If you’re an Airbnb user, chances are that you’ve probably booked a room in another country at some point.
If you’ve done that in the last six months or so, you probably paid more without even realising it.
Airbnb has started charging a 3% currency conversion fee — and won’t give you the option of paying your host in their local currency.
Even if your credit card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, Airbnb will do the conversion and charge it back to you anyway.
Airbnb users have spotted the fee and aren’t too happy about it.
A Reddit user commented this week: “I had to stay in an Airbnb in Asia for 3 months … and this policy absolutely fucked me over. All said and done, I probably paid $US150 in fees that I absolutely did not need to pay. I could have used my credit card and gotten a 0% fee.”
They added: “It’s absolute bullshit and nothing more than an extra ‘hidden fee’ [that Airbnb] is pocketing.”
Over on Airbnb’s own forums, another user wrote: “This is dumb and inefficient – even worse, they pass this inefficiency off on me. Give customers the option to pay in the currency of their choosing.”
Airbnb didn’t respond to a request for comment, but its help pages briefly cover the conversion fee, and makes it pretty clear you don’t have much choice.
Airbnb states that the currency you pay in is determined by your payment method, and sometimes your country. “It’s not possible to manually choose what currency you’ll use to pay.”
According to the commentors, Airbnb did once allow you to pay in the local currency, but stopped some time in the last year.
Here’s an example of the problem:
Business Insider looked at a room listed in Airbnb Germany while logged out of the platform.
This is the rate we got for one night in the room:
The total here is €86.
On its help page, Airbnb says it uses a service called OANDA to determine an exchange rate. According to OANDA’s rates, £1.00 is €1.16. That means €86 should be around £74. And that’s the price Airbnb will show you in sterling, if you’re logged out.
But when you log in as a British user, Airbnb suddenly jacks up the price to £77, £3 more expensive than what you might expect from the exchange rate. Add this up across your Airbnb bookings over time, and you might have paid a lot of money without even knowing it.
It isn’t particularly clear how Airbnb’s maths works here but if its help page is anything to go by, it’s a combination of an out-of-date exchange rate, the 3% conversion fee, and the fact it converts its own €11 service fee to £11.
There’s no indication that Airbnb is actually doing anything illegal either, it’s just a terrible experience for customers.
As several users pointed out, you might reasonably expect your payment provider to convert currency for you, and probably at a better rate, but not Airbnb.
According to the help page, Airbnb takes the 3% fee to account for its foreign exchange risks.
Translated, this means Airbnb shows you a fixed price for a room, but you don’t pay for it until you stay there. Currency rates may have changed in that time, and Airbnb is passing that risk to you by charging you a fee.
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