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There’s nothing worse than getting back from a great vacation abroad to find that your credit card bill is higher than you expected. The culprit? Foreign transaction fees. A foreign transaction fee is a charge you can incur on your credit card when you spend outside the U.S. Your credit card issuer determines this amount and it is usually a percentage of each purchase, typically it’s between 1%-3%. That means if you buy a $100 souvenir, you would pay $3 in fees.

The reason for these fees is that in order to process your purchase your credit card issuer has to use an overseas bank and, often, a currency conversion is involved. These things cost the credit card issuer money and they pass that along to you, the customer. The total fee that you pay is most often derived by adding two fees together: The charge from the issuing bank (think Wells Fargo, Bank of America etc.) and the processing fee from the payment networks (think Visa and Mastercard).

What to do about foreign transaction fees?

There’s no reason for foreign transaction fees to ruin your vacation. Before you resign yourself to carrying around more cash than your comfortable with, follow these steps:

  1. Check to see if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. Check out the chart below to give you a guide and then read your card’s terms and conditions to find the specific fee for your credit card. If you can’t locate it, you can call the customer service number that’s usually printed on the back of your card to find out.
  2. Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card. A good travel credit card won’t charge an annual fee. There are a lot of great travel rewards cards available to choose from. Many charge no annual fee and still give you great benefits like rewards points that you can use to help fund your next trip.

Foreign transaction fees chart

Credit card foreign transaction fees

American Express
  • Issuer fee: 2.7%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: N/A
  • Total: 2.7%; fee waived on Platinum Card ®, Premier Rewards Gold, Pen Fed Premium Travel Rewards card, Starwood, Hilton, and Delta affiliated cards.
Bank of America
  • Issuer fee: 2%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%
  • Total: 3%; fee waived on Bank of America® Travel Rewards, Bank of America® Premium Rewards®, Alaska Airlines Visa®, Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®, Royal Caribbean®, Virgin Atlantic, Asiana Visa Signature®, and Celebrity Cruises.
Barclaycard
  • Issuer fee: 2%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%
  • Total: 3%; fee waived for AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, Barclaycard Arrival® Plus, Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®, JetBlue Plus Card, Lufthansa credit card, Mastercard Black Card
Capital One
  • Issuer fee: none.
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%; absorbed by Capital One
  • Total: 0%
Chase
  • Issuer fee: 2%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%
  • Total: 3%; fee waived on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, United℠ Explorer Card, United TravelBank Card, United MileagePlus® Club Card, British Airways Visa Signature® card, Marriot Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, The World of Hyatt Credit Card, IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, Ink Business Preferred℠ credit card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business credit card
Citi
  • Issuer fee: 2%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%
  • Total: 3%; fee waived on Citi ThankYou® Premier Card,  CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®,  Costco Anywhere Visa® Card By Citi and Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card By Citi.
Discover
  • Issuer fee: none.
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: N/A
  • Total: 0%
Wells Fargo
  • Issuer fee: 3%
  • MasterCard/Visa fee: 1%
  • Total: 3%; fee waived for Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card.
Next steps: Check out our list of the best no foreign transaction fee and travel rewards credit cards.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.