MAGDA WIERZYCKA: Rein in hidden fees for foreign-exchange purchases
Banks fail to disclose and are not obligated to reveal the percentage they charge when we swipe overseas or purchase imported items online
Having decided to open an office in London, I am travelling overseas more than ever before. And hence my latest hobby-horse has become the charges built into foreign-currency exchange transactions by the banking industry. For most people who do not have an offshore bank account, travelling overseas and paying for everything with an SA credit card is convenient. From hotels to restaurants, we spend without giving it much thought beyond doing the basic maths of multiplying the prices by about 14 when in the US and 18 when in the UK. Some people are more rigorous. They check the exchange rate by Googling it and use their mobile calculator to work out the price using the live exchange rate displayed. But that is where it stops. We complain about the price of that cup of coffee, but only once we are already drinking it. Some South Africans, mostly those who still believe they will need to flee the country with a suitcase, and hence religiously hoard money offshore using their foreign-exc...