Is this “convenience” just another scam?

dollar wrapI’m almost never accused of being too neutral, but when I covered a type of foreign currency exchange that affects international travelers recently, that’s exactly what happened.

I was writing about a little trick called a dynamic currency conversion (DCC), which works something like this: If you’re paying by credit card overseas, a merchant will sometimes ask if you want to make the purchase in dollars, “for your convenience.” If you agree, your money is converted from the native currency into greenbacks and sent to your credit card, but at an awful exchange rate. Bizarrely, you may still have to pay your credit card a fee for a foreign transaction — so you basically convert the money twice.
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The dangers of dynamic currency conversion

burning dollarProcessing a credit card charge for overseas purchases used to be pretty simple. You swiped your card while on vacation, your bank changed the money from pesos or euros into greenbacks, and the amount you’d spent appeared on your bill. Maybe you paid a small conversion fee, but you also got a competitive exchange rate.

Not anymore. Just ask Jae Cuadra, who recently tried to buy a round-trip train ticket between the Swiss cities of Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. The purchase, at a train station in Interlaken, went on his Capital One Visa card, which doesn’t charge to convert foreign currencies. But “for the first time, I was offered a choice,” says Cuadra, a registered nurse from Westbury, N.Y. “Did I want to pay in dollars or Swiss francs?”
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Forced to buy car rental insurance that didn’t cover her

Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
From time to time, a case comes across my desk that gets me turned upside-down, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. Julie Yu’s dispute with Dollar is one of them.

A few weeks ago, I shared a problem of one reader’s mandatory car rental insurance charge in Mexico. Basically, her vehicle ended up costing a lot more than she thought it would, even though she’d purchased insurance through a third party.

Turns out this happens often. But Yu experienced the same problem — with a dark twist.
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Do I really have to pay for this broken windshield?

1-IMAG0070Accidents happen. Even freak accidents, like the one Jonathan Perkins experienced in his Dollar rental car.

He’d rented a Ford Taurus in San Antonio. It wasn’t in the best shape, with 50,000 miles and a coat of grime on it, but it ran just fine.

“I drove the car two hours west, to a small town called Sonora, and stayed the night in a motel,” he says. “The next morning, I walked out to the car and got in, followed by my mom. As she closed her door, the rear window cracked, and fell into the car.”

The result? Well, see for yourself. The image above was taken right after the incident.
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I rented a damaged car from Dollar — why should I have to pay?

accidentQuestion: I’m having a problem with Dollar Rent A Car. When I picked up my car at Southwest Florida International Airport, they did not inspect the car with me, but told me to just go “pick one out.”

The car had some minor paint damage on the rear bumper, but a sticker was attached indicating that the damage was previously identified, so I didn’t give it any further thought. Prior to leaving for the airport on my return trip, I walked around the car to make sure that there was no damage to the vehicle. There was none.

When I returned the car to Dollar at the airport, the guy didn’t bother to inspect the car, so I pointed out the sticker and damage on the rear bumper, and he said, “Yeah that’s previous damage.”
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A fee for lighting up in my rental? But I don’t smoke

smokeQuestion: My wife and I traveled to Las Vegas for a trade show. I decided to use my credit card points to cover my car rental through Dollar Rent a Car.

At the car rental desk I was pressured to take the optional insurance, but I told them I had checked with my insurance agent and that I was covered. After 10 minutes of saying “no” she insisted on making a copy of my credit card. I let her and went on my way.

I rented the car for five days, drove a total of 83 miles, and returned the car with a full tank. A Dollar employee checked the car when I returned it and said everything was “OK.”
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