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The Top Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

by on June 4, 2012 · 80 comments

in American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Credit Cards

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.  The offer mentioned below for the Business Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer hereView the current offer for the British Airways VisaThe offer mentioned below for the Capital One Venture Rewards Card has expired. View the current offer here

Update:  As of July 20, 2014, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card no longer offers the 7% annual points dividend. View the current sign up offer here.

For international travelers, foreign transaction fees are the devil. If you aren’t familiar with these fees, you should pay attention. Most credit cards will charge a ridiculous 1-3% fee on all purchases processed outside of the US. Note: you don’t even need to leave the country to get hit with these fees – if you ever purchase something and the vendor processes the charge outside of the US, you can expect to get dinged with the nuisance fee.

However, the biggest concern is if you take a trip abroad since expenses (and these fees) rack up quickly. For example, if you go to London and spend $3,000 on your US Airways Mastercard, you will have to pay an additional $90 (3%), just for allowing Barclays bank the pleasure of processing your transactions. Even though you’d earn 3,000 miles, you can actually buy them cheaper from US Airways directly via their current 100% bonus at 1.8 cents a mile versus what amounts to 3 cents each with Barclays.

Before you travel abroad, make sure you know if your card currently has a foreign transaction fee and the best way is to call customer service. Also beware that while abroad many vendors will ask you whether you want to charge the purchase in the local currency or in US Dollars. I recommend choosing the local currency and letting your bank/credit card company process the charge using their foreign exchange rate. When you allow the vendor to do it, you can almost be assured they are taking a cut of the action and will not give you the best rate.

While I’ve compiled a comprehensive list below, you should always double check whether the credit card you are applying for has 0% in foreign transaction fees. Do this by clicking the Terms & Conditions link before you submit your application. Foreign transaction fees will be listed under  Fees -> Transaction fees table (usually the last fee listed).

Sample fee disclosure on a Bank of America credit card application.

While foreign transaction fees are a rip-off, the good news is that there are points- and mileage-earning cards that don’t have these fees. If you travel abroad extensively, it’s critical you get one of these cards, especially since there are several with no annual fees. I personally travel with the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Visa cards in case a vendor doesn’t accept either Amex or Visa, I have an option. Note: Capital One and Discover both offer 0% foreign transaction fees across their product lines.

100,000 Avios for the Chase British Airways Visa. $95 annual fee. 100k offer Expires July 18, 2012.
60,000 points (after a year) for the Citi Thank You Premier. $125, waived for the first year.
50,000 points
for the Chase Ink Bold. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.
50,000 points for the American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum. $475 annual fee.
70,000 points for the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa. $395 annual fee.
40,000 points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.
2 Free nights + 1 each anniversary for the Chase Hyatt Visa. $75 annual fee.
2 Free nights with the Chase Fairmont Visa. $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
2 Weekend night certificates with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. $95 annual fee.
60,000 points for the Chase Priority Club Visa. $49 annual fee, waived for the first year.
50,000 points
for the Chase Marriott Premier Visa. $85 annual fee, waived for the first year.
25,000 points for the American Express Platinum. $450 annual fee.
25,000 points for the American Express Business Platinum. $450 annual fee.
25,000 miles for the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard. $450 annual fee.
20,000 points for the PenFed Travel card. No annual fee.
20,000 points after $2,000 spent in the first 3 months for Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. $59 annual fee, waived for the first year.
20,000 points after $2,000 spent in the first 3 months for the Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card. No annual fee.
10,000 points for the Bank of America Privileges card. $75 annual fee, waived for the first year.
10,000 points for the Bank of America Travel Rewards. No annual fee.
$100 Statement credit for the Chase United Club Club. $395 annual fee.
5% Cash Back on the PenFed Gas Card. No annual fee.
Capital One Spark for Business. No annual fee.

If you know of any other fee-free points/miles cards, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • DaninSTL

    Great list as I’m looking for a new card to use in Europe. I wish I had a list of these that also have the chip and pin. I know a few of them do like the BA Avios card. Thanks for the info.

  • Lantean

    When you look at the list it’s obvious how Chase has monopolized the rewards credit card business. Things are headed on the wrong direction… Very sad.

  • Steve Thomas

    Great List. I’m moving to HK next month.

    Though I am worried about what exchange rate they apply to transactions (i.e. do they make their money up here)

    HKD/USD is basically fixed at 7.76. (see chart below)

    http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=USDHKD%3DX+Interactive#symbol=;range=3m;compare=;indicator=volume;charttype=area;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off;source=undefined;

    TPG can you look at your statement when you were in HK and see what exchange rate they used for your transactions. Is it within 1 to 2% of this 7.76? Or is there more variance?

  • thepointsguy

    Yea I wish others would join them.. it’s such a competitive space, you’d think there would be, but I guess they are all making a boatload on these foreign fees.

  • thepointsguy

    None of the US cards actually have chip & pin, to my knowledge. The BA Visa has chip & signature, which is a step in the right direction, but not completely there.

  • iahphx

    Thanks for the list. Nice job: I was compiling my own “mental” list recently, because I’m heading overseas for several weeks and wanted to see which card I could get for bonus points and then meet the minimum spend without having to pay foreign transaction fees.

    I’m a but surprised that AMEX has so few cards without the foreign fees. It’s been a major factor in my shifting of spending away from them. Given the demographic they target, I would think they leave a bunch of money “on the table” from customers not using their AMEX cards on foreign travel. Since they generally charge higher merchant fees than Visa or Mastercard, I would think this is business they’d want to have. I don’t believe that many of their high-spenders remain ignorant of these fees for very long.

  • http://twitter.com/sam_a1027 Samuel Adams

    There is also a Penfed platinum rewards card that I am currently using. It offers 5% back on gas, 3% on groceries and 1% on everything else with no annual fee. Also comes with a 25,000 point signup bonus after spending $1000, equivalent to $250.
    https://www.penfed.org/Platinum-Rewards/

  • RakSiam

    It does seem odd indeed that the SPG Amex still charges these fees.

  • http://twitter.com/MusicandMarkets Anne Woodyard

    Since we’re in Europe nearly monthly, and for extended periods of time, a no-fee card is essential for us. After using Capital One for decades, we switched to Chase Sapphire Preferred upon your recommendation and have easily used it in multiple countries. We did experience more of a problem last month with the chip/pin issue. The new handheld processors being issued in France do not have the “swipe” capability so there were several purchases for which we could not use the card. Have noticed this in Amsterdam in the past too. Chase’s answer is that any merchant displaying the Visa logo is required to accept the card. Doesn’t help much in the situation – the vendor can not and will not process the charge. I continue to ask Chase to offer a chip/pin card…

  • GlockLT4

    One other thing to note, even if the currency of another country is USD, they will STILL charge you a forex fee if that charge is made from out of the US! I had to fight big time with Citi once where I was in a country that is USD based. Eventually I got the fee waived.

    Agree with Anne about the Chip/Pin situation in Europe…

  • Zz

    Let’s state the obvious here. Chase Sapphire is not optimal for use in Europe. I have had it for the last two months and spent 4 weeks in ~10 countries in Europe. Desperately need a chip!!!! And just today as I was paying for the taxi I was told that the numbers need to be more pronounced (stick out they way they do on most cards). I had to use a different card. Fortunately I travel with 4 CCs. In short Chase Sapphire does not make life easy when traveling abroad. I spoke to a CS rep at Chase regardin gthe Chip issue. They are looking into it….. (the card would have to be redesigned. But I rather take a less hip card with a chip than a mega-cool card without.

  • SeaBee3

    The Hyatt Chase card has chip and signature as well.

  • BA bound

    I just applied for the Sapphire Preferred. I am thinking about getting the Visa Hyatt because I am planning a trip to Buenos Aires and I could stay for 4 nights at the Hyatt there for free. It would take 44k points to stay for 2 nights (40k coming with the SP bonus) and I would get 2 nights after first purchase with the Visa Hyatt. Thoughts? I have heard that some Hyatt hotels will NOT honor the free stays.

  • Patriots68

    The Chase rep I talked to told me to apply for another card instead of the sapphire preferred and that the agreement both visa and mastercard have require all merchants to take all cards.

  • stansso

    I did about four dozen transactions in France (Paris and a couple small towns). The only place I had trouble was in the Paris Metro — everywhere else was able to process my card (which was the Chase Sapphire Preferred).

  • Tim

    Please note that european CCs also have a foreign transaction fee; if I buy something in the US or on an US-based internet site, my germant visa card is also charging me a foreign transaction fee (1,5%).

    @ TPG: Can non US-citizens (who have a social security number since they lived in the US some time ago) apply for some of these creditcards which you recommend?

  • anon

    Here in Ecuador, ALL credit cards [no exception] charge us a 5% foreign transaction fee.

  • http://twitter.com/searingsteel Micheal Perrion

    Do you have any recommendations of a card that does have a chip that would work?

  • J Alves

    I am a non US-Citizen with valid SSN. Of course you can apply for any of these cards, as long as you have a good credit history and a US address that you can use to apply and receive the cards. Good luck!

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, but if you have no credit history it will be very difficult to get one of them.

  • thepointsguy

    As long as there is standard award availability you can use the free nights. That’s a great hotel, you’ll love it.

  • thepointsguy

    We’ve heard the Sapphire Preferred is the next one to get chip and signature technology. Fingers crossed.

  • thepointsguy

    Totally agree! I hope they at least take the forex fees off the Starwood Amex and the Premier Rewards Gold.

  • anon

    I’ve used the Chase Hyatt card with chip+signature all over Europe (Paris, Berlin, Helsinki) with no problems. When prompted for a PIN, I’ve typed in 0000 and it has worked.

  • rew

    Using non-chip cards in most of Europe isn’t as difficult as some of the comments here suggest. I’ve spent many weeks in Europe this year and used my Chase Sapphire and Chase BA Visa (also still chipless in my case) in Germany, Belgium, France and the UK. Once or twice a cashier has had to ask a colleague for guidance, or asked me if I’ve got a different card with a chip, but in the end I was successful every time. Having a card with a chip will save some queuing time at railway stations, though.

  • The Traveler

    Hi, I recently created a list of current credit cards containing chips. Most of them are from Chase at this point. Click my name above to take a look.

  • http://tmblr.co/ZYkdAvMVTAl- The Traveler

    Oops. Forgot the link!

  • http://tmblr.co/ZYkdAvMVTAl- The Traveler
  • Dan-lauz

    Any cards in canada without any of theses charges ?

  • The Traveler

    That would be great!

  • L T

    Thanks for the great post. PenFed’s Platinum Cash Rewards Card used to have a foreign transaction fee. I called PenFed and had them move the credit line from the PenFed Promise card I had opened a while ago back onto the Cash Rewards Card, as doing that will increase my average account open age.

  • jimL

    The good news is the US diners club card is a true chip and pin card. The bad news is that they still charge a 3% forex fee. I use it at only those places where I absolutely cannot use my swipe cards

  • PJ

    DISCOVER CARD is also a no FX fees card, is cool when in the 2nd quarter it reabtes 5 % on dining . IT getting popular overseas since the recent link with DINERS CLUB . I was touring Brazil , Argentina and CHile in late April -early May. It could virtually trump my Sapphire Preferred at all times if I also had my PIN ready when some merchants asked for it.

  • http://www.dealsseeker.blogspot.in/ DealsSeeker

    I second the new Penfed Platinum Premium Rewards Visa Card. I look forward to getting this card on my next app-o-rama. Where else can you get 5x on gas and 3x on groceries in a foreign country without having to pay any FTF?

    Also, I have had no problems using my Chase Sapphire in Europe or the Middle East.

  • PJ

    hehe Park Hyatt is there :) ,Palicio Duhau. I had no problem what so ever with reservation from my ” any two hyatt nights” and enjoyed their tremendous hosptality .

    A question for you? Dont you have a trusted one to get another two nights for you ?

  • PJ

    has to be; that is the trend. would that mean I should ask Chase to send in a new Hyatt card with chip to replace my old one?

  • PJ

    2 weeks in BRAZIL , ARGENTINA and CHile, I did not use my AMEX platinum.. no amex SPG even in Sheraton Resorts 5 nights.. Discover ( with 5 % rebate on dining ) , Sapphire Preferred ( when the swipe machine turned me down for no PIN) and Hyatt cards ( 4 award nights stay) swang the busniess away from AMEX

  • PJ

    you worry too much ; no problem what so ever I observe with charges on AMEX CHASE AND DISCOVER. all these 3 issuers let you see the conversion rates instantaneously.. ALL OF THEM ARE SPOTTED ON every time I checked . I checked in Taipei Cabo and south america etc all within INTERBANK range. in HK dollar would be in sync down to at least 7.76 versus 7.75

    no experience with CITI CARDS :(

  • PJ

    I think I was missing PIN on my DISCOVER swipes in april. I had to pull out my Sapphire Preferred to settle for 2% rebate omstead of 5% on Discover.
    I have since set the PIN on my Discover card

  • Bill Ovalles

    Do you know of any banks that offer decent exchange rates and NO Fees for ATM withdrawals… I had used Capital One for years but this year they started charging fees for foreign ATM withdrawals…

  • http://travelerthe.tumblr.com/ The Traveler

    No fees for ATM withdrawals, check out Schwab High Yield Checkin here:

    http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending

  • Benthelefty

    As for Europe it sounds tough, but I would say “abroad” doesn’t apply to South America. I’ve been living in Brazil for 6 months with trips to Argentina and the Sapphire has worked great w/o any problems. So there are some places you can use it w/o any problems!

  • GB13

    The best card I would say is the Chase British Airways Card for travel in Europe. I just came back from the Scandinavian countries and all my friends were forced to use debit cards since their card didn’t have a chip. I didn’t have to get cash a single time and it worked everywhere.

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  • Lee Tobey

    FYI for anyone using the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, in most places it looks like there is a hidden charge of around 0.3% skimmed off the exchange rate. You can see my analysis of a bunch of fx transactions with the card here: http://www.abendinthearrow.com/traveltips/chase-sapphire-preferred-actual-foreign-exchange-rates/

  • Bruce Jones

    Please be aware that the cards Chase is currently sending out (like my British Airways VISA) that have embedded chips will not work for most vendors in Argentina. The merchant will get an error “Chip or Call” and will have no idea what to do with it. You will be stuck, unable to use it. Calling Chase will not help. I’m there now and it’s a major pain.

  • Moebod2

    citi hilton reserve card as well does not charge foreign transaction fee

  • http://www.cardauthorizer.com/ credit card processing

    The new handheld processors being issued in France do not have the “swipe” capability so there were several purchases for which we could not use the card. Have noticed this in Amsterdam in the past too. Chase’s answer is that any merchant displaying the Visa logo is required to accept the card. Doesn’t help much in the situation – the vendor can not and will not process the charge.

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  • tscateh

    I believe the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is also zero foreign transaction fees.

  • Lord Fish

    I have discovered that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card does not work in more traditional establishments in Tokyo. When this happens, the Hyatt Visa works fine, so it must have something to do with the width of the card. I have watched vendors scan the card correctly but for some reason it doesn’t go through. So, don’t rely solely on this card if you plan on spending time outside your hotel while in Tokyo.

  • Kurtis

    Is there currently a card with no Foreign Transaction Fee where I can accrue miles for Delta or the Sky Team group? Or at the very least is there a card where I can accrue miles and transfer them into my Delta Sky Miles account? The only card I can find is the Platinum Amex, but the $450 annual fee is a bit much. I don’t do a lot of international traveling but I don’t want that opportunity for point accrual to go to waste.

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  • mrbinns

    I have a TD Bank First Class card that has no Forex. It has a second year fee of $89, had a 25,000 signing bonus and offers 3% on restaurants and travel. You have to dig a little to find an application.

    As to cards with Chips, I received an email today from Citi to get chips on my Dividend and Citi Cash Returns cards. I called Chase and they are sending cards with chips for Freedom and Amazon.com cards. All have no fees but all have forex. Capitol One is not yet ready. They are concentrating on converting HSBC cards into Capitol One.

    Finally, be careful on MSC cruises even out of Ft. Lauderdale. They use a French bank so there may be a forex. In the past Air Jamaica and other foreign airlines would result in a forex when buying tickets at a US agency in US Dollars.

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