Credit Card Companies Slapped with $336 Million Settlement over Foreign-Currency Fees

If you’ve used your credit card overseas at any time during the past eight years, you may have been hit with what credit card companies like to call “foreign-currency fees,” which can amount to 3 percent or more of the transaction total. However, thanks to a class-action lawsuit challenging that practice, some of that money may find its way back to you.

Judge William Pauley of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan offered preliminary approval of a $336 million settlement against defendants including Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, and Washington Mutual. Anyone who may have used a credit or debit card internationally dating back to February 1, 1999, may be eligible to share in the award settlement.

The suit claimed that the banks and credit card companies conspired to charge their customers excessive and unreasonable fees for currency conversion, which usually costs the bank roughly 0.25 percent of the transaction. The plaintiffs also alleged that the fees weren’t always properly acknowledged on statements and were sometimes rolled into the cost of the purchase itself. In play are federal and state antitrust laws, as well as disclosure laws. As part of the settlement, the companies would need to ensure full disclosure of the fees if they indeed continue to charge them.

A final binding settlement won’t be reached in the case until next November.

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