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Choosing the best credit card with no foreign transaction fee
Any time you make an electronic purchase in foreign currency, your card provider may charge you a foreign transaction fee, usually 1%-3% of the purchase price. Purchases on both credit cards and debit cards are subject to foreign transaction fees.
Foreign transaction fees are fast disappearing among 100 favorite credit cards that we surveyed late 2019. In fact, the number of cards with no foreign transaction fee hit 54 out of 100 in 2019, up from 48 in 2018, according to the CreditCards.com card fee survey. Capital One and Discover have been the leaders of the pack when it comes to nixing these fees, but other issuers are catching up each year by providing their own options.
Whether you’re a business owner with overseas vendors or you’re planning a vacation, a card with no foreign transaction fees can help you avoid unnecessary charges. Many of the best business credit cards and best travel credit cards come with no foreign transaction fees. Here, we explain what you need to know about foreign transaction fees, how to plan financially for overseas travel and how to pick the right credit card.. Take a look below:
Best no foreign transaction fee credit cards
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for cash back
The Quicksilver is an easy-to-understand rewards card: It gets unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has a sign-up bonus of $200 for spending $500 in the first 3 months. As an added welcome, this flat-rate card offers a 0% intro APR offer on purchases for 15 months (15.49% – 25.49% variable rate thereafter) – a perfect window to purchase a trip to be paid off in increments. In addition, this card features no annual fee. While its flexible, simple rewards and achievable intro offer make this an easy-to-use card, there are more valuable rewards out there for experienced cardholders. Read our full review.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat rewards rate
The VentureOne offers travelers a 1.25X miles rate on all purchases, plus no annual fee. Miles don’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how much you can earn with this card. To welcome new cardholders, Capital One awards 20,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months (a $200 value). You also get Visa Signature benefits, such as warranty manager service and travel and emergency assistance. On top of the travel benefits, the card comes with an intro 0% APR offer on purchases for 12 months, followed by a regular APR of 15.49%-25.49% (variable). Read our full review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for sign-up bonus
The Venture Rewards’ sign-up bonus is straightforward and plentiful – earn 100,000 miles after spending $20,000 within the first 12 months or earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. It does come with a $95 annual fee, but this card also offers 2X miles on all purchases, plus convenient features like TSA PreCheck credit and easily transferable miles. In addition, the Venture card features no blackout dates, no expiration dates and no limits on earning miles. On the downside, miles transfer at a less-than-ideal 2:1.5 ratio with most transfer partners, and the Venture’s list of airline partners in the U.S. is limited. Read our full review.
Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating bonus categories
One of a select few offering its level of rewards, the Discover it Cash Back offers 5% back on up to $1,500 in spend each quarter on rotating categories such as restaurants, wholesale clubs and even online retailers (activation required). After hitting the $1,500 threshold in a quarter, the rewards rate drops to 1% (the same as all other purchases). Your earnings will be matched in your first year as a cardholder thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match, which can reward moderate spending with as much as $600 cash back when capitalizing on rotating categories. One thing to remember is that you’ll have to enroll for the boosted rewards before each quarter. Plus, due to limited international availability, you may have to do research on whether Discover is accepted wherever you’re traveling. On the bright side, this card is closing the year by rewarding purchases on Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com, just in time for holiday shopping. Read our full review.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Best for Marriott rewards
With no annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold rewards both for loyalty spending and general travel spending. Earn 3X points at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™. Also, earn 2 points for every dollar spent on other travel purchases, including airfare, taxis and trains. The sign-up bonus is a bit low: Earn 30,000 points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months. Read our full review.
Discover it® Miles: Best for new cardholders
If you’re looking for a travel credit card but you don’t want to get locked into confusing points offers or an annual fee, the Discover it Miles just may have what you’re looking for. Earn 1.5X miles on all purchases, then get your miles matched at the end of your first year. So if you earn 35,000 miles, that becomes 70,000 miles at the end of your first year. The icing on the cake: There are no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees. Read our full review.
American Express® Gold Card: Best for no blackout dates
Some travel cards offer no blackout dates, and the American Express Gold Card is one of them. Earn a welcome offer of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first 6 months of card membership. Also, earn 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 a year, then 1X point). Finally, earn 4X points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, as well as 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. While the annual fee of $250 may make you hesitate, these rewards are bodacious. Read our full review.
Citi Premier® Card: Best for hotel rewards
Not only can you earn 3X points at restaurants and supermarkets, but you can also do the same at hotels, gas stations and air travel. Also, once a year, get $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, when you book through thankyou.com or 1-800-THANKYOU. The annual fee is quite low, at $95, for the rewards you get, which include a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months. Read our full review.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for travel rewards
The Sapphire Preferred’s 2X points back on worldwide travel and dining are some of the best vacation rewards out there. This card also features 5X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022) and 1X points elsewhere, plus a sign-up offer of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in your first 3 months. The best part: As a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you can earn a 25% bonus when redeeming points for travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal, and points are unlimited and never expire. Thanks to the boost from the Ultimate Rewards portal, just hitting the sign-up bonus will earn you $750 worth of travel purchases. There is one minor drawback to this valuable card: The Sapphire Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee. Read our full review.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card: Best for no annual fee
For a card with no annual fee, the Propel’s rewards pack a punch. With 3X points on travel and transit, 3X points on dining, 3X points at gas stations and 1X points on all other purchases, this card offers the opportunity to earn top-tier rewards. If you know you’ll be making a major international trip soon, you’ll want to take advantage of its 20,000-point sign-up bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value. Your points won’t expire and are unlimited, but unfortunately, this card doesn’t allow for transfers to outside loyalty programs. Read our full review.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for international travelers
Unlike most, this card features an annual travel credit of $300 for cardholders to spend anywhere in the world. The Sapphire Reserve rewards cardholders with 3X points on travel and 3X points on dining after going through your travel credit, plus 10X points on Lyft through March 2022 and 1X points elsewhere. The $550 annual fee may give you pause. But here’s the kicker: Points are unlimited, don’t expire and receive a 50% boost on travel rewards when redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. As a sign-up bonus, Chase offers 50,000 after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That means your sign-up bonus is worth $750 when you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Read our full review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for lounge access
With the Platinum Card in your wallet, you’ll enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, which Amex says is the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary locations around the world. The high-end card also offers flexibility while traveling, with 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting 1/1/21, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. This option also features unlimited points that won’t expire, and a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after a $5,000 spend within the first 6 months. The Platinum Card does not come cheap – bringing along a $550 annual fee – but does its best to directly make up for it with hundreds in TSA PreCheck, Uber and hotel credits, and an annual airline fee credit of up to $200. Read our full review.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining
A great choice for foodies and international travelers, this card offers 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, plus 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. In addition, Capital One now partners with OpenTable and its Premium Access program, which allows you to make fee-free reservations at select, elite restaurants throughout the U.S. This no annual fee card also features an intro APR offer of 0% on purchases for 15 months (15.49% – 25.49% variable rate thereafter), and a sign-up bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months. Other travel card options might provide more alluring redemption options like flights and hotels, but the SavorOne is an all-around valuable cash back card. Read our full review.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Best for business travel
This card features an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase for your business. On top of that, cardholders can earn $500 after spending $4,500 within the first 3 months of card membership. This card does come with an annual fee of $95, but it’s waived in the first year. Unfortunately, when compared to other business cards, the Spark Cash for Business has a high APR of 20.99% variable and offers no 0% intro APR on purchases or balance transfers. Read our full review.
Compare the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards of 2020:
|Credit Card||Best For:||Annual Fee||Creditcards.com’s Review Score|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Cash back||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Flat rate rewards||$0||3 / 5|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Sign-up bonus||$95||4.2 / 5|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Rotating bonus categories||$0||4.3 / 5|
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card||Marriott rewards||$0||3.1 /5|
|Discover it® Miles||New cardholders||$0||4.0 /5|
|American Express® Gold Card||No blackout dates||$250 ||4.3 /5|
|Citi Premier||Hotel rewards||$95||3.8 /5|
|Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Credit building with responsible use||$39||4.1 /5|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||No annual fee||$0||3.5 /5|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Travel rewards||$95||3.9 / 5|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||International travelers||$550||4.6 / 5|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Lounge access||$550||4.5 / 5|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Capital One Spark Cash for Business||Business travel||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that||4.1 / 5|
Research methodology: How we chose the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards
Rewards: rates, type, ease of redemption
There are a variety of people who can benefit from avoiding foreign transaction fees, from small business owners to travel enthusiasts. We chose credit cards with high rewards rates in spending categories to match, like business rewards and travel benefits.
One reason you may be hoping to avoid foreign transaction fees is that you have international travel plans. Some of the travel perks you’ll find among our top credit cards with no foreign transaction fee include free checked bags, rental car insurance, airport lounge access and TSA PreCheck credits.
Sign-up bonus value
Many of the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees also come with lucrative sign-up bonuses. We compared the value of cash, airline mile and point bonuses to ensure you’re getting the most overall value from these picks.
Number of no foreign transaction fee cards we analyzed: 938
All criteria used: Rates and fees, rewards rates, rewards categories, sign-up bonuses, point values, redemption options, redemption flexibility, credit needed, travel benefits, transfer partners, international customer service, security, ease of application.
What is a foreign transaction fee?
Foreign transaction fees are charges that credit card issuers and payment networks place on purchases made in a foreign currency or on purchases that involve a foreign bank. Usually, a foreign transaction fee is around 3% of the purchase price. So for every $100 you spend, you would have to pay an extra $3 in foreign transaction fees.
A foreign transaction can be a purchase processed through a foreign bank (such as when you buy something from a non-U.S. retailer website), or when you travel overseas, including when you use an ATM. Note that there can actually be multiple fees at a foreign ATM, including a flat-rate international ATM surcharge as well as an ATM access fee.
Further reading: Learn more about foreign transaction fees and how to avoid them.
Who should get a no foreign transaction fee card?
Anyone who might be making purchases overseas, whether online or in person, could benefit from a no foreign transaction fee card. That includes business owners, frequent travelers and online shoppers. Even those who only travel internationally on occasion should consider a no foreign transaction fee card; traveling is expensive enough, and it pays to save money where you can.
How much is the typical foreign transaction fee?
Often, the foreign transaction fees have two parts: one charged by the payment network, such as Visa and Mastercard, and one charged by the card issuer, which can be anything from a bank like Chase to a brand like Hilton.
Networks Visa and Mastercard typically charge a 1% fee for each foreign transaction. Issuers might tack on an additional 1% to 2%. American Express, which doesn’t use Visa or Mastercard’s payment system, often tacks a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% onto its cards.
Do all travel credit cards have no foreign transaction fees?
Generally, travel cards are your best bet when looking for credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. According to the 2019 annual CreditCards.com fee survey, foreign transaction fees are all but extinct among travel credit cards. Out of the 100 credit cards analyzed, just one travel card, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, came with a foreign transaction fee.
Foreign transaction fees by card issuer
Below are the standard foreign transaction fees for top issuers. Some issuers, like Capital One and Discover, elect not to charge a foreign transaction fee on any of their credit cards. Of course, even different cards from the same brand can vary in their fees.
|Card Issuer||Foreign Transaction Fee|
|Bank of America||3%|
|U.S. Bank||3%; 2% for U.S. dollar transactions|
Though most card issuers have a standard foreign transaction fee, many also offer cards that are exceptions to their fee:
American Express credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Bank of America credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Capital One credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Chase credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Citi credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Discover credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Wells Fargo credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Which credit cards are the most internationally accepted?
While Visa is number one in most parts of the world, Mastercard and UnionPay are usually next in line, according to The Nilson Report’s 2019 data, which was reported throughout June 2020. Visa and Mastercard have a long-established international presence – both are accepted at tens of millions of vendors across 200+ countries and territories worldwide. The big exceptions to the Visa/Mastercard dominance are Asia, where UnionPay makes up about 70% of all card spending, and Canada, where Interac comes in second with 47% of the market there
The general rule is to have two types of cards in your wallet, just in case your favorite card isn’t accepted. That means different issuers and different card networks.
“My biggest tip for spending overseas is to diversify; always carry both cash and credit,” says Lyn Alden, world traveler and founder of Lyn Alden Investment Strategy. “Credit cards are safer, more convenient and give better rewards, so I use them as my primary spending method. But when you’re outside of your country, it’s critical to have backups, and to have alternate ways to spend.”
Generally, you will find that major hotels, restaurants and other locations that tourists frequent are accustomed to accepting credit cards. It gets tricky when you go off the beaten path. That’s why it’s a good idea to have cash on hand if you plan to “experience like the locals.”
Tips for spending internationally (before, during and after travel)
- Know your card terms. If you can’t readily find information about foreign transaction fees, pick up the phone and call the number on the back of your card. It should also be displayed with your “rates and fees” clause. Note that terms of cards from the same issuer can vary. If you travel often, it may make sense to apply for a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
- Research your overseas bank network. Check if your bank is part of a global ATM network that you can use to access cash overseas for free – or at least at a lower cost.
- Always pay in the local currency. Sometimes, foreign merchants will offer to convert your purchase to U.S. dollars before you pay with your card. Decline so that you avoid dynamic currency conversion costs that you’ll have to shoulder. “So many places try to say ‘convenience,’ but the rate is not favorable to the traveler,” says travel blogger Suzanne Wolko of PhilaTravelGirl.com.
- About those traveler’s checks. “Don’t bother; they are too much of a hassle,” says Wolko.
- Call your bank. Make sure they are aware that you may use your ATM card in the country you will be traveling to, says Wolko.
- Use only credit abroad. Some travel experts actually advise that you not use a debit card in a foreign country. That’s because you are protected when there is an unauthorized charge on your credit card, and you might be protected if a product isn’t delivered as promised. A debit card, with your PIN, can mean free money for the bad guys, if your bank doesn’t have protections in place for you. Check with your financial institution.
- Try local apps. Wolko advises that you use apps tied to your credit card to avoid dealing with cash or credit cards, such as Uber, Lyft or MyTaxi.
How to choose the right credit card with no foreign transaction fee
- Does the card fit your lifestyle? OneSavvyDollar.com founder Ogechi Igbokwe says he knew that once he graduated from grad school, he planned to travel overseas, so a card with no foreign transaction fee made sense.
- Does it come with an annual fee? Says Igbokwe: “Golden rule when making a purchase: The cost of getting a thing must never outweigh the benefit.” So, make sure you will recoup on the annual fee or that the card has an advantage that makes the fee worthwhile.
- Is it widely accepted? “A no foreign transaction fee card is only good if it is accepted everywhere you go,” says Natasha Rachel Smith of TopCashback.com.
- Any rewards? Because there is such a wide range of cards offering no foreign transaction fee, you’ll want to look at rewards that are offered. However, “Prior to applying for any card, check the terms and conditions to make sure the card allows you to receive rewards on international purchases,” says Smith.
- What other features are there? Krista Canfield McNish, of travel website and blog FoodWaterShoes.com, has a card that covers up to $1,500 in trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance per trip for nonrefundable expenses due to personal or family injury, illness, or death if you booked your trip with your card, which she says is a handy bonus.
- Have you done your research? “Keep in mind that not every country is U.S. credit card-friendly (for example, European cards are more likely to work in countries like Cuba than U.S. credit cards), so it’s a good idea to do your homework before you take off,” says McNish.
More information on travel rewards
Maybe you’ve decided that, in addition to no foreign transaction fees, you’d like a card with travel, hotel or airline rewards. Check out our library of product-specific reviews to help you narrow down your choice.
Travel credit card news and advice
Want to study up on the world of travel rewards? Our dedicated experts have created the guides you need to become a points and miles aficionado. Here are a few of our favorite articles to help you get started.