Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fee Refund: $25+

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Back in February, I received a mailing about a class-action lawsuit claiming that Visa, MasterCard, their member banks, and Diners Club conspired to set and conceal markups and fees, typically of 1-3%, on foreign transactions. It appears that the settlement amounts have been agreed upon. Here are some selected excerpts from the official settlement website and FAQ.

Am I a member of the settlement class?
Those persons who made a foreign transaction using a Visa-, MasterCard-, or Diners Club- branded credit, charge or debit/ATM card between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 are members of the Settlement Damages Class.

How do I complete the claim form?
You need to complete and submit a claim form prior to the deadline, either on-line at, or by mailing or faxing in the form.

Option 1 is an Easy Refund of $25 and is recommended if you travel outside of the U.S. for less than one week or had foreign transactions of less than $2,500 using your eligible cards during the class period.

Option 2 is a Total Estimation Refund that is based on typical spending during travel and answers to the few questions listed on the claim form. This option is recommended if you traveled outside the U. S. for more than one week or had foreign transactions of more than $2,500.

Option 3 is the Annual Estimated Refund option. It is recommended if you had extensive foreign travel or foreign transactions and are willing to provide year-by-year information.

Seems like a pretty huge settlement class! You don’t even need to have gone anywhere, maybe you just bought something online in a foreign currency. If you choose the simple $25 option, you will need to provide your name, address, credit card number, issuing bank, and the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. This site has been reported in various new outlets, so I believe it to be legitimate. Also, thanks to the readers who reminded me about this.

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  1. I have received (and submitted) my paperwork directly from the district court, so it’s for real.

    Do you know if this means in the future you won’t be charged the extra “processing fee” on international transactions?

  2. It likely means that credit card companies have to clearly list out the foreign transaction fees in their statements. It’s still up to the card companies as to how high of a fee they want to charge for foreign transactions.

  3. I’m hoping for a big payday on this one. I’ve been living in Thailand for 5 years and used my credit card a lot – lots of 3% surcharges that I have been detailing my purchases to file for option 3.

  4. I received and submitted my paperwork as well. The instructions aren’t as clear as they should be regarding which option is best. But I’m going for option 1.

  5. I received mine as well. A friend received two – with different claim numbers. In the time period I was probably out of the country about 5 weeks, which puts me into class 2, but they don’t spell out how class 2 will be reimbursed. I’ve not yet decided if I want to risk the larger amount, or just take the easy $25…

  6. My husband and I each received one of these forms and since we both travelled overseas and used credit cards during the ten year time frame we used our old passports to try and figure the correct approach. I don’t know how the law firm handling this got our names – is it from the credit card companies? How long do you think it will take to process. You reply would be favored. Thanks.

  7. Addendum to my previous comments.

    We opted for the Total Estimation Refund and we did not have to give any credit card information whatsoever, no S.S. number and the form was perfectly addressed to us and very official looking. We filed online and the form was identical to the one mailed.

  8. I plan to opt-out of the lawsuit. $25 for me and $25 million for the lawyers? I think not. I’ll opt-out so they only get 24.9995 million. Plus I’m sure the paperwork they’ll need to do to exclude me from the class is worth more than $25.

  9. my paperwork also arrived the otherday and I filed online. I vaguely remember signing up for this a long time ago. MMB pays again! I love this site. I’m also only in the $25 easy file, but I guess thats still about 3% of my total charges. Good luch geomark.

  10. I’m in Option B. I know I used my card fairly often but not enough to back track through 10 years of multiple Visa/MC statements. I wonder if there will be some type of punitive steps from the Feds as well although I think this settlement has that great phrase, “We admit no wrong doing BUT” we will agree to pay 330MM. Since I was out of the country about 2-3 months every year I figure that the estimated usage has to be greater than the $25.

    Will this payout be considered income?

    By the way, looking at the fine print the law firms handling the class action are looking for 27.5% (> 100MM) as well as 5MM for their expenses I believe. Excessive?

  11. Option 2 is recommended if you traveled outside the U. S. for more than one week OR had foreign transactions of more than $2,500. I have traveled for more than one week and spent less than $2,500 for sure. From the rules, I should be eligible to claim this option, however, how much I can get is not clear, any suggestions? Thanks.

  12. sillycat – from reading the materials, based on the type of travel that you were doing, the lawyers have a formula of the “expected costs per day” outside the country. Because they explicitly say to choose option 2 for >7 days outside of the country, or >$2500 in purchases, I would assume that means that the average per day that they are assuming is about $350.

    So, let’s say you were out of the country for 20 days. $350 * 20 *1% = $70. That means that you should expect something on the order of a $70 refund check (most likely more if you had said it was for business, probably quite a bit less if you were staying with family, probably about that if it was for pleasure/other).

    If you actually have all of your receipts for when you were outside of the country, you may do better with option #3, but since I travel very frugally, I am sure that I would be better off with 1% of their estimated spending per day verses 1-3% of my actual spending.

    One thing I forgot when filling out the form – Canada counts as well. So, make sure that you get an accurate count of the number of days outside the country!

  13. I’m in the same boat as sillycat. I’m afraid to take option 2 and get less than $25, but I spent about a month overseas.

  14. The forms I got the other day clearly state that no one will receive less that the ‘Easy’ option payment of $25. If you haven’t filed yet and have less than $2500 in applicable charges, it seems like you’re best with the Easy option just for convenience. They state that the settlement terms should be 1% of foreign transactions – I’m not sure why they list time specifications at all, since it doesn’t figure in to the formula. Maybe they just estimate that more than a week = more than $2500?

  15. Actually I only spent $64 in a single transaction on a US credit card…..Choosing option 2 will not give me more than $25 I believe. Therefore, I will go with option 1. Mike H, what is your plan?

  16. My wife and I spent a year abroad when we were in college (covered in the duration of this lawsuit). I opened up a local checking account as soon as I arrived, wiring over all of my funds needed for the year. At the time a dollar bought 1.14 Euros. When the year was up I had about 1500 euros left, which I exchanged back at the rate of 1 USD = 1.38 Eur. In other words, I got lucky and made a little money shorting the dollar.

    My wife kept her domestic banking setup and simply used her ATM card to withdraw cash abroad. She would always take out the maximum (300 or 400 Eur), and that would get her by for a couple weeks. In other words, she lost money on debit card fees and exchange rate spreads. But last night, she filed her paperwork for Option 2, so we’ll see if that (eventually) brings it back close to even.

  17. Err, other way around on the dollar/Euro exchange rate. Financial mathematics dyslexia is so cruel.

  18. I just got mine in the mail yesterday.

    I spent a year overseas (and used more than 2.5k) and typically had about 2-3 weeks each year traveling overseas the other years. However, I didn’t really use my credit card much just so I would avoid these kinds of transaction fees, so I . Hmmm…

    Aww, heck, I think I’ll just do Option 2 and see what happens. 🙂

  19. I submitted my transaction amount in february as $904. Now that I read more closely, I see I can include my ATM charges, which were much greater than strictly Credit Card Purchases. operating under that assumption I filed for easy refund, but now I realize I could get much more in category 2. D’oh. Now I will try to refile. Don’t know if they will let me.

  20. Hmmm…. I’m living in Canada and made a bunch of purchases in USD over the last few years… does anyone know if there is something similar happening this side of the border?

  21. Gates VP,

    You already have your rebates!! Think how much it used to cost you to buy stuff in the US just few years ago.

  22. What if you only used those 0% foreign fee cards? Capital One is still fee free, and MBNA was fee free prior to being acquired by BofA.

  23. Does anyone know of a credit card with no foreign transaction fees?

  24. Well…I submitted my estimate on line. 305 days abroad in ten years…holy crap! That’s almost a full year out of the country! I know I spent loads overseas and in Canada (upwards of $50 to $75k in biz and pers). I wonder if I’ll get more than the $25. I remember getting especially nailed on some international transactions in Barbados…and complaining about them…then canceling the cards.

  25. SavingEverything says

    I found it odd that the Settlement Forms were sent “Presorted Standard/ US Postage Paid” and underneath that, it had 3 names like “Smith-x-x”. The USPS treats this type of mail like 3rd class; and it does not get forwarded.

  26. Be aware that on Option 3 there is a vague threat to audit you if they see fit, which is not stated as a possibility for Options 1 or 2.

    Also, in the fine print they state that “if there is higher than anticipated demand for this rebate, we will pro-rate the refund based on remaining funds”, or something like that. Meaning, if I were doing Options 2 or 3, which would possibly delay processing compared to Option 1. I’m envisioning a refund mechanism where Option 1 people are on the “fast track”, as it were (I’m envisioning something like the first class security line at the airport) would likely get the full $25 FIRST — and then they take a closer look at the 2&3 people, but it’s now on a smaller pool of money and then make the refund proportional to the remaining funds.

    In other words, I am not going to risk audits/get greedy when I can’t see the math involved, and don’t want to take the risk of trusting their math to calculate my refund when the clock is ticking and the pool of refund money may be decreasing…

  27. Great, I’m not the only one!

    I’ll probably take option one, as I’m not sure I’m willing to devote the time to track down how much I actually spent, or dig up all the credit card statements…


  28. I got one of these forms in the mail but I am not sure if I had any foreign transactions in that time period and if I did, which credit card I used. (It would have been from online shopping or buying stuff from Canada most likely.)

    Is it risky to fill out a claim form if you’re not sure you’re in the class?

  29. I can’t find my for right now, but the way I read it you don’t even need to have made a foreign purchase to be eligible for the easy $25. Ill keep looking.

  30. “I you had, as of November 8, 2006, a Visa, Mastercard, or Diners Club card, you are a member of the Settlement Injunctive Class, and will benefit from the settlement even if you did not use your card to make a foreign transaction.”

  31. FYI: Visa and MC associations charge ALL of their US issuing banks/credit unions about 1% for foreign currency transactions and this is included in the conversion rate.

    If you take the time to read the fine print on the settlement, the potential refunds will vary based on the bank that issued because some banks charged additional surcharges during different periods. For example, Chase and Citi’s refund is up to 3%, HSBC 1 to 2%, etc. Everyone else is 1%, presumably, the association fee.

    Certain reward cards like the Chase Mileage Plus Visa have a different refund rate. This is why it’s important to include your account number whenever possible, so that the claims administrator can calculate your refund based on which card you have.

    I will choose option 3. I recently asked Citi for statements on a closed account which I used when I lived overseas and they could not help me. However, I do have the account number, so I will provide this along with an estimate of my spending.

    If you have a Platinum MC or Visa card, you should have received annual spending summaries. For Chase and Citi you can access old statements online.

    Don’t hesitate to call your bank and ask and mention the lawsuit. If they are clueless like the one Citi rep in Hagerstown, Maryland I spoke with, then hang up and try another rep who knows.

  32. We were charged the 3% when we withdrew money from a visa brand debit card via ATM in a foreign country, and $3 ATM fee for each transaction on top of that! We used to use the debit card from another bank and it only costs us $1.50 to do a similar transaction!
    The bank clerk told us it’s $2 ATM fee and no other fee when we asked specifically what fees will be involved. I wonder is there any hope of getting a refund by filing a complaint with the bank?

  33. Sorry, anyone who did not charge (or does not, conveniently, remember charging, as mentioned above) any amounts in international transactions to their cards are not eligible to file a claim for refunds:

    “If you held a Visa-, MasterCard- or Diners Club-branded credit, charge or debit/ATM card issued in the United States as of November 8, 2006, you are a member of the Settlement Injunctive Class. If you are not also a member of the Settlement Damages Class, you may not ask for a refund or request to be excluded from the settlement. You may, however, object to the settlement.”

  34. … “Those persons who made a foreign transaction on at least one of those cards between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 are members of the Settlement Damages Class. Only members of the Settlement Damages Class may seek refunds by submitting a claim.”

  35. Thanks for clearing that up, Prashant. Saved me some time looking up the details and fine print again 🙂

  36. Oops. The sentence following the one I quoted explains “the lawsuit asks for money damages and restitution for the Settlement Damages Class, and injunctive relief for the Settlement Injunctive Class.” I still don’t see anything as obvious as “only members of the Settlement Damages Class may seek refunds by submitting a claim? in my letter, but I should have caught it anyway.

  37. Gavin Peters says

    It turns out I’m a member of the settelement class (I made a foreign transaction on a US card during the time period), and I spent a lot of time abroad. In fact, during the ten year period in question, I lived in a foreign country a little over six years, totalling just over 2600days.

    Naturally, I filed using option 2, for a refund based on my total time abroad. I look forward to seeing the cheque! I kept copies of records that prove my foreign residence in case they ask….

  38. Has anyone actually ever received a settlement claim? I’ve gotten these “settlement claims” for a number of various things and I’ve never seen a dime from these solicitations.

  39. I remember receiving a check recently for the Microsoft software settlement. I think it took like 2-3 years to finally pay out. The main people who get rich in this case are the lawyers 🙁

  40. Appears to be a fraud site .. aimed at getting peopl’s details..and defraud them with this identity theft

  41. I loved this part (as from the Settlement website…)

    “When will I get my refund?(top)”

    Refunds will be paid after the Court finally approves the settlement, and approves any award of attorneys’ fees, awards to the class representatives, and allocation of the settlement fund among Settlement Damages Class members, and any appeals related to that approval are resolved. It is possible that this could take several months, or, if appeals are filed, several years. You may want to check this website from time to time for updates.

    So check back later, folks. In … several years….

  42. I’ve taken one to three foreign trips per year during the years the settlement covers. But I don’t have records or old credit card numbers. If I elect category 2 claim, do I average the yearly amount spent? One year I might have spent 2K on vacation charges, a few years later, it might have been 8K.

  43. A.Y. Grant says

    After filing via email,anyone else receive an email declaring the amount you are entitled to? I did….$99.23 but am suspicious that it may be a phishing/phony IRS email. It referred me to a link for a form that must be filled (link was “non-existant) to collect check. Where do we get the latest info on this settlement?

  44. I did option #3 – we lived overseas for 9 1/2 years and used our credit card the whole time. I sent in very detailed information on the forms via return receipt / certified mail. Does anyone have any idea when we will see our rebates?


  45. Same here…..I lived in Mexico for 13 years and am curious as to what reimbursement, IF ANY, will be. Believe me, the lawyers will get a huge amount. We will get a pittance.

  46. Still have not hearad from anyone since I submitted my claim. Most of us will have died before this will ever be settled (if any of the credit card companies are still in business).

  47. You will probably be as shocked about this news as I was when I opened my mail…

    I got a check!!!! An over $200 check! Happy Holidays to me 🙂

  48. Not so happy. I expected a few hundred dollars since I had 171 days out of the country. All I got was the minimum $18 check!
    What do I do now? appeal?

  49. TO:Ian P
    See my blog above dated Sept 22, 2008. I received $51.38 after living out of the country 13 years. YEP, big disappointment, Ian P.

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