Currency Conversion Scam: Hotel Manager Responds

A couple of days ago I wrote a post entitled “Dear Hotels: Stop With Your Currency Conversion Scams.”

As the title of the post suggests, this was in regards to the terrible exchange rate you get when paying in USD at a foreign hotel. Typically when you make a purchase abroad you’re given the choice between paying in the local currency and paying in the card’s home currency.

You should always elect to pay in the local currency, since the transaction will typically be converted at or near the market exchange rate that way. But if you pay in your home currency you’ll not only get a terrible exchange rate, but often also be hit with a transaction currency fee (which could be in addition to the foreign transaction fee).

I gave the example of the Hilton Queenstown, where the front desk associate didn’t even give me the option of whether I wanted to pay in NZD or USD. My bill was for 1,163NZD, which should have been 762.57USD using the market exchange rate.

Currency-Conversion-Scam-1

Instead I was charged 806.96USD.

Currency-Conversion-Scam-2

That means I was overcharged by $44.39, or 5.8%.

While hotels usually give you the option of whether you want to pay in local currency or in your home currency, in this instance the front office associate said they were trained to just charge in the card’s home currency, claiming that was the better deal for consumers. This is a lie, and clearly not the case.

So I decided to reach out to the hotel’s general manager. I explained the situation and linked him to the previous post I wrote. I figured with near certainty his response would be “I’m sorry, the front office associate was trained incorrectly and you should have been given an option; I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Here’s the response I got instead, which he emailed me and posted as a comment on the blog post:

Thank you for your email and post to your site. My apologies for the delay in responding however I wanted to ensure I was providing you the correct information.

This service is provided by Travelex who conduct regular training for our team on how to use the system as well as to explain the differences.

Our objective is to inform the guest of the options and as such have a ‘script’ to explain the differences and impact.

“The commission to change NZD to your own currency is already included in the exchange rate and purchase amount, which is fully disclosed separately on the eftpos receipt” – you could also add onto the end of this “the exchange rates are provided by Travelex and are market competitive” “We are aware some overseas banks may charge a transaction fee for international purchases if you pay in NZD or your own currency. We would advise you contact your bank if you have any queries on this”

All this information is also provided in detail on the slip which requires your signature to provide maximum transparency

We do provide on-going extensive training with the team across a wide range of subjects required for them to perform their role here at the hotel. As a result of your feedback we will ensure that this subject takes a priority as a refresh with the team over the next days.

Thank you again for your feedback and we look forward to having the opportunity to welcome you back again soon.

I’m happy he took a day to respond to ensure he was providing me with the “correct information,” though based on the way I read his comment, he doesn’t seem to understand the issue either. I thought I explained the issue pretty simply in my previous post, though according to him it’s something I should take up with my bank.

That’s sort of incredible — so I guess we’re to assume that rates at the Hilton Queenstown are actually 6% higher than stated for those of us with foreign credit cards, based on the mandatory dynamic currency conversion scam they pull on their guests.

Bottom line

Well, at least we now know it’s not just one-off front office associates who don’t understand the dynamic currency conversion scams, but hotel general mangers as well. I’d love to know:

  • How charging me 6% more is “market competitive?”
  • How not giving me the option of which currency I want to pay in — which my bank absolutely makes available to me — provides “maximum transparency?”

I emailed him on principle, not because I was overcharged by ~$44, but rather so I can hopefully help consumers save tens of thousands of dollars in the future by not being subjected to this scam. But now that it’s clear he doesn’t actually understand what’s going on, I’ll take this up with corporate, so hopefully they can provide some training on a higher level.

What do you make of this situation?

Comments

  1. Very scammy. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll make sure I have control of how I am charged for all of my future international stays. I just assumed I would be offered the choice.

  2. Hertz in Ireland does the same thing…….and they too, do not give you an opportunity of Local or Own currency

  3. Travelex is notorious for FX rates that are anything but competitive, so it is unsurprising that they are providing the training (and the indoctrination to hotel managers) which advances their profits while disadvantaging travelers.

    I just returned from Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo, and found that nearly every purchase I made came with the query about whether to process to charge in local currency or USD. None ever tried to sell me on using USD, and none of them ever told me that the transactions would be the same or in any way beneficial to me in one currency over another. Perhaps that is because I already knew that I would be charging in local currency to get the best rate. (And I exclusively use Chase United Explorer, Chase Sapphire, and Chase Ink Bold when I travel, so I’m earning points/miles and not paying FX fees)

    If this were happening in California, I would call it an unfair and deceptive business practice under Cal. Business and Professions Code Section 17200. But that’s a lawyerly discussion that won’t interest most of your blog readers, so I’ll skip it!

    You and the other bloggers can help by educating travelers about the Travelex FX scam, and getting the word out that local currency is the way to go.

  4. You can look at your statement to see exactly what conversion rate was used for each transaction. You could use other same day rates on your card as evidence. Of course no one gets the exact rate but the small commission built into the Chase/Amex/Citi rates is nowhere near the 6% this hotel is getting – Travelex has always been a ripoff.

  5. He is locked into supporting any new fee generating process the hotel design with help from credit card companies. The airlines have gotten away with deceptive fee billing for years without consequences and now it is the hotels going at it. Hence, you were scammed!
    Only way to stop these activities by hotels and others is by taking them to court, or use your media connection to keep putting their bad moral in the spotlight.

  6. So many merchants get offended when I decline the opportunity to be charged in dollars; they’ve been convinced that they’re actually offering something useful. Sometimes they want me to explain; sometimes they just look at me like I’m a dumbass. But I don’t think I’ve ever been charged in dollars without my consent!

  7. @Tyler In my experience its not the exactly the same as whats on XE.com but whatever rate my credit charges me when I charge in foreign currently is usually within $0.05 of the XE.com rate.

  8. This is a well-known scam throughout the world. Here’s why: the merchant GETS A KICKBACK in most all situations for charging a markup on currency. It’s pretty ridiculous. Not only are you getting a worse exchange rate, THEY are getting more profit. They know this too.

    I can’t remember the source, but I believe in all EU countries it’s required that they give you the option between their own “dynamic currency conversion” (ripoff) and paying in local currency.

    The POS systems can be set to auto charge in the card’s currency, but this is ILLEGAL in many countries. Still, many do it anyway.

    I purchased something at the duty free shop in Heathrow T5, and the lady cashing me out said, “US Dollars or Pounds, sir?” And I said, “Pounds, please.” And then she said, “You know it’s cheaper if you choose US Dollars.” Then I proceeded to explain to her that my credit card company charges me the market exchange rate of 1 GPB > X USD, while you’re about to give me the exchange rate of (calculating it on my phone as I’m talking of 1 GPB > Y USD…. to which she was silent and looked rather irritated. It makes me wonder if their bosses tell them to encourage USD / card currency transactions.

    Oh well… Sad that it’s the world we live in..

    And while you touched on it, yes, even if you charge it in USD, you STILL GET HIT WITH A FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE (if applicable). It’s absurd.

  9. Tyler,

    I was just in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo last week, and using the Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum I got exchange rates that were within 1% of the rate listed at xe.com

    This is after taking a 10% hit on exchanging $ for HK$ (forgot my atm card at home and was lucky to have enough cash) and a 7% hit on Singapore $.

    Overall, I was extremely impressed how close citi and amex both were to the current exchange rate.

  10. It gets even worse if you’re using a pre-paid travel card. E.g. a card from Australia, with only EUR on it. Merchant charges in AUD rather than EUR. You pay their rip-off currency conversion rate to go to AUD, and then you pay AGAIN to convert your EUR balance to AUD.

  11. Happened to me at a hotel in Prague. I kept telling them I wanted to be charged in local and they refused. Left them a terrible TA review. Hit them where it hurts and make the public aware of similar scams if we want to stop this madness.

    It’s crazy they can quote in local but charge in foreign. Complete crap.

  12. Not sure why everyone is making such a big deal about this. This is one of many travel “scams” that the average frequent international traveler will encounter numerous times. I think the answer/solution is simple:

    1) Get a receipt for every purchase showing what currency the transaction is conducted in
    2) If the transaction is in USD and not local currency, tell the merchant to reverse the transaction and charge in local currency
    3) If merchant refuses to rerun the transaction, then report to credit card company.

    The few times I didn’t catch the fact that I was charged in USD and not foreign currency, my credit card company gladly refunded the difference.

  13. There’s actually terms within the MasterCard agreements related to DCC that you can issue a chargeback if you were not given the choice.

  14. Not giving you the option is against the card organization (VISA/MC) rules. Take it up with your CC issuer. They (or more accurately, the card organizations) will inform the merchant of their non-compliance. If your goal is to get the merchant to take your complaint seriously and deter similar situations in the future this is the best way to do it.

  15. I’m confused here. Where in his response did he explain that it was mandatory? Indeed the following line from his response seems to indicate differently:
    “Our objective is to inform the guest of the options and as such have a ‘script’ to explain the differences and impact.”

    Of course he also didn’t answer your question directly, so we’re still left wondering if your experience is a one off or policy.

  16. @omatravel Seriously you think this is a one time occurrence? Dude put down the kool aide. This is stealing and they know exactly what they are doing, same as venues charging exorbitant rates for WIFI etc. I never used to think businesses were out to rip off the general public but I have changed my mind completely, especially after reading this blog and others. Us hotels and airlines no better, it is a sign of the times now. Kudos to you Ben for informing us, excellent job.

  17. Be careful Lucky going forward. Just got back from NZ and apparently the ‘yes’ button which I didn’t look closely at the words (option), charged me in USD, with a conversion fee at a museum restaurant. From that point forward, I CAREFULLY read the options on the screen. This option came up several times, especially in touristy places.

  18. Mandatory DCC is against Visa and Mastercard rules and operating regulations. There is no excuse for this type of behavior as it damages the reputation of the payments ecosystem.

  19. You go gurl! 🙂 Thanks this is been a very helpful discussion. I’m pretty ditzy and often don’t pay as much attention at check out as possible, but now I will Thanks to you !

  20. @ Ben — What? So you are just going to leave it at that? If it was me, I would demand the charge be re-processed in USD. Period.

    I realize that your time (and mine) is more valuable than the $44, but as you say, it is a matter of principle.

  21. By all means, take it up with Hilton corporate. However, I’m shocked you’ve never encountered this before. Usually when staff say it’s “policy” to always dcc, I politely ask for the manager and make sure they understand they’ll be getting a charge back. While your media status might get a response from corporate, the average traveler is better off disputing through the cc issuer.

  22. I think there is more to this issue. When i was in thailand recently, i went to a well reviewed spa and they were really nice. However, they charged me in usd first and i asked them to charge in thai baht. She explained to me that that is very bad for them and asked me if she can charge in usd. I didnt quite understnd why it would be bad for them, so i explained my position then she kindly charged in thb to avoid any argument but after charging it in thb, she showed me the receipt. Apparantly she didnt get the full amount from the bank because the bank uses an awful rate forthem when charged in local currency. According to the receipt, she was getting 2% less than the amount shown in thai baht according to the exchange rate. i felt so bad because they were really nice to me and had a great price, so i left some tips to make up. I am left with the impression that the banks are the evil here. Can you, ben, investigate further and see the bottom of it?

  23. Seeing as the receipt does say quite clearly “the rate includes a comission of 2.05%” you can’t really complain that the comission was added on.

  24. It sounds like Travelex wrote the response. The response doesn’t come close to addressing your concern. I wonder if the manager even understands the concern or is just brain washed into believing this is just the way it is.

    I was just researching the Hilton Queenstown for an upcoming stay. I think I will pass unless management decides to understand how “scammy” this is and adjust their practices. It makes me wonder how they view their guests if they don’t have a problem forcing this on them.

    Please keep us posted if you learn more about this.

  25. Just stayed at the Doubletree Queenstown the same time Lucky was there, and upon checkout was asked if I wanted to pay in NZD or USD. Also, the beds were incredibly comfortable!

  26. I think the GM should spend sometime reading the dcc scam n ask him if he would like to be overcharged by 6% when he travels.

  27. Give every hotel that participates in these scams a 1-star rating on TripAdvisor and expose them in the review. The GM just basically asserted he has a right to rip off his guests.

  28. Unfortunately Travelex is starting to work deals with many Airports to replace many bank ATM’s with ONLY Travelex ATM’s. The airports are glad to have another revenue source and the travelers get the shaft.

  29. @Ken – all credit card companies charge the merchant a fee. 2% is at the low end, with Amex typically being the highest, which is why many places just don’t take it (in the UK / Europe). So there’s no need to feel sorry for the Thai spa really, this is a normal cost of business.

  30. i find hhonors to be not honorable (pun intended) when it comes to crediting points for international stays.

    earlier this month, i stayed at a hilton in canada. my total stay bill came to CAD 274.75. Amex then charged me USD 198.12 meaning the conversion rate was 72.1%
    the basic room charge was CAD 232 which means i should have gotten 1672 base points. but i only got 1413.
    i called the diamond line for adjustment but the reps seemed to be incapable of comprehending basic math.
    however, a supervisor escalated this to the next level. after 2 days, i am still waiting for them to call back.

  31. Saved USD150 in HK for a large meal party by choosing HKD rather than USD when the waiter asked me which I wanted to pay. Hyatt in HK also asked me which currency I wanted to use. Guess it depends on how the hotel is run and the staff are trained.

  32. The “you could also add on to the end of this…” clause is a dead giveaway that the manager just copy/pasted a response sent to him by Travelex. He has no clue.

  33. This just happened to me at a restaurant in Colombia. The manager came to the table and said he had no control over whether the machine charged me in dollars or local currency. I got them to void the transaction and run it again while I watched. Near the end of the process the choice did appear on the screen for USD or Colombian pesos. He said he had never noticed that before. Also, it says on the receipt that you sign, that you acknowledge you have been given a choice between local currency and the currency of the credit card… how do you plan to dispute after you’ve signed the slip? This also happened to me at a hotel in Hong Kong… they claimed they didn’t know how to process the charge in local currency. I told them to call their credit card processor and ask them how. I just took a seat in the lobby and relaxed. They eventually found out how to do it. Don’t sign that slip until it’s correct. Probably a good idea to try to settle your account the night before to avoid being rushed in the morning.

  34. Agreed with Arnold s. Don’t sign the slip until they correct it. If they put the charge through without a signature, dispute it.

    It’s amazing how a refusal to sign will suddenly cause the clerk to “find the option”.

    I can’t believe a Hilton Hotel is involved in this — makes me question my decision to send more business to Hilton in 2016.

  35. Another place to watch out is the pre-paid hotel stays. I have to been in London in August so I pre-paid for a room at the discounted rate at the Heathrow Hilton. Confirmation email came in Pounds, Chase Sapphire charged in dollars. I know previous London transactions show the GBP first and then the conversion to USD so I’m assuming they DCC’d me. Have emailed HHonors and requested a refund. No response yet.

  36. We stayed at the same Hilton back in April 2013 during our “escape Thailand’s Songkhran Festival” excursion. When I checked out the Desk Clerk inquired “NZD or USD”. As you write ALWAYS select the local currency, which I did. No further questions asked.

    Guess this is a new approach by that Hilton. That is an interesting hotel and layout.

  37. Not that it’s not a scam (and it is) but I’m not sure you’re comparison is fair. The amount charged by your credit card is likely not the “mid market” rate, but rather the wholesale rate which will be somewhere between there and the rate they charged. The best comparison would be if you have another charge from that trip that was made in NZD. Preferably the same day but even if it’s a different day you could compare the credit rate to the mid market rate that day to see what the delta is.

  38. Ben,
    I have found in general people in Australia and New Zealand tend to not back down or admit a mistake. Had that happen quite a few times the first three times I was there. The last trip just got funny. Had a GPS for the Carnes area and my AVIS rental and typed in the closest airport and it told me Honolulu Hawaii. Asked to not be charged for it and the rep wouldn’t back down, really only needed it to get back to the airport. Went to a restaurant in Sydney where we ordered a seafood sampler plate only to get three oysters and three shrimp. When I asked where the rest of it was I was told that was what we ordered. It wasn’t. Asked for the manager and the waiter said that it was him. Gave up on it at that point. Have had similar things like this happen on every trip there. Must be a cultural thing.

  39. Well, you could do what my father did once when trying to pay a rather large bill at an Argentinian hotel. He asked if there would be a substantial discount for US cash which the manager said there would be. So my father handed him his credit card info and told him to charge the credit card in 72 hours if he didn’t receive US cash in the mail before then. After my father landed, he withdrew the cash, put it into a hollowed out hardback book and Fedex’d it to the hotel manager. Everyone was happy.

  40. Ben, this is a timely post but let me assure most of your readers that it in fact does happen in reverse and is happening everywhere. The large American chains particularly have been doing it globally for some considerable time. However it is not just hospitality. In fact If one purchases from Amazon if say in Australia/NZ as we are using that example at present, Amazon does exactly the same thing and again, the customer is always a loser. Unfortunately it is a real scam but one that most people do not seem to be aware of and if they are, don’t realise how much they are losing by accepting it. And as you point out, the way all these vendors be it retailers or hospitality companies have their systems programmed nowadays, the customer has to know about it to opt out otherwise it is just automatically completed to benefit the vendor.

    I definitely think it is a serious and growing issue that you could really activate your voice on to the benefit of everyone. Many thanks

  41. All the DCC stuff is such bull****. If Visa/MC want to play this way I’ll just use an Amex which doesn’t participate in this DCC scam.

  42. I live in HK/China. In some restaurants/bars, even when you select the local currency, they still charge you the DCC rate. So make sure you ALWAYS check your credit card bill. To counter this, I usually file a charge back in the amount difference with the credit card issuer. I found Chase cards the easiest to do this. They even have a check box for this (other amount, charges related to foreign exchange). Sometime they credit you the money back immediately, other times, it takes few days but all the charges do get credited back. In places that I know that does this, I simply use one of my amex cards that doesn’t have foreign exchange fee. This is a scam and I think the banks are aware and a part of this. Thanks for bringing this topic up. I am surprised with the amount of international travel you do, this is the first time this has happened to you.

  43. I had this same thing happen at check out of an InterCon in Lagos last month. I just refused to sign it, which caused its own set of issues. They finally figured out how to convert to their own currency. Yes, it’s very scam my and trying to explain it to staff that have no clue doesn’t make easy. But signing the slip might jeopardize your ability o recoup.

  44. Did someone actually put these two words together in these comments?

    “…payments ecosystem”

    That out-jargons my proactive bench-strengthening low-hanging target-rich next-step-thinking fruit by a paradigm-shifting light year.

  45. @Matt B

    GREAT observation! That sentence royally confused me, so thanks for deciphering it.

    That reply Ben got was WEAK.

  46. I travel internationally reasonably frequently, both for business and because my wife’s family lives in Europe. While in most cases I’m always charged in the local currency, there have been instances where the merchant (almost always a “chain” hotel) wants to charge in US$. In those instances I hate becoming the arrogant Yankee, but I refuse to allow these folks to get the best of me, and I insist they charge me in local instead … once they see me go, ummm, “ballistic”, they see the wisdom of doing it my way. 🙂

    Please post a follow up when you hear from Corporate, I’m very curious how they will respond.

  47. I agree with a bunch that has been said here, especially @David

    I had this happen numerous times in China last year, AND even when I pressed Yuan I was charged in USD. At first First I didn’t care much about the $2, $3, $1.75 more that I got charged on different transactions compared to the rate of exchange provided by XE, which usually has been fairly accurate in providing an idea of a on going rate. In any case when I got home going over my bill, I took the time to do the math to figure out how much more had I paid for things -thru this scam- without receiving any additional value for. Well, when the total surpassed the $35 mark that’s when I said enough and called Chase. I explained the situation and refunded me the amount! This experience reassured me that I do carry the right card (Sapphire Preferred) when I travel overseas.

    Good article Ben, I would take up with corporate.

  48. had a similar issue at the Doubletree Puntarenas Costa Rica, and the only time where it became an issue that too a while to resolve before checkout. Like in Mexico, they quoted me the room rate in USD but at checkout when I requested the charge be listed and processed in the local currency (not a problem doing the pesos in Mexico), they gave it to me in USD and NOT in Colons. I had to tell the person handling it at the customer service/guest relations desk (I’m a Honors Diamond) that i wanted it in their local money….and the response from her was that their system is tied into the bank from where the issuing credit card is from, hence the USD. I had never heard that before. And based on my interaction with her, I don’t think she was purposly trying to deceive me but rather that’s how she was possibly trained or it was the default setting their computer/terminal was set at. It took a long time to get it rectified/changed which they finally did. I wasn’t given a choice….she said that’s the way it’s processed. The next night while at the Airport Hampton Inn in San Jose, i requested local currency and got it that way with no problem. Though the rental car company did give it to me in USD and I didn’t catch it in time.

    Has anyone ever encountered that with a particular property or chain overseas, perhaps in Central America where many counties tie themselves in some way to the USD? I’ve never had that happen in Europe or Asia…not given a choice or automatically defaulted to our home currency and not their own? thanks.

  49. You will run into this a lot in China as well. You’d have to argue with them, and they’d of course say they don’t know what you are talking about. But eventually they would cancel the previous transaction, and rerun it. When they rerun, i’d have to tell them to press the CANCEL button when it asks you to confirm the amount, instead of OK. Otherwise it charges USD automatically. Anyway a big hassle and not very intuitive POS system, and poorly trained employees with owners and bank employees all benefit from them NOT knowing.

  50. How soon for a trip report? We’re leaving for the South Island (CHC) in 10 days and have 8 days to explore. Departing from Queenstown. We need your suggestions on where to go/see/do in those 10 days!

  51. I’ve had this happen in various countries throughout the world. I always used to think ‘oh well’ and leave it, but not anymore. A UK hotel charged it to me on a prepaid rate, I didn’t notice until after my stay. I emailed the manager and gave the option that they refund me and recharge in GBP, or give me 10,000 IHG points- otherwise I would dispute the whole charge and then they could recharge correctly. The response was full of excuses, BUT, they did refund and recharge as well as giving me 5,000 points – they obviously don’t want this scam to get out. In a restaurant in Italy they told me it’s not possible to charge in local currency, so when I refused to sign they gave me 10% back in cash… Something needs to be done to stop this!

  52. @ Joey “The POS systems can be set to auto charge in the card’s currency, but this is ILLEGAL in many countries.” Yes, in China it is quite common to come across a card reader that defaults to USD for my US cards and staff who claim its not possible to charge in the local currency. It seems clear that some providers of POS systems are setting them up to default in the card’s currency in order to receive kickbacks.

    I totally agree with everyone who says to dispute the charge and complain to Hilton corporate. That way, you should get a refund from the credit card, and hopefully and apology (and sometimes points) from the hotel chain.

  53. Manager looked into issue but had no clue what issue is! Good job Lucky for engaging hotel on this. I proactively tell places to charge in local currency. Still had a fancy German shop charge me in dollars. I went nuts on them as I told cashier twice to charge in Euros. Took about 15 minutes to supposedly correct. We will see when bill comes through.

  54. Amazon has now jumped onto the bandwagon. I order a lot goods in Canada with my UK credit card and it now offers me this option. So of course I tested it on a small transaction recently and Amazon is loading the exchange rate by 5% if I choose to pay in GBP. The whole practice is disgusting.

  55. That hotel manager should be fired. He should have refunded the amount Lucky was scammed by the conversion plus given him $100 extra as a discount.

  56. Lucky you should do a post on Travelex…they are notorious for dubious fees and awful FX rates. Monopoly provider in places like SFO and hard to find alternatives to the at airports in the UK and also several other countries

  57. yes — I’ve had this experience too. Always check your bill that it does not say USD.
    In Europe they usually ask you to choose, counting on the fact that a lot of inexperienced people might think it would be a good idea to pay in their home currency. It is absolutely a scam.

  58. I had a similar thing a long time ago (over a decade) at GH Erawan, and I was also in a hurry to leave. The FDC didn’t give me a choice and charged me in US$. I needed to leave so I let it stand.

    I wrote to the hotel after I got home and the manager there did a bunch of Thai face-saving without admitting that they were wrong and ended up refunding the equivalent of the extra charges for some other reason.

    Hard to believe that the manager didn’t refund the forex charges in your case. I think you should consider asking them to reverse that charge and then they can charge your card for the amount of the folio in local currency. And if he doesn’t want to do that, they should refund the forex charges back to your card.

    -David

  59. Hi Ben,

    I help maintain the DCC thread over on FlyerTalk, and I was just informed of your case. I would encourage you to file a Reason Code 76 chargeback with Citi (assuming you were using the Citi Hilton Visa). Generally speaking, recourse is more limited with Visa than MasterCard, especially if you signed the slip without any indication of your intent of currency choice.

    In order to get the exact exchange rate, you can use Visa’s calculator for the posting date of the transaction:

    https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/travel-support/exchange-rate-calculator.html/

    Merchants, especially hotels, count on people being in a rush and not paying attention. In order to protect yourself from DCC with hotels, I suggest everyone do the following:

    1) Book the reservation with an American Express and have the reception use an American Express when checking in for the preauth. That way if there are any extra charges they will go on the American Express and not have DCC. American Express does not offer DCC as an option.

    2) Do not accept any express/video/automatic checkouts. Go down to the front desk to check out manually, as you did here.

    3) Upon checking out, state that you would like to change the payment card and present your payment card of choice and make it clear before handing over the card, “If there is an option of currency choices, please charge in local currency.”

    4) Presentations of DCC are different depending on acquirers and countries. For instance, if you see DCC language in Mainland China, you’ve already been hit. Other places can have the verbiage but be alright. The most common cases to know that you’ve dodged DCC successfully will be showing the local currency amount only without reference to an exchange rate – even if there is language “I have been offered a choice of currencies…” or seeing a [X] next to the selected currency. If there are check boxes but neither is ticked, you’ve likely been hit with DCC. Do NOT trust when the cashier says, “Just tick the box and it will be local currency.” Oh really? My currency choice magically happens when I tick a box on a thermal slip?

    5) If you’ve been hit – receipt is showing the exchange rate – insist that the cashier void the sale and rerun the transaction as you requested in local currency. If the cashier refuses, call for a manager. If they still refuse to rerun the transaction, deface the receipt by writing “local option NOT offered” and cross out the exchange rate information BEFORE signing.

    6) In order to verify currency choices, you can request a courtesy copy/reprint of the receipt. This should show which currency was billed

    7) If you’ve been hit with DCC but have followed the above steps, please file a chargeback with your card issuer. Chargebacks are the only way to get back to the merchants that we’ve had enough of this scam.

    8) Name and shame merchants that force this scam on their customers. Write unfavorable reviews on the appropriate review sites. They are ripping you off! Why do people accept this? Think about it this way: A waiter comes by with a restaurant bill that of €90. You leave €100 in cash. When the waiter returns there is only €5 on the tray. Do you just accept this as a writeoff? I imagine almost everyone would be livid and complain about the restaurant trying to rip off customers. The only reason DCC gets a pass is because the vast majority of people don’t realize this is essentially what is happening.

    Keep in mind that merchants often split the profits of DCC with the acquirer. They stand to profit from customer ignorance or people not bothering to fight the charges. The DCC amounts have only gotten more egregious in recent years. What used to be a somewhat reasonable 2.5% or so is now anywhere from 5-6%. Compound this if your card has a foreign transaction fee, you will still get nicked for the 3% FTF. In contrast, back when there were currency exchange fees on US issued cards, DCC might have been a good deal as long as it was under 3%. Now with a North American card – many with 0% FTFs – I can’t see any instance where DCC would be favorable.

  60. Scam alright. However, they can get you even when you take the alternate route. I had the following experience recently at a Hilton in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. My total bill was US$1,632.24 which the hotel converted to Peru Soles 5859.53 (using the hotel exchange rate). The credit card charge was made in Peru Soles and the credit card company (American express) converted at a different exchange rate to US$1710.76 and tacked a Foreign Transaction fee of US$46.19. The way I see it, I was scammed of US$124.71. I am still working out my strategy and next steps to deal with this scam. Suggestions are always welcome.

  61. I just returned from Reykjavik, where this is never an issue.

    Chip and PIN machines allow the customer to essentially run the transaction themselves, and select themselves “ISK or USD?”. We often got a better rate that market. Thank you Iceland!

  62. I just stayed at the PJ Hilton in KL and was offered the option of paying in my home currency (SGD) instead of the local (MYR). All my ears heard was “In case you are a moron, would you like to load 6% onto your bill ? If you are not a moron, please don’t take it personally”. I’m extremely pissed off at this DCC scam (have been for some time) and my approach now is:
    1. Rate the restaurant/hotel a 1 on Tripadvisor/whatever and make the DCC scam the centrepiece of the review (which I just did) – note, this is a very visible way to communicate displeasure, and possibly the easiest way to get feedback into the system, and hotels really care about these scores (Tommy Trash, Jan 13 comment also said this)
    2. Make the frontline feel the pain (even though it’s not their fault – too bad, collateral damage I’m afraid), by playing dumb, asking what the conversion rate is, comparing it to the rate you’ve already checked beforehand, asking them if they think the difference is reasonable, and generally wasting time and perhaps even causing a bit of a scene. Get the manager over also. Ask them if they think this might be gouging, etc etc
    3. Sending a complaint email to 50 or so people at the top of the company, and I mean the top. It’s easy enough getting the directors, management team/executive team, and then using standard email format for the company (google “[company’s web domain] email”, e.g. google “”hilton.com” email” and you soon see that email format is firstname.lastname@hilton.com), then google “hilton hotels executve team” and you get links like http://hiltonworldwide.com/about/leadership/. Easy to get email addies you see. I then copy them all in and send my message. The objective here is to raise the profile of the issue and cause some disruption, time wasting. Perhaps you link your recent 1-rating Tripadvisor review, so they can see some of the potential impact of this gouging practice.
    These tactics are somewhat disproportionate and asymmetric, even over the top. But that’s the whole point. Think about the arithmetic here. Obviously I’ve made the following numbers up for the sake of exposition, but the orders of magnitude are probably correct. They do this to 1,000 people: 800 reject the DCC offer and think nothing of it; 20 reject the DCC offer and do think something of it, and of them 2 people complain/push back; 160 accept the DCC offer in ignorance and think nothing of it but get cheated by 6% which they don’t notice; 10 accept the DCC offer because they are lazy and stupid and don’t care and are happy to pay extra 6%; 8 accept the DCC offer in ignorance, notice they’ve been slugged extra 6% but are too lazy/time poor to do anything about it; 2 accept the DCC offer in ignorance, notice they’ve been slugged, and complain. I mean there are only 4 people complaining/pushing back out of 1000 here, it’s like a free kick for these dickheads. So if you are one of the four, you need heavy artillery, because you’re also representing the hundreds of people who haven’t given their voice because their loss sits under their activity threshold. If you think about it in a utilitarian way, 700 pieces of mild anger/loss added together create one piece of extreme anger/loss. I’m labouring the point here, but this DCC scam is a scourge that needs to be obliterated, and people on this forum are the right bunch to lead this charge. Sick of corporates behaving badly.

  63. I mean, just look at the way these unethical, theiving DCC organisations are pitching to the merchants:

    https://www.elavon.co.uk/welcome/~/media/welcome-centre-pdfs/dcc%20page/el-8959-interactive-pdf-uk.pdf?la=en-gb

    https://www.merchantconnect.com/CWRWeb/pdf/DCC_Solution_Sheet.pdf

    https://www.firstdata.com/downloads/marketing-merchant/fd_dynamiccurrencyconversion_ss.pdf

    Completely misleading touting of the added transparency, convenience, etc etc to the customer, utter crapola, with nothing about how the customer is getting gouged. A merchant with low IQ could be forgiven for thinking this is some strange sort of win-win money making machine where everyone is happy. As always, if there are three key stakeholders here (service provider, merchant, and customer), and two of them are happy, you can bet the third one isn’t (or at least, shouldn’t be). Disgraceful.

  64. I travel a lot for work. This has been happening in hotels in all countries across the world. It is infuriating, especially when I specifically inform them that I do not want to charges placed in US dollars.

    Often now, the hotel will not even give you the terminal to pick which option you want. They do it for you. For exmaple, I am in India right now and I checked out of the Hyatt Gachobowli yesterday. I took a photo of the credit card slip where I checked off the box that said Indian Rupees, not the box that says US Dollars. This morning when I checked my visa account online, I saw that they chose the US option, which was a whopping 5.45% mark-up on the bill. I immediately emailed the hotel to ask for a correction. If they do not change it, I have the photo and the email to offer to my Visa card to contest the charge.

    The cashier tried to charge my wife the DCC fee at the duty free shop in Paris. They also tried to do it to me at a hotel in Mumbai. This is getting out of hand when almost every merchant tries to do this. It is removing the convenience of using visa when travelling.

    Lucky, this was posted in January 2016. You should post about this scam this every year. Also make frequent references to this practice as often as possible. Card holders need to fight back against this growing practice.

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