Does anyone have experience of whether gift cards are easier to use abroad than in the past? I had a terrible experience using them in Canada, the only time I've used one. They tried to charge me the hotel's exchange rate instead of the real currency rates, and it took over a half hour at the front desk to sort things out. I'd love to buy these cards, but I want to make sure that I don't get really dinged on currency exchanges.
I planned on using my gift card this past June (2012) in Paris. The currency exchange rate at the time was $1.25/€1, but the posted exchange rate at the hotel front desk was $1.55/€1. I asked if that was the exchange rate I would receive if I used my gift card, and she told me yes. This did make sense to me as the gift card is loaded with USD's, not euros. I did get the impression that they were fully competent in processing gift card payments, but I chose not to use it because of the terrible exchange rate. I don't know if that has changed in the past 6 months. I would imagine not.
P.S. This was at an actual Marriott property, not a AC or autograph collection property.
Yes it is, and I did not know this when I purchased my gift card (with the intent to use in Europe). I really couldn't afford the gift card purchase plus then having to put my stay on the credit card (I refused to use the gift card on principle!). Live and learn. And help someone else to not make the same mistake!
That is not the way gift cards are currently handled internationally. Since the gift cards are now processed through the GIVEX system you receive the bank rate of exchange with no currency conversion charge. The only proviso is that the hotel is set up in the system, is a participating property (whatever that is) and knows how to complete the transaction (YMMV). Hotels are set up in the system in usually whatever currency the hotel uses (there are exceptions where rates are quoted in dollars or euros). When the system works it is really a great improvement and provides a fair rate of exchange.
My experience was June 2012 at an MVCI in France.
That's a lot of proviso's. Perhaps in the future when considering using a Marriott gift card overseas, I'll email the hotel in advance and ask them if all of the proviso's you've mentioned can be met. It sounds like it'd be great if it could be counted to work as you described.
Thanks for the information.
I do recall profchiara expressing concerns about using the gift cards ex-US.
Seems to me it was over exchange rates, but perhaps she will add her experiences as well to this thread.
My problem happened in Toronto a few years ago, when I used a card I had bought expressly for the purpose. Even with no language barriers, it took half an hour before they got authorization to use the actual exchange rate rather than their posted commission rate. Unless the system becomes more streamlined for international use, I wouldn't even consider one for a country where I don't speak the language well.
Good one, Chris! Considering it took me a half hour in Toronto, if nothing has changed that would probably based on language skills and different cultures, mean an hour in France and and hour and a half in Italy. Alas, I almost only travel to one conference a year in the US, and the rest of the time I travel abroad, so there is no real use to me unless there is a chip mechanism or something that can access the current exchange rate. Otherwise, it's a big loss.