Friday, February 22, 2008

Spent money abroad? Get $25 or more back!

Did you use a credit card, debit card, or ATM abroad between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006? Or did you pay for purchases in a foreign currency during that time period? If so, you should be eligible to benefit from a settlement of a class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed that credit card companies and banks were hiding their foreign exchange fees. The settlement doesn't admit wrongdoing on the companies' part, but it does create a $336 million fund for customers who've suffered the alleged damages-- i.e., anyone who was charged a foreign transaction fee during the time period. From this article:

Although we deny any liability regarding our prior practices, the company believes this settlement is in the best interests of our customers and shareholders to avoid the inconvenience, expense and uncertainty of litigation," said Samuel Wang, a spokesman for Citigroup, which owns Diners Club.

You should be eligible to receive a refund for approximately 1% of the amount you spent, with a minimum refund of $25. If you think you spent less than $2,500, you can get a simple $25 refund. If you think you spent more, you can either provide the details of your actual spending, or get a refund based on a calculated estimate of your spending (it asks for the total number of days you spent abroad and the type of travel: business, leisure, etc-- if you are a frugal traveler, it may estimate that you spent more than you actually did!)

You can request your refund online at, or print out the forms from the website and mail or fax them in. (You may have also gotten forms in the mail from your credit card companies or banks; you can use one of those too.) The deadline for claiming your share of the settlement is May 30, 2008.

And be sure to read as much as you can about foreign transaction fees before the next you go abroad, so you can make the smartest choices! Here's a great resource for starters, although of course you'll want to double-check that the charges listed are accurate. There's only a handful of cards that don't charge a foreign exchange fee, most prominently Capitol One, as of the time I write this.

[I learned about this settlement from Philip Brewer's article at Wise Bread; thanks!]

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