Find the Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards
Ever felt like you’ve been ripped off when you use your credit card internationally? Chances are, you’re right: most dock you 3% of every dollar you spend overseas. But these cards will save you a pretty penny with waived foreign transaction fees, bonus travel rewards, killer signup offers and more. Read on for our review of our favorite credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, as well as a comprehensive, continuously updated list.
A Few of Our Favorite International Credit Cards
Best airline credit card: The Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card
Use miles on: Any airline or hotel – miles are redeemed against ANY travel expense
The Capital One® Venture℠ Rewards Credit Card has a special place in our hearts, and is one of our favorite credit cards, hands down. It gives a solid 2 No Hassle Miles for every dollar spent, which are redeemable against any travel purchase. You aren’t tied to any airline or hotel, you don’t have to jump through hoops to get your rewards, and you can book through Kayak, Expedia or whatever discount site you like. The $59 annual fee’s waived the first year, but it comes with a 10,000 Capital One No Hassle Miles℠ signup bonus. Obviously, it has no foreign transaction fee, but it also has no blackout dates and no expiration on your miles.
Best no-fee, cash-back card: the Capital One® Cash Rewards - $100 Cash Back Bonus
Use rewards on: Anything, it’s cash!
The Capital One® Cash Rewards - $100 Cash Back Bonus doesn’t only help you dodge foreign transaction fees: It also has no annual fee. But this doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing rewards: You get a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases – 1% on all purchases, and a 50% rewards bonus every year – plus a $100 signup bonus. Wherever you are in the world, there’s nothing quite like earning rewards in the world’s reserve currency.
Best signup bonus: the Chase Sapphire Preferred
Transfer points 1:1 to United MileagePlus, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, Amtrak
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great travel rewards credit card, and our favorite in Chase’s lineup with a fantastic signup bonus of 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. The points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase’s booking tool, an opportunity offered on no other personal Chase credit card. It earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants and 1 point elsewhere, but provides opportunities to up that rewards rate. In addition to the perennial 25% points bump, you earn a 7% points dividend at the end of the year on all points, spent or unspent. Your rewards rate could be as high as 2.68% and 1.34%. The stellar bonus and the waived first-year fee practically scream grab and go.
Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee
These are all credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees at all. Are we missing anything? Let us know in the comments below.
List current as of February 25th, 2013.
- American Express Platinum and Centurion (as of April 2011)
- Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards
- Bank of America Travel Rewards
- Bank of America WorldPoints Travel Rewards for Businesses
- Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard
- Barclaycard Arrival – No Annual Fee
- All Capital One credit cards, including:
- Citi ThankYou Premier and Citi ThankYou Prestige (as of December, 2010)
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
- Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard (as of July, 2011, carries a $450 annual fee)
- Chase British Airways Card (as of November 2010)
- Chase Priority Club Rewards Signature (as of July 2010)
- Chase Hyatt Card
- Chase Fairmont Visa Signature
- Chase Palladium, if you’re one of the fortunate few (we’re not)
- Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card (as of June 2011, though this has a $395 annual fee)
- Chase United MileagePlus Club Card ($395 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier
- All Discover credit cards, such as the Discover It
- (An excellent option in China, but international acceptance is limited – check our list of which countries accept Discover for more information)
- First National Bank of Omaha Graphite American Express
- Marriott Rewards Premiere from Chase (as of March 2011)
- All Pentagon Federal cards, including the Pentagon Federal Promise (currently offering 4.99% balance transfers for 2 years) and PenFed Premium Travel American Express (5x points on airfare & Priority Pass lounge access when you spend $15k+ at 600 lounges worldwide)
- Harvard World MasterCard
- HSBC Premier (you have to have something on the order of $100,000 deposited with them to qualify)
- Schwab’s Invest First Visa (one of the best credit card deals of all time, but no longer available)
- U.S. Bank Skypass Visa Signature
- Most credit unions offer up no fees other than the 1% Visa charges them. Some even have “no foreign transaction fee”, including
- Northop Grumman Federal Credit Union (anyone can join by making a contribution to the Southern California Historical Aircraft Foundation)
- Andrews Federal Credit Union (any U.S. citizen can join)
- Vystar Credit Union (must live in FL)
- ESL Federal Credit Union (must live in upstate NY)
- Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU) – anyone in the metro Houston area can join
- Truliant Federal Credit Union (membership open to many regions of VA, SC, and near Greeneville, SC)
- Associated Credit Union (membership is open to everyone)
- Kirtland Federal Credit Union (membership is tough here, you have to be affiliated with the military in Arizona, either on Kirtland AFB, Reserves, or NM National Guard)
- Reliant Credit Union (Monroe, Ontario and Wayne counties in New York)
- Aerospace Credit Union (you have to work for Aerospace Corporation, or on Los Angeles AFB)
- CoastHills Federal Credit Union (for residents of San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties in CA)
- Stanford Federal Credit Union (Anyone can join by donating $15-20 to one of two organizations)
- Pacific Oaks Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of Ventura County, California)
- Burbank Community Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of the City of Burbank, California)
- Elga Credit Union (Open to residents of the Michigan Counties of Genesee, Saginaw, Lapeer, Shiawassee, Oakland, or Livingston)
- Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of parts of Houston, in the Cy-Fair ISD area)
- Taylor Model Basin Federal Credit Union
- Virginia Credit Union (Open to residents in many areas of Virginia)
- Apple Federal Credit Union (Open to those associated with many of the school systems in Northern Virginia)
- State Department Federal Credit Union (Anyone can join with a donation to the American Consumer Council)
Are Stated Foreign Transaction Fees Representative of Reality?
Now, in addition to what the banks claim they will charge you in terms of “foreign transaction fees”, you are also faced with the exchange rate that your credit card issuer uses to convert the currencies. And if you’re a cynic like me, you may wonder if they charge you hidden fees and unfair exchange rates on top of the disclosed rates. We reached out to our readers in April 2010′s Hong Kong Dollar FX survey and Euro FX survey, and were able to buy the same item at the same time with 10 credit cards from leading US card issuers. Note that Hong Kong dollars don’t fluctuate much, because they are pegged to the US dollar. The Eurois a different story entirely, especially given the budding European debt crisis.
Surprisingly, everyone keeps it pretty straightforward and honest, so it pays to look for the card issuer with the lowest advertised foreign transaction fee rate.
Foreign Transaction Fee Survey Results
In the tables below, there are a few Amex and Fidelity results that differ from the expected values by a few cents. We re-ran the experiment on a few of these cards with transactions that were closer to $100, and these anomalies disappeared.
|Disclosed FX Fee||Estimated Charge for HK$15||Actual Charge for HK$15|
|Bank of America||3.0%||$1.99||$1.99|
|Exchange Rate at Time of Transaction||$1.93|
|Disclosed FX Fee||Estimated Charge for €2||Actual Charge for €2|
|Bank of America||3.0%||$2.79||$2.79|
|Exchange Rate at Time of Transaction||$2.71|
Current foreign transaction fees for US card issuers
|Issuer||Foreign Transaction Fee|
|Air Force Federal Credit Union||1%|
|Bank of America||3% (Visa/MC), 1% (American Express)|
|Fidelity||1% (American Express) 3% (Visa)|
|Fifth Third Bank||3%|
|First National Omaha Bank||3%|
|HSBC||3%* (0% for Premier)|
|Pentagon Federal Credit Union||2% (0% for Promise)|
* While HSBC and Chase offer lower charges to a small number of “premier” customers, the majority of their cards charge 3%.