Credit Currency Tangle: Cash in Your Pocket?

Still feeling guilty about all those trips abroad you put on your credit card over the past decade? Lighten up. You might be coming in to some money.

A settlement reached last year in a class-action lawsuit in federal court asserts that several U.S. credit card companies between 1996 and 2006 routinely inflated exchange rates and concealed fees on foreign transactions that included purchases, cash advances, cash withdrawals, and Internet transactions. Credit cards and their affiliate banks named in the suit include Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Plus, Cirrus, Interlink, and Maestro, among others.

The settlement requires the defendants to pay refunds to claimants from a settlement fund totaling $336 million.

So who’s eligible for a refund? Any traveler who made a transaction in a foreign country using a U.S.-issued Visa-, MasterCard-, or Diners Club-branded card between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006. Prospective claimants have until May 30, 2008 to file a claim with the Settlement Administrator, either online or via mail at P.O. Box 290 Philadelphia, PA 19105-0290.

Claimants do not need to attach copies of bank or credit-card statements with claims as “defendant banks” will provide copies of statements. A third-party administrator has been assigned to review all claims and determine refund amounts.

How soon should you expect to get the refund? Don’t hold your breath. Checks could be mailed out to claimants in a matter of months, but the office of the Settlement Administrator warns that defendant appeals could turn “months” into years.

See the refund options Fodor’s members have chosen to request