Watch out when using your credit card abroad

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Sep 2017 11:52:23


You had been saving up for this wonderful trip to Europe and you finally made it! You spoilt yourself silly with more than an eyeful of Europe – some fine-dining and went a bit overboard with your shopping as well.

You could afford some of the unplanned expenses, thanks to your international Credit Card! You made sure you did the smart things and noted down the exchange rate too on the day you were making the transactions. You did some calculation of your own and determined with all the conversions that your Credit Card bill was likely to tally to around Rs X.

After a jolly good time, you arrive home and begin the daily grind. Soon your Credit Card bill also arrives. What follows is shock (probably one of the biggest you’ve got so far)! The bill amount is nowhere the nice round X number you had in mind. Actually, it overshot it by nearly 5-6%. To avoid such shocks in future, let’s find out how exactly the amount due on your Credit Card is calculated.
Why your calculated value and the amount on the Credit Card statement differ The two entities involved in the transaction apply additional fees for a foreign Credit Card transaction. This results in an additional cost of 5% to 6% for the end user. The first entity is the issuing bank like SBI or ICICI Bank, and the second is a network service provider like VISA and MasterCard.

Why is this additional fee applied?
The primary reason is the intricacies and additional cost involved with currency conversion. Yet another reason is addition of a small margin of profit by the issuing bank and Visa/ MasterCard.

What is the type and amount of charges involved?
There are basically three types of charges involved:
Foreign Currency Conversion fee – Since you own an Indian Credit Card, your balance is automatically in Indian Rupees. When you make an overseas transaction, say 50 Euro, you will be charged a foreign currency conversion fee as well. Visa and MasterCard automatically charge a 1-2% fee on foreign currency exchange and anything in excess of it is generally a small margin of profit for the bank.

Foreign Transaction Charge – Irrespective of the currency, transaction amount, or cash withdrawal, providers (SBI, ICICI, HDFC, BOB, PNB etc.) charge a Foreign Transaction Charge, which makes up for around 2.5 -3.5% figure of the total transaction amount.

Cash Advance Fee – It’s common knowledge that cash advances are expensive even within the country. If you are using your Credit Card overseas, withdrawing cash will definitely increase the fees. You can incur a 1-4% additional fee every time you carry out an overseas cash withdrawal. You will also be charged the standard cash withdrawal rate for your Credit Card, together with the international cash withdrawal fee.

What about the currency conversion rate on the day of transaction?
The exchange rate that is applied to a transaction is the exchange rate as of the day of settlement, which is the day that VISA or MasterCard determines the settlement amount to be exchanged between the acquirer and the issuer. The settlement date is, therefore, typically different from the date of the actual transaction.

So don’t be surprised if the exchange rate you were using for calculation differs from what has actually been used, as your transaction might have been posted to VISA or MasterCard one or two days later by your merchant. The exchange rate is calculated one day in advance by Visa and MasterCard and is applicable throughout the day for every transaction at the same rate.

Where to find the information regarding these charges
To avoid surprises in future, it’s advisable to be equipped with the complete knowledge of charges which will be applied on your Credit Card transaction. The data related to Foreign Currency Conversion fees is available on VISA and MasterCard websites. Ensure you have the latest rates by checking these websites before you travel.

Data of Foreign Transaction Charges and Cash Advance Fee is available with the issuing bank like SBI, ICICI etc. and you can call their customer care to find out about the same before packing your bags. These charges are also dynamic and you might see them fluctuating at regular intervals.
How to choose the best Credit Card If you are a frequent flyer, please enquire about the foreign transaction charges and cash withdrawal fees before applying for the card. You might find a difference of 1% to 2% in the offers of Credit Cards from various banks. Choose the one that charges you the least. Nothing much can be done about the currency conversion charges as they are levied by MasterCard and Visa.

It is critical to read the offer document of the Credit Card provider. You should not treat it as a piece of paper, which just dies a silent death in the offer envelope. Next time around, at least scan your offer document. Reading between the lines is essential. You will come across a lot of facts which might surprise you. The details of all the charges will be clearly detailed in the offer document. You might not find the exact values as they are pretty dynamic in nature but the rules which govern them are present in the offer document.

The importance of paying the full amount cannot be stressed more as banks can charge you a hefty interest rate if you just keep paying the minimum amount due! It’s a practice best avoided. Another big no-no is cash withdrawal on your Credit Card – it’s the most expensive form of credit one can incur, so steer clear of it. (