Reader Question: How To Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) Scam In China?

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15 Comments

A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about a topic that has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time – Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) scam that seems to be spreading like incurable cancer.

Reader Question DCC China

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I know you have done a few articles about DCC and how it is a bad deal. So I have always declined it since I have a CC with no international fees and good FX rate.

So on my trip to China, I did not realize a couple of locations “defaulted” to this option. I though the card holder was given the option, and did not see that the copy I received had it selected.

I did catch one hotel that did this and had them correct it. But upon reviewing my receipts/bill I found it two other times.

We had 2 rooms, and at one hotel one room was correct and the other was DCC (IHG). Another did a consolidated bill (SPG).

For the consolidated one (SPG), I had the local currency selected on the receipt (they provided me a copy via e-mail showing this) but they still did DCC. Their response has been they can only do DCC (no option).

Response from hotel: “and after your email I went to check our CC machines and find out that we don’t have an option to choose DCC payments or not, it is automatically charged, it is not up to us and it is charged from the banks and CC”

I plan to do CC challenges to the one property (SPG where I am Platinum) and the other is IHG (also Platinum). For the SPG it was a difference of $57USD, so I also asked for points. Funny thing is that hotel was a great stay otherwise.

What are your experiences with challenging this after the fact? All my invoices were in local currency, and the receipts on first glance listed the local currency. Can they “legally” force the DCC?

Properties cannot “legally” force the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) because the cardholder must accept and consent to it. This is, however, often problematic in China where finding a credit card machine that has a non-DCC option is sometimes a challenge and requires Manager on Duty.

For the SPG property, I would open a case with the Corporate Customer Care and request that the property refunds the payment and charges that in local currency. I would also ask nice amount of Starpoints (5k) for the inconvenience.

I would also contact the IHG customer care and open a file with them to see what they can do. Philippines is quite hopeless with issues such as this (where IHG’s customer care center is located unless you manage to get someone in the US).

Personally, I have always been able to catch these scams before they have happened and thus there has been no need to deal with the issues later.

Other option would be to use American Express or UnionPay branded cards when in China. These are excluded from the DCC scams that plague Visa and MasterCard payment systems.

Conclusion

It is just crazy that both Visa and MasterCard allow their merchants and payment processors basically scam cardholders with this DCC.

This DCC is absolutely never ever beneficial for the consumer. The payment processors basically splits the 3% to 5% fee with the merchant that is happy to get additional revenue for doing absolutely nothing.

I had a nice five minute argument with the front desk manager at the Hilton Auckland how this 3.85% scam fee would be in any shape or form beneficial for me. I should have recorded the conversion and put it online.

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  • Jon Iten

    There’s a better option. Dispute the DCC with your credit card company. Visa and MC rules provide that the cardholder MUST be given the option to choose local currency. Find out what the exchange rate was the day of the DCC charge, and dispute the difference between that and the rate used for actual charge. You will win every time. And, best of all, Visa and MC will fine merchants with excessive charge backs.

    • Chris

      Agree, this is what I did the few times it happened to me in Spain and Canaries, where I was told by the merchant that they cannot charge in local currency and HAVE TO use DCC – I simply raised a chargeback with my credit card company and they immediately charged back the full amount to the merchant. Once I then had another transaction about a month later where the merchant charged the same sum again but this time in the local currencies (so it looks like they were able to do it after all, what a surprise!) but the other times I never heard anything about it ever since, so this meant the merchant (or the credit card company) swallowed the full transaction. Serves them right for offering this scam.

      But to be fair nine out of ten times the merchant asks whether you want to do DCC or not, and then that’s fine with me as well as I just decline. It just annoys me if they don’t ask (or aren’t told how to do it), which is obviously intentional and done in order to scam money off customers (I understand that the DCC charges are split between the merchant and the merchant’s bank) and this is why I would never bother contacting the merchant about this but instead go directly to the credit card company for a chargeback.

      PS: chargebacks work with debit cards too so even if you’re not using a credit card you can demand a chargeback since it was an unauthorised transaction.

      • BenniHK

        Thanks for the sharing! I know what should I do next time!!!

  • Linda

    Curious what SPG property this is as I am heading to China this weekend.

    • Dave

      This was mine and I would recommend reviewing both the slip you sign as well as the copy they print off. I had actually designated local currency on the signed slip (they provided me a copy of it) but then they selected the DCC and it showed on the final printed copy. I had another hotel where I caught it before signing and had it changed (they had it already coded to DCC).

      The Marriott(s) I stayed at asked as expected and then did it in local currency. But these others just default to DCC.

      Just check as I also found a restaurant had also done this “automatically”. Luckily, they only accept non-China credit cards at the hotels and a few restaurants. So in two weeks, I only had about 5 charges.

      Funny thing is the ATMs, although limited to 2500-3000 RMB (about $400 USD)/transaction, charge no fees. You only get hit by your own bank’s charges.

  • Denis D

    John, can you recall what the FO manager was saying? It would be fun read how the pure scan can be beneficial for you/me/us.

    In my experience Spain is the worst. Local merchants (especially smaller stores) never ask you about DCC. Then it’s really tough to argue, they pretend they don’t understand English and/or what you’re talking about. I have never been to China though.

    • Just some nonsense. I use euro issued cards in euro area so don’t need to deal with this issue.

  • Kiam

    Which SPG property in China would not charge local currency? I asked many to correct the DCC charge and charged in local currency.

    • Many. Just make sure that the credit card slip doesn’t show any other currency than RMB.

  • BenniHK

    I have the similar argument with the so called DFS supervisor in DOH for how this over-charged fx rate plus lost of bonus miles gifted for overseas expenses by my hsbc credit card “benefiting” me! He just kept replying “no fee no fee” which is just bs! My premier card never incurs fees on that idio… i mean darling!

  • cecilia

    In Hong Kong and China, they give you a choice of either local currency or US$, even though I chose local currency, when the charge posted to my account, it was in US$.It means they ignored my choice and charged me the additional DCC fee of 3-5%.

    • You can ask them to print the actual slip that shows the settlement currency.

    • David Stevenson

      This is even worse if you are holding a third currency card (AUD as in my case). The rate converts from Host Country to USD to AUD.

  • Roger Wilco

    The IC in Foshan (Gungzhou) asked if I want local or home currency charge. I chose local (RMB) and was charged in RMB. Several stays, every time. So it can be done and some hotels do it.

  • Flyboy

    I just pay in cash !