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Discussion Board

Currencies in On-line Store

We sell an e-Commerce solution that includes On-line Store and Shopping Cart.

One our customer just asked to allow the users to see prices in different currencies. Such users in Europe will select Euro, users in USA will select $US, in Canada $CA, in Japan Yens and so on, and see the price in their local currencies.

Our shopping solution provides the administrator with an interface to enter daily currency rates. The currency calculator may then automatically recalculate the prices based on the user selection of the currency.

But I have some questions.

1. Should the user be allowed to see prices in his/her currency in the Shopping Cart and Order History, or in the whole On-line Store, including Product Catalog?

2. Suppose the user in Europe will select Euro to see prices in Euro.
Should the on-line shop charge the user in $US or in Euro?

3. If the user will be charged in Euro, what happen if he/she doesn't have a bank account in Euro?

4. If the user will be charged in Euro, what happen if currency rates provided by the shop administrator differ from the rates in the user bank?

5. If it is so useful, why big on-line stores, like Amazon and Bookpool, do not provide prices in different currencies?

Waiting for your opinions. Thanks.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Sunday, September 7, 2003

FYI, Amazon has localized sites, where items are presented in the currency of the country, with usually the item in USD added:

Seems to me that, either via cookies or user profile (ie. login required), you should display items in the user's currency so that they aren't required to click on a button to get prices in the currency they're used to.

If the site operates in the US, you should tell the user that the company that provides their credit card (Visa, etc.) and their own bank will charge... a certain amount for the transaction, which should be added in addition to delivery charges and possibly VAT (right now, I doubt any US-based online store bothers adding VAT and sending the money to the user's gov't ... )

Frederic Faure
Sunday, September 7, 2003

Amazon, for one, operates a separate store in Canada.  The orders are sourced from a Canadian warehouse; the whole thing is sub-contracted to Assured Logistics.  (Very good service BTW; I ordered a book on Monday and had it in my hands by Thursday.)

What's more important than currencies is:
- Do you even ship to Canada?  (Some don't.  And they tell you this only halfway through placing an order.)
- What's the shipping rate? (For a $60 item, it's $10 U.S or $30 to Canada.  Bzzt!)
- What customs duties apply?

I can easily convert US$ to CAD$; the real concerns when I order from the U.S. are shipping and customs fees.  PST and GST are obvious, but some items carry an 18.5% duty, which makes the effective GST+PST+duty tax a whopping 38.5%!!!

There are vendors ( who specialize in software to automate all of this. is a useful model.  You indicate where you live, and it searches 20+ online bookstores for your book and tells you how much it costs at each one - AFTER exchange and shipping!

Bottom line: get it right, or don't bother.

David Jones
Sunday, September 7, 2003

I wouldn't worry about currency conversions. If the prices are in US dollars or Pounds any web surfers from other countries will be aware of the exchange difference. Most credit card merchant accounts can only debit in the local currency anyway.

Matthew Lock
Sunday, September 7, 2003

The problems with shipping to Canada really only applies to books, since Canada censors them and they need to clear customs (which is sometimes quick, but sometimes can take up to a couple months). That's why most publishers just don't bother... but for other products I don't think unique restrictions apply any more than all the other country quirks.

Ronnie L
Sunday, September 7, 2003

"Censors them"?

Frederic Faure
Sunday, September 7, 2003

canada is similar to NZ with censorship policy.

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Yes, for both fiction and non-fiction if they look like they might contain violence, obscenity, racism or criticism of government (more like sedition than regular criticism) and I think one other topic, they need to be checked against the banned list, which is hundreds of pages long. It's supposed to be an electronic check, but inexplicably some take a month or two to clear. Maybe it's for just new books that need to be reviewed and cleared manually ?

I did ordering software two jobs ago for a online bookseller (not amazon) and there was an electronic list we got regularly from Canadian customs to check against and flag, but for whatever reason that wasn't effective because some orders would get held up and people would demand refunds or get chargebacks on their cards, then a month later the order would show up and they'd end up getting it for free.

Ronnie L
Sunday, September 7, 2003

And I thought Saudi was bad!

¡Y Viva España!

Stephen Jones
Sunday, September 7, 2003

So when Canadians order paperback novels, do they open up the package and find the pages are all curled back like somebody's already read it, and sections have been blacked out with a marker? Do they think WTF? Or just read it anyway and make up words to fill in the blanks?

Grayne Wetsky
Sunday, September 7, 2003

First, don't make the users enter in a daiy exchange rate. Grab it from a web service somewhere automatically. You can give them an option to tweak it if they want to, but daily manual intervention on somthign like that is crazy.

Second, a company can charge in any currency to a credit card and the service automatically processes it into the currency of the user's account. So, if your users are in the US with US accuonts, they charge in dollars, and the customer's credit card statement will show a charge in dollars and the euro conversion of it.


Sunday, September 7, 2003

One extra thought... make sure that the currency conversion figures are accurate (equivalent to what the user's credit-card company will actually apply) and be up front with how the currency conversion is calculated.

I bought a few computer games from a while back.  It's claim to fame was that it was located in Canada, so supposedly it was cheaper for US customers than comparable US stores.  The site actually charged credit cards in Canadian dollars, but also displayed the supposed US equivalent price for each item.

After my purchases, I discovered that the actual charges to my credit card were always a dollar or two higher than the advertised price.  When I checked the fine print on the web site, I discovered that they were fudging the conversion prices by using an unrealistically favorable conversion rate -- one that credit card companies would never use -- and rounding the "estimated US price" downward.  It seemed pretty fraudulent.  (Thankfully the company's no longer in business.)

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, September 7, 2003

Shouldn't the credit card companies have a webservice or cgi that you can pull *their* conversion rate from? Seems the safest way to go...


Sunday, September 7, 2003

Remember also that credit card transactions apply the rate of the day (their rate) on the day of clearing which is unlikely to be the day the transaction happened.

So its worthwhile having some kind of disclaimer on any currency conversion you do.  For this reason alone I wouldn't show prices in anything other than the 'local' currency for the seller.

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 8, 2003

That's the main point!

I don't want to say the user that price in his/her currency is NOT what he/she will actually pay. That may make ugly impression... So I think to reject the multi-currency request of my customer.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Monday, September 8, 2003

It doesn't matter whether the cardholders account is maintained in Dollars, Euros, Pounds or whatnot. As a cardholder you can use your creditcard to pay in any currency.

Your merchant's account may be another matter. You may be able to process several different currencies, you may only be able to accept your local currency. It depends on who's processing your cards in the backend.

If you are able to accept multiple currencies, don't expect to be able to obtain an exact exchange rate from the credit card companies, because, unless you're REALLY big, there'll be a number of intermediaries between you and the cc-networks. So you won't know the exact way the currency exchange is being calculated anyway, transaction time, settlement time, is some intermidary calculating exchange rates ... ? In other words, you won't know how much money you'll be getting until it's on your account.

Unless you're really big, you could just try the following: grab relatively recent exchange rates from your bank, for example. Use those rates to provide foreign customers informational messages, along the lines of: "This product/order will cost you $so-and-so. That is about this-and-that in your local currency. Note the you might have to pay customs fees ... blabla".

That way, you'll know exactly how much money you get for each order. The customer has no way to know exactly how much he'll be spending anyway, because of all the other assorted fees. Apart from customs, the cardholder might also have to pay special fees for using his/her card outside the country. Still, using credit cards is one of the cheapest ways to exchange currency.


Tuesday, September 9, 2003

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