May 05, 2008

Free money for globetrotters: Get yours! May 30 deadline

I'm getting some free money.

If you're an American who traveled abroad between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 and used Diners Club, MasterCard or Visa, debit or credit, you've got free money coming, too.

But claim it fast: the deadline is May 30.

A class-action suit -- the Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation to be exact -- claims credit card companies and a few big banks took more foreign transaction fees from travelers than they should have. The card issuers and banks deny the charge but settled anyway, so there's a potful of money waiting to be distributed to us plastic-packing globetrotters.

Find details and claim forms at .

You can claim your refund in one of three ways:

1. Take a flat $25. This is the route that folks who spent a week or so abroad will likely choose.
2. Estimate the number of days you spent abroad between 1996 and 2006 and let the settlement administrator determine your refund, which will be based on 1% of the estimated transaction activity for the number of days you spent out of the country. I picked this option.
3. If you can produce actual financial records, get a 3% refund on your transactions.

When I travel, I keep a detailed journal, so I didn't have to estimate the number of days I spent abroad: I just pulled out all my journals and counted the length of each trip. Result: 206 days.

Here's where I went during the decade of alleged fee-gouging:

Germany: 11 days
Malta: 8 days
Alberta, Canada: 9 days
Portugal: 11 days
Cornwall, England and Brittany, France: 18 days
Scotland and Iceland: 11 days
Greece: 18 days
Belgium and Kenya: 16 days
Turkey: 11 days
Belize and Guatemala: 7 days
Jamaica: 8 days
Jordan: 10 days
China: 9 days
Italy and Switzerland: 19 days
France and Switzerland: 15 days
Argentina, Brazil and Chile: 17 days
Russia: 8 days

This could be bigger than Bush's economic stimulus check...