Our pick for
Bonus travel rewards
15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
Recommended Credit Score
ProsWhat really sets this card apart is its big sign-up bonus and rewards transfer options. The bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. When using the card, you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. Points are generally worth 1 cent, but they’re worth 25% more when used to book travel through Chase. They can also be transferred at 1:1 rate to several airline and hotel loyalty programs, including United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt. Finally, we should mention that fans of this metal card love the high-end impression it makes when they pull it out.
ConsA big chunk of this card’s value rests in its sign-up bonus; other travel cards have better long-term rewards. Also, this card doesn’t offer the perks — free checked bags, priority boarding — of airline-specific cards.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:
Our pick for
Recommended Credit Score
ProsThe Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students doesn’t require applicants to have a co-signer or security deposit, and international students don't need a Social Security number. That makes it a little easier to get approved — even for students with limited credit histories. Plus, it comes with a solid 1% back on all purchases and a one-time reimbursement for Amazon Student Prime. The annual fee is $0.
ConsThe ongoing APR is 20.24% Variable, so carrying a balance on it could get expensive in a hurry. You also must be currently enrolled at a U.S. college or university to get approved.
- No SSN required for International students.
- Available to students (enrollment verification is required).
- Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59).
- 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases.
- Credit limits up to $5,000.
- $0 annual fee & no foreign transaction fees.
- No security deposit or co-signer required.
- Helps students build credit history and gain financial independence.
- Use anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted.
- Includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits like Travel Assistance Services, Extended Warranty, and ID Theft Protection
- Complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600.
Summary of Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards of April 2020
|Credit Card||Best For||Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Learn More|
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Bonus travel rewards
15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
Top credit card issuers’ foreign transaction fees
Here’s a look at the standard foreign transaction fees charged by major U.S. credit card issuers. It’s important to note that many of these issuers waive the foreign transaction fee on certain cards, including the ones listed above. Some major issuers don’t charge foreign transaction fees on any of their cards.
|Issuer||Foreign transaction fee|
|Bank of America®||3%|
|U.S. Bank||3% (2% for transactions in U.S. dollars)|
Using credit cards internationally
Which credit cards work worldwide?
Whether you're in the U.S. or a foreign country, your ability to use a credit card at a merchant depends on whether the merchant accepts that card's payment network. The four major U.S. networks — Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover — all have an international presence, alhough to varying degrees.
In the U.S., Visa and Mastercard are ubiquitous. If a merchant accepts credit cards, it almost always accepts Visa and Mastercard, although there are a few exceptions, such as Visa-only Costco. Discover is a close third, just a hair behind the leaders. American Express is widely accepted, just not as widely as the other three. Smaller merchants, in particular, are less likely to take AmEx. Even so, when traveling in the U.S., you should be able to get by with a card on any of the four networks.
Outside the U.S., Visa and Mastercard are also dominant worldwide networks. And while American Express has a strong presence overseas — it has more cardholders outside the U.S. than in — it doesn't match the extent of Visa and Mastercard. Discover is a smaller player outside the U.S. If you're planning to travel internationally and your primary card is American Express or Discover, it's best to bring along a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.
Should I use dynamic currency conversion?
When you buy something with a credit card in a foreign country, your receipt will show the cost in the local currency. When you get your statement, however, you'll see that the charge has been converted to dollars. Your payment network takes care of the conversion, and you can usually be confident that you're getting a fair exchange rate. (A 2016 NerdWallet study found that Visa and Mastercard tended to convert currency at near-market rates, which is about the best you can get.)
Sometimes when you're shopping overseas, merchants will ask if you want your purchases to be denominated in dollars rather than the local currency. This is known as "dynamic currency conversion." It seems attractive, as it allows you to see how much you're spending in terms you understand — say, $50 rather than 5,000 Japanese yen or 45 euros. But dynamic conversion is usually a bad deal. That's because the exchange rates are considerably worse than what you'd get if you made your purchase in the local currency and then let your credit card network handle the conversion.
One other thing about dynamic conversion: It won't get you out of paying foreign transaction fees. If your card charges a fee on overseas purchases, it doesn't matter if those purchases are in dollars, yen, euros, rubles or whatever. You'll still pay the fee.
Do I need a chip-and-PIN card?
Most credit cards issued in the U.S. are "chip-and-signature" cards. When you make a purchase at a store, the chip embedded in the card passes information to the merchant's computer system. Further, the chip protects that information with a one-time code so that if the data is stolen, it can't be used to make a counterfeit card. It's all very high-tech. But then you complete the transaction by verifying your identity in a decidedly low-tech way: You sign your name — and you might not even do that.
Cards issued in other countries have "chip-and-PIN" technology. You use the card the same way, but instead of signing your name to complete the transaction, you have to enter a four-digit code, or PIN. This adds a layer of security by making it harder for someone to use a stolen card.
When traveling abroad, you'll usually be able to use a U.S.-issued chip-and-signature card for in-person transactions. Among the places where you can't use one is at self-service kiosks and vending machines. These typically require chip-and-PIN.
Among major issuers in the U.S., Barclays offers chip-and-PIN on its cards. Some credit unions oriented toward military servicemembers who may be deployed overseas also offer chip-and-PIN functionality. If you don't have a chip-and-PIN card, it's not a crisis situation. You'll just have to plan ahead and keep in mind that if you need to buy something like train tickets, you'll have to go up to the window and buy from a live person rather than from a ticket machine.
Finally, be aware that simply having a PIN for your credit card does not make it a chip-and-PIN card. Many cards allow you to get cash advances for an ATM using a PIN. A PIN for accessing cash advances is not the same as one for verifying transactions though chip-and-PIN technology. If in doubt, ask your issuer.
Credit cards or travelers checks?
Travelers checks have been mostly replaced in travelers' wallets by credit and debit cards, which also solve many of the security problems that travelers checks were created to address. So while you can still get travelers checks, most travelers would find them more trouble than they're worth.
Back before credit cards were as widely used and accepted as they are today, people who didn't want to risk carrying a lot of cash on a trip would rely on travelers checks. A traveler might go to a bank or travel agency in their hometown and buy, say, six $100 checks, which they would sign at the bank. At their destination, they'd use the checks at stores or restaurants that accepted them, or exchange them for cash at a hotel or bank. When they redeemed the check, they'd sign it again, and the recipient would compare the signatures to verify the check.
Among the advantage of travelers checks:
- If they were lost or stolen, the issuer would replace them, so you didn't lose money. Nowadays, credit card issuers can cancel a lost or stolen card and expedite a replacement just as quickly.
- You could exchange them for cash far from home. The wide acceptance of credit cards makes cash less critical to carry, and credit cards can provide cash in a pinch. And, of course, debit cards can get you cash, too.
- You could use them in places that didn't accept out-of-town personal checks. Today, credit cards are accepted at millions more locations than travelers checks ever were.
Travelers checks still have their uses. But when you combine the dwindling number of places that accept travelers checks with the fees you have to pay to get them, most leisure travelers will be better off with the cards they already carry.
Major issuer travel cards with no foreign transaction fee
A good travel credit card should not charge a foreign transaction fee. Most airline cards do not charge this fee, nor do these popular general-purpose travel cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Citi Premier℠ Card
- Discover it® Miles
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Last updated on April 3, 2020
NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fee based on overall consumer value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of consumers. Factors in our evaluation include annual fees, rewards rates and redemption options, introductory and ongoing interest rates, bonus offers for new cardholders, international acceptance of the card's payment network, and other noteworthy features such as travel perks.
Frequently asked questions
Most credit cards issued by U.S. banks impose a surcharge when you use your card outside the United States. Foreign transaction fees are charged on purchases you make while traveling in other countries, but they can also be applied when you buy something from a foreign merchant. If you're at home in the U.S. and you use your card to order online from a company in, say, London, you might get hit with the fee, since the transaction was processed outside the U.S.
Some issuers, including Capital One, Discover and USAA, do not charge foreign transaction fees on any of their cards, and many issuers do not charge them on specific cards. Credit cards marketed to frequent travelers usually do not charge foreign transaction fees, even if the issuer has them on other cards.
The typical foreign transaction fee is 3% of the purchase price. Charge a $1,000 hotel stay on a card that imposes such a fee, for example, and you'll pay an extra $30. However:
- Some issuers charge a lower rate. American Express has long charged 2.7%, for example.
- Some issuers have no foreign transaction fees at all. They include Capital One, Discover and USAA.
- Most credit cards specifically designed for frequent travelers do not charge foreign transaction fees, even when the issuing bank charges such fees on its other cards.
When a foreign transaction fee applies to a purchase, you won't see it until you receive your credit card statement. That's because the fee is charged by the credit card company, not by the merchant. If you charge a $1,000 hotel stay in another country, your receipt from the hotel will just say $1,000 (or the equivalent amount in the foreign currency); when your statement arrives, the charge for the purchase will total $1,030.
When you buy something in a foreign country, the merchant may give you the option of having the purchase converted to U.S. dollars so you can see how much it costs in a way you're more likely to understand. (See the question about dynamic currency conversion below.) But for the purpose of the foreign transaction fee, it usually doesn't matter whether a purchase is submitted to your credit card company in U.S. dollars or in the local currency. The fee applies based on where the transaction takes place, not how it is denominated.
The one exception among major issuers is U.S. Bank, which charges a 3% foreign transaction fee but knocks that down to 2% if the purchase is denominated in U.S. dollars.
Foreign transaction fees are independent of exchange rates. Currency exchange rates tell you how much a unit of foreign currency is worth in dollars. If you buy something in France for 100 euros, for example, the cost in dollars might be $105 or $110 or $112.37 or something else, based on the current exchange rate. Your credit card's payment network — Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express — converts foreign purchases to dollar amounts according to the current exchange rate. The foreign transaction fee is then applied to the converted dollar amount.
Dynamic currency conversion is a service offered by some merchants overseas, in which they convert your purchase to dollars so that you can better get a sense of what it costs. It might be easier for you to understand a price of, say, $35 compared with 500 South African rand. Using dynamic currency conversion will not affect your foreign transaction fee in most cases. (An exception is U.S. Bank, which reduces the fee to 2% when purchases are processed in U.S. dollars.)
In general, dynamic currency conversion is a costly convenience for U.S. travelers. A NerdWallet study of credit card currency conversion rates found that when you let your credit card company convert your purchase to dollars, it usually does so at the current market rate. But when you choose dynamic currency conversion, it typically costs you an extra 1% to 3% because the merchant uses a less favorable exchange rate and pockets the difference. In other words, rather than save you money, dynamic currency conversion could as much as double the surcharge on a foreign transaction.