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Updated June 20, 2018 9:20 AM PT

Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee

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The best travel cards shouldn't charge you extra for making purchases abroad. Here are the top credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.

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Hooray, you're going on vacation—time to eat, shop, and play. However, many people return home and are horrified to find extra fees on their purchases, making their trip a lot more expensive.

Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee (FTF) for purchases made abroad. This fee is usually 3% of your purchase.

This can add up to a lot. If you charge $1,000 on your trip, that's an extra $30 in fees.

Luckily, it's easy to avoid this fee. Some credit cards don't charge a foreign transaction fee. In this article, we go over the top cards for traveling abroad.

Things to Consider When Choosing a No-FTF Credit Card

Not all no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards will work the same way. Here are some other factors to consider.

  • Chip & PIN vs. Chip & Signature. Some smart chip cards require a PIN number to complete the transaction. Others require a signature after the bill has been printed.

    In the U.S., this doesn't make so much of a difference. However, some places in Europe only accept Chip & PIN. This is usually in un-manned gas stations, train ticket kiosks, etc. Depending on what kind of traveling you plan to do, this may be an important factor.

  • Acceptance. Visa and Mastercard are accepted pretty much anywhere in the world. American Express and Discover have less of a worldwide presence. An exception is China and Japan, where Discover is widely accepted.

  • Rewards & benefits. Choose a card that matches your lifestyle and spending patterns. If you only go on vacation once in a while, then maybe a cash back card is best. If you travel often, then a travel rewards card will help trim the cost of your trips.

    Vacations often mean spending a large amount of money in a short time. If you want some time to pay it off, look for a card with an intro APR period.

Top 5 Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee

© CreditDonkey

Here are the top 5 credit cards with no foreign transaction fee offers. These cards were chosen for their acceptance, rewards value, and other benefits.

Note: Information including interest rates, benefits and fees was obtained on May 16, 2018 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best Overall

We love the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the large sign-up bonus and valuable redemption options. Chase also has a great lineup of airline and hotel transfer partners.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can earn 5,000 bonus points if you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months from account opening. This card lets you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. The card also comes with premium travel and purchase protection benefits (including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver). There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Capital One Venture: Flat Rate Rewards

If your spending is varied, you may prefer a flat reward rate on every purchase. This makes it easier to rack up miles fast.

Capital One Venture offers a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. 50,000 miles is equal to $500 in travel. This card earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem miles toward travel purchases on any airline, hotel, or car rental. There are no foreign transaction fees. You get up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).

Barclays Arrival Premier
Apply for Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard
Traveling to Europe? Consider Barclays Arrival Premier. It comes with Chip & PIN technology, which is more commonly accepted in Europe. This card also gives double points on all purchases. However, it doesn't have a sign-up bonus, and instead gives you loyalty bonus points every year when you hit certain spending thresholds.

Capital One Quicksilver: For Cash Back

If you only travel abroad occasionally, a cash back card may be more flexible. This way, you can use the cashback rewards back at home, instead of being limited to redeeming for travel.

Capital One Quicksilver offers a one-time bonus of $150 if you spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There is a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. After that, a variable APR, currently 14.49% to 24.49%. There is a 3% balance transfer fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months. There is no annual fee.

Bank of America Travel Rewards: No Annual Fee

If you aren't a big credit card spender or don't travel much, look for a card with no annual fee. We like that the Bank of America Travel Rewards card has good rewards and an intro APR.

Bank of America Travel Rewards offers 20,000 online bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. 20,000 points is worth a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. This card earns 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. You can redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, car rentals, or baggage fees. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is no annual fee.

Chase Ink Business Preferred: Business Travelers

The Chase Ink Business Preferred offers a huge sign-up bonus and 3x points in popular business categories.

Ink Business Preferred
Apply for Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred lets you earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 80,000 points is worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee.

Benefits of Using a Credit Card Abroad

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A credit card with no FTF is the best option for making purchases abroad. Here's why.

  • The exchange rate is the most favorable. Using a credit card will get you the best exchange rate. When you make a purchase, the bank will convert to your home currency, usually at the market exchange rate. In comparison, cash currency exchanges usually have terrible exchange rates plus a commission.

  • You're not carrying around cash. It's generally not a good idea to carry around a wad of cash on your trip. If it gets stolen, you lose your hard-earned money. But if your card gets stolen, you won't be responsible for any of the charges.

    HOWEVER, you don't want to lose your card either, as it's a hassle and takes time to replace. Have a back-up method in case you do lose or get your card stolen, like a debit card. Or keep some home currency in a secure place so you can exchange it. This way, you won't be stuck with no way to get money.

  • Travel benefits. Many credit cards come with travel protections. This could include trip interruption, lost baggage, and even primary car rental insurances. Many card issuers also provide assistance if you lose your passport, need a referral to an English-speaking doctor, etc.

What to Know About No-FTF Cards

  • Be aware of dynamic currency conversion. Sometimes when using your card, you'll be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or in U.S. dollars. You may be tempted to choose dollars, but it's always wiser to pay in local currency.

    Merchants use dynamic currency conversion, where they get to choose the exchange rate. So it'll usually be more favorable to them. If you pay in local currency, then your bank does the conversion, which is more comparable to market rates.

  • Cash advances still have a high fee. No foreign transaction fee doesn't mean no fee for cash advances at foreign ATMs. If you use your credit card to take out cash, you'll be charged a percentage (usually 3% or 5%). Plus, interest starts accruing right away.

  • Remember to set up travel notices. Before you leave, make sure to tell your issuer about your trip. Otherwise, your account may get frozen if there's a sudden charge in another country.

    When traveling overseas, it's best to put a travel alert on your cards by contacting your bank. Some banks, like Bank of America, even have the ability to turn the alert feature on and off easily from your online banking account. Credit cards like American Express add the alert automatically if you've paid for travel items like airline tickets or hotels with your card.

    Jennifer Dombrowski at Luxe Adventure Traveler

  • Annual fee. A lot of no-FTF cards have an annual fee. But there is still a nice (though more limited) selection of no-FTF cards without a fee. Cards with annual fees will have bigger rewards, but you need to spend enough on your card to make it worthwhile. If you don't travel too much, then start with a card with no annual fee.

  • Rewards. It's great to get rewards on your purchases. If you travel often, choose a card that gives you bonus rewards on categories such as airfare, hotels, and dining out. Make sure the bonus categories also apply to overseas purchases. For instance, some cards only give bonus points at U.S. restaurants.

Other Options

Of course, we don't recommend that you ONLY carry a credit card on your travels. To get all your bases covered, this is what we recommend:

  1. A no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card. Use this anywhere the credit card is accepted.

    I have used my credit cards on recent trips to Europe (England, Portugal, and Spain) and Hong Kong. Using an American credit card is becoming much easier than in the past. Mobile payments platforms like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay are common outside of the US. Almost all terminals that accept contactless payments (using credit cards with embedded RFID chips) will also accept mobile payments. Using a mobile payment platform also allows you to avoid the awkward signature requirement that associated with US credit cards.

    One area that has always been a challenge with American credit cards has been automated kiosks and vending machines, such as those found at train stations. Since most of these terminals now accept contactless and mobile payments, American tourist no longer need to dread finding an attendant to help process the transaction due to signature requirements.

    Ernest Shahbazian, Founder and Owner of Trip Astute

  2. A no-fee debit card. Some places may be cash only, such as small bakeries, street food stalls, etc. To get cash out without losing any fees, use a debit card that reimburses ATM fees. Having another card is also a good back-up in case you lose your credit card.

    For example, Charles Schwab's High Yield Investor Checking Account debit card charges no foreign transaction fees. And the best part is that it gives unlimited rebates on all ATM fees worldwide.

  3. A little bit of cash. It's a good idea to convert just a small amount at your bank before you leave on your trip. After all, you may need to take a taxi straight away from the airport. I've also known situations where the airport ATM was out of order. Or where the ATM swallowed the card, leaving the person stranded without any cash until the next morning.

    A crisp $100 bill is always good for back-up. It's accepted everywhere. In emergencies, you can exchange it. Just keep it in a secure place, separate from your other money.

Bottom Line

A credit card with no foreign transaction fee is your best friend when traveling abroad. You can make purchases without losing money to fees. It's more secure than cash and offers protections. Just be aware of some pitfalls (such a dynamic currency conversion) and have a couple of back-up plans.

Compare the offers for no-FTF cards and find one that suits your lifestyle.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.