Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Foreign-transaction fees on credit cards

I hate those stupid foreign-transaction fees on credit cards.
Friends from New York are coming up to visit, so I warned them about the foreign transactions fee on credit cards.
Visa and MasterCard charge banks 1% for foreign transactions. Initially, banks passed along merely the 1% fee. But then they started getting greedy and realized they could make a profit from it. Some of the banks now charge 2% or 3% for transactions in a foreign currency, or even for transactions that occur abroad in US currency.
Capital One doesn't charge the fee at all, so I use Capital One for all of my charges.
But I recently lost my card, so I had to use my Bank of America card, which I originally got from MBNA.
MBNA used to not charge the fee. Now they were taken over by Bank Robber of America.
They charged me 3% -- a $34.25 fee for purchase of nearly $1,200.
I was livid. I didn't even know B of A charged the fee. MBNA didn't.
I've been with MBNA since 1996, have a $30,000 credit line and have been a great customer.
But I was so mad I called up to cancel, telling them I was angry about the international fee and that Capital One doesn't charge the fee. I figured they would just credit the fee.
Customer service representative answered the phone said, "Thank you for being a customer since 1996. How can I help you?"
I told her I would like to cancel my credit card because of the fee. And she promptly canceled my credit card.
Later I called up and said instead of canceling the card I would rather just get a credit for the fee. The customer service representative told me they have been instructed not to credit that fee. I asked a lot of questions and I was persistent, but I wasn't getting anywhere.
I asked if I would get credit if I returned the merchandise. She said I would not.
I was upset. This was really the principle of it.
Then I called up and disputed the charge. The customer service representative told me that I could not dispute the charge because it was a fee.
I asked for a supervisor. He said his supervisors could not credit the fee. I asked to speak to them. He said they were busy.
I told him that the bank must allow me to dispute the fee under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
He said, "What act?" I said, "The Fair Credit Billing Act."
He came back and said that he could not credit the fee because he cannot access it but that customer service would do so.
He then transferred me to customer service. The customer service representative thanked me for being a customer since 1996 (not realizing I heard he canceled the card) and promptly gave me a refund of the fee.
I don't mind them passing along a fee from Visa or Mastercard that they have to pay. (I do mind Visa and Mastercard charging them because they make money on the transaction itself.)
Anyway, my friends charged a hotel in Whistler. Their fee: more than $55. The comment in her last e-mail: "I'm getting a Capital One card."
B of A and the others will lose customers to Capital One, which lives by its promise to not charge fees. It's the same reason is doing well. Both treat their customers right, and their customers come back.
I miss MBNA. I don't miss Bank Robber of America.