Participants in the global economy, beware: Your credit card company may slip a new surcharge into the terms and conditions on your credit card account. Unless your credit card is through Capital One or MBNA banks, you could find yourself paying a Foreign Transaction Fee each and every time you buy something from a vendor outside the United States. I had never heard of such a thing until this month — when, for the first time, we were charged these fees for making purchases from foreign vendors. We do so occasionally, and have never had this happen to us before.
Apple and I now find that we’re being charged 3% of the price of the goods or services we’re purchasing — and here’s the kicker, even if the price is being charged in United States dollars. In other words, this isn’t a fee to cover on-the-fly currency conversion done by Visa/MC or anything like that. If you are in Australia, say, and you buy something at a vendor that charges you natively in US Dollars, you’re gonna pay anyway.
This also applies, obviously, if you order something over the Internet from another country. We discovered a $14 Foreign Transaction Fee on our GM Card account, attributed (we deduced) to the $475 GTO gauge pod I ordered from Australia. A smaller-ticket item I ordered from a seller in Europe also came with a fee attached. Apple did some research on the subject and it seems that every Visa and Mastercard account now sports this new fee, except for Capital One and MBNA cards. American Express is also in on it, charging a flat 2% for all foreign transactions. And as you can imagine, we now find ourselves wondering just how many extra dollars we might be forced to pay in “Foreign Transaction Fees” the next time we spend a couple of weeks in Thailand! What a racket!
I wonder if anyone else seems the same irony that I do: That big companies like banks and credit card outfits can outsource all of their customer support to foreign countries under the guise of “saving money” and “taking advantage of the global economy” or whatever the latest excuse is. But if you have half a mind to utilize that global economy yourself, you’re gonna be penalized.