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New bank ripoff

I'm enjoying a spectacular time on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. I stayed in the Sardinian city of Orosei and there was a branch of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank next to the hotel at which I was staying. I went through the withdrawal process and a screen popped up showing the $/€ conversion rate I would be charged. This bank adds a 3% fx charge for the privilege of using their ATM. My bank, Capital One, charges no fees. The exchange rate I got at another bank 100 meters away was $1.12. Intesa would have charged $1.16 for the same transaction. Maybe they're part of Wells Fargo.

Read the screens carefully before you approve the transaction. And some restaurants are still offering dynamic conversion on credit cards which also adversely affects your conversion rate.

Posted by
18147 posts

ATM fees are pretty common in Spain, too.

And I had considerable difficulty in Spain this summer with people charging me in dollars without asking, then saying (pretending?) they didn't know how to cancel the transaction. Twice that happened even after I took the initiative of saying, up front, "euros". I'm pretty sure this is often being done at the behest of the hotel/restaurant management. Some of the folks were downright rude when I said I wasn't going to pay in dollars.

It wasn't as much of a problem in Italy, eastern Germany and the Balkans last year, but the difference may simply be in the timing, not the different destination this year. It really is a pain. I don't like being ripped off, and I don't like encountering rudeness when I've done nothing wrong. It's a fine line to walk, standing your ground without turning into the ugly American.

Oh, I heard a good one in Barcelona. The hotel told me that if you book a non-refundable rate before arrival, they always put through the charge in dollars, just because you aren't on-site. As if the default is DCC!

Posted by
1076 posts

Just returned from Spain and every where we ate, it was the same attempt, and we pushed back successfully everywhere but one place that quickly printed a receipt showing both € and $ claiming that it was really an Euro billing-which, after reading the fine print, showed it wasn't and there was 2% conversion charge added on. Also, at the Claxio(?) bank hit with a €5 ATM charge-and was stuck with it because the cab was on the way and didn't have time to find another cash point.

Posted by
5538 posts

In Switzerland the credit card authorization page on every transaction I did put the USD amount as the primary (default) -- to pay in CHF you had to select option 2. No problem to do this, but you had to notice what you were authorizing. Although reading before you sign anything is always a good idea.

Posted by
18147 posts

The places that tried to flimflam me did not show me the handheld credit card device; they responded to the prompts themselves. I only realized what they had done when they handed me the receipt to sign.

Posted by
3642 posts

Wow, another reason to pay for restaurant meals with cash (Euros). We just came back from France & Italy - only ran into the bank default question once asking if we wanted it as dollar conversion.

Posted by
17867 posts

I always pay in cash because the places I go to don't take credit cards. I've found from experience that the places (restaurants and accommodations) that accept credit cards are the more expensive places.

Posted by
5010 posts

Thanks for the heads-up, Phillip. I'm currently planning a trip to Sardinia for this time next year, and will be very interested in hearing more about your trip after you get back. Enjoy the remainder of it!

Posted by
18147 posts

After multiple incidents, I tried to remember to say "euros" up-front, but even that did not always work. You need to be prepared to push back and insist that the original transaction be canceled. As a general rule, I close out my hotel bills the night before departure because I always seem to be rushing for a train or a bus. That allows me the luxury of standing at the reception desk for 15 minutes until I get an acceptable bill. Probably most tourists who notice what has happened don't have the time to stand there and argue. Maybe that's why they do it.

I don't mean to imply that this is a pervasive problem in Spain. I was there for 89 days, probably using a credit card 60-80 times, and this happened maybe 6 or 8 times.

I need to develop the habit of holding the (chip-and-signature) credit card in my hand until the scanning device is presented to me. I tend to just hand over the card if the device isn't already sitting on the counter, which gives the employee an opportunity to (in a sense) pretend to be me and perform the entire transaction himself. If we had chip-and-PIN cards, this would not be an issue, obviously.