Subject: Fees and charges

If the insurance thing isn't enough for you, Hertz has yet another trick. "Dynamic Conversion."

In 2004, we rented from Hertz in Bologna via AutoEurope. When we turned in the car, we were presented a charge slip for the extras. In $US instead of Euros.

We asked the clerk to re-run the charge, this time in Euros. He claimed that he could not, because that was the way that Hertz did business. I persisted and miraculously, the clerk suddenly was stricken with inability to speak or understand English.

Once back home, we determined that Hertz's Euro to $US conversion premium was about twelve percent in contrast to the one percent that PLUS (it was a VISA card) would have charged to do the translation at wholesale rates. We protested to our bank and to AutoEurope and to Hertz to no avail. "That's the way Hertz does business," our bank concluded.

And then there are the "transaction charges."

The bank, AmSouth, sold it credit card business to MBNA and our first disclosure from MBNA thanked us for our business by assuring us that they would be adding a three percent "transaction" fee (in addition to the normal PLUS/Cirrus one percent conversion agio) to any non-US charges. A month later, AmSouth told us that they too would be adding a three-percent "transaction charge" to any non-US ATM or Debit Card draws. I asked the bank. "Well, it is for your convenience!" But what are you doing extra to earn it? [No response]

Meanwhile, I'm treasurer of a non-profit and stopped by the small local bank where we have our group's deposit account. The branch manager paused me in mid-rant and invited me to consider her bank's offerings.

"Our no-fee VISA doesn't charge anything on non-US transactions beyond the normal PLUS one percent conversion fee. Our no-fee ATM card works on any Cirrus machine here or anywhere in the world. We don't have many ATMs, so if you use someone else's ATM here or anywhere else, we'll absorb all fees including the Cirrus conversion charge on foreign currency transactions. And if the other bank charges you an ATM access fee, we'll absorb that too."

Being age 19 (Celsius), I also qualified for free, no minimum balance interest-bearing checking with free checks and monthly statements with check images printed on them (everyone truncates nowadays) and overdraft protection in case I do something stupid.

Christmas in April.

Dynamic conversion, I have no answer for, except to dig in one's heels.

But to escape the Creeping Greed, shop your hometown banks and credit unions.

Jerry in E Tennessee, USA