CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Many servicemembers and others who used a U.S. credit card off-post between 1996 and 2006 have money coming to them if they act before May 30.

Those who used a MasterCard, Visa or Diners Club card to make purchases or withdraw money from ATMs at overseas locations are eligible for a piece of a $336 million class-action settlement.

Consumers who did not travel overseas but purchased overseas goods and paid a foreign transaction fee also might be eligible.

American Express is not part of the settlement; a separate case against that company is still pending.

In November, the U.S. District Court Settlement Administrator mailed out millions of forms notifying consumers that they were eligible for a $25 refund, or one to three percent of all purchases made between Feb. 1, 1996, and Nov. 8, 2006.

However, some notifications were discarded as junk mail.

Staff Sgt. J.D. McNeely, of 2nd Infantry Division headquarters on Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, said he threw his in the garbage.

“I thought it was a joke,” McNeely said last week.

He later heard about it in an e-mail and figured it was a hoax; most unsolicited messages asking for credit card information are hoaxes, say McNeely and most financial institutions.

McNeely isn’t the only one who thought the settlement was a scam; the settlement came to the attention of rumor-busting Web site, which then verified the claim.

A long-fought class-action lawsuit against the credit card companies and some of the nation’s largest banks alleged that credit card issuers broke federal and state antitrust laws. They also broke other laws relating to fee disclosure, the lawsuit alleged.

The credit card issuers did not admit any wrongdoing, but agreed in 2006 to establish a $336 million fund to pay claims.

Goods purchased through post exchanges and commissaries are not covered under the settlement. They are considered domestic purchases, according to a statement Visa gave to Stars and Stripes following an April query.

However, purchases made on post from foreign vendors who use overseas banks would have incurred the fee.

Soldiers like McNeely can expect a sizable return. McNeely and his wife have spent several thousand dollars off post since being stationed in South Korea in 2002.

He was upset about the overcharges but is now very happy about the money he’s expecting.

“Free money is always good,” McNeely said.

People who received the mailed settlement form can either return it or use their refund identification number on the letter at

Those who do not have their identification number can also use the Web site to get it, or they can call 1-800-945-9890.

Your credit card fee refund optionsConsumers who used their MasterCard, Visa or Diners Club cards for overseas transactions or cash withdrawals between Feb. 1, 1996, and Nov. 8, 2006, have three options to obtain a piece of a $336 million settlement:

The first is a $25 refund, which requires only a name, address and signature.The second option asks for an estimated number of days either stationed overseas or there for travel. It’s recommended for consumers with more than $2,500 in overseas charges and based on a 1 percent refund.The third option, an annual estimation refund, is based on a 1 to 3 percent refund depending on the bank issuing the card. It requires the consumer to name each bank and provide credit card numbers used. The consumer must then estimate total use for each card annually since 1996. Banks involved in the settlement are required to issue statements for each of those years if related to the settlement, according to settlement documents.

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