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May 31, 2007

Increased Visa charges leave credit card holders hurting

And while some lucky ScotiaBank customers were feeling good about their winnings, all those Belizeans holding locally issued international Visa cards are feeling just the opposite. It seems that without much fanfare beginning a few months ago, VISA slapped a new one percent charge on all purchases made with its cards. The interesting part is that if you look at your monthly statement, the charge is not shown; it is simply added to the stated cost of whatever you purchased abroad. For example, if you went to Miami and bought a new dress for a hundred dollars, you would submit your Visa card and the receipt would say one hundred U.S. dollars. When you returned to Belize and received your bill, however, it would show your purchase as, not a hundred dollars, but a hundred and one dollars. And that’s just the beginning of your troubles. When you go to pay the bill at, let’s say the Belize Bank, you convert the U.S. to Belize dollars at the two point zero-one-seven-five exchange rate, you add the government exchange tax of one point two-five cents per U.S. dollar, and then pay an additional one percent fee that the private bank collects on behalf of the Central Bank. When it’s all over, that hundred U.S. dollar dress winds up costing you over two hundred and eight Belize dollars … and that’s if you pay your bill on time. To use the credit that the card offers you’ll pay an additional two percent interest per month; that’s a punishing annual rate of twenty-four percent … and don’t forget the annual fee. If viewers are wondering what to do, you can check your bank to confirm these charges and perhaps negotiate a better deal. Otherwise, we also understand that MasterCard fees are significantly lower and may vary between the different banks in Belize.

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