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Virtually all U.S. credit cards work when you travel abroad, but there’s a good chance those swipes are going to cost you. Many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees when you make purchases outside of the U.S. And these fees are typically 2% to 3% of the purchase once it’s converted to U.S. dollars.
Fortunately, there are plenty of credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. Issuers have long foregone adding this charge to their travel credit cards as a way to draw frequent fliers to their plastic, and in recent years that benefit has extended to some general-purpose credit cards as well. Capital One and Discover, as a matter of fact, don’t charge foreign transaction fees at all. Here are some must-knows when it comes to foreign transaction fees, followed by a list of credit cards with no foreign transaction fees offered by major issuers.
What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee?
Foreign transaction fees, sometimes referred to as foreign currency conversion fees, are basically charges related to converting local currency over to U.S. dollars when you’re shopping abroad. Visa and Mastercard charge a standard 1% currency conversion fee for foreign transactions made across their networks. Many issuers roll that charge into their base foreign transaction fee; others list it separately. You can see how your foreign transaction fees are being imposed by checking your card agreement. No matter how they’re structured, however, foreign transaction fees generally work out to 2% to 3% of the purchase amount post-conversion.
Here’s a list of the standard foreign transaction fees charged by major issuers:
- American Express: 2.7%
- Bank of America: 3%
- Capital One: 0%
- Chase: 3%
- Citibank: 3%
- Discover: 0%
- Wells Fargo: 3%
Of course, as we mentioned earlier, even the issuers who charge a base foreign transaction fee elect to absorb the charge on some of their products, most commonly their travel rewards credit cards. Many of these travel rewards credit cards typically carry annual fees, so there can be a trade-off, depending on how often you travel or how you spend generally.
Having said that, there are a few no-annual-fee credit cards with no foreign transaction fees that can be a good fit for people who want to skip both charges.
Here are our picks for the best no-annual-fee credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, based on overall value. (Note: This list provides a quick overview of each card’s major terms and conditions. For full terms, please see the cards’ agreements.)
No Annual Fee Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
Why We Picked it: This no-annual-fee travel rewards credit card offers an unlimited 1.5 miles back on all purchases, plus 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days as an account holder.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% for the first 12 months, variable 15.74% to 23.74% thereafter.
Why We Picked it: A top cash back credit card, the Quicksilver offers cardholders unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. They can also get a one-time cash bonus of $150 when they spend $500 in the first 3 months of opening an account.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro on purchases for 9 months; 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable) APR after that
Why We Picked it: Another solid cash back credit card with no annual fee, Discover it offers cardholders 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in revolving categories each quarter, plus 1% cash back on everything else. Revolving quarterly categories include things like restaurants or Amazon.com purchases. Note: You must enroll each quarter to start earning that bonus cash back in the designated category. On top of that, Discover is currently matching all the cash back new cardholders earn during their first year at the end of that year.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% for the first 14 months, variable 11.99% to 23.99% thereafter
Why We Picked it: Cardholders earn an unlimited 1.5 miles back on all purchases — and that Discover Cashback Match offer applies here, too. Discover will automatically match all the miles new cardholders earned in their first year at the end of that year. (So, in this instance, if you earn 30,000 miles in your first year, you’ll ultimately receive a total of 60,000 miles.)
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% for the first 14 months, 11.99% to 23.99% thereafter
Card Details: This no-annual-fee travel rewards credit card offers an unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases. It also features a signup bonus of 20,000 bonus miles (equivalent to $200 in travel credits) if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro on purchases for 12 months, then 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
Why We Picked it: The Barclaycard Ring is a good option for consumers looking for a low-cost credit card since it has no annual fee and a low APR, in addition to no foreign transaction fees. Plus, cardholders can vote on card benefits.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 15 months and then 13.99% Variable
Are You a Frequent Flier?
If you travel a lot, you might want to opt for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees that also offers bonus points on your hotel and airfare and even extra travel benefits. Of course, most travel credit cards tout no foreign transaction fees, and which card is best for you will vary depending on your travel habits: Do you patronize a particular airline each time you fly? Do you spend or travel enough to justify a card’s annual fee? Do you already have a card with similar features?
With those questions in mind, here are our picks for the best travel credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, based on affordability, value and overall appeal. (Again, this list is just an overview. For each card’s full terms and conditions, please review their agreements.)
Our Picks for the Best Travel Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees
Why We Picked it: The Sapphire Preferred features solid travel rewards: Two points per dollar on travel and at restaurants, one point per dollar everywhere else and a signup bonus of 50,000 points (equal to $625 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards) if you spend $4,000 in your first three months. There are also travel protections, including trip cancellation reimbursement — all for an affordable $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
APR: Variable 16.99% to 23.99%. See issuer’s terms for more details.
Why We Picked it: The higher-end Venture offers cardholders an unlimited two miles per dollar on all purchases, plus a signup bonus of 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening — all for $0 intro for first year; $59 after that. You also get travel benefits, like complimentary concierge services, travel protection and upgrades, when available.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
APR: Variable 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Why We Picked it: Another solid travel credit card with straightforward rewards and an affordable annual fee, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite offers cardholders two miles per dollar on all purchases, 5% miles back to put toward your next redemption, and a signup bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in your first 90 days.
Annual Fee: $89 – waived first year
APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable
How to Get a Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees
Remember, credit cards with the best terms and conditions generally require a good credit score, so if you’re looking to avoid foreign transaction fees and your credit is not so hot, you may want to work on your scores before you apply. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com. Your scores come with a credit report snapshot that will help you identify areas of opportunity for boosting your scores. In general, you can improve your credit by paying down debt, disputing credit report errors and waiting a bit for your standing to improve.
At publishing time, the Capital One Quicksilver, Discover it, Capital One VentureOne Rewards, Barclaycard Ring, Capital One Venture Rewards, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
This article was last updated on June 5, 2017.