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NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co has been hit with a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court accusing it of charging surprise fees when it stopped letting customers buy cryptocurrency with credit cards in late January and began treating the purchases as cash advances.

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A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files

Filed on Tuesday on behalf of a proposed nationwide class, the lawsuit said Chase (JPM.N) charged both extra fees and substantially higher interest rates on the cash advances than on the credit cards and refused to refund the charges when customers complained.

Chase spokeswoman Mary Jane Rogers declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the bank stopped processing credit card purchases of cryptocurrency on Feb. 3 because of the credit risk involved. Customers can use their Chase debit cards to buy cryptocurrency from their checking accounts without incurring cash advance charges, she said.

Several banks in Britain and the United States, including Lloyds Banking Group Plc(LLOY.L), Virgin Money (VM.L) and Citigroup (C.N), banned the use of credit cards to buy cryptocurrencies earlier this year after a dramatic fall in the value of bitcoin, the most popular virtual currency.

Bitcoin has fallen in value by more than half from a peak of almost $20,000 in December amid concerns about regulatory crackdown.

The named plaintiff in the lawsuit, Idaho resident Brady Tucker, was hit with $143.30 in fees and $20.61 in surprise interest charges by Chase for five cryptocurrency transactions between Jan. 27 and Feb. 2, his lawsuit said. Hundreds or possibly thousands of other Chase customers were hit with the charges, Tucker said.

Tucker called Chase’s customer

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currensceneFLOGO WHTsquareThough not the oldest form of currency, some form of shell money appears to have been found on almost every continent. The shell most widely used worldwide as currency was the shell of Cypraea moneta, the money cowry.

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