Credit card exchange rate vs fees

Mar 7th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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Credit card exchange rate vs fees


There is a lot of helpful information here already on credit card use in Europe. I hope to avoid it and take travellers cheques - but in order to buy services from the US before the trip (regional plane tix; rental car reservation), etc. I have to use my US credit card.

I've heard that Capital One has no foreign transaction fee but poor exchange rates. Although someone here said the rates were fine. Do you know the best combination of low fees and good exchange rates? Or even how credit cards determine the exchange rate at the time of purchase (i.e. is it published/public)?

anjgupta is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:09 PM
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avalon is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Forget Traveler's Checks. The exchange rate is probably the worst of them all.

Take an ATM card for cash withdrawals and a credit card for large expenses. As far as I know, the exchange rate will be standard, the difference between credit cards is the percentage added by your bank. The same goes for ATM card. Assume a 1% fee levied by Visa on all cards; for the rest, it depends on your bank.
Michael is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Many thanks. Guess I'm behind the times about traveller's checks.

I have a schwab account and found this "Schwab Bank Invest First Visa" as a highly suggested credit card.

I'll research the ATM card option - so much to do!

anjgupta is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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to be clear, highly suggested due to 0% foreign transaction fees, and possibly does not pass on any Visa fees - making it truly 0% according to some. We shall see.
anjgupta is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:28 PM
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Yeah, travelers checks give you awful exchange rates. I used to take a few with me on a trip as an "emergency backup" (since my credit union didn't charge for them and they didn't charge me anything to cash them back in if unused). But I've never had an problems with my ATM card overseas. Just tell your bank before you leave that you are planning to use it over there. Same with your credit cards.

My credit union ATM gives me six free non-CU withdrawals a month and the European ATMs don't charge you anything. Visa charges a 1% conversion fee - that's it. I also use my credit union Visa - same thing, only a 1% exchange fee.
Andrew is online now  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:31 PM
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I guess if I charge $2000 on my CC Visa card on a trip then I pay 1% or $20 in conversion fees. Not really enough to make me apply for a new credit card, unless it has some other benefits.
Andrew is online now  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:39 PM
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If you have paid your flight, car and hotel, the majority of your costs have been paid in US$. I'd use ATM for majority of all other costs, save for any large purchaes perhaps. Just minimize your ATM trnsactions costs by taking out larger amounts. And...refuse all requests to bill your CC in US$ while in Europe!

Traveller's cheques...days gone by.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:59 PM
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Thanks. I just regret charging a RYANAIR tix with my current credit card - since it'll have add'l fees (I strive to avoid all fees!).

I'll wait until I get the Schwab card to purchase other services on non-US sites. From another topic it seems Schwab also has a checking account with minimal ATM fees.
anjgupta is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 02:50 PM
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We have the Schwab Visa card and used it in Paris in December. There were no currency conversion charges and we received 2% cash back.
Judy is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 03:16 PM
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Posts: 7,525 currency conversion charge, but how does their exchange rate compare? Would need to know that to really decide if it is a deal.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Twice in the past I post-Europe-trip compared the Chase CC conversion rates to the wholesale inter-bank daily rates which I found on some website. They were equal, for all intents.
But that's Chase, and that was 3 & 5 years ago, so who's to say now in 2010, when the airlines are charging to use a pillow, and for luggage?
tomboy is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 06:58 AM
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Both credit cards and ATM cards give you the best possible exchange rate that an individual can get anywhere. The exchange rate is standard for all VISA and MasterCards no matter who issues them.

Capitol One cards have the exact same exchange rate as all the others--whoever told you otherwise is mistaken or you misunderstood. Most cards will pass on the 1% standard VISA/MC networks foreign exchange fee to you. In addition, some greedy banks will add another 1 or 2% on top of this, but many (including Capitol One) will not, in fact, the last I heard Capitol One is still absorbing the 1% standard fee.

Even if you have a greedy bank, you will do better using credit cards for purchases and ATM cards for cash withdrawals than you will either getting travellers checks or exchanging cash for Euros here in the USA before you leave.

Some people have claimed that they can buy Euros for the posted daily standard rate from their bank in the USA. Only once a while back has any of these people actually named their bank so anyone could check their claim. When another Fodors poster checked with that bank that one time, the clerk told them they were giving the standard rate with no additional charges, but when quoted the actual rate it was 10% higher than the standard rate. Turns out it was the bank's own "standard rate," NOT what you see posted in the newspapers or on the internet currency exchange websites every day.
Paul1950 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 07:14 AM
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Good summary Paul.
The other things to watch out for are the "no fees" currency exchanges. No fees, but worse exchange rate....and don't convert currency at your hotel...and don't let foreign merchants charge you in your currency.
Michel_Paris is offline  
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