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Receipts & Debit Overcharges - Just a Note

I had a brief layover in the Frankfort airport a couple weeks ago - literally 1.5 hours. I bought a bottle of water at one of the shops and used my debit card. The shop employee spoke no English, showed me the total on the register, and gave me no receipt. I didn't think anything of it and used my card - perfectly normal transaction. Apparently, my debit card was overcharged about $69.

In trying to deal with the overcharge now that I'm back in the states, my credit union won't do anything about it because I don't have the receipt. Frankly, I NEVER get receipts if I don't have to, I often decline them when asked if I want one, and I certainly wasn't planning on keeping every receipt for every tiny purchase while I'm out, much less overseas.

So, I suppose keep this in mind when travelling - perhaps it's worthwhile to keep all receipts when travelling or just ONLY use credit cards that have a no-questions-asked policy regarding reimbursements.

Posted by
31215 posts

This is one reason I never use debit cards overseas. A mistake or a scam could drain the chequing account in a big hurry. A credit card or cash would be a "safer" alternative.

Posted by
67 posts

Lesson learned for me! We used cash most of the time - we would just withdraw 300 euros every couple days, with occasional debit use. But credit cards from now on!

Posted by
2147 posts

I never use a debit card for purchases abroad, even though the first time I used my credit card to buy a 3 euro bottle of water I felt a bit silly. I try to keep receipts for any charged purchases just in case there's an over-charging issue and also because it gives me a good idea for budgeting on future trips. As in, if I charged $400 then next trip I set aside that much to pay extra on my card's next statement.

Posted by
18087 posts

I use a credit card rather than a debit card in hotels, shops and restaurants, but I know I should still keep all the receipts until I can compare them to my monthly statement. I don't do that when I'm traveling. So far I haven't had a problem in Europe, but here at home I've had several instances of double charging. All apparently honest mistakes that occurred when the charge didn't seem to go through initially. There's been no problem getting the duplicate charges reversed; I don't know how well that would have gone if I had no receipt. And if it's a matter of the wrong amount being entered rather than two identical charges, well...where's the proof?

I wouldn't worry about department stores, bus/train stations or hotels (except for the invidious dynamic currency conversion), but restaurant bills can vary greatly, so padding would be possible. And in small shops you're depending on the honesty of a single person. I've never had a problem in a shop (and have had lots of lovely interactions with shop personnel), but you do occasionally hear about scams. Decades ago someone bought shoes in Spain (I think) and when the charge finally hit home, an extra zero had been added to the charge slip. That would be a major "ouch". My instincts tell me that such rare occurrences are likelier to happen in tourist-oriented shops in high-traffic cities like Venice or Florence, but you can encounter a crook anywhere, I guess.

Posted by
7294 posts

Ouch! Thanks for posting for others.
1. Use a credit card not a debit.
2. Always take the receipt and keep it until you see the charge on your account.
IMHO some Duty Free employees, especially those from third-world backgrounds, might see airport customers as cash cows because we can afford vacations. Once an employee withheld my change, only half a euro, thinking I wouldn't notice--but I called him on it and he slid the second coin forward toward me like an experienced magician.

Posted by
2348 posts

Even if one credit union employee said you needed a receipt, I think you can still dispute a charge on a debit. Then Visa sends a chargeback request to the merchant, and the merchant has to prove that it's a legitimate charge. They should have a signed copy. If they can't prove the transaction, then the merchant is charged back and you are refunded.

I haven't done this as a customer, but have had to deal with the occasional chargeback request as a merchant. Go back to your credit union. Escalate it. It's your money.

Posted by
67 posts

Karen - thank you for the advice! I'm going to push harder and escalate this!

Posted by
20954 posts

Although we tend to use a lot of cash, I do keep all receipts. I carry a small envelope and slip the receipt into the envelope. Receipts are pretty small. Some countries (I think Italy is one but not positive) where you are required to get a receipt and may have to show to a tax inspector outside the shop. Never encountered that - could be a good urban myth. You could well have the same problem with a credit card since a receipt is very good evidences. What if that merchant produces a receipt in that amount with your signature? But you said you didn't sign anything. So how do you provide it?

And credit cards do not have a no-questions-asked policy about reimbursement. You are going to have to provide it exactly the same way. I think this is a $69 lesson learned.

Posted by
5618 posts

First, thanks for the warning.

Second, did the debit card terminal have a display indicating the amount to be debited from your account with some kind of "OK" or "Accept" green button to acknowledge the purchase amount? (I have used my credit card overseas but not my check debit card for merchant purchases. The European credit card terminals typically have a green button and some will ask for payment conversion preferences.)

Posted by
20954 posts

I just remembered that I recently made note of an app that will photograph the receipt and you can store the receipt in different budget classes. Where is that note????

Posted by
2900 posts

Even if one credit union employee said you needed a receipt, I think you can still dispute a charge on a debit. Then Visa sends a chargeback request to the merchant, and the merchant has to prove that it's a legitimate charge.

While that's the procedure for a credit card charge, I'm not sure it's so for a debit card transaction. I believe that US law provides greater protections for credit card transactions than for debit transactions, although I'm not positive.
In any event, I never use a debit card in Europe except to take money out of ATMs. And I always get and keep receipts until I get home and check them against my account.

Posted by
5618 posts

Here's an interesting discussion on disputing credit card AND/OR debit card charges:
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/how-dispute-debit-card-transaction-purchase-1282.php
Highlights:

With credit cards, chargeback rights allow you to withhold repayment
to the credit card company for a particular purchase on which you file
a dispute after a merchant refuses to work with you to resolve a
problem with goods or services.... These same protections, however,
don't apply to debit cards. But consumers who experience similar
problems with a debit card purchase are not completely out of luck. If
you file a dispute over a charge on your debit card, your bank must
look into the matter....

Prove your case. When you submit the dispute to your bank, you should clearly explain why you're in the right and provide evidence to
support your claims if you can. For example, you might send a receipt
that shows the price was $99 when you were charged $199, a service
contract, emails from the merchant promising a refund that never
arrived or a photo of a faulty item. "Provide as much detail as you
can,"....

Posted by
17863 posts

Like Frank, I keep all my receipts from my trip in an envelope (Ziploc® bag, actually). Although my trips are no longer on business, I still keep a record of my expenses on a spreadsheet similar to the ones I used when I traveled for business (just one advantage to bringing a small computer).

Before I start my trip, I fill out a "dummy" expense report. I already have my hotel reservations, so I know those expenses, and I know my transportation expenses from transport websites and admissions prices for any places I plan to visit. The only "unknowns" are meal expenses, which from experience I can predict (on average), and miscellaneous expenses, like toilets and newspapers. So my dummy report lets me know in advance what I will spend, and I remove items as I pay them, so at any time I know how much money it will take to finish the trip. That is very handy when I make my last trip to the ATM.

Posted by
2076 posts

We keep all receipts. We are now going to go to a system where the receipts from each day (or week, not sure yet) will go into a separate plastic bag. We keep all expenses on a spreadsheet, and all withdrawals as well. We reconcile the expenses on a daily basis, or try to, to ensure that we have not forgotten anything. This operates as both a way to control our spending, and a record of the trip.

Posted by
1862 posts

EXCELLENT advice, whether traveling or just making transactions in one's home city.