Most credit card issuers charge currency conversion fees for foreign purchases made with their credit cards, debit and check cards, and ATM cash withdrawals.

Over the course of your travels, that can add up to a significant increase in the cost of your vacation — money you could save by picking the right credit card.

For the most part, the fees are twofold: Visa and MasterCard have a standard 1 percent charge on foreign purchases and the issuing bank adds another fee.

Bankrate recently surveyed the top credit card issuers to find out what they charge for these transactions. The banks were: American Express, Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover, Fifth Third Bank, HSBC, National City, PNC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Regions, Simmons, SunTrust, TD Bank, USAA, US Bancorp, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and Zions.

The percentage shown for each credit card issuer is the total of the fees: the amount charged by the issuer, plus the charge by Visa or MasterCard for a foreign purchase. For that 1 percent fee, Visa or MasterCard converts your foreign-currency purchase to U.S. dollars. All Visa or MasterCard cards carry that 1 percent charge, although some banks may not pass that fee on to customers.

The credit card issuer or bank often charges an additional fee, usually 2 percent, which adds up to a 3 percent total charge on foreign purchases.

The percentage posted under debit- and checking-card purchases is the charge assessed by both Visa or MasterCard and the credit card issuer or bank. A fee is also assessed by each card issuer and bank for ATM cash withdrawals. ATM charges vary for each card.

The lowest conversion fees are from Capital One, at zero percent, and USAA, which charges 1 percent for its conversions.

The table of major credit card companies and their currency-conversion-fee policies was correct as of April 28, 2009. Write to editors@bankrate.com if you are aware of an update not shown here.

Currency conversion
American Express
  • ATM withdrawal: N/A
  • Credit card purchase: 2.7%
  • Debit card purchase: N/A
  • Credit card cash advance: (Express Cash) The foreign currency change rate fee is 2% plus 3% for each transaction, with a minimum fee of $5 and no maximum. Cardholders can obtain $1,000 to $3,500 — depending on what card is used — in cash and/or American Express Travelers Cheques every seven days. (The customary fee of 1% to 3% is charged for Travelers Cheque transactions.)
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
Bank of America
  • ATM withdrawal: $5 plus 1% of ATM withdrawal (The fee is waived for BofA customers withdrawing money from global ATM alliance members.)
  • Credit card purchase: 3% of point of sale charge
  • Debit card purchase: 3% of point of sale charge
  • Credit card cash advance: Their regular cash advance fee applies; no additional charges.
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
BB & T
  • ATM withdrawal: 3%
  • Credit card purchase: 2%
  • Debit card purchase: 3%
  • Credit card cash advance: 2%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
Capital One
  • ATM withdrawal: 0% Retail customers, with products opened in CapOne bank branches — formerly Hibernia and North Fork branches in TX, LA, NY, NJ, CT, are charged a $1.50 fee when using a non-Capital One ATM in the U.S. and elsewhere.
  • Credit card purchase: 0%
  • Debit card purchase:0%
  • Credit card cash advance: 0%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
Chase
  • ATM withdrawal: 3% There is a $3 charge for non-Chase ATM withdrawal outside of the U.S., however, the fee is waived with Chase Premier Platinum Checking, Chase Premier Platinum Asset Management Account or Private Client Asset Management accounts.
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 3% plus a withdrawal fee per transaction of $3.
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
Citibank
  • ATM withdrawal: 3% charge on ATM or debit transactions (For Citigold, private bank or international private bank customers, the charge is 0% on ATM or debit transactions.)
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 3% charge on ATM or debit transactions (For Citigold, private bank or international private bank customers, the charge is 0% on ATM or debit transactions.)
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Discover
  • ATM withdrawal: N/A
  • Credit card purchase: 2% for billing periods ending after May 1, 2009
  • Debit card purchase: N/A
  • Credit card cash advance: Standard 3% as with any other cash advance
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
Currency conversion
Fifth Third Bank
  • ATM withdrawal: 3% of U.S. dollar amount
  • Credit card purchase: 3% of U.S. dollar amount
  • Debit card purchase: 3% of U.S. dollar amount
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% of U.S. dollar amount
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: N/A
HSBC
  • ATM withdrawal: 1%
  • Credit card purchase: 3%, except for the HSBC Premier World MasterCard, which is 0%
  • Debit card purchase: 1%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% except for the HSBC Premier World MasterCard, which is 0%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
National City
  • ATM withdrawal: 2%
  • Credit card purchase: 2%
  • Debit card purchase: 2%
  • Credit card cash advance: 2%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
PNC
  • ATM withdrawal: $3.50 (This fee is waived for PNC free checking customers with an average minimum balance of $2,000 for the statement period.)
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 2.5% on purchases and cash advances
  • Credit card cash advance: 4% with a minimum of $10 plus normal cash-advance fees
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Royal Bank of Scotland
  • ATM withdrawal: 2% to 3% dependent upon need to change currency
  • Credit card purchase: The greater of $1.50 or 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of transactions, whether originally made in U.S. dollars or converted from a foreign currency
  • Debit card purchase: 2%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% of the amount advanced, but not less than $10; the greater of $20 or 5% of the transaction for certain cash equivalent transactions
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Regions
  • ATM withdrawal: 3%
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 3%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Simmons
  • ATM withdrawal: $0
  • Credit card purchase: 2%
  • Debit card purchase: 0%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% not less than $4 or more than $50
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
SunTrust
  • ATM withdrawal: 3% of the purchase amount as a currency exchange fee (There is also a $5 per transaction ATM fee for clients who do not have one of SunTrust’s higher-end package accounts.)
  • Credit card purchase: 3% of the purchase amount as a currency exchange fee
  • Debit card purchase: 3% of the purchase amount as a currency exchange fee
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% of the purchase amount as a currency exchange fee (Other standard cash-advance fees apply, based on the terms of the cardholder agreement.)
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
TD Bank
  • ATM withdrawal: 0%
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 0%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
USAA Credit Union
  • ATM withdrawal: 1%
  • Credit card purchase: 1%
  • Debit card purchase: 1%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: No
US Bancorp
  • ATM withdrawal: 3% charge on ATM withdrawals after conversion to U.S. dollars ($1.50 to $2.50 fee)
  • Credit card purchase: 2% charge on point-of-sale purchases after conversion to U.S. dollars
  • Debit card purchase: 2% charge on point-of-sale purchases after conversion to U.S. dollars
  • Credit card cash advance: 3% charge after conversion to U.S. dollars (If no currency conversion takes place, fee is reduced to 2%. Cash advance fee is 4%, $10 minimum fee.)
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Wachovia
  • ATM withdrawal: 2%
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 2%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Washington Mutual
  • ATM withdrawal: 3%
  • Credit card purchase: 3%
  • Debit card purchase: 3%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Wells Fargo
  • ATM withdrawal: $5 per withdrawal
  • Credit card purchase: 3% of the transaction amount for credit card purchases
  • Debit card purchase: 3% of the transaction amount for debit card purchases
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes
Zions
  • ATM withdrawal: 2%
  • Credit card purchase: 2%
  • Debit card purchase: 2%
  • Credit card cash advance: 3%, with a $5 minimum
  • Fees charged even if transaction is in U.S. dollars?: Yes

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