Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees in 2019

Dec 1, 2019

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There isn’t a whole lot in the points and miles world that everyone can agree on, whether it’s the best credit cards, the best airlines or the best airports. One thing we can agree on is that unnecessary fees are the worst — whether those fees come in the form of fuel surcharges on award flights, ATM fees or foreign transaction fees. It’s one thing if you’re paying a fee for a valuable service, but foreign transaction fees essentially just punish travelers for doing what we love.

Many cards charge a foreign transaction fee of about 3%, which can knock out any potential rewards you earn with a card. For this reason, we suggest having a few different cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

In This Post

Although there are many cards that offer no foreign transaction fees, we’ve rounded up our 11 favorite cards for frequent travelers:

Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Comparing credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Credit Card Welcome bonus  Bonus value**  Annual fee 
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months $1,200 $95
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months $500 $95*
Chase Sapphire Reserve 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months $1,000 $450
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Credit card 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months $300 $0
The Platinum Card® from American Express  60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms apply. $1,200 $550 (see rates and fees)
Capital One® Savor® Rewards Credit Card

$300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months

$300 $95*
Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa credit card 

50,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days

$500 $95
American Express® Green Card 30,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months $600 $150 (see rates and fees)
United Explorer Card

Up to 65,000 bonus miles; 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.

$845 $95*
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms apply.

$900 $450 (see rates and fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first thhree months from account opening.

$600 $95

*Annual fee waived the first year
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

In addition to lacking foreign transaction fees, each card offers a unique combination of perks and benefits for travelers. Let’s look at the details for each of our top picks:

Best no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months (worth $1,200 according to TPG valuations).

Earning rate: 2x points on travel and dining; 1x on everything else

Why we like it: Chase Sapphire Preferred has always been one of the top choices for international travelers. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable points currencies available.

For premium rewards redemptions, you’ll find points are typically most valuable when transferred to one of Chase’s excellent 19 airline and three hotel partners. Alternatively, points can be worth 1.25 cents each toward travel and activities booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, where you can find money-saving options for budget travel and economy flights.

Essential reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review 

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $500 in travel statement credits).

Bonus rewards: 2x miles on every purchase

Why we like it: This card’s simple rewards structure has made it a crowd favorite for beginner travelers, who want to earn rewards on everyday expenses. The Venture Rewards card offers fixed-value miles that you can redeem for 1 cent apiece to offset travel purchases, plus the ability to transfer miles to its 15 airline transfer partners. You’ll get a credit for the TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee every four years (up to $100), which is a rare benefit for a mid-tier card.

Essential reading: Capital One Venture Rewards card review

APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards credit card

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Eric Helgas)

Annual fee: $450

Welcome bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $1,000 according to TPG valuations).

Bonus rewards: 3x on travel (after using the $300 travel credit) and dining purchases; 1x on everything else

Why we like it: This premium travel-rewards card became hugely popular when it was first released in 2016 and has remained a top travel card for many TPG readers. In fact, it currently holds the title for Best Premium Card from the inaugural TPG awards in 2018.  As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll find the most value by redeeming points through Chase transfer partners or through the Chase Travel Portal.

The Reserve allows cardholders to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal at 1.5 cents per point. Other benefits include an annual $300 statement credit for travel, an up to $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years and a Priority Pass Select membership that includes guests.

Essential reading: The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review 

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $300).

Bonus rewards: 3x points dining, travel and select streaming services

Why we like it: This card is effectively a cash-back card since points are worth the same 1 cent apiece when redeemed toward statement credits, travel, gift cards or charity donations. If you don’t want to redeem for cash back, you can increase the redemption value when you redeem points for airfare at 1.5 cents each on the Wells Fargo travel portal — but you’ll have to own another card that earns Go Far Rewards points, such as the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card. And if you spend $50,000 in a calendar year on the Wells Fargo Visa, that redemption rate jumps to 1.75 cents per point, which would make 3x points worth as much as 5.25 cents per dollar when redeemed for airfare.

The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Essential reading: Wells Fargo Propel Amex credit card review

APPLY HERE: Wells Fargo Propel American Express card

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $1,200 according to TPG valuations).

Bonus rewards: 5x on flights booked directly with airlines and flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com

Why we like it: Not only does this card have no foreign transaction fees, but it also offers an extensive portfolio of luxury travel benefits, including an annual up to $200 airline fee credit, monthly Uber credits (up to $200 credit annually), reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees every four years (up to $100) and access to Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta), Amex CenturionPriority Pass Select, Escape and Airspace lounges. You also get Gold status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.

Essential reading: Amex Platinum credit card review 

APPLY HERE: The Platinum Card from American Express

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Welcome bonus: $300 after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Bonus rewards: 4% cash back on dining and entertainment and 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% on everything else

Why we like it: Capital One defines dining and entertainment broadly, meaning you can earn 4% cash back on a lot of different purchases — including some tourist attractions and other common expenses abroad. The bonus is solid, and you’re getting a full year without having to pay a fee.

Although international travelers often favor points and miles, cash back is still highly valuable — especially when you’re earning a good return on a category not often covered with other credit cards (entertainment, in Savor’s case). The ability to earn such a high return without forking over a foreign transaction fee is great.

Essential reading: Capital One Savor card review 

APPLY HERE: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa credit card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening (worth $500 according to TPG valuations)

Earning rate: 2x points on travel and dining; 1.5x points on everything else

Why we like it: The Bank of America Premium Rewards card has a lot to offer for such a low annual fee — especially if you qualify for the Preferred Rewards program. You’re earning a flat 1.5x on every purchase (which is a standard rate for flat-rate cards), plus 2x on travel and dining purchases. The card also comes with an impressive suite of benefits, including an up to $100 airline incidental credit, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) and an array of travel protections.

For members of the Preferred Rewards program, this card becomes even more valuable. If you stash enough cash away with Bank of America, you could earn up to 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625x on all other purchases.

Essential reading: Bank of America Premium Rewards card review

APPLY HERE: Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card

American Express Green Card

 

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)

Welcome bonus: 30,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months (worth $600 according to TPG valuations).

Earning rate: 3x points on travel, restaurants and transit; 1x on everything else

Why we like it: Amex recently relaunched its iconic Green by Amex with some notable improvements. In addition to axing the foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), Amex expanded the bonus categories and added new benefits. You’ll earn 3x on travel, restaurants and transit. Travel on the Amex Green is no longer limited to just amextravel.com — it now includes campsites, Airbnb rentals and much more. The card also comes with up to $100 in CLEAR membership fee credits and a $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit. This card has now become one of the best mid-tier cards available for beginner travelers.

For a limited time, you can also get a $100 statement credit on eligible Away luggage purchases made within the first three months (offer ends 1/15/20).

Essential reading: The new Amex Green Card has arrived with an elevated welcome offer and revamped benefits

APPLY HERE: American Express Green Card

United Explorer Card

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Welcome bonus: Up to 65,000 bonus miles: 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open (worth $845 according to TPG valuations).

Bonus rewards: 2x miles at restaurants, hotels and on United purchases; 1x on everything else

Why we like it: You and a companion will each get your first checked bag free when traveling on the same reservation on United-operated flights when you pay for your flights with your Explorer Card. Plus, you’ll get two United Club one-time passes each year, priority boarding, 25% back on United inflight purchases and a statement credit for up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

United is part of the Star Alliance and is one of the few airlines that doesn’t pass along astronomical fuel surcharges for international award-flight redemptions, which makes United miles valuable — despite the upcoming demise of its published award chart. 

Essential reading: United Explorer Card review 

APPLY HERE: United Explorer Card

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.)

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Welcome bonus: 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (worth $900 according to TPG valuations).

Bonus rewards: 14x points at Hilton and 7x points on flights booked directly through the airline or on amextravel.com

Why we like it: Although the Hilton Aspire card has a high annual fee, some travelers will be able to recoup this fee and more through the card’s benefits. These benefits include a free-weekend-night award each year, top-tier Hilton Diamond status, up to $250 in annual airline fee credits, up to $250 in annual Hilton resort statement credits and a Priority Pass Select membership. Hilton is one of the largest hotel brands in the world, with more than 5,900 hotels in 114 countries and properties that appeal to both budget and luxury travelers. If you frequently stay at Hilton properties throughout the year, you can get a lot of value by adding this card to your wallet.

Essential Reading: Hilton Aspire card review

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Bonus rewards: 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2x points on all other purchases

Why we like it: Marriott has encountered several issues since its merger with SPG, most recently with the implementation of its less-than-ideal peak and off-peak award pricing policies. However, this card is still worth considering if you’ve remained loyal to the hotel brand and stay at Marriott properties at least a few times each year. You’ll get a free night worth up to 35,000 points each year as well as 15 elite-night credits each year, which could help you qualify for higher status levels.

Essential reading: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card review 

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Are foreign transaction fees affected by exchange rates?

Yes and no.

Foreign transaction fees are charged by your issuer when you make a purchase abroad (or sometimes when you make an online purchase through a foreign retailer). The exchange rate refers to the value of one currency compared to the other, and that rate is determined by payment networks. What the exchange rate is on a certain day in a certain country will not change the percentage your card charges for a foreign transaction fee. In that sense, exchange rates do not affect foreign transaction fees.

However, an exchange rate can have an effect on the actual dollar amount you are charged for a foreign transaction fee. For example, at the time of writing, the Morningstar exchange rate for the U.S. dollar to the Euro was 1:0.91. That means you’d pay a $0.66 (3%) transaction fee for a 20-euro dinner. However, if the exchange rate changed to, say, 1:1.33, you’d only end up paying $0.45 for a 20-euro dinner. So, the exchange rate can make a difference in the actual dollar amount of the foreign transaction fee.

Foreign transaction fees by issuer

Card issuer: Foreign transaction fee:
American Express 2.7%
Barclays 3%
Bank of America 3%
Chase 3%
Citi 3%
U.S. Bank 3% for different currencies; 2% for USD transactions
Wells Fargo 3%

 

These are the standard foreign transaction fees across some of the major U.S. credit card issuers, but keep in mind that these may vary between cards within an issuer’s lineup. Some issuers like Capital One, Discover and USAA elect to not charge foreign transaction fees on any of their cards.

Even though each of the issuers listed above does charge a foreign transaction fee on at least one of their cards, many will have card options without foreign transaction fees.

Which issuers are most widely accepted internationally?

Something else to seriously consider when traveling abroad is that not every payment network is accepted worldwide. Mastercard and Visa are by and large the two most popular networks — if a merchant abroad accepts credit cards, it is likely going to accept one of these cards.

Discover and American Express, which are commonly accepted in the U.S., may not be accepted around the world. This is why it’s a smart idea to have multiple types of cards in your wallet.

Issuers often will have card options that operate on different networks. All Chase cards operate on the Visa payment network. Barclays, Citi and Capital One offer cards on both the Visa and Mastercard networks. Wells Fargo uses the Visa network for some cards and the American Express network for others. Discover and American Express, of course, always use their own payment networks.

If you have at least one Visa and one Mastercard, you’ll likely have a card that is accepted almost anywhere. Just keep in mind that in many places around the world, cash is still king. In Asia, Africa and parts of Europe, many smaller merchants will either not accept credit cards or they will charge a high (sometimes 10%) surcharge on any credit card payment. While you should always use a credit card when possible (and beneficial), it’s good to have local currency in hand whenever you are traveling.

Will you be charged a foreign transaction fee when booking international trips online?

You don’t have to be in another country to rack up a foreign transaction fee. If you make a payment online that gets routed through a non-U.S. bank, you might see that pesky fee tacked onto your bill. This can happen when you are buying from a company that is not based in the U.S., but it also happens when booking hotels abroad.

Most properties within major hotel brand portfolios like Hilton or Marriott are individually owned and managed, but reservations are facilitated through a brand-wide website. This means that while your reservation may be made on a U.S. website and you may pay in USD, the room charges may be processed by the hotel itself through a non-U.S. bank.

It’s generally hard to tell in these cases whether you’ll be charged a foreign transaction fee until after the payment is already processed, so it’s a best practice to use a card with no foreign transaction fees to book. Luckily, most top credit cards for booking hotel stays come with no such fees.

Bottom line

If you’re a frequent international traveler, a card with no foreign transaction fees is a must. The last thing you want is for rewards you earn on your trip to be wiped out by a 2% or 3% fee.

What do you get in return for the foreign transaction fee? Nothing. Banks have no additional costs associated with processing a transaction from Toronto versus one from Tennessee. There are no special data centers being maintained on Christmas Island or any other remote place where you might travel. TPG staffers have been studying this issue for years, and the only conclusion that we’ve been able to reach is that banks simply charge these fees because they can get away with it.

Most top travel cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, and many cash-back cards have started eliminating foreign transaction fees as well.

If you’re new to The Points Guy, check out our Beginner’s Guide to learn more.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter, Jason Steele and Mike Cetera.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best currently available credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

American Express® Green Card

WELCOME OFFER: 30,000 Points + $100 Away statement credit (through 1/15/2020) Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: up to $100 annual CLEAR statement credit, up to $100 annual LoungeBuddy statement credit, 3x points on travel and transit, 3x points on restaurants worldwide

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits towards any eligible purchase made directly with Away in your first 3 months. Offer ends 1/15/2020.
  • Plus, earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership.
  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits per year on your LoungeBuddy purchases. Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network — no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $150 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$150
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.