"Currency Exchange" rip off in US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
  • After a recent trip to St. Thomas/St. John I was surprised to see charges for "currency exchange fees" on my credit card.

    Even though both these territories use US Dollars as legal tender, somehow the US Government has acquiesced in allowing their legislatures to pass a regulation enabling a "currency exchange fee" for tourist services purchased on-island.

    Since both these territories exist primarily on hand-outs from US taxpayers through the US budget process, as well as US tourist dollars, these fees are a truly egregious way of ripping-off American tourists. If you've been bitten by these fees, please write your house and senate representatives and suggest the US reciprocate by charging currency exchange fees for all US Government and private financial transfers to any territory or country engaged in this thievery.
  • Also beware of US credit cards charging exchange fees from US Dollars to US Dollars for credit and store debit card use in Puerto Rico, and beware that the bank may not be able to tell you what these charges are before you leave. My bank (whose name used sound something like the united NATIONS..) was that way--I called them 3 times, and got 3 different answers, the final one was "your card agreement doesn't require us to disclose fees in advance, if you want me to tell you what the fee is, you'll have to use your card and tell me what we charged you, and I can confirm it from your statement."

    If you are doing business stateside involving PR it's always a good idea to get 3 different answers to business or banking questions, because in dealing with the island that can't decide whether it's a state or a country, US businesses usually can't figure out how to do business there, and at least once the info will be wrong. I had a vendor that refused to ship there because in one call they claimed that it was a foreign country (talk to international), calling international they claimed that it was part of the USA (talk to domestic sales) and in the third call the domestic sales department suggested talking to their Central American exporter("we don't do business directly in Central or South America").
  • Thank you for these comments! Boy, are you right! I called Citi (I have a Citibank MasterCard) and they couldn't tell me anything, except that I "shouldn't" have any charges for using my credit card in US territories (Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands). However, he kept calling it "foreign transaction fee" and I kept saying that these places are parts of the United States. He suggested I talk directly to MasterCard, and he quickly transferred me to a messed-up voice response system that was talking in English and Spanish AT THE SAME TIME!! I thought that was apt. Anyway we decided to use cash as much as possible on our trip....

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