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Beware UniCredit Banca

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whidden39
9/10/2019 04:03 EST

Until recently if I used a UniCredit ATM with my US based ATM/Debit card, I was assessed a surcharge — maybe €2. These surcharges are still relatively rare here in Italy. I don’t ordinarily use this ATM but I was a block away trying to complete a transaction and unexpectedly needed €200. For convenience sake I was ready to pay the surcharge. However, no surcharge was disclosed. Instead I was notified of “today’s exchange rate”. I never saw this before and was initially confused. Eager to get back to my pending commercial transaction, I accepted the disclosure only to realize that UniCredit exchanged my €200 to USD at a markup of 3%. That €200 withdrawal cost me €6 — much more than a surcharge of €2. I wasn’t given an option to decline their money conversion trick. It was take it of leave it. So, let’s hope this isn’t a trend — identifying people using foreign cards upon whom to foist very unfavorable exchange rates at ATMs that ordinarily offer good rates of exchange. My US bank reverses ATM surcharges, but this wasn’t a surcharge. The transaction was delivered to my US bank in USD after UniCredit pocketed €6. It wasn’t much to pay for the learning experience, but I will be vigilant going forward. An aside: EBay plays the same game. Opt out of these money conversions. Let your ATM or credit card issuer convert the currency to dollars. It is nearly always the best consumer rate available to consumers.

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whidden39
9/10/2019 04:15 EST

Clarification: I made reference to EBay playing the money exchange game. I meant to say PayPal (a payment option on EBay). Anytime you choose PayPal, opt out of their conversion service and preserve the good rates offered by your US credit card issuers when they convert. Keep the ‘foreign’ transaction in the currency of the vendors (for me these days, euros or British pounds). Live and learn.

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Umbertomar
9/10/2019 04:15 EST

I have seen this currency conversion trick at the ATM,s and in some shops more and more.
Intesa Sanpaulo started this process and stopped over a few months. I think that this kicks in when you use a US card. There is a way to decline on the ATM , but it is not obvious how to do it, It appears that you will be canceling the transaction.
I have had shops that have tried to use dollars in the credit/debit card and I have had them redo the transaction in Euros. Amazon and others ask if you want charged in dollars and Euros. Euros is the right choice.

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TheresaIT
9/10/2019 04:58 EST

I noticed this a few months ago, as I generally do my cash withdrawals using my USD ATM card at Unicredit. I attempted to talk to someone at the bank, who "assured me" that the charge was from my US bank, which didn't make sense to me, so I called the bank to clarify. Not. I found another bank (I'm not in Trieste now, and don't recall which bank I used), and got a much better return.

As for purchases, I've been choosing to pay using the Euros option, as suggested on a thread I read several months ago. A good decision - but would like to know how to do on PayPal? I have clients who pay for my services through PP, and I'm charged steep transaction fee. I don't mind paying a fair fee, but PayPal's fee doesn't qualify.

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whidden39
9/10/2019 05:12 EST

TheresaIT: I did two PayPal transactions recently. One went through without their conversion; the other was converted to USD. I wasn’t paying close attention to one of these. You have to look very closely at the transaction because there is a way to keep the transaction as presented by vendor. However, I am still new at this PayPal policy and don’t readily recall the steps I took. I only know PayPal as a payor (not payee) however. I’m convinced that their process is purposely entrapping and predatory.

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TheresaIT
9/10/2019 05:36 EST

whidden39,

PayPal's fees used to be somewhat fair, but agree. I think they've gotten greedy. People can send money, for instance to a friend, rather than a business, with no fee attached on either end, and have a few clients who have sent money this way (without my asking). However, for integrity purposes, I not at ease doing business this way - and will look into other options. Unfortunately, TransferWise, which I've used before, also seems to charge a high fee, based on a friend's recent interaction.

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lallaw
9/11/2019 04:04 EST

Hi Theresa!

I've just recently, and happily, discovered this forum.

As for PayPal and foreign money payments...one solution is to go into your account and select to only accept payments in your currency. It is not an obvious option so you need to take some time and explore your account settings. However, should you elect this option you will incur no conversion fees to be paid (I'm assuming in Euros) by your clients. However, they WILL be charged PayPal's conversion fees instead. You may or may not wish to pass this cost on to your clients. Arguably, you could pass this cost along simply by changing your rates or charging an "administrative" or "foreign currency" fee, depending upon how you feel that would effect your business relationships.

Having some experience with foreign sales through PayPal, I found that choosing this option saved me from what I would agree are rather predatory fees.

Auguri! L

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Stellalebret
9/11/2019 07:40 EST

thanks for the reminder!

Stella

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HenryGiovanni
9/12/2019 17:31 EST

Hi Umbertomar,
This is true. I first saw this in a hotel in Roma back in 2007; they asked if I wanted to pay in dollars. Back then the EU was about USD $1.37 and they wanted $1.43 (? or something like that!) if the hotel did it. I declined their generous offer. This was on my USAA credit card.

Here, I think I use the same Intesa San Paulo bank, but sometimes also use Monte dei Pasche for ATMs. MdP never charges. ISP tries to get me to agree to their rate (first time I checked the rate was $1.11 and they wanted $1.15). Like Whidden39, I cancelled the transaction, but then tried again, and noticed the button that said "proceed without conversion", which does, in fact, look like a cancellation button, but instead just proceeds by charging euros instead of dollars.

Doing this gets me the rate I usually see on XE.com, which I've used for maybe 20 years and which I check daily so I know what I'm paying for things out there. In fact, I took money out at MdP today, and checked later at home; my rate was less than the stated XE.com rate, meaning that the rate changed (it always changes) or that USAA will change it for me later by adding on a percent. I don't like giving money away, but they provide a service and, as a capitalist, I understand that they might want something for their effort. Just how it goes. At least the something they want is an amount not really worth getting worked up about. On a EU 500 withdrawal that's going to cost me about USD $5.00, which is the price I pay for the convenience of having USAA.

I use my USAA debit card for the ATMs here, and the credit card in other places of business, for obvious security reasons. I NEVER use the debit card for anything except ATM withdrawals, period. In the end, just note that there is a way around that "forced" conversion.

Cheers, John.

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TheresaIT
9/19/2019 12:08 EST

Hi lallaw,

Welcome to the forum!

Thanks for your reply.

Most of my clients are from the US, so not a problem accepting payments in my currency, but good to know as I build my practice in Italy. My comment was directed to PayPal's fees, in general - which can be quite high, depending on the amount received. I'd like to find another option. TransferWise also seems quite high.

All the best!
Theresa

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lallaw
9/20/2019 02:44 EST

Thank you for the welcome Theresa! I've so enjoyed reading yours, and many others, comments on this site.

Have you tried Venmo or payments through Google or Facebook? I've never used them, but if I was still selling online I would look into those options as I agree PayPal takes a big chunk.

Also, when I had my own firm, we had a merchant account and could accept payments via CC directly, although at a cost which I factored into doing business. If you still have a US account, perhaps payments in USD then utilize Transferwise thereafter....just a thought. As John, "HenryGiovanni" so wisely says, please remember I am not an expert in anything :) Auguri! L

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lallaw
9/20/2019 03:05 EST

P.S. Theresa, I understand Venmo is free. Free is good. :)

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whidden39
11/2/2019 06:15 EST

Here’s yet another involuntary currency exchange. I recently experienced. This latest transaction was not on a grand scale but is testimony to the changing landscape on currency exchanges performed at the vendor level using unfavorable exchange rates. Being short on cash, I used a US based credit card to pay for my meal at a pizzeria. When I got my receipt, the euro amount was disclosed as per il conto as well as the USD equivalent calculated at $1.16 to the euro. At the time my credit card would have calculated that exchange at the more prevailing rate of $1.11 to the euro, a difference of $.05 — saving me the equivalent of a 4.5% surcharge on that transaction. It wasn’t a huge amount for this one small bill, but imagine all your credit card or debit card transactions being subject to this usurious surcharge. The transaction receipt indicated “myPOS”, which is an outfit giving small merchants quick solutions to accept credit and debit cards. I ALWAYS want my euro transactions to be converted by my card issuer with very favorable rates. The merchant gave me no notice or options on this involuntary conversion. I fear we’ll be seeing more of these anti-consumer transactions.

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Umbertomar
11/2/2019 07:22 EST

I had this happen with a merchant about 1 year ago, The transaction was over 100 Euros. I was supposed to have the choice between euros and dollars, but the merchant did it in euros. I told him to cancel the transaction and redo in Euros. After some argument the merchant complied.
Amazon gives a choice of euros or dollars.

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Shtinky
11/2/2019 11:04 EST

I always insist the merchant change it to Euro. I NEVER accept, or pay, a bill thats been converted to dollars. you don’t have to accept the conversion. ATMs are bad too. Always choose the do not convert option.

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whidden39
11/2/2019 11:06 EST

Yes, Ubertomar, I go slowly at checkout with both Amazon and eBay to be sure my transactions go through in the vendor’s currency (usually euro or British pound). Achieving this isn’t always straightforward.

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whidden39
11/2/2019 12:12 EST

I never had this happen before at the merchant level (only recently at ATM, Amazon and eBay. So this caught me by surprise after I was presented with the transaction receipt. It wasn’t worth my time to recoup a small amount on this small transaction. But it was an education to be vigilant going forward. Also, it’s highly unlikely that I will do business with this merchant again because I am not apt to be in that local any time soon.

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