Savvy Travel Decisions

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SAVVY TRAVEL ALERT: USE OF CREDIT CARDS TO PAY TRAVEL EXPENSES:

A disturbing trend has surfaced in Australia and is spreading to several European Union nations that have passed legislation permitting merchants to recoup bank credit processing fees (1% - 4%) by imposing a surcharge on consumer purchases.  Great Britain presently limits the merchant pass-on to taxi fares, student travel agencies, and discount airlines.  Australia allows merchants the discretion to surcharge on all transactions.  Ireland has wisely banned such practices.  Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have indicated that they are officially opposed to this practice.  Unfortunately, the politicians prevail by having passed permissive enabling acts to make these practices legal under the law.

 

Savvy Travel Decisions highly recommends that you ask the merchant to state their policy BEFORE you elect to use the plastic to pay a bill!  An option in paying large bills such as hotel lodging and meals is to inquire whether use of a debit card would circumnavigate the merchant pass-on fees.

 

Review your credit card receipt closely at the point of sale, before signing.  DCC, Dynamic Currency Conversion, whereby an overseas establishment presents you with a bill with the applicable foreign currency already converted to U.S. dollars is becoming prevalent.  You may end up paying a high interbank exchange rate to the merchant.  Credit card fees are then commonly added on foreign transactions-a double whammy!!  Pay cash or if charging, request to pay in local currency.  Inquire percentage of add-ons.

 

ANOTHER BLOW TO USE OF CREDIT CARDS ABROAD:

Besides not having any wiggle room remaining on your card, another obstacle has arisen for credit card users in Europe and Canada.

 

Travelers without a credit card with an imbedded ID chip and accompanying PIN may experience difficulty utilizing the card in Europe.  Seems that the banks in Europe and even Canada have adopted this new system, but U.S. banks have not, nor do they intend to do so.  Other nations cards are issued with encrypted microprocessor chips - the “chip cards” require that the user enter a PIN identification number.  U.S. credit cards use magnetic strips.  If you plan to travel overseas, you may wish to seriously consider paying by cash or using a debit card.  The Smart Card Alliance, 22 nations and growing, (Western Europe, Brazil, Canada,  China, India, Japan, Mexico), employ the newer technology.  The problem of non-acceptance of U.S. credit cards is most acute at foreign self-service kiosks, toll road booths, gas stations, rail station vending machines, and parking meters.  The problem is less acute when an attendant is present.  You should insist that they honor your card.

 

If you can’t pay for an item in cash, perhaps reconsider temptation and don’t buy it.  Convenience and delayed payment can be very costly, particularly if the balance is not paid in full when the credit card billing is received.