Top Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees
International travel may not be on your itinerary just yet, but when it does you’ll want a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
The fees are charged by credit card issuers on transactions that happen overseas or with a foreign merchant. Debit card providers also may charge these fees when using foreign ATMs to withdraw money.
The fees are usually 1 to 3% of the value of the transaction. The payment processor, such as Mastercard or Visa, charges 1%, and the card issuer such as a bank charges 2%. The fees are paid in U.S. dollars, equating to $30 in foreign transaction fees for every $1,000 spent.
They can easily be avoided, however, by using a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Such debit card fees are more difficult to bypass, though you can sometimes avoid part of them by using an ATM at a foreign bank that your bank does business with.
We’ll review some of the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. Check the terms and conditions of your credit cards before traveling overseas. If your card does charge these fees, you may want to apply for a new card that doesn’t have them.
Overview of the best cards with no foreign transaction fees
|Credit card||Also best for|
|Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express||Delta Airlines miles|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||60,000 bonus miles|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||60,000 bonus miles|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Luxury travel|
|Citi||American Airlines customers|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||Bank of America customers|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Marriott Hotel customers|
|Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||Admirals Club membership|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass||Hilton customers|
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
This is one of four American Express cards tied to Delta Airlines. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and we like it for many other reasons too, starting with the $0 annual fee for the first year and $99 after that.
For people who fly Delta often and like the advantages an American Express card offers, this card has multiple benefits for frequent travelers, including:
- 2X miles for every $1 spent with Delta
- $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 on the card in a calendar year
- First checked bag is free on Delta flights
- Take up to $50 off cost of flight for every 5,000 miles redeemed when booked on Delta's website
- 20% back on in-flight purchases
- Priority boarding
- Car rental loss and damage insurance
Capital One Venture Rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards card offers much more than zero foreign transaction fees.
The $95 annual fee can be made up by earning 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. That should be enough for a free roundtrip flight. Miles can also be used for free hotel stays, and can be transferred to more than 10 travel loyalty programs that Capital One works with.
The card also gives up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck fees, which start at $85. It pays unlimited double miles for every $1 spent on every purchase. That’s 0.75 miles more than the other Venture cards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
With no foreign transaction fees and a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a good way to earn a free flight as a new cardholder.
A 60,000 points bonus is given after spending $4,000 in the first three months, equating to $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, its program where points from its rewards program can be redeemed for travel purchases such as flights and hotel stays. Points used through the Chase rewards website are given 25% more redemption value, according to Chase.
The card also has travel rewards such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, car rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and travel and emergency assistance services. It also pays 5X points on Lyft rides.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
For luxury travelers or frequent fliers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card does a lot to make up for the $550 annual fee. It also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
It provides a $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases. Through June 30, 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases also count toward earning the travel credit.
The card pays triple points on restaurants, groceries, and travel, and one point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. The triple points on grocery store purchases are only awarded through April 30, 2021.
While the Sapphire Preferred card pays 25% more when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Sapphire Reserve card doubles that to 50%.
Its travel rewards include free entry to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world, and $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fees charged to your card.
Citi has eight travel rewards credit cards, and half of them are Mastercards tied to American Airlines. Called the Citi AAdvantage cards, they give American Airlines AAdvantage points through sign-up offers.
Annual fees range from $0 to $450. One we like is the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, which has a $99 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
New cardholders earn 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after $2,500 in eligible purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Other benefits for American Airlines customers include:
- 2X miles on American Airline purchases
- $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 in one year and renew card
- First checked bag is free
- Preferred boarding
- 25% savings on inflight food and beverages
Bank of America Premium Rewards card
The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, which is a great thing to have, but it also offers plenty of other perks.
Spent $3,000 in the first three months of having the card and you get 50,000 bonus points, which the bank says is a $500 value. That more than makes up for the $95 annual fee.
Preferred Rewards members earn 25-75% more points on purchases than the standard rewards.. The card pays up to 3.5 points for every $1 spent (up from 2X) on travel and dining, and up to 2.62 points (up from 1.5X) on other purchases.
Points can be redeemed for cash back as a deposit in a Bank of America account, credit card statement credit, credit to a Merrill investment account, or for gift cards and purchases at the bank’s travel center.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card by Chase
Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty club for Marriott hotels, so if you’re a fan of its hotels, then you may want the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card from Chase. It doesn’t have foreign transaction fees and the benefits start with a free reward night on every anniversary of your account opening, which the company says is valued at up to 35,000 points.
The Boundless card has a $95 annual fee, which can be made up by spending $3,000 on the card within three months and then getting 75,000 bonus points. That’s equal to two free nights at a Marriott hotel.
Other benefits for Marriott fans include:
- 6X points per $1 spent in Marriott Bonvoy program hotels
- 15 Elite Night credits per year
- Silver Elite Status
- Path to Gold Status when spend $35,000 on purchases in a year
- Free premium WiFi
Citi/AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has some of the steepest annual fees around — $450 — but that can be worthwhile if you fly often with American Airlines. It’s the only credit card with free membership in American Airlines’ airport lounges called the Admirals Club, which is a value of up to $650.
The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, though that may be the lowest benefit you’ll want this credit card for. Other benefits include:
- 50,000 bonus miles for spending $5,000 in three months
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit up to $100 every 5 years
- First checked bag on domestic flights is free for the cardholder and up to eight travel companions
- Priority boarding
- Priority check-in and airport screening
- 25% savings on inflight food and beverages
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass
Frequent travelers who prefer Hilton properties earn 12X Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent at Hilton hotels with the travel rewards credit card called the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card.
If you’re planning any international travel, this card can earn you a lot of bonus points for hotel stays at Hilton hotels around the world, making the $95 annual fee worthwhile. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
It also gives free Hilton Honors Gold status. A higher level, called Diamond status, can be earned by spending $40,000 in a calendar year. One free hotel stay is given after spending $15,000 in a year.
If you’re driving a lot, this Hilton card pays 6X bonus points on U.S. gas station purchases, which is higher than what many other cards pay.
Summary of the best cards with no transaction fees
|Card||Annual Fee||Welcome Bonus||Reward Rate||APR|
|Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express||$0 first year, then $99||35k miles / spend $1k in 3 mos||2X dining, groceries, Delta purchases||15.74-24.74%|
|Capital OneVenture Rewards||$95||60k / spend $3k in 6 mos||2X miles on every purchase||17.24-24.49%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$95||60k / spend $4k in 3 mos||2X dining, travel, groceries||15.99-22.99%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$550||50k / spend $4k in 3 mos||3X dining, travel, groceries||16.99-23.99%|
|Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select||$0 / $99||50k / spend $2,500 in 3 mos||2X dining, travel, gas||15.99-24.99%|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||$95||50k / spend $3k||2X dining, travelin 3 mos, 1.5X other||15.99-22.99%|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless||$95||75k / spend $3k in 3 mos||6X Marriott 2X travel, other||15.99-22.99%|
|AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||$450||50k / spend $5k||2X American Airlines, 1X other||15.99-24.99%|
|Hilton Honors Amex Surpass||$95||None||12X Hilton, 6X groceries, dining||15.99-24.99%|
Should I worry about blackout dates?
After earning 50,000 or more airline miles for spending $3,000 or so in the first three months you have a new credit card, it can be disheartening to find out that blackout dates apply to the days you want to use your miles.
Such days usually happen during major holidays or when heavy travel is expected. Blackout dates aren’t posted on airline websites, and some will claim they don’t have them because some seats will be available for mileage redemption every day of the year. However, it can still be hard to find a free airline seat around Christmas, for example.
American Airlines says on its website that it doesn’t have blackout dates and that if a seat is available, you can book it with miles.
Delta Airlines listed blackout dates for some flights in 2019 and 2020 but hasn’t listed any for 2021. One area of Delta’s website says it doesn’t have blackout dates on Delta-operated flights, but partner airlines have blackout dates on its partners Korean Air and China Southern.
Can I get the sign-up bonus in cash?
The sign-up bonuses, also called a welcome bonus, on the cards we’ve reviewed all come in the form of miles or points that can be redeemed for hotel stays, free flights, and other rewards.
The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card is one of the few with a cash deposit for bonuses, but only to a BofA checking or savings account. It also offers a credit card statement, which is about the same as cash, though you won’t get the cash back in your pocket to spend.
If you’re looking for a cash back reward, then you should look for a cash rewards credit card. Many also don’t have foreign transaction fees. We focused on travel rewards because people who are looking for credit cards without foreign transaction fees are probably also interested in travel perks and bonuses they offer.
A travel rewards credit card can often be more valuable than a cash rewards credit card because the travel rewards program can be worth at least twice as much as cash.
Is it cheaper to use cash instead of a credit card overseas?
If your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee and you plan on traveling outside of the United States, you can save money by getting a credit card that doesn’t charge these fees. Look for a card that doesn’t have an annual fee. If it does charge an annual fee, make sure any perks you get with the card make up for the fee.
As we described earlier, foreign transaction fees are usually 3% of the expense, so a $100 credit card charge would only result in a $3 foreign transaction fee. That isn’t a ton of money, but it can add up.
It can be cheaper to use cash instead of a credit card, though carrying only cash can be dangerous and can still end up costing as much as a credit card that charges fees. Debit cards may also charge foreign transaction fees, so check with your bank before leaving on a trip to see what fees if charges and how they can be avoided.
If both your debit and credit card charge these fees, chances are you’ll be better off using the credit card because the card issuer will probably have a more favorable exchange rate than you’d get from an ATM or currency exchange kiosk.
Some U.S. banks sell foreign currency to customers, though they’ll charge for the service. You may want to buy some foreign cash before leaving home so that you can easily pay for a meal, cab ride or other low expense when you arrive at your international destination.
Why you should use cards with no foreign transaction fees
The obvious benefit to having a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees is that you’ll avoid paying 3% fees on anything you buy with the card overseas. That can add up to $30 per $1,000 you spend in U.S. dollars, and can be higher if you don’t get a good exchange rate and are charged in the local currency.
Finding cards that don’t charge these fees should be easy. Many don’t charge them, and you should be able to find a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee either. The cards we’ve reviewed have an annual fee of around $100, though many card companies offer other versions of their cards that don’t charge an annual fee.
Foreign transaction fees are another expense you don’t want to worry about when traveling, especially when exchange rates on credit card charges can change daily and make your dollar more or less valuable from one day to the next.
We can’t honestly think of an instance when anyone should use a card with a foreign transaction fee. Finding a card without one is easy, and if you like the credit card that you already have but it charges a fee, either ask it to waive it or get another card to use just on your upcoming trip.
The bottom line
Applying for a credit card just so you can take advantage of its benefit of not charging foreign transaction fees on credit card purchases you’ll make while overseas seems like an odd reason to get a new card.
But it can save you a few hundred dollars, depending on how much you spend on the card. That may not make an annual fee worth paying, so look for a card without an annual fee.
And since a foreign transaction fee is something that not many cards charge, the fact that your current card provider charges it could be a good sign to shop for a better credit card. You may find many more travel benefits from a new card, along with not ha ving to pay this fee that not many cards charge anyway. Chances are you’ve received credit card offers with this perk without realizing it.
Even with an annual fee, a better travel card can be worth the cost. It can save you money on visiting airport lounges, make Global Entry easier at airports, give you statement credit for rewards you’ve earned, or give you a rewards rate good for free hotel stays and flights.
All of those can be reason enough to switch to a new credit card. Avoiding foreign transaction fees can be the icing on the cake when you travel.
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