Banks charging fees for overseas Visa transactions
Stars and Stripes October 10, 2005
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Some thrifty bank customers might want to reconsider using their bank card to take out foreign currency or pay for a round of drinks at an off-base pub.
Some banking institutions are charging a transaction fee for purchases or withdrawals made overseas with their Visa cards. For example, Community Bank, which has branches located at most Air Force and Army bases overseas, began charging customers a 1 percent fee on foreign purchases and ATM withdrawals on Sept. 1. The fee does not apply to money withdrawn from Community Bank ATMs.
Other banking institutions that offer Visa cards charge the fee as well.
The so-called international transaction fee started showing up on Community Bank monthly banking statements last month. Although some customers didn’t know about the fee or didn’t find out about it until nearly a month after it went into affect, few people in spot interviews seemed bothered by the charge.
Many customers in Germany did not get a fee notice in the mail until last week, when they received their bank statements.
Signs explaining the new fee were placed on or near all Community Bank ATMs in mid-July, Steve Burghardt, a spokesman for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which oversees the Overseas Military Banking Program, wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. He added that notification letters were sent to all Community Bank customers in mid-August in addition to notices slipped into September account statements.
First Lt. Kelli Hage, an Army reservist deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center who didn’t find out about the fee until she received a notice last week, said the new fee shouldn’t impact her account because she does most of her banking at ATMs located on base.
“If they’re going to make the effort to send it out then it would have been nice to know in advance,” Hage said. “But, yet, at the same time, they do have a public notice on their machine and if I’m a conscious consumer I should be looking at the machine that I use.”
Airman 1st Class Nina Casey and her husband, Airman 1st Class Ron Casey, both stationed at Sembach Annex, shrugged off the extra charge.
“It’s not that dramatic,” she said. “We really don”t spend that much money off base.”
Visa customers have been paying the fee for years even though most didn’t know it.
Before this year, Visa charged a 1 percent fee for currency exchange but tacked it onto the converted rate. Beginning this year, Visa started billing banks directly for all transactions in foreign countries.
Most banks are passing that fee onto their customers and itemizing it on their bill as an “international transaction fee.”
Although Visa made the change earlier this year, Community Bank received a waiver until Sept. 1 to allow systems to be updated, Burghardt wrote.