What to look for
Have you ever noticed a fee labeled "FX" on your credit card statement? That's a foreign transaction fee, a charge applied for currency conversion on a purchase made in another country. These fees can vary, but usually are just a few cents per purchase—which doesn't amount to a huge amount, until you think about how many purchases you might make abroad. That's when the charges start to pile up.
While these fees are usually low, they are a percentage of the transaction, making larger purchases abroad can drain an already-strained budget. Thankfully, credit card companies know this and have issued a number of credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. These cards operate exactly like a standard credit card without costing you more just because you use it outside of United States borders. There are also benefits to using rewards cards overseas in that the exchange rate in many countries favors the US dollar.
We've compiled a list of the best credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Pick one card from the list below and stop spending money unnecessarily while traveling abroad.
Three things to know about foreign transaction fees
Before you choose one of these credit cards, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The average foreign transaction fee is 3%. That means you're spending roughly $0.03 extra for every dollar you spend for the company to convert your USD to a foreign currency, which can add up quickly. For instance, if you purchase a $1,000 airline ticket from a foreign airline company, the total cost will be $1,030, meaning that ticket just cost you $30 in fees. Ouch!
You don't have to be overseas to see a foreign transaction fee. You could live in the center of Kansas and make an online purchase from a company without a U.S. website and still see a foreign transaction fee applied to your card. Credit card issuers charge this fee to cover the costs of currency conversion to foreign banks.
Even debit cards face foreign transaction fees. When you spend money in a country with a different currency, you pay a little bit extra for your bank or credit card company to convert the funds from USD.
How We Picked These Cards
Offers more than just no foreign transaction fee. Every card on this list was chosen because it did not charge a foreign transaction fee but still yielded benefits to cardholders in another way.
The majority of these cards are aimed at travelers. After all, who is more likely to face FX fees: an international businessman or the average suburban dad?
We also focused on security. Identity theft is a risk no matter where you are. In the excitement of travel, it can be easy to forget basic safety guidelines.
These cards all implement multiple security measures to protect cardholders again fraud.
Bank of America (BoA) Travel Rewards Card
It yields massive benefits for BoA customers
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card provides extreme value; that is, if you're already a Bank of America customer. The card caters to the everyday spending needs of frequent travelers and has no annual fee, so the rewards begin stacking up immediately.
Redeem your points when you want without worrying about blackout dates
Any traveler knows the irritation of trying to book a flight with points, only to discover they aren't eligible for redemption on those dates. Bank of America allows you to redeem points without blackout dates or restrictions.
Apply online for the fastest results
If you apply online through Bank of America's signup form, you can receive a response almost instantly.
This is the fastest and easiest way to apply, although you can also visit your local Bank of America branch and apply in person.
You're most likely to qualify with a credit score of 700 or higher.
Barclay Arrival World Plus Elite MasterCard
One of the most secure options for travel
Barclay's top-tier travel rewards card offers a significant sign-up bonus, lucrative rewards scheme, and no annual fee for the first year. Although it can be difficult to reach an actual person for customer service, the Barclay Arrival World Plus Elite MasterCard is a solid choice for any traveler.
"What qualifies as travel with the Arrival Plus?"
To determine whether a purchase qualifies for rewards points, you need to look at the merchant category code (MCC).
For the Barclay Arrival Plus, the following expenses are considered travel:
- Hotels and motels
- Car rental agencies
- Travel agencies
- Taxis, limousines, and buses
- Cruise lines
- Discount travel sites
Aim for a credit score of 700 or higher to qualify
The Barclay Arrival Plus gives big rewards, but these rewards often come with strict qualification requirements.
Cardholders need a credit score of "Excellent" or higher. You'll want to make sure your credit score is above 700.
If you aren't a frequent traveler, a high annual fee lessens the benefits of the card.
Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Versatility is key
Book where you want and receive a statement credit later
Capital One allows you to book your travel on any site you want, and then use the Purchase Eraser to receive a statement credit for that expense.
Book through Capital One and use your points to pay the cost. If you find a cheaper flight or hotel through Capital One, there's no need to use the Purchase Eraser. Just book directly with the credit card company.
Apply online and potentially get an answer quickly
Applying online for a Venture rewards card is the fastest and easiest way. In most cases, you'll receive an answer in 60 seconds or less. If not, Capital One will mail their decision to you—usually within 7–10 business days.
You need a credit score of 700 or higher. Travel rewards cards are notorious for strict credit requirements. If you can, you'll want to improve your credit score before you apply.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Great for a signup bonus
This card is one half of Chase's popular travel rewards card duo: the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve.
Its significant signup bonus and rewards scheme make it popular among consumers.
"Can you own the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve at the same time?"
Though both cards have stringent signup requirements, it is possible to apply for and own both cards at the same time.
Reduce your credit utilization to improve approval chances
One of the strongest determining factors for approval is your credit utilization, or the amount of available credit you use. By reducing this, you can improve your credit score and give yourself a much better chance of approval.
You need a score of "Excellent" or better. Your credit score should be 720 or higher on average to qualify for the Sapphire Preferred. This is one of the hardest cards to qualify for, so you'll want to take any additional steps you can to improve your chances of approval.
Applying online is the easiest way. The online form takes only a few minutes to fill out.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The best rewards card for frequent travelers
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the sister card to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but with many more benefits. Cardholders receive a significant signup bonus in travel.
Signup bonuses don't often get better than this.
Redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards and receive even more value.
There are no blackout dates or travel restrictions. Anytime you want to travel, you can book a flight through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Other card benefits also help soften the blow of a relatively hefty annual fee.
A Priority Pass Select bonus that grants access to airport lounges worldwide, for example.
"Is the Sapphire Reserve worth it?"
The annual fee raises concern in many cardholders but bonuses and other perks help to offset that.
Make sure your credit looks good before applying
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is wildly popular but also difficult to qualify for. Applying online can result in a fast decision, but you'll want to make sure your credit history is as clean as possible.
A score of 720 or higher is needed. Again, travel rewards cards are known for strict requirements.
Starwood Preferred Guest Card
Great for airline loyalty members
This card is perfect for topping off rewards from another card. However, it can also be extremely useful for people that prefer Marriott hotels.
The value in this card comes from spending money at hotels and resorts, but you can still accumulate points on day-to-day purchases. That means this card isn't the best choice for the average cardholder, but it can be a boon to those that prefer Marriott hotels over all others.
The best redemption value comes from transferring to airline programs
The best way to take advantage of your Starpoints is to transfer them to an airline partner program. This redemption method is valuable because it allows you to take advantage of airline programs you might not be able to use otherwise, such as Asiana Airlines or Japan Airlines.
"Who is the Starwood Preferred Guest card good for?"
This card appeals to a specific demographic: frequent travelers that prefer Marriott hotels and resorts. The Starwood Preferred Guest card can yield free nights at Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, and SPG properties. It also offers tremendous benefits to frequent passengers of American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and any other SPG airline partners because of its friendly transfer rate.
Apply online and become an automatic Starwood Preferred Guest member
The online application for this card asks the usual questions but also asks if you are enrolled in the Starwood Preferred Guest program and for your guest number. If you are not a member of this program, you will be automatically enrolled upon approval.
There is an annual fee. If you travel any of the previously mentioned airlines and can take advantage of the rewards offered by the Starwood Preferred Guest card, then the fee is well worth it.
Citi ThankYou Premier
A rewards credit card for the average traveler
Many of the cards on this list specialize in one area of travel or another, but the Citi ThankYou Premier serves travelers of all types. Its earning and rewards structure can be a bit complicated, however.
The ThankYou Premier requires "Excellent" credit
You'll need a score of 720 or higher to qualify in most cases, although there are always customers who claim to qualify with lower scores.>
Applying online is the easiest way to qualify. Just use the online signup form and follow the steps.
Capital One Quicksilver
One of the best flat-rate cashback cards
Though many of the cards on this list are travel-focused, the Capital One Quicksilver is a cashback card with a great rewards system.
Redeem cash back for account credit, check, or gift cards
You can choose how you want to redeem the cash back you've accumulated. Checks take a bit of time to process, but account credit will process more quickly and appear on your statement. Gift cards take about the same length of time as a check to be processed and mailed.
"Are there bonus categories?"
The Capital One Quicksilver doesn't have rotating bonus categories that yield higher rates, but this can be beneficial to people who prefer a simpler rewards system.
The Quicksilver is aimed at people with "Excellent" credit
The simplest way to apply for a Capital One card is through their website. Doing so can give you a decision in as little as 60 seconds. To improve your chances of qualifying, try to have a credit score of 720 or higher.
Capital One Secured
A powerful option for rebuilding credit
If your credit score is damaged and you don't qualify for rewards credit cards offered by other credit card issuers, the Capital One Secured MasterCard might be the right choice for you.
The focus of the Secured MasterCard is on rebuilding credit and learning smart practices, so make your monthly payments on time to ensure you're benefitting from using the card.
There are no rewards to redeem
Cardholders don't need to worry about redemption rates.
"How does the Capital One Secured MC work?"
When you apply for this card, Capital One evaluates your credit history and assigns you a smaller credit line of while requiring a deposit based on your credit score. The card regularly reports to the three major credit bureaus and helps improve your credit score through responsible use.
Applying online is the easiest way to get the Capital One Secured MasterCard. There are few requirements and because the card requires a deposit, nearly anyone can qualify.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
Most useful for frequent Southwest fliers
Redeem points for flights, gift cards, hotel stays, and more
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card gives multiple redemption options. Flights to more than 90 destinations can be paid for with points.Rapid Rewards points can be used on more than 50 global carriers. You aren't limited solely to domestic flights with your Rapid Rewards points.
"What credit level do you need for approval?"
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus requires a minimum credit score of 700 or higher. This means applicants with "Good" credit ratings can still qualify.
Apply online through the Chase website
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is issued by Chase, and their website is the easiest way to apply.
You will be automatically enrolled in the Rapid Rewards program on approval. The application requests your Rapid Rewards number, but if you do not have one you will automatically be enrolled if you are approved.
Cards with no foreign transaction fees are perfect for travelers
No one wants to pay a penalty just for foreign currency conversion, especially when you want to take advantage of the local exchange rate. Whether you use a credit card or a debit card, you'll usually have to pay a small fee.
These ten credit cards are some of the best options on the market for frequent travelers that want to use their credit cards abroad but don't want to worry about those pesky fees. There are options for everyone, no matter your credit level – choose the one that's best for your needs.
Do you use credit cards without foreign transaction fees? How have these cards worked out for you?
Any great tips or Stephen King-level horror stories to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.
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