Beware of being charged in USD when abroad (Dynamic Currency Conversion / DCC)

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On a recent trip to France, I was nearly dinged by a sleazy tactic known as Dynamic Currency Conversion. This is the term for when a non-US company tries to charge you in USD – but only after first converting it to USD from their local currency and charging you an approximately 3% convenience fee for the “service.” They do this, I assume, because they get a cut of that “service fee.”

Assuming you have one of the many, many travel rewards credit cards that do not charge you a currency conversion fee, and you should have at least one, there is no reason you would ever want to pay in anything other than the local currency.  On a 1,000 Euro charge, you would be throwing away at least $35 on absolutely nothing

So always make sure that anything you are buying will be billed in the local currency, i.e. EUR if in Europe. It never hurts to mention right up front that you want to pay in local currency rather than assuming since it’s harder to correct after.

On my SIXT France car rental, the following message was printed on my receipt:

Cardholder has chosen to pay in USD and this choice is final. This service is provided by ConCardis and the exchange rate is based on Reuters’ whole-sale exchange rate incl. 3,0 % international conversion margin. Currency conversion will take place on the date on which the invoice is issued. The exchange rate used will be the exchange rate in effect on that date.

One major problem: I had not “chosen to pay in USD.” I wasn’t asked. It was simply printed out with the statement that I agreed.  I immediately flagged this with the agent who promised to fix it – except he couldn’t. Once it was set, it required many back and forths with SIXT to get it fixed, eventually requiring them to cancel the contract and replace it with a new one – after the rental was over.

Some countries seem to have more of an issue with this than others. In some countries ever credit card terminal seems to prompt you to select their currency or USD and some terminals make it all too easy to select “OK” for USD if you are looking quickly.   Other countries just always seem to charge local currency. I noticed a lot of attempted DCC in France, but none in Estonia, for example.

Have you ever had to fight to pay in local currency? Let me know here or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group