No foreign transaction fee credit cards - Looking for the best ones?

TransferWise
08.09.19
7 minute read

Traveling abroad is expensive enough — actually, having a credit card is expensive enough — without having foreign transaction fees to worry about. When every single transaction you make abroad gets a fee added to it, you might really start to wonder if you’re getting value for money out of your credit card.

That’s why many providers offer credit cards with no foreign transaction fees at all, giving you one less thing to think about while you’re outside the USA. Here’s a look at some of the best options you have if you’re looking for a no foreign transaction fee credit card.

What are foreign transaction fees and how can you avoid them?

A foreign transaction fee is the fee that’s added when you use a credit or debit card abroad or buy something online from a foreign retailer. You pay it to your card provider. It’s worth knowing about foreign transaction fees because they can quickly mount up: you might have to pay a little bit extra on every single purchase during a trip.

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to get a credit card that doesn’t charge them: there are quite a few on offer, as you’ll see below. If that’s not an option for you, the way to minimize them is simply to make as few transactions as possible: consider taking out more cash, that you can use for smaller purchases.


What are the best foreign transaction fee credit cards

Which are the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards?

Here’s a look at some of the best options when it comes to avoiding foreign transaction fees.

Larger issuers foreign transaction fees

Individual cards often have their own foreign transaction fees, but some providers avoid them altogether, on all of the credit cards they offer. If you want to be sure of avoiding foreign transaction fees, a Capital One¹ or Discover² credit card is a safe bet: none of them charge foreign transaction fees at all.

Other card providers tend to charge a foreign transaction fee on at least some of their credit cards. How much? Here are some of the fees you could expect to see from a few of the leading providers, on at least some of their credit cards.

  • American Express: 2.7% (or 2.5% for corporate cards)³
  • Bank of America: 3%⁴
  • Chase: 3%⁵
  • Citi: 3%⁶
  • Wells Fargo: 3%⁷

TransferWise multi-currency debit card

The TransferWise multi-currency debit card

OK, sure. As you may already have realized, the TransferWise debit card is not a credit card at all, but a debit card: the clue is very much in the name. And, not being a credit card, it won’t offer you any complex systems of points or miles or bonuses.

What it will offer you, though, is a convenient way to spend your money abroad, with no foreign transaction fees, and without even having to pay a monthly fee. Of course, you also won’t have to worry about paying your balance off: just load money into your borderless account before the trip and you’ll be ready. It’s a Mastercard, so using it wherever you are should be super easy.

After all, it’s so tempting to be seduced by offers of millions of bonus points, discounts at fancy hotels, or extra insurance coverage. But these are only good offers if you really make sure you’re going to get your money’s worth. Are you really going to put that many thousands of dollars on your credit card in the first few months of having it? If not, you won’t get all those tempting bonus points. And if so, well, you’ll have the points — great — but you will just have spent a lot of money to get them.


No foreign transaction fee credit cards

This isn’t a complete list by any means, but here are a few of the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards.


1. Capital One Venture Rewards

As mentioned above, Capital One’s foreign transaction fee is zero on all its credit cards. But we’ve picked out the Venture Rewards card because it’s specifically designed for travelers. Here’s a quick look at some of these card’s features.⁸

Feature Capital One Venture Rewards credit card
Annual fee $95 per year, with first year free
Purchase rate 17.99% - 25.24%
Rewards and other benefits
  • 2x miles per dollar; 10x miles on many hotels (through Jan 2020)
  • 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee

Though Capital One’s other credit cards, including Quicksilver Cash Rewards, may also be worth a look, the Venture Rewards card offers an impressive amount of miles. The similarly named VentureOne Rewards card is a cheaper option: for no annual fee, you can get similar rewards but not quite as many miles. That especially tempting offer of 10 miles per dollar on hotel bookings is thanks to a Hotels.com partnership that’s scheduled to run until January 2020. ⁹


2. Discover it Miles

This travel credit card from Discover may not be as flashy as some other credit cards, but it offers a consistently good rate of return. Plus, like all the other cards on this list, the Discover card foreign transaction fee is a round zero. Here are the key features:¹⁰

Feature Discover it Miles credit card
Annual fee None
Purchase rate 0% for 14 months, then 14.24% - 25.24% standard purchase
Rewards and other benefits 1.5x miles per dollar, matched by Discover every year (so effectively 3x)

The Discover it Miles credit card is a competitive option in terms of its points, and for no annual fee it’s certainly tempting. One drawback may be using it abroad: the Discover network is not as well established internationally as Visa or Mastercard. You’ll need to do some research to find out how widely you’ll be able to use your card during a trip outside the US.


3. American Express Gold

Unlike Capital One and Discover, Amex does charge a foreign transaction fee on some of its credit cards. But not on its Gold Card. The Platinum Card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees either, if you want a more premium product — but let’s keep things simple and stick with Gold for now.¹¹

Feature American Express Gold credit card
Annual fee $250
Purchase rate 20.49%¹²
Rewards and other benefits
  • 35,000 membership rewards points if you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months
  • 3x or 4x points on some flights or some purchases at supermarkets or restaurants
  • $100 airline fee credit, $120 dining credit
  • Some insurance including for baggage and car rental loss and damage

There are various other benefits too — above are just some of the most enticing ones for frequent travelers. As befits its high price tag, the Amex Gold credit card offers a good range of rewards, and the lack of a foreign transaction fee is great news.

As ever with points schemes, make sure you know exactly where you’ll be able to claim these benefits. Also try and find out how widely you’ll be able to pay with Amex in your destination: it’s not accepted everywhere.


4. Bank of America Travel Rewards

Bank of America offers a range of credit cards targeted at frequent travelers, including cards offered in partnership with travel companies such as Alaska Airlines and Air France. We’ve picked out the Travel Rewards card, but the Premium Rewards card may be worth a look too. There are no foreign transaction fees on either of those cards.

Feature Bank of America Travel credit card ¹³
Annual fee None
Purchase rate 0% for 12 months, then 17.24% - 25.24%
Rewards and other benefits
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days
  • 1.5x points on all purchases

This credit card is a nice, simple option, and inexpensive given its lack of an annual fee. If you want a credit card with a few extra features and offers in store, Bank of America’s other cards might suit you better, and if you sign up as a Preferred Rewards member there are further benefits. This one is a Visa, so it’ll be accepted widely on your travels.


5.Chase Sapphire Preferred

Of the various credit cards that Chase has designed, to appeal to frequent travelers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the most straightforward. For a significantly higher annual fee, you could try the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, and other traveler-friendly tie-ins from Chase include cards with United, British Airways and Marriott Bonvoy. On other Chase cards, like Chase Freedom Unlimited, the foreign transaction fee comes back into play. Here are the key features of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Feature Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card ¹⁴
Annual fee $95
Purchase rate 18.25% - 27.24%
Rewards and other benefits
  • 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months
  • 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants
  • 25% more in travel redemption
  • You can transfer points to various airline or hotel travel partners
  • The card comes with cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, and a few other travel features

Alongside its lack of foreign transaction fees, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card offers numerous useful features for travelers. It’s a Visa, so you should be able to use it more or less wherever.


Credit cards can have great benefits when used correctly. But it’s always a good option to have another payment method up your sleeve — especially when you’re traveling abroad. Avoiding foreign transaction fees is a great place to start, but don’t forget to consider other ways you can cut down on costs during your trip as well.


Sources:

  1. https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/faq/
  2. https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/member-benefits/value.html
  3. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/customer-service/faq.foreign-transaction-fees.html
  4. https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit-cards/compare-credit-cards/
  5. https://creditcards.chase.com/compare-credit-cards?iCELL=61HG&jp_ltg=chsecate_compare&list=1,2,5
  6. https://www.citicards.com/cards/credit/displayterms/flow.action?app=UNSOL&HKOP=535bf8cb6415c659f196e0e984b2139f4b6a6b6e2223e25371e3f33e41376135
  7. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/visa-wise-platinum/terms
  8. https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/travel-and-miles/
  9. https://www.hotels.com/page/capital-one-venture/
  10. https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/travel/
  11. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/gold-card/?eep=25330
  12. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card-application/apply/prospect/terms/gold-card/26129-10-0#FeeTable
  13. https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit-cards/products/travel-rewards-credit-card/
  14. https://creditcards.chase.com/rewards-credit-cards/chase-sapphire-preferred?iCELL=61GD#secOfferDetails

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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