Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

Earlier this fall, I went on a work-related trip to Canada. It wasn’t until I was in the taxicab from the airport to my hotel that I realized that I wasn’t sure of the fees associated with using my credit card outside the United States.

I actually carry a Chase Visa, Citibank MasterCard, and an American Express card, so I had my choice. Not knowing which was the best, and not wanting to pay AT&T’s exorbitant roaming fees to find out from the back of the taxi, I just went with my Amex, which offers the best rewards.

Sure, I could’ve paid cash – especially since the exchange rate was almost exactly 1:1 – but I don’t carry a huge amount of cash on me when I travel, and I didn’t want to blow a ton on cab fare.

As soon as I had a stable internet connection, I hopped online to investigate. What I learned was that I had made the right choice (barely) based on what was in my wallet, but that there were much better choices out there for people who regularly travel overseas.

In my case, Amex charges a 2.7% fee for all “overseas” transactions, whereas Chase and Citi both charge 3%. What follows is a list of foreign transaction fees for the major credit card issuers.

  • Capital One – no foreign transaction fee
  • American Express – 2.7% (may vary based on member status)
  • Bank of America – 3%
  • Chase – 3% (may vary by specific card)
  • Citibank – 3%
  • HSBC – 3%
  • Wells Fargo – 3%
  • Discover Card – no foreign transaction fee (but more limited global acceptance)

In other words, Capital One looks like the best bet if you’re going to be spending much overseas. In my case, the fees only amounted to a few dollars, and I don’t leave the country with any regularity, so it’s not a big deal. But if you do, this is something to keep in mind.


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5 Responses to “Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees”

  1. Anonymous

    I *just* learned about this – booked a trip to Peru on the credit card because it was online, a foreign country, and travel purchases on the card are covered by trip insurance (USAA, baby!). There was a $5 foreign transaction fee – the company warned me about it, but I didn’t understand at the time. I don’t recall this happening the last time I traveled abroad…in 2005. It’s all part of the vacation budget, but annoying. In the same vein, I am shopping around currency conversion fees – the only thing I know so far is that airports tend to charge far more! Does anyone have any knowledge about this?

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for the heads up. I had no idea about these fees. I’m wondering if they weren’t added after the CARD Act passed: you know, now that our elected representatives have decided that credit card companies can’t make as much money off the dumb customers who let their balances flourish, they have to make it off the smart ones who pay their bills on time.

  3. Anonymous

    I made sure I did my research when I went to Australia earlier this year. I had a Capital One and my PenFed card.

    But I actually ended up using my Schwab, which gave me cashback in addition to 0% forex fees.

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