Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Foreign Transaction Fees - WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW

In today's world most consumers are plagued with a plethora of finance related taxes and fees. It is often hard to keep the myriad of hidden costs in check and is rarely worth devoting very much effort towards questioning these fees. However, there are some charges that can be dealt with if confronted. Foreign transaction fees on your credit card are one such example. Michael Weber is an everyday consumer who encountered on such foreign transaction fee. Here is his personal account of the scenario:

A few months ago I purchased a round trip ticket from Miami to Hamburg, Germany through Expedia, flying Air Berlin, using my MasterCard from Citibank. In the past I have always used my Amex card. Subsequently, I found a $27 foreign transaction fee on my statement and not knowing what this was for I called Citibank. They said that whenever a purchase is made from a foreign company, a charge of three percent will be incurred.

When I told them that I paid Expedia, which is a domestic company and not Air Berlin, they said that Expedia is just a middle man and they are paying Air Berlin directly - thus the $27. Unless I have been inattentive in the past I don't believe I ever paid this fee to American Express. Unlike most people, Weber was not satisfied with this response. As a result he decided to look deeper. He got in touch with Citibank, his credit card company, and HelpWithMyBank.gov, a government website dedicated to assisting consumers with banking problems.

The following is an excerpt from the response Weber received from his bank:

We recently received an inquiry on your behalf from the Comptroller of the Currency regarding the $27 foreign transaction fee assessed to your Citi Platinum Select Card account.

You indicate in your letter that you purchased an AirBerlin ticket via Expedia, which is a company in the United States; however, your account was assessed a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Although I certainly regret any misunderstanding, because the merchant billed the charge to your account from a foreign country, in accordance with the Card Agreement, the fee is considered valid.

However, as a gesture of goodwill, I credited the $27 foreign transaction fee, and this adjustment will appear on a subsequent statement.

Weber's success in confronting his foreign transaction fees clearly illustrates that such fees are negotiable. If you complain loud enough, your credit card company will remove it. Some think that foreign transaction fees ought to be illegal; however, until they are, we can continue to fight them one case at a time.

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