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Old 02-02-2010, 07:19 AM   #1
Twonk
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UK book prices - total cost

Hello All,

I bought a kindle 2 a couple of weeks ago, and am quite pleased with the device. In this time, I've bought a single book from Amazon.com
While checking a bank statement today I noticed that when buying in dollars, the bank (Natwest) also make two charges; one for £1.25, and another for £0.15, adding to the total cost of the book. So, the book that I bought, costing $8.62 on Amazon, totalled £6.74 (KINDLE BOOK, USD 8.62, RATE 1.6142, CHARGE 1.25, ERTF 0.15 ). I could have had the hardback delivered from Amazon UK for £5.35 - without the bank charges, the kindle version would have come out a penny cheaper.
I'm not blaming Amazon for the bank charges; it's something that I should have been aware of, before making a purchase with that card and so is my own fault.

The point of the post is to ask for advice from other UK users - is there a way around the bank charges? - Do you use credit cards, or gift certificates or some other way to purchase content?

Thanks,
Andy
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:32 AM   #2
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Andy,

You've come up against a simple fact of financial life: When you deal in multiple currencies, you get screwed every which way.

As you've discovered, your bank makes a special charge just because the payer and payee currencies are different. You could avoid that by shopping around. With other banks, or other payment methods, you won't get that charge. But, then you'd get caught by the markup on the exchange rate, or a commission charge on the foreign exchange, or some other ingenious method that a financial institution has devised to part you from your money.

Buying gift vouchers won't help much, as you'd still have to go through the currency exchange at the time of purchase of the card. (But, if your bank charges include a per-transaction element, then there would be an advantage in buying one large gift card compared to several smaller book purchases.)

The only solution is to obtain your ebooks from a source that didn't involve currency exchange - but then you'd lose the benefits of direct shopping from your Kindle and instant delivery via wireless.

Of course, none of this is related to the price of ebooks vs paper books, or the fact that in the UK we pay VAT on ebooks but not on paper books. Those issues have been thrashed to death in other threads in the forum.
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Old 02-02-2010, 09:48 AM   #3
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NatWest have very high charges when it comes to currency exchange, although I haven’t tested this with Amazon the alternative is to get pre-pay $ card from likes of FairFx (as they charge no commission). You top up as much as you like in pounds from your UK account this money is then converted to dollars and loaded onto your pre-pay card, the card as far as the retailer is concerned is a normal US dollar Mastercard credit card and there are no extra hidden charges.
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Old 02-02-2010, 09:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris T View Post
.... likes of FairFx (as they charge no commission) ... there are no extra hidden charges.
Sorry, but that's not completely correct. The "hidden charge" lies on the loading of the exchange rate in their favour.

I'm not denigrating FairFx, but they won't necessarily work out any cheaper. After all, they're entitled to make a profit.

Last edited by Mike L; 02-03-2010 at 07:19 AM. Reason: I should have said "*not* completely correct"
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Old 02-02-2010, 10:07 AM   #5
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That is what I hate about buying cross currency. I hate those extra stupid transaction fees, conversion fee, take it in the rear fee...
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:29 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies folks. The FairFx card does appear to be a better option. Loading the card with £12.72 gives $20 to spend on the card - that's an xrate of 1.5725.

So, buying the book using the credit on that card would have meant the book had cost £5.48 - certainly better than £6.74. Conversely, buying an Amazon.com giftcard for $20 would cost £12.39( using natwest xrate) + £1.25(standard charge) + £0.34 (2.75% fee) = £13.98.
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twonk View Post
The point of the post is to ask for advice from other UK users - is there a way around the bank charges? - Do you use credit cards, or gift certificates or some other way to purchase content?
I'm not in the UK, but I've faced the same problem. My advice would be to check with your bank(s), check up on what charges you'll get hit with for what, and decide based on that. For myself, I end up paying a significantly lower fee for foreign exchange on my credit card than my debit card, so I use that for foreign currency buying.

If I plan ahead and buy a gift card to cover a number of purchases I only get hit with one processing fee, and the cost-per-transaction ends up being quite low.
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twonk View Post
Thanks for the replies folks. The FairFx card does appear to be a better option. Loading the card with £12.72 gives $20 to spend on the card - that's an xrate of 1.5725.

So, buying the book using the credit on that card would have meant the book had cost £5.48 - certainly better than £6.74. Conversely, buying an Amazon.com giftcard for $20 would cost £12.39( using natwest xrate) + £1.25(standard charge) + £0.34 (2.75% fee) = £13.98.
How does this compare to using PayPal ?
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Old 02-04-2010, 11:43 AM   #9
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I've heard that Capital One and at least one other CC company don't charge conversion fees (I know I've been hit with them when buying from AU or the EU, as I didn't have one of the magic cards). Paypal passed along the charge to the CC, which is where I was hit with the exchange fee. Don't know what they do if you have sufficient funds to cover a purchase (not that it helps with Amazon; unless you could use PP to buy Amazon gift cards and keep your account loaded that way).
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Old 02-28-2010, 03:42 AM   #10
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Hi,

I'm going to be in a similar position having just bought a Kindle. I thought that maybe you could use the Amazon Currency Converter to be automatically billed in GBP but it appears that this isn't available for digital products?

I'm going to get a Post Office credit card which doesn't charge a commission for overseas purchases. Check out the credit card / overseas spending section on the moneysupermarket site.

http://www.moneysupermarket.com/cred...seas-spending/
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Old 02-28-2010, 06:37 AM   #11
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I'm going to get a Post Office credit card which doesn't charge a commission for overseas purchases.
Sorry to labour the point, but just because they "don't charge a commission" it doesn't mean you are not paying them to convert the currency. Whether they call it a commission or whether the fee is covered by the exchange rate loading, they are still taking a cut.
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Old 02-28-2010, 06:41 AM   #12
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Sorry to labour the point, but just because they "don't charge a commission" it doesn't mean you are not paying them to convert the currency. Whether they call it a commission or whether the fee is covered by the exchange rate loading, they are still taking a cut.
Precisely. Currently exchange is a commercial transaction; you always "pay" for it, whether it be as an explicit charge, or as a poorer exchange rate. There ain't so such thing as a free lunch, as someone once wisely commented.
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Old 02-28-2010, 02:47 PM   #13
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Andy,

You've come up against a simple fact of financial life: When you deal in multiple currencies, you get screwed every which way.

As you've discovered, your bank makes a special charge just because the payer and payee currencies are different. You could avoid that by shopping around. With other banks, or other payment methods, you won't get that charge. But, then you'd get caught by the markup on the exchange rate, or a commission charge on the foreign exchange, or some other ingenious method that a financial institution has devised to part you from your money.

Buying gift vouchers won't help much, as you'd still have to go through the currency exchange at the time of purchase of the card. (But, if your bank charges include a per-transaction element, then there would be an advantage in buying one large gift card compared to several smaller book purchases.)

The only solution is to obtain your ebooks from a source that didn't involve currency exchange - but then you'd lose the benefits of direct shopping from your Kindle and instant delivery via wireless.

Of course, none of this is related to the price of ebooks vs paper books, or the fact that in the UK we pay VAT on ebooks but not on paper books. Those issues have been thrashed to death in other threads in the forum.
Well said
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:23 AM   #14
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Understood but it's also a question of how much you're paying a credit card company to convert the currency. I have a Nationwide credit card which doesn't charge a commission within Europe. When I've used it on holiday the exchange rate has been very comparable to other cards but it doesn't charge £1+ for every transaction. Pays to shop around.

When the Post Office card arrives I'll let you know how I get on.
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Old 07-27-2011, 09:58 AM   #15
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Twonk. Surely being based in Cmbridge UK you would buy the eBook from Amazon.co.uk which prices in Pounds not Dollars. Unless the title is not available on the UK site. In which case I would assume it was restricted for sale in the UK.
I received my Kindle last week and bought a book in GBP at the price advertised.
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