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The Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees: A Comprehensive List

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

credit cards with no transaction feesThere are many hidden expenses when it comes to traveling overseas. And one of them comes from the plastic in your wallet. Most credit cards charge a fee for making transactions in foreign currencies, an amount which is usually between 1 and 3% of your purchase price. Fortunately, one of the benefits of the Credit CARD Act has been to make these kinds of fees more transparent to consumers. So, at least now when you’re traveling, you should be aware of how much extra your charges are costing you, as any exchange fees should be broken out separately on your credit card statement.

That’s not to say that you should avoid using your credit card while you’re on vacation. Charging your purchases to a travel credit card while you’re abroad does have a few very significant advantages. Among the most important is the convenience and security of not having to carry too much cash. And you may be pleased to find out that even if you are being charged a fee for using your card, you’ll still almost certainly come out ahead versus changing your money at the airport or hotel, since the exchange rates that credit cards use are quite competitive.

Still, wouldn’t it be better to not be charged the fee at all? Fortunately there has been a trend towards offering this benefit on many cards, typically targeted to more affluent customers more likely to be frequent travelers.

Read on to find a list of credit cards and charge cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees:

American Express
Alitalia American Express card – $89 annual fee, waived first year
Centurion Card – $2500 annual fee + $5000 initiation fee
The Platinum Card – $450 annual fee

Bank of America
Bank Americard Travel Rewards – no annual fee
BankAmericard Privileges with Travel Rewards – $75 annual fee, waived first year

Barclays
The Harvard World MasterCard – no annual fee

Capital One
All Capital One cards

Chase
Please see each card’s terms and conditions for current rate and fee information.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Continental Airlines Presidential Plus Card (expired offer)
Fairmont Visa Signature® Credit Card
The Hyatt Credit Card
The JP Morgan Select Card
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Priority Club® Select Visa®
United MileagePlus® Club Card
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Card

Citi
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card – $95 annual fee
Citi ThankYou Premier Rewards Card – $125 annual fee, waived first year
Citi ThankYou Prestige Card – $500 annual fee
Citi Executive / AAdvantage Card – $450 annual fee

Discover
Discover cards starting Nov. 6, 2011 – source

HSBC
HSBC Premier – no annual fee, but requires maintaining $100k in combined deposit and investment balances

Pentagon Federal – all its cards, including:
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express – no annual fee
PenFed Promise Visa – no annual fee
PenFed Visa Platinum Gas Cash Rewards Card – no annual fee

Other Banks/Credit Unions

What about the exchange rate that is used?
Several years back, I ran an experiment to compare the difference, if any, between the underlying exchange rates used by different networks, such as American Express and Visa/Mastercard. My goal was to determine whether the credit card companies were padding their profits by using favorable exchange rates, in addition to tacking on the foreign transaction fee surcharges.

Ultimately, I concluded that, given how much freedom the networks had given themselves in terms of determining the conversion rate, everything looked reasonable. Instead, it was far more practical and productive to focus upon finding cards with the lowest advertised foreign transaction fees, such as those listed above.

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3 Responses to “The Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees: A Comprehensive List”

  1. CC Discovery Says:
  2. Gudrun Quinlan Says:
  3. ccwatcher Says:

    Hi Gudrun, I suppose it’s easy to miss it since it’s only one line, but I did mention Capital One cards. (See the entry between Barclays and Chase.) I made the mistake of not bolding the heading initially, so perhaps that’s why you missed it. I’ve since added the bolded header. Thanks for the feedback.

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