, think back to one of the plot devices in the movie "Superman 3." Richard Pryor's character, a new computer programmer for the bank, sees how the bank is rounding all interest paid down to the nearest cent for account crediting, wonders where the fractional cents go, and realizes the bank is pocketing it. So he programs the fractional cents to go to an account for him. The bank is not happy with the sudden loss of income to him.

Posted by
224 posts

I just returned from Madrid and faced exactly the same issue at a souvenir shop near Puerta del Sol. I usually only use credit cards to pay for hotel rooms, but I was low on cash and didn't want to make another ATM withdrawal the day before returning. When I told the merchant I was going to complain about this on every internet travel forum I could think of, he handed me a free key chain in an attempt to silence me. Ha Ha!!