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How to tell if firms process card payments overseas?

Last month, I made a purchase online at the Groupon Singapore website using a Citibank Visa credit card.

I received the product and was satisfied with the overall experience. However, when I received my credit card bill a month later, I was shocked to find that a hefty 8 per cent currency conversion fee was levied.

I am aware of the existence, purpose and function of this fee. Therefore, when I made my purchase, I carefully ensured that my payment was made in Singapore dollars.

I called Citibank to protest against this charge, explaining that the Groupon Singapore website was entirely local in content and all charges were in Singapore dollars, without any option to elect a foreign currency.

The bank replied that Groupon had chosen to process my payment overseas. Hence, the fee was charged.

After I further protested that I had no way of knowing or avoiding this at the time of purchase, it agreed to waive the charge but warned that future transactions with any company processing payments overseas would incur such a fee.

It added that transactions with Uber in Singapore, for example, would incur this charge if the payment is processed overseas.

Since then, I find myself hesitant to transact on any websites and apps, for fear of incurring this whopping 8 per cent charge.

In an age when online shopping is fast becoming the norm, how can consumers know whether the local branch of an international company, or even a local company, processes its payment overseas?

Victor Wee Hsiao Ming

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'How to tell if firms process card payments overseas?'. Print Edition | Subscribe