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Old 10-17-2013
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Re: Going to BVI! Bring cash?

There's no doubt banks are adept at making profits, which is what they are after all chartered to do. Onceuponatime there were "banks" and "savings & loans" and the two ran differently, but that difference was abolished decades ago.
Some of the credit card companies like Amex*, will ding the merchant for 3% and a 30-day float on their funds, and between those two profits they can make enough to fully absorb any currency conversion fee. Or, they may have a system set up where they can internally transfer funds and do that for "zero" real effective cost.
I don't ask how the magic works, and I wouldn't sleep with any of them, but sometimes, some rare times, if you are careful about it you can get a much better deal with one than with another. Last time I used Amex, instead of paying a merchant with discounted dollars, there were zero fees charged to me, and the exchange I was given was the official government rate. Sure, you can often do 10-15% better than that--but not without chasing down a black market and worrying about other problems.

*Amex now issues some credit cards, but they used to be adamant about the fact that a full Amex card was not and is not a credit card, it was due and payable in full every time.
Sometimes, they count on customers coming onboard because of a special, and like grocery stores they DO run loss-leaders. The trick is, buy the loss leader and don't fall for the traps.
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