Sainsbury’s ATM machine said free to use, but charged me

I’m an American who recently arrived in London. Strolling in my neighbourhood I saw a Sainsbury’s store with an ATM outside. It advertised free withdrawals. I inserted my American ATM card and it immediately offered to do a “conversion” for me. Being a veteran traveller I know never to accept such conversions. I chose the option not to convert. Yet when I got my receipt it said I’d opted for the conversion (which I distinctly declined). It also charged me a 7% transaction fee. Of course there’s nothing I can do about the fee, but the conversion was done against my express instructions. TK, Minneapolis

Your case highlights the pitfalls of dynamic currency conversion – which is yet another way for banks, airlines and retailers to try to overcharge consumers – and the problems of using foreign cards abroad.

Sainsbury’s Bank says all charges and exchange rates are clearly shown on the screen. Customers are given the opportunity to decline. This is in line with Visa/Mastercard rules. It double-checked its records and insists that you chose to continue the transaction with the conversion.

A spokesperson said: “When a customer uses a Sainsbury’s Bank ATM to withdraw currency the conversion rate is shown on the screen. Customers then have the choice of declining or continuing their transaction. Having investigated, we can confirm that the customer chose to continue on this occasion.”

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