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American Express has an impressive line-up of travel credit cards including the Premier Rewards Gold, Starwood and Delta Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards. The one downside is that many of their cards – most, in fact, except the Platinum and Business Platinum – levy foreign transaction fees.
These fees are one of my major bugaboos – adding 2-3% to your purchases while traveling abroad, or even just purchases from merchants outside the US, even if you’re in the US while making the purchase. That 2-3% often wipes out much of the value of any points you’d earn on such purchases, making these cards a break-even value proposition when traveling.
In my opinion, it was one way that many of Amex’s top-shelf products were lagging behind competitors like Chase and Barclaycard, whose premium travel credit cards like the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus (Chase), and the Arrival (Barclaycard) have done away with such fees.
However, my official sources at American Express have just announced that as of May 1, 2014, the foreign transaction fee is waived for American Express Consumer and Business Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards issued in the US, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands. These cards including the personal Delta Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards as well as the Delta Business Gold, Delta Business Platinum and Delta Business Reserve cards. Card members of any of these should receive a notice of these changes with their February statements, so keep an eye out.
This is a great move on Amex’s part, and I’m glad to see them make it since it makes the Delta cards that much more competitive in an increasingly vibrant travel credit cards marketplace where competitors like the United Explorer and Citi Executive AAdvantage have waived foreign transaction fees. It’s also good news for Delta elites who might want to get one of the cards in order to meet Delta’s new elite status spending requirements by making $25,000 in calendar year purchases on one of these cards instead of spending between $2,500-$12,500 on Delta tickets depending on their status level since it means they can use these cards in a lot more places without worrying about forex fees.
While it’s true that Amex is sometimes not accepted abroad at some merchants where Visa or Mastercard are, in my experience traveling internationally, that’s actually been changing a lot and more stores, restaurants and especially hotels are happy to take American Express as well.
That should be even truer starting May 1 as well because Amex also announced that it would be adding EMV (Smart) Chips to the Delta cards starting May 1, 2014 as well. Starting that day, cardholders can call the customer service number on the back of their card and request a new version with the EMV chip embedded in it. New cards applied for later in the year should automatically be issued with EMV chips as well, though there’s no specific date set for that yet.
Just note, Amex has confirmed that the Delta Platinum cards will raise their annual fee from $150 to $195, a 30% increase, so some of you might think about switching to the Gold version with a $95 annual fee instead.
Currently the Amex Platinum and Centurion cards offer them, but this is another great move on Amex’s part since EMV chips often make it much easier to transact while abroad as some merchants like restaurants or even machines in metro stations or train stations often require credit cards to have Smart Chips in order to process payment.
All in all, I think these are two great changes to Amex’s Delta cards. If you’ve been thinking about applying for one of these cards, be sure to check the Card Match Tool first since there are often targeted higher offers on Amex products including the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex.
For more information, check out my list of the other top travel credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, and my post on US Credit Cards With EMV Chips, which I’ll be updating soon.