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Warning to travellers re credit card payments

I live in Ireland and work in tourism. Please be aware that you should NEVER pay in dollars for any credit card payments. Some vendors (shops, hotels, guesthouses, B&B's, restaurants) may ask you if you wish to pay for your bill in Dollars when using your credit card. Always say "NO". The vendor receives a commission for the transaction and you end up paying more than you should. This is a cheap shot at making more money out of tourists which I detest and I warn visitors whenever I can. These dishonest vendors who do this make it bad for the rest of us who don't.

Posted by
166 posts

Thank You for your honesty and warning to the tourists. This happened to us in London, at Harrod's, of all places!!

Posted by
4 posts

Doesn't surprise me that Mr Al Fayed would engage in such a scam. I would also urge tourists to say to the vendor in question that they are aware that this is a dishonest way of fleecing money from them. Maybe if enough shame them, they will cease doing so.

Posted by
31471 posts

Norma, Thanks for the reminder about this deceptive practice. I've encountered this a few times during travels. When I refuse the conversion, there's usually a long pause and a few "Are You Sure" comments which are undoubtedly intended to give me the impression I'm making a mistake.

Posted by
4 posts

That infuriates me even more, Ken. I can't believe that it's allowed, quite frankly. If the vendor does the conversion without your authority, you are perfectly in your right to query it both with the vendor and report it to the credit card company. I booked a hotel in Liverpool by phone and paid by credit card as it was a gift for my brother. When I received my statement, they had charged me in UK Pounds, without asking my permission. I wasted time and money phoning the hotel and the credit card company about the transaction, but got a refund from both parties, so in the end it was to my benefit, just a nuisance, basically. It's a pity we can't name and shame those places that do this..

Posted by
4 posts

Ken, they also usually make it sound as if they are doing you a favour by doing the conversion for you, so obviously any unsuspecting person will of course say "yes, thankyou".. Grrrrrrrrr!!

Posted by
2876 posts

This is an increasingly common practice throughout Europe. It's called "dynamic currency conversion" or DCC for short. Although it's not illegal, it deserves to be called a scam. The old rule "always pay in the local currency" holds once again - whether you're paying by cash, credit or debit. I've done a little research on it, and the customer is always supposed to be given the option of choosing the currency - but this doesn't always happen. If you're handed a charge receipt denoted in dollars, make them cancel it and re-run it using the local currency. Overseas merchants and banks push DCC because they make money on it via fees and an inflated exchange rate.

Posted by
993 posts

Things that make you go hmmmmmm. I was asked this several times during my trip before last. It just didn't feel right. Thank you Norma.

Posted by
2256 posts

I hate to admit it, but I fell for this one. My first thought was -- great idea; I won't have to pay an exchange fee if I pay in dollars. Then I when I walked out of the store, I thought -- you idiot. Luckily it was for a small amount. The moral of the story is -- It's always good to be on your guard and think things through, even when you're on vacation.

Posted by
852 posts

I too have come across this, but had been warned previously to deny the request, so was able to avoid the scam. Interestingly, did observe it having the opposite effect: was standing in line as a gentleman was attempting to buy a baseball cap with the Union Jack on it and it cost thirty pounds; he was asked if he would like the price converted to dollars and he stated yes; when he saw that a silly baseball cap was to cost him over sixty dollars he then decided against the purchase and walked away from it right there at the counter. I had a little chuckle to myself. Surprisingly, the cashier still asked me if I would like the conversion.
To Amy, you don't have to pay cash. You are actually expected to pay with your credit card as these merchants do not accept other currencies. They just do the math for you with a fee added and then charge your card.

Posted by
5849 posts

...and just to add to situation, I notice some ATMs ask the same question now for cash withdrawals. Ran into this in Spain and London over the last year.

Posted by
2263 posts

We just spent 20 days in east Europe. We did not have this problem, because we did not use the credit card very much. Go to the bank machine once a day. Withdraw what you need, and spend cash in the local currency. One transaction fee ($5), and no conversion fees PERIOD. Much smarter.

Posted by
2876 posts

One thing to add: some overseas merchants will tell you that DCC is automatic. It isn't. You have the right to refuse it. If you refuse DCC, but see it on your bill, make them re-run the charge in the local currency. If they won't, then protest the charge to your card's issuing bank. According to what I've learned, if you let an overseas merchant charge you in dollars, you'll wind up paying as much as 7% more than you have to.

Posted by
852 posts

To Paul of Sioux Falls, I agree that getting cash from ATMs is a must while abroad, but we do make transactions with our credit card for some purchases using our Captial One card and not only is there no conversion fee, there is also no transaction fee (the $5 you mentioned) beyond the 1% that everyone charges. So, not always smarter to go to cash machines. Credit card use has its place.

Posted by
2263 posts

@maryam: Absolutely. We carefully reviewed our options before our trip, and chose the best option. Banks/credit unions work with you if you choose to discuss things with them. Our bank was helpful. Chat with your banker, get a card with low/no fees, and you will have no surprises.

Posted by
116 posts

I bought a €60 Teddy bear recently while in Rothenburg. The cashier asked me if I wanted to charge in euros or dollars. I think the charge on my statement came to $90 - which sounded right to me. I don't remember if I told her dollars or euros! I still do not understand the issue ... If I say dollars they give a poorer exchange rate and charge a fee?
I am going to Dublin soon and really appreciate this thread.

Posted by
332 posts

Norma said, "I booked a hotel in Liverpool by phone and paid by credit card as it was a gift for my brother. When I received my statement, they had charged me in UK Pounds, without asking my permission." There is no dynamic currency conversion if they charge you in UK pounds in Liverpool, England.

Posted by
2876 posts

"If I say dollars they give a poorer exchange rate and charge a fee?" @Patty - that is correct. The fee will be hidden - you won't see it itemized on your bill. Whenever you're asked which currency you want to be charged in, always pick the local currency - whether it's euros, pounds, Swiss francs, etc.

Posted by
1068 posts

Yikes! Thanks, Norma. I had NO idea about this. I think we actually got such an offer last time we were in Paris, but I didn't think anything of it, and declined. Dunno why, but glad I did!