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Travel Abroad? Get Back Some Money

Credit card companies depend on the fees you pay to boost their income. But now foreign travelers can turn the tables on those companies and get some of those fees back.

The fees you pay
If you've ever traveled abroad, you've probably paid currency conversion fees on your credit card bill. There are two separate fees, even though most cards list them together. Visa and MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) typically charge a 1% fee on international transactions. The banks that issue these cards, such as Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , often add on their own fees, which can total up to 3%.

A class-action lawsuit alleged that these companies engaged in an illegal conspiracy to set and hide these fees. The result of the suit was a settlement that could get you some money back if you've paid currency-conversion fees while traveling in a foreign country between 1996 and 2006.

What you can get
As with many class-action settlements, you have several options in making a claim. The simplest option offers you a $25 payout, regardless of how little time or money you spent abroad. This may be your best bet if you spent less than $2,500 over the 10-year period covered by the settlement.

If you spent more than that, however, you have two other options that could get you a bigger refund. If you can document exactly how much you spent each year and on what credit cards, you may be able to get as much as 3% of what you spent back through the settlement. The terms of the settlement require credit card companies to give you access to past statements to verify the amount of foreign transactions.

A third option merely requires you to determine how many days you spent abroad from 1996 and 2006. The settlement administrators will then apply a formula to determine how much money you get back.

Get your share
Many people criticize class-action lawsuits because ordinary people get relatively little compared to the fees paid to the lawyers and other professionals involved. This settlement is no different; the attorneys for the plaintiffs intend to request more than $86 million in fees from the court.

On the other hand, it's likely that if these lawyers hadn't filed suit, you wouldn't have gotten anything back from your credit card company. From your perspective, there's no reason not to claim your share of the settlement. Even if it's only $25, wouldn't you rather have it, instead of letting a bank like HSBC (NYSE: HBC  ) and the other defendants involved keep it?

You can get more information and even file your claim electronically at

Getting some hard-earned money back from credit card companies is good news for travelers. Just by taking a few minutes to complete a form, you can claim the rebate you deserve.

For more on managing credit cards, read about:

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