We have covered the issues surrounding the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) scam on LoyaltyLobby several times, and I have battled it in Latin America in 2020 and 2021.
Now, a LoyaltyLobby reader sent us a case from a Marriott affiliated hotel in Greece, Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Santorini, that decided to put the prepayment charge through in USD when both the quoted price and the credit used were both in Euros inflating the price and collecting commission in the process.
You can access Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel here.
Here’s the email from the reader:
I would like to share with my experience dealing with Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Santorini. It’s a total disaster.
1. I booked a 2 nights stay for my client (I’m a travel advisor). The cost of the reservation is 3761 EUR (well yeah they are not too humble with their rates).
2. The hotel requested full prepayments. Fine. The client provided them with card details. The card was in euros, so the client made sure there wouldn’t be any currency conversion.
3. The hotel did DCC without asking a client or even notifying. They simply charged USD. That’s daylight fraud. The client is Russian. The card is issued in Russia. The reservation is in EUR. The hotel is in Greece. There is simply no place for USD other than DCC fraud.
4. So they converted 3761 EUR to $4748.24 (+130.68 EUR to a market rate on a transaction date).
5. Because the card is in euros and the transaction came in USD my client’s bank did currency conversion at their exchange rate. So they debited 4125.59 EUR from my client’s account when she needed to pay 3761 EUR. She lost 364.59 EUR (!!!). Can you imagine? The person tried to pay a bill in EUR from an account in EUR ended up paying 364 EUR (9%) more.
6. All that happened on 27/05/21. Then the hotel ignored emails until mid June. The client submitted a complaint to Marriott Customer Care on 10/06/21, never heard back.
7. After I myself called the hotel multiple times I managed to talk to a Senior Reservation Executive (from 3rd or 4th attempt as she was always away or at a business meeting). We had several rounds email exchange. They admitted they did wrong with DCC. They admitted they charged her not on a market conversion rate, but marked up rate. The offered to refund her 130.68 EUR (it’s what they say they got by charging her marked up rate). As my client lost 364 EUR I requested to refund 364 EUR (we even offered them to provide that as F&B credit). They requested a bank account statement to confirm how much was withdrawn from her account. The client provided a statement even though it’s totally ridiculous by then.
8. Their final offer was to refund 130 EUR and that was it. It was communicated to me on 20/06/21. Since then they keep ignoring my emails and calls.
Suffice to say the client has no desire to stay at the property where the daylight robbery is a way to contact business. The stay is prepaid though.
She paid almost 4000 EUR for 2 nights and was treated like dirt when we have to beg the hotel for an email response and so on. That’s absolutely unbelievable. Over the course of my contacts with the hotel on behalf of my client there was no attempt to apologise or offer something to make up for the situation.
Honestly in my 10+ years in that business I’ve never faced anything like that. You can find my email exchange with the hotel below.
The reader also sent us the email conversation they had had with the hotel in question. If you read the text above, the hotel inflated the rate by 3.5% using the DCC.
Here are some of my personal experiences dealing with the DCC:
I am sure that some think and say that this is NOT a Marriott issue, but rather an isolated incident with this specific property. Wrong!
Marriott should ban this practice or require hotels clearly ask and tell the consumer if they would prefer to pay the stay in other than the quoted currency and what the mark up is.
One option, as a consumer, is to use American Express instead of Visa or Mastercard, as Amex has banned this practice.
You may wonder why hotels do this? Their payment processor essentially split the spread with the hotel or gives them a discount on the processing fees.
I have encountered this practice, not only at Marriott hotels in Latin America and Asia but Hilton and Hyatt too. Some, if not most, hotels display their prices in USD and then convert this to a local payment currency using fictional rate, sometimes inflating it by up to 15% (JW Marriott Bogota – excellent hotel and even the Manager on Duty laughed when he look at the conversion rate and fixed it for me, but what about all the other guests who end up paying this?).
Then some hotels display the price in USD but convert the price correctly to the penny.
If the conversion is off by more than 3%, I won’t leave before it is fixed, and I have succeeded every single time. I don’t take no for an answer and call out the scam. You lose some time, but if guests continue to accept the practice, it will simply expand, and the spread only increases (why so many have issues with simple math?).
The reader has a tricky situation here. The property has agreed to refund the excess DCC, but not the amount that the customer’s bank had charged for the USD – Euro conversion. So the correct way would have been to refund the entire transaction processed in USD and then recharge it in Euros. There could, however, be FX losses.