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Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 02:50 PM

Which exchange rate do you use when paying (zar to US $)?
Last time, I asked my outfitter to use The rate today is 1:702 (dollar to rand). Does that seem accurate and fair to everyone?

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 02:54 PM

That should read 7.02

sandi May 2nd, 2007 03:04 PM

oanda is showing 7.04ZAR/USD$1.

Doesn't mean that is what you'll actually get, but close enough if using ATM's. What's found on these sites is the bank rate in converting big numbers, not for us folks withdrawing a few hundred USD to ZAR.
For that matter any currency. These figures, whichever conversion site you use, is a guideline.

ATMs probably offer the best rates, then credit cards (but do remember the Foreign Currency Fee most CC charge); hotels are the worst.

Happy travels.

Patty May 2nd, 2007 03:09 PM

How are you planning to pay and in what currency?

In any case, that's not the rate that you'll be able to get through a bank or credit card company. There will be some conversion loss. The question is which party will bear that loss.

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 03:20 PM

Hi Sandi and Patty,

It's time to pay my outfitter/TA who is in SA. She has listed the price in rand and then, last Friday, quoted an even 1:7 as that day's conversion. I recall in the past asking if she could use as she had quoted a rate that wasn't as favorable, and she did. She is very good to us and lets us pay with a credit card with no extra fees (because we are good clients, have sent referrals, etc.). So I hesitate to say anything as the diference is only $64. But I wondered how other's TAs (if abroad), did the conversion.

Patty May 2nd, 2007 03:28 PM

Are they charging your credit card in USD? If so, I think 1:7 is more than fair.

If the charge is put through in ZAR, you're credit card company will process the conversion and they'll charge you at least 1% up to 3% depending on the card.

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 03:44 PM

AE Plat, do you know how much? We also have AE Starwood.

Patty May 2nd, 2007 03:48 PM

You also might want to double check that your credit card issuer doesn't tack on a 1% fee for <i>any</i> foreign merchant transaction even if the charge was put through in USD. I think some issuers started to do this though it may have later been rescinded. I haven't kept up because I've had very few foreign merchants charge me in USD. Of the rare instances this is happened, the last charge was on my Amex in Dec 2006 so I can verify that Amex doesn't add anything (at least at that time).

Patty May 2nd, 2007 03:52 PM

Amex charges 2% conversion but I'm still confused. Is your TA going to charge your card in ZAR or USD? Because if USD, then it doesn't matter what Amex adds because they won't be doing any conversion and at least as of Dec 2006, they don't add anything to USD transactions processed by foreign merchants.

If your TA is charging you in ZAR, then Amex will do the conversion and add their 2% fee. But if that's the case, she shouldn't be quoting you an exchange rate because that will be entirely up to Amex.

Pula May 2nd, 2007 04:04 PM

Thanks to one of Wendy Perrin's articles in Conde Nast Traveler magazine, I now use a Captital One card for all foreign travel (and only foreign travel) as they charge the least extra on international transactions -- no extra percentages. That's about the only good thing I have to say about them. They're awful to deal with, you MUST remember to call before you go or their fraud department will shut you off and you receive even more mail as a customer than you did as a prospect . . . They offer a zillion cards so of course you want one of the no annual fee card. I've heard also (from Wendy Perrin) that their miles are not &quot;real&quot; miles but I don't quite understand that. Caveat emptor, as always.

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 04:16 PM

Patty, our invoice says: amount due in SA rand. But on the side she has done the conversion and said &quot;us exchange rate 1:7&quot; We have a choice of paying into a bank account but we prefer getting the ff mile points (membership rewards). I guess she was using an exchange rate so we'd have a concept of how much we are blowing on this trip! <s> 2% of this is not small change but maybe we'll get points for that too!

Pula, I almost got the Capital card for that reason. However, I found it wasn't going to be worth it as, yes, their miles are not &quot;real&quot; miles. So it's worth it to get a better card for the miles than for this one perk. Also, their customer service is a nightmare. </s>

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 04:17 PM

Please ignore cross-out and read through it. I don't know why my computer does that sometimes.

Patty May 2nd, 2007 04:28 PM

If I understand correctly then, she will charge your card in ZAR. In that case, the rate she listed is just a guideline and pretty much meaningless? Or do you have some option to pay in USD at the 1:7 rate?

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 04:36 PM

I figure now it was just a guideline.

I can ask but I worry that's pushing it since she's already waiving a usual 5% fee for using a credit card.... And I don't think her getting US dollars is any help to her, living in SA... or is there something I don't know?

sandi May 2nd, 2007 06:01 PM

My understanding is that charges even in USD in a foreign country (which is often done in Kenya) is still considered for and qualifies for the assessment of the &quot;foreign currency exchange&quot; fee. Amex will charge a fee to:
1) convert from ZAR to USD (whatever rate for that day, regardless the rate your TA advises... she has no control)
2) a fee, as it's a foreign transaction
3) even if charged in USD, you're hit with the foreign currency exchange fee.

They get you coming and going. With the exception of a credit union, Capital One is about the only cc that doesn't charge fees, but as indicate their card seems to be a shill and their customer services is awful.

Unfortunately, when dealing with SA tour operators/agent, most all deal in their currency, ZAR, unlike in East Africa where most TA/TO have USD accounts into which you can wire USD funds.

Assume a $10,000 invoice at 3% for that foreign currency exchange fee = $300 - I do not believe these qualify for FF miles.

While I no longer have an Amex card, friends have complained that when using Amex vs Visa or Mastercard in Eruope, splitting a hotel bill, evenly between the two cards, on the same day, same hour, Amex had the least favorable exchange rate Euro/USD, and a big difference at that.

Clem, I'd verify with Amex the rates they charge for the foreign currency exchange fees and anything else of concern, so you're not surprised.

Personally, for all the fees when using credit cards, even for the FF miles, it's just easier for $40 or less, to simply wire USD.

Patty May 2nd, 2007 06:25 PM

<i>3) even if charged in USD, you're hit with the foreign currency exchange fee.</i>

Amex didn't add anything to a USD charge from a foreign merchant that posted to my account in Dec 2006 (nor the ones before that).

My primary cards are Amex and Citibank. Citibank adds a 3% conversion fee and whenever I've compared same day transactions, the Amex charges were always more favorable. If comparing with cards that only add 1% or none (does the exist anymore?), then Amex will be less favorable.

Pula May 2nd, 2007 06:32 PM

Capital One's service IS awful, but for me , it's an acceptable trade-off to avoid the extra charges. I pay the international airfares on another CC so I get &quot;real&quot; miles on that transaction. I happily forgo the miles on the land charges using the (no annual fee) Capital One -- so we all make choices, well-informed ones, thanks to this board -- according to our circumstances.

Clematis1 May 2nd, 2007 08:14 PM

It's great it's working for you, Pula. If someone doesn't care about the loss of frequent flyer miles, then the lack of the conversion fee is a benefit. But anyone considering this card should check Three hundred people gave it 2 1/2 stars out of five. Recent posts there: &quot;Capital One, Can you Lend me a hachet and end my Misery?&quot; and &quot;The people at Capital One think you're stupid. How smart are you?&quot; and my fav - &quot;The Official Credit Card of Satan.&quot;

AKR1 May 3rd, 2007 10:33 AM

I have realized that regardless of whether you pay an overseas operator that has quoted prices in local currency by credit card or bank wire, count on a minimum of 4 to even 5% exchange rate plus fee cost.And for credit cards, the CC companies charge a minimum of 2% to the agent, which is typically passed on to you. This is in addition to the 3 to 4% loss.

I just wired a large sum in ZAR to our agent in South Africa for our upcoming trip this summer and the rate Citibank gave me was 6.73 when the official rate was around 7. They are making a minimum of 4%. I had mistakenly thought the bulk of the bank wire cost is fees, but learned the fees are relatively small- its the exchange rate where they get you. I have also noticed at least with bank wires, the bid/ask retail spread has been growing compared to previous years.

So, I guess the point is with the US$ sinking against most currencies, bank FX &quot;fees&quot; are adding to the cost of overseas travel for US based travelers. When comparing a US based operator that quotes in dollars to a overseas agent quoting in local currency, around 5% should be added to the overseas operators cost to make it an apples to apples comparison.

Pula May 3rd, 2007 12:01 PM

Clematis -- those customer service comments are too funny and yes, too true. Guess that makes me a bona fide masochist!

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