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Is Capital One’s Currency Exchange Accurate?

In the last few weeks I’ve had a good conversation with Mark in the comments of this foreign transaction fee post [3]. Mark wanted me to confirm that Capital One was not hiding a fee within the currency exchange rates it was using. Several years ago, there was a lawsuit and subsequent settlement [4] over this very issue. Credit cards were assessing a fee for currency exchange and not disclosing it on statements. Since then, credit card issuers are required to disclose this fee and many itemize it out.

However, as responsible consumers we can’t just take their word for it! Trust, but verify. 🙂

The quoted rates in the analysis below are taken from this page on USD/GBP currency exchange rates [5]. The rate listed is the number of GBP (British pounds) that can be purchased with one USD (US dollar).

Capital One is one of the only credit card companies that lists the exchange rate right on the statement. It’s not available on the online statement but if you view your paper statement, or the downloadable PDF, after your cycle closes, the rate will be listed.

The tricky part is that the transaction shows when the transaction was posted, not when it actually happened. The exchange rate is for when the transaction occurred, not when it was posted. I had to remember when certain transactions happened to match up the rates. Fortunately it was only a little while ago, and we’ve been writing about our recent trip on Wanderlust Journey [6], so it was easy to remember.

Here’s how a bunch of transactions compared to the stated exchange rate on the site:

Date Exchange Rate Capital One Rate Difference
19 July 09 0.61216 0.614203455 0.002
20 July 09 0.60485 0.607533414 0.0027
21 July 09 0.60861 0.610128127 0.0015
21 July 09 0.60861 0.610154718 0.0015
21 July 09 0.60861 0.610221205 0.0016

In each case, the rate was within 0.5% of the listed exchange rate on Mark’s referenced website.

Based on just a very small sample size, it appears that Capital One’s rates are fairly accurate.

What do you think?