Mind your Euros and your Pounds will look after themselves

 

No hassle travel

On 21 October 2013 Terry loaded £150 and €1,200 at current exchange rates onto his Trans-world Treasuries (“Trans-world”) pre-paid card while at his local bank.

 

On 8 November 2013 Terry arrived in the United Kingdom for his holiday. The next day he sought to withdraw £50 from an ATM and was asked to accept an exchange rate 2 cents lower than when he loaded the funds onto his card and also to accept a transaction fee of £5 before proceeding. Bewildered, Terry cancelled the transaction before incurring the fees.

 

Terry tried at another ATM with the same results and again cancelled the transaction. At the 3rd ATM, there would be no currency conversion fees but there remained the £5 transaction fee. Terry again cancelled the transaction.  

 

Shaken from his ATM experience, Terry called Trans-world and explained the situation. Trans-world explained to Terry how to avoid incurring currency conversion fees and loaded £30 onto Terry’s card to compensate him for the inconvenience and to cover any unexpected charges.  

 

On 10 November 2013, Terry found an elusive ATM without transaction fees and withdrew £100. The ATM stated Terry’s balance on the card as £1072.63. Terry was confused as he considered he should have only £50 left with the remaining currency in Euros.

Later that afternoon, Terry tried his luck at another ATM displaying free cash withdrawals. This time the ATM stated Terry had a zero balance. Terry attempted to withdraw his remaining £50 and the ATM obliged.

 

Terry did not experience any further withdrawal woes throughout his European travel and spent his remaining Euros in France before returning home.  

 

The complaint

Terry was not advised that he may incur currency conversion fees when the card had multiple currencies pre-loaded or how to avoid them when he purchased the card and loaded his currency onto it. Terry was also disappointed he may be charged transaction fees at some ATMs when he had been advised the card would work in any MasterCard recognised ATM.

 

Trans-world’s position           

Trans-world said that Terry had been advised that local ATM operators may charge transaction fees and this was not something it could control. It had advised Terry when he called that he should select to withdraw only local currency to avoid incurring currency conversion fees. Trans-world noted that Terry had not suffered any direct loss and had been compensated for any inconvenience with its £30 payment.     

 

FSCL’s involvement

We investigated and found:

  • Terry did not incur any ATM withdrawal fees as he found and used ATMs in the United Kingdom which did not charge for withdrawals.
  • Trans-world credited Terry’s account with £30 as a gesture of goodwill because of the issues relating to locating ATMs which would not charge withdrawal fees, and to cover any withdrawal fees Terry may incur if he could not locate a free ATM.
  • Terry did incur a currency conversion fee of 4.36 Euros which was covered by the £30 credited by Trans-World.

 

 We had no grounds to award Terry further compensation.

 

Outcome

We referred Terry to the Banking Ombudsman to investigate the lack of and possibly incorrect information that was given to him at point of sale when at the bank when he loaded funds onto his card.  

 

We also suggested to Trans-world that it provide better directions to its sale agents as to the information to be provided to customers at the point of sale. 

 

Lesson

Customers using prepaid travel cards should be aware that they may incur fees charged by local ATM operators overseas. Customers should shop around as there are often ATMs that are free for withdrawals.

 

When using pre-loaded currency cards overseas, customers should always elect to withdraw funds in the local currency which has been pre-loaded onto the card. This should prevent currency conversion fees being charged. 

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