No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards

November 13, 2018 - Traveling is expensive enough. Save money with a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee. Whether you're sampling local cuisine or shopping online abroad, these are the best cards that give you one less thing to worry about. And for even more travel perks, check out our list of travel cards from our partners.

November 13, 2018 - See the best no foreign transaction fee credit card offers from our partners below.

Summary

Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees:

REDEEM POINTS FOR MILES & FLIGHTS

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

7,800 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 points
?

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
?

$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% variable

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Highlights

  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months

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Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Wells Fargo's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
30,000 points
?

Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 26.99% variable

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Highlights

  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.49%-26.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months
Regular APR
14.49%-26.99% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 12 months

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 miles
?

50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% variable

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Highlights

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

11,756 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Bank of America's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
25,000 points
?

25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.99% - 24.99% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • New Offer: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Regular APR
16.99% - 24.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at HSBC's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
?

$150 Cash Back Intro Bonus for new HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card customers who spend $2,500 or more in new, net card purchases during the first 3 months from credit card account opening.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
Variable APR of 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% will be applied

See Rates & Fees

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Highlights

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases.
  • Earn a $150 cash rewards intro bonus after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months.
  • 10% Anniversary Bonus on all Cash Rewards earned once a year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, then a 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable APR.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $0 liability for unauthorized purchases.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
Variable APR of 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% will be applied
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months from account opening

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Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$500
?

$500 after you spend $3000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
16.24% - 25.24% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
16.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

26,257 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match™
?

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% variable

See Rates & Fees

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Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 14 months

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British Airways Visa Signature® Card

British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Up To 100,000 points
?

50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios. Earn a further 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios.
  • Earn a further 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$95
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

How to Compare Credit Card Offers with No Foreign Transaction Fee

Updated: November 13, 2018

You just got back from a pricey international trip and while reviewing your credit card statement, you noticed the expected airfare, lodging and food charges, but also “foreign transaction fee” charges. What's that all about?

Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, but there are some that don't. If you are a frequent traveler or shop online with overseas vendors, it might be worth your while to find a card without a foreign transaction fee. To get to our top picks, we evaluated over 50 credit cards without a foreign transaction fee using the following criteria: other rates and fees, general rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, point values, redemption options, customer service and other miscellaneous travel benefits. Here are our results, along with helpful tips to help you make a decision on the right card.

We not only explain what you need to know about foreign transaction fees, but also how to plan for your overseas travel financial strategy, and pick the right card to accompany your travels. Take a look below:


Our top picks for 2018: Best no foreign transaction fee credit cards

Card NameBest For:Foreign Transaction FeeIssuer's Regular Foreign FeeAnnual Fee
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit CardEasy travel redemption0%None$0
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardFlexible travel rewards0%3%$0 intro for first year, then $95
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit CardFlat-rate cash back0%None$0
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardNo annual fee0%3%$0
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardHotel purchases0%None$0 intro for first year, then $95
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardOnline bonus0%3%$0
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit cardAnniversary bonus0%3%$0
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment0%None$0 intro for first year, then $95
Discover it® Cash BackRotating bonus categories0%None$0
British Airways Visa Signature® CardLarge sign-up bonus0%3%$95

Our Research Methodology

No foreign transaction fee credit cards analyzed: 938

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

best credit cards with no foreign transaction fee

Editor's notes on our top no foreign transaction fee cards

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

With its hotels.com offer, this card pulls ahead of the pack, even with its lukewarm 1.25X miles on all purchases. There's a 20,000-mile sign-up bonus after $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, as well.

Miles don't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn. You also get Visa Signature benefits, such as extended warranty and complimentary concierge service.

Where is this card accepted? As a Visa card, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards is widely accepted throughout the world. Only in Asia is Visa not the dominant card network.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Sapphire Preferred's 2X points on worldwide travel and restaurants not only includes hotels and airfare, but also taxis and trains. There's also the 50,000 points after a $4,000 spend in the first 3 months of card membership.

Because of the Sapphire Preferred's unique position as a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you can earn a 25% bonus when redeeming points for travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer rewards from Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards and still enjoy that boost. A little-known benefit of the Sapphire Preferred – you can get primary rental car waiver damage, which means this insurance is used even before your personal auto insurance.

Where is this card accepted? This card is not only in the most popular card network (Visa), it rewards mightily for worldwide travel and dining at restaurants.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card from Capital One is competing head-on with cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®; it gets 1.5% back on all purchases and has a sign-up bonus of $150 for spending $500 in the first 3 months.

What makes the Quicksilver pull ahead is that it has no foreign transaction fee, while the Freedom Unlimited has a 3% foreign transaction charge.

Where is this card accepted? With a good flat rate for all purchases and membership in the Visa network, the Quicksilver is a fine choice for an all-round card with shopping online and even overseas travel.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Not only does this card come with no foreign transaction fee, its 3x points per dollar spent on travel (and dining) is a surefire way to rack up rewards on your business trip or vacation.

If you know you'll be making a major international trip soon, you'll want to take advantage of its 30K point sign-up bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. By selecting this card over competing options, you could also save a great deal long-term as the Propel offers all of these benefits with no annual fee.

Where is this card accepted? As an American Express card, it's not a favorite in any regions, although it is widely accepted domestically and somewhat in Latin America.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

The Venture Rewards' greatest asset is now the 10X miles on hotels booked and paid through hotels.com/Venture. Also new to the card is the $100 credit for Global Entry or Pre-Check. And coming in December, Venture Rewards will partner with 12 airlines with a transfer ratio of 2:1.5.

This card has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after a $3,000 spend in the first 3 months of card membership, as well as 2X miles on all purchases. But it's this card's hotel rewards feature that puts it in its very own class.

Where is this card accepted? Like the VentureOne Rewards, this card is a Visa, which is the dominant card network in most regions.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

The Bank of America Travel Rewards' 1.5X points on all purchases has the VentureOne Rewards beat, although the sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after a $1,000 spend within the first 90 days is comparable.

There's no expiration on points and you can earn up to 75% bonus as a Preferred Rewards customer. If you like the idea of redemptions on a multitude of travel purchases, no loyalty necessary, this is a good option.

Where is this card accepted? As a Visa Signature card, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is both widely accepted worldwide and it offers a respectable 1.5X points on all purchases.

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

This card has the usual 1.5% back on all purchases and $150 bonus after a $2,500 spend in the first 3 months of card membership. What makes this card stand out from the others is the 10% anniversary bonus on all cash rewards each year.

Also, this cash rewards card separates itself with the no foreign transaction fee feature, which some cash back cards don't offer, as well as numerous travel and shopping benefits, including travel accident insurance and price protection refunds.

Where is this card accepted? As a Mastercard, the HSBC Cash Rewards card is moderately accepted throughout the world, but it doesn't offer rich rewards for such travel expenses as hotel stays.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

With its other features so prominent, you could almost miss the fact that the Savor comes with no foreign transaction fee. Indeed, the Savor is a great choice for travel abroad; its 4% cash back on dining and entertainment can really shine if you take it with you on vacation.

It's also great as a daily driver in addition to international trips. While there are some better cards for shopping, 2% back at grocery stores is nothing to scoff at. But perhaps best of all, it comes with a big $500 cash sign-up bonus which you can reach by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Where is this card accepted? As part of the Mastercard network, the Savor enjoys solid international acceptance, making it a strong candidate for use at restaurants worldwide.

Discover it® Cash Back

With Discover's famous cashback match, this card's rewards are tough to beat. You can earn up to $300 for the year if you use the 5% rotating categories to the maximum of $1,500 a quarter (activation required), then another $300 back the end of your first year.

Keep in mind that Discover cards are accepted at fewer international locations than a credit card in the Visa or Mastercard network. If you have upcoming trips to a specific destination in mind, it's a good idea to do some research on how commonly accepted Discover is in that region.

Where is this card accepted? This card is a good choice for domestic travel and possibly online shopping, because of the no foreign transaction fee, but pick another card for overseas travel.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

This card's greatest feature is the 100,000 Avios sign-up bonus. Here's how it works: Earn 50,000 Avios after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months; earn another 25,000 Avios after a total spend of $10,000 in your first year; and earn another 25,000 Avios after a total spend of $20,000 within your first year.

The British Airways Visa Signature Card continues to reward for heavy spending – every calendar year that you make $30,000 in purchases, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years. Also, you can earn 3X Avios on British Airways purchases.

Where is this card accepted?

As a Visa Signature card, this British Airways card is widely accepted throughout the world.

What is a foreign transaction fee?

Foreign transaction fees are charges – usually around 3 percent of the total amount – that many credit card issuers and payment networks place on purchases made in a foreign currency or on purchases that involve a foreign bank.

Usually, foreign transaction fees have no minimum or maximum. The card-issuing bank may choose to pass that fee along to consumers; most do, and some tack on their own fees. Why? “Because banks have to convert your money spent into U.S. dollars so they can charge your account,” said Victoria L. Fillet, a financial adviser with Blueprint Financial Planning in Hoboken, New Jersey. That conversion costs money, and some card-issuing banks pass that cost along to consumers in the form of foreign transaction fees.

According to Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel for the American Bankers Association, foreign transaction fees also help banks offset the greater fraud risks associated with international transactions. "There are risks and costs associated with any money conversion,” she said.

Banks can add foreign transaction fees onto any credit card charge that's processed outside of the United States. You can find these charges on your credit card statement even when you make overseas purchases in U.S. dollars – if you so much as place an online order from a foreign company, including something as innocuous as booking an airline ticket from a carrier that doesn't have a U.S.-based website, you could find yourself with an additional 3 percent fee rolled into the total cost of your transaction.

The bottom line is that, like baggage and passports, foreign transaction fees have been a standard part of international travel for years. Fortunately, the average consumer has gotten more and more savvy to these hidden costs, and credit card companies are dropping their fees in response. Today, many of the best travel credit cards and airline credit cards come with no foreign transaction fees.

How much is the typical foreign transaction fee?

Most foreign transaction fees vary between 2 percent and 3 percent of the purchase. Often, the fee has 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, or a brand like Hilton.

Networks Visa and Mastercard typically charge a 1 percent fee for each foreign transaction. Issuers might tack on an additional 1 to 2 percent. American Express, which doesn't use Visa or Mastercard's payment system, often tacks on a foreign transaction fee of 2.7 percent onto its cards.

Again, 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.

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. Many issuers have cards that are exceptions to their standard foreign transaction fee.

Card IssuerForeign Transaction Fee
American Express2.7%
Barclays3%
Bank of America3%
Capital One0%
Chase3%
Citi3%
Discover0%
HSBC0%
USAA0%
U.S. Bank3%; 2% for U.S. dollar transactions
Wells Fargo3%

Which credit cards are the most internationally accepted?

While Visa is number one in most parts of the world, Mastercard is usually second, according to The Nilson Report's 2017 data, which has been reported throughout 2018. The big exceptions to the Visa/Mastercard dominance are Asia, where UnionPay makes up 76% of all card spending, and Canada, where Interac comes in second with 30% 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."

Most U.S.-based cards are chip and signature (for now), while in other parts of the world, such as Europe, they use chip and PIN. Both are designed for increased safety. For the most part, chip and signature will work fine overseas, provided there is a cashier.

But it's helpful to have a chip and PIN card. That's because chip and PIN cards have to be used to get automated service at ticket kiosks in Europe, for example. While not as common here, some card issuers in the U.S. offer these, for example Barclaycard.

international market share by card network

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. For example, she says, while 2 of the major card networks are less common outside of the U.S., Visa and Mastercard are more popular overseas.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. “I also love that the card doesn't require me to call [the issuer] or to log in online to notify them of upcoming travel before I take off,” McNish says.
  6. 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

Once you narrow your choice down to a few products, you can find product-specific reviews for travel cards, hotel cards and airline cards. Use these reviews to help make your final application decisions!


Robin Ratcliff is the managing editor for reviews on CreditCards.com. Before CreditCards.com, she worked as a analyst and editor, and still brings that same analytical rigor to her card recommendations today. You can reach Robin at robin.ratcliff@creditcards.com.
Tracy Brackman is a credit card news editor at CreditCards.com, writing breaking news stories on card updates and new card launches. You can reach Tracy at editors@creditcards.com.


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