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problems for non-euro bank accounts and spanish atms


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It seems the only problem is if you ask to see the amount in something other than Euros. Can't understand why anyone would bother doing that. I think the majority of pilgrims are savvy enough to work out how many Euros they need to withdraw without requiring an instant conversion.
I think it's a bit more subtle than that. You are effectively fixing the xchange rate at the time of the xaction, which for some people is an advantage - for example, business travellers on expenses - as you will know immediately what it will cost in your home currency without having to wait for your bank/card statement to tell you what exchange rate was used. If the xchange rate changes in your favour, you might even end up better off, tho the Guardian is no doubt right that in most cases the fee for this service will be larger than any gain.


Staff member
I have had this question asked to me (about a year ago) in El Corte Inglés in Santiago. I used a Norwegian visa card and she asked me if I wanted to pay in Euros or in Kroner.

If I have understood this correctly, traditionally Visa/MasterCard has done the currency exchange at a certain rate. Now, I think El Corte Inglés (or the Spanish banks) have decided that we will do the currency exchange before sending the payment to Visa/MasterCard.

The question is who gives you the best exchanges rate? The cashier at El Corte Inglés had no idea of the rate they used...

I would say, pay in euros and have your credit card company do the currency conversion.

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Actually, Peter, it's not that subtle at all and it has nothing to do with any significant time delay between the two methods before the transaction is converted

In such a transaction there are two parties paying fees (the customer and the retailer) and two receiving fees (the banks of the customer and the retailer) - here, anything extra that can be taken from the customer will be divided between the retailer and their bank - and you can presume that the exchange rate for both methods is calculated at the time of the transaction (and the wait until you receive your statement is a red herring - I can see the cost the day after the transaction by looking at my statement online)

It's a pretty simple decision for the customer - any additional option that the retailer / bank offers you must be good for them and bad for you (when I buy books from they offer the same trick and encourage me to convert into sterling) - so choose the local currency and not your own currency

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Thank goodness we have more to beware than sneak thieves and refugio pilferers -- the banks.
I've been peering further into the fog of misinformation on this subject - it's pretty dense, but once you fight through it the thing's quite straightforward really.

In the traditional way Visa/Mastercard organise the currency exchange. I can't find MC's rate anywhere, but Visa publish their guideline rate at ... _rates.jsp - "an indication of the rate you may receive", as it seems the actual rate is the average of spot rates during the day concerned.

With retail DCC, the exchange is done by specialist companies; there's a list of the main ones on the wikipedia page ... conversion (many of them are Irish). With DCC, the provider takes a rate at the time of transaction and uses that. Although there may be currency changes either way, these are not likely to be hugely significant and several DCC providers offer to refund the difference if it turns out more expensive, e.g.

However, that is not the whole story. Most card-issuing banks also charge currency conversion fees. There's a list of the main UK ones at ... rd-charges - even debit cards are typically 4-5% or more for using an ATM to get foreign currency. Under DCC, a similar fee is added at point of sale. There's a diagram of the process at assuming a 3% profit. Retailers/ATM-owners like DCC, as they get a cut. Issuing banks don't like it, as they lose a source of income. But for the typical cardholder, again, the difference will probably be small - like the 16p the Guardian is getting in such a lather about. If your card has high fees, DCC may well be cheaper; if low, dearer. In the UK, Nationwide gets a special prize, as it charges nothing at all on its debit card (there may be others in other countries). If you have one of these, you'd be daft to use DCC, as you'd be paying completely unnecessary fees. Their factsheet on the subject is at ... et1105.pdf

Visa's regulations on DCC are at ... ations.pdf p.179 - in particular, merchants must "Inform the Cardholder that Dynamic Currency Conversion is optional; Not use any language or procedures that may cause the Cardholder to choose Dynamic Currency Conversion by default"

There, I think that's flogged that subject to death :)

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