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Bankrate’s guide to no foreign transaction fee cards
Bankrate research helps you find the credit cards that best fit your needs, but that’s not all. In addition to analyzing the best cards with no foreign transaction fees, we also dig deep into the subject of international travel to reveal information that you can put to use on your next trip — and every trip.
The more you know…
Due to impacts of the pandemic, many cardholders requested a fee waiver for items such as annual fees or late payment fees. Of those who asked for a waiver, 82% got some form of relief, according to Bankrate’s study
In this guide:
Comparison of best no foreign transaction fee credit cards
A closer look at the top no foreign transaction fee credit cards
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for cash back on international purchases
- This card is a good fit for: Credit card beginners seeking a simple, no annual fee card that earns rewards.
- This card is not a great choice for: Cash back maximizers whose spending skews toward a few particular categories.
- What makes this card unique? The Quicksilver offers some travel protections, including travel accident insurance and 24-hour travel assistance services, which is notable for a no annual fee card.
- Is the Capital One Quicksilver worth it? Earning unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all of your purchases without paying an annual fee makes this card worthwhile for nearly anyone. The uncomplicated rewards structure is especially well-suited to simplicity lovers and credit card beginners.
Read our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Discover it® Cash Back
Best for rotating cash back categories
- This card is a good fit for: Those who enjoy variety or already have a card that rewards the basics.
- This card is not a great choice for: Someone looking for a low-maintenance rewards strategy.
- What makes this card unique? This card offers 5 percent cash back (activation required) on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly-rotating cash back categories, then 1 percent.
- Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it? If you meet the $1,500 spending limit for the 5 percent rate each quarter (activation required, 1 percent after meeting the spending cap), you’ll earn $75 per quarter or $300 annually. As an added bonus, Discover will automatically match all of the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. On the negative side, this isn’t a “set and forget” card. You have to remember to activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter, which may detract from the card’s value for some.
Read our Discover it® Cash Back review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best for travel rewards
- This card is a good fit for: Those looking to earn travel rewards on all eligible purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: Brand loyalists — If you exclusively fly one airline or stay at one hotel chain, you’re probably better off with their cobranded card.
- What makes this card unique? A flat, 2X miles on all purchases can be very lucrative, especially because the 2X rate is unlimited. So even if you don’t live a jet-setting lifestyle, your mundane purchases count toward your travel rewards fund just as much as your travel purchases do.
- Is the Capital One Venture worth it? The $95 fee is pretty standard for a travel rewards card, and the ability to earn miles on all purchases makes it easy to make up that cost and more in rewards. Plus, Capital One miles are pretty flexible. But if you’re fee-averse, consider this card’s little sister, the Capital OneVentureOne Rewards Credit Card.
Read our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Best for redemption flexibility
- This card is a good fit for: Occasional to frequent travelers who want flexible redemption options.
- This card is not a great choice for: Travelers looking for luxury perks, such as airport lounge access or free checked bags.
- What makes this card unique? The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus is a steal, competing with bonuses offered by luxury cards with much pricier annual fees. You earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (worth $1,250 when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards).
- Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred worth it? While the rewards rate is good, the real value stems from the variety of redemption options. Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partner list is impressive, and so is the fact that you can transfer your points to any of their partners at a 1:1 ratio. But if you really want to squeeze the most value from your points, redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards will earn you a 25 percent boost in value. Overall, Chase offers plenty of ways to make this card worthwhile.
Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Best for foreign travel beginners
- This card is a good fit for: Someone who only travels occasionally and wants to earn miles on everyday purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: Travel rewards maximizers. While this is a great card for someone who doesn’t want to worry about offsetting the cost of an annual fee, those who travel often are likely better off with a more premium card.
- What makes this card unique? A lot of travel rewards cards require you to redeem your rewards through the issuer’s portal, which can limit your options. With the VentureOne, you have the option to redeem your miles as a statement credit to cover travel purchases made on your card within the last 90 days. So whether the best deal is through Capital One, directly with the airline or hotel, or with a third-party site, you can use your rewards to cover the cost.
- Is the Capital One VentureOne worth it? It’s not a premium travel card, but it’s a good option for an occasional or frugal traveler looking for a flexible travel rewards card.
Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review.
American Express® Gold Card
Best for international dining
- This card is a good fit for: Foodies who want to earn travel rewards on their meals at home and abroad. You’ll earn boosted points on dining at restaurants, Uber Eats and at U.S. supermarkets.
- This card is not a great choice for: Travelers seeking premium perks like airport lounge access.
- What makes this card unique?: Rewards cards often make you choose between dining at restaurants and cooking at home. It’s rare to find a card that rewards restaurant dining and purchases at U.S. supermarkets.
- Is the American Express® Gold Card worth it?: The $250 annual fee is more than what a typical travel rewards card charges, but the yearly credits may justify it. The annual dining and Uber credits alone can be worth enough to pay for the annual fee and then some. Plus, the high rewards rate on both travel and U.S. supermarket purchases makes it easy to accrue a hearty stash of points.
Read our American Express® Gold Card review.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Best for no annual fee
- This card is a good fit for: Someone looking for a travel card with nonrestrictive redemption options.
- This card is not a great choice for: Travelers seeking premium perks or boosted rewards rates in particular categories.
- What makes this card unique? Bank of America has a pretty broad definition of “travel purchases,” compared to similar cards. Purchases at campgrounds, zoos, art galleries, aquariums, and more can be redeemed for travel statement credits.
- Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it? The rewards rate is alright, but you can find better if you’re willing to pay an annual fee. Also keep in mind that the rewards rate jumps from 1.5 points per dollar spent to 3 points per dollar when you use this card to book airfare, hotels or rental cars through the Bank of America Travel Center.
Read our Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card review.
Discover it® Miles
Best for first-year miles bonus
- This card is a good fit for: Travelers looking for a simple earning system and flexible redemption options.
- This card is not a great choice for: Someone looking for travel perks or the ability to transfer miles to airline or hotel loyalty programs. Also, keep in mind that Discover is less accepted overseas than Visa or Mastercard.
- What makes this card unique? Discover will automatically match all miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. It’s like a delayed sign-up bonus, which can be a nice rewards boost after you’ve already accrued a year’s worth of miles.
- Is the Discover it Miles worth it? If you want to earn travel rewards but are hesitant to jump into a confusing rewards program, the Discover it Miles could be a good fit. You earn rewards at a flat, unlimited rate and can redeem them for statement credits to cover travel purchases. Plus, there’s no annual fee. Travel credit cards don’t get much simpler than that.
Read our Discover it® Miles review.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Best for luxury card perks
- This card is a good fit for: Frequent travelers looking to capitalize on travel and dining purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who only travel occasionally or aren’t comfortable with a hefty annual fee. If you’re not sure you’d get $550 of value out of this card each year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better choice.
- What makes this card unique?: The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit, which is automatically applied to your account when you make a travel purchase. The Reserve’s credit is much more flexible than the similar credit offered by The Platinum Card® from American Express, which requires you to commit to using your credit with a specific travel provider at the start of the year.
- Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® worth it?: Travel rewards beginners and infrequent travelers might find it tough to get more than $550 of value out of this card each year. But if you make use of the credits and additional perks, the Sapphire Reserve is easily worth it. For example, the Priority Pass™ Select membership that comes with the card can’t be purchased on its own, but the comparable “Prestige” membership costs $429 per year. Then there’s the $300 annual travel credit. Between those two perks alone, the card could pay for itself before you even factor in rewards earnings.
Read our Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Best student cash back card
- This card is a good fit for: People with no credit history looking to earn cash back.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who may forget to activate the card’s rotating bonus categories each quarter.
- What makes this card unique? Discover offers an interesting perk that’s similar to a sign-up bonus, but perhaps better-suited for credit newcomers. The Cashback Match is an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Unlike a sign-up bonus, there’s no spending minimum, so there’s less pressure to overspend.
- Is the Discover it Student worth it? The rewards card market is slim for people with no credit history, which is why this card’s rotating 5 percent cash back categories (on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate, then 1 percent) are so impressive.
Read our Discover it® Student Cash Back review.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Best for studying abroad
- This card is a good fit for: Students who want to earn travel rewards on all purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who want to redeem for cash back. You’ll get the best rewards value when you redeem for travel statement credits.
- What makes this card unique? Bank of America offers a special deal to clients who already have an eligible Bank of America account with a qualifying balance. Preferred Rewards members get 25 percent to 75 percent more points for their purchases.
- Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students worth it? A flat rate of 1.5 points on all purchases is competitive for a student card. And it’s great that you can use this card for everyday essentials, like groceries or school supplies, and then put the rewards toward a getaway. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fee make this card an even more sensible option for the student with wanderlust.
Read our Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students review.
What are foreign transaction fees?
When you use a credit card overseas to buy something in the local currency, your credit card issuer has to convert the money you’ve spent into U.S. dollars to properly bill you. It may seem like any other transaction from your perspective, but behind the scenes the credit card issuer pays various costs associated with currency conversion, transferring money through a foreign bank and so on.
Many issuers offset these costs by charging a foreign transaction fee for every overseas purchase.
do not charge foreign transaction fees on any of their credit cards.
The fee usually ranges from 3%-5% of the amount spent on each transaction, which means the cost to you can really add up:
It’s a common misconception that paying in U.S. dollars is a way to get out of paying a foreign transaction fee. It isn’t, and paying in U.S. dollars will actually cost you more most of the time because the price will include a currency conversion fee.
Why do banks charge a foreign transaction fee?
Overseas transactions require banks to convert the money spent into U.S dollars. So when you make a purchase online from an overseas vendor or make an international charge, the conversion process costs money, which is where the foreign transaction fee comes into play. The total fee that you pay often involves adding the charge from the issuing bank and the processing fee from the payment network (like Visa or Mastercard).
Who should get a no foreign transaction fee credit card?
One less fee to worry about is always a nice thing, but do you really need to prioritize no foreign transaction fees when looking for a credit card? For some people, this feature can save hundreds of dollars.
The most obvious set of people who should look for a no foreign transaction fee card are those who travel outside of the U.S. often. Being charged a foreign transaction fee on every swipe can amount to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year for a frequent traveler.
Unfortunately, you can get burned by foreign transaction fees without ever leaving your couch. If you make an online purchase from a non-U.S. merchant, you’ll be charged a foreign transaction fee because the money is still passing through a foreign bank.
Even if you aren’t currently traveling, it’s smart to plan ahead. If you’re a student planning to study abroad or do some post-graduate traveling, a credit card with no foreign transaction fees should be in your wallet.
Foreign transaction fees and credit card issuers
Foreign transaction fees by credit card issuers vary according to different factors, including processing fees. Mastercard and Visa are payment networks, while American Express and Discover are credit card issuers that also have their own payment networks. Also, it’s not unusual for an issuer to charge a foreign transaction fee with some cards but not with others.
Here’s a quick look at how the fee structure breaks down among several major credit card issuers:
The foreign transaction fee is 2.7%. American Express operates its own payment network, so a network processing fee doesn’t apply. American Express cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees include:
Bank of America
The foreign transaction fee is 3% (2% by Bank of America, 1% network processing). Bank of America cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees include:
The foreign transaction fee is 0% — Capital One doesn’t charge the fee and absorbs the 1% network processing fee. Capital One’s no-foreign-transaction-fee cards include:
The foreign transaction fee is 3% (2% by Chase, 1% network processing). Chase cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees include:
The foreign transaction fee is 3% (2% by Citi, 1% network processing). Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees include:
The foreign transaction fee is 0% — Discover doesn’t charge the fee and operates its own payment network, so networking processing fees don’t apply. Discover’s no-foreign-transaction-fee cards include:
Preparing to use a credit card internationally
Money talks, but your money needs a translator when it goes overseas. Here’s a list of tips and facts about using a credit card in a different country.
Contact your bank before you go
Banks will often freeze an account on suspicion of fraud if they detect unusual activity, such as a purchase being made thousands of miles from the cardholder’s address. You might be able to notify your bank through your mobile app, or you can simply call.
Check the payment network coverage
Some regions don’t accept certain credit card networks. Visa and Mastercard payment networks are usually your safest bets but are still not accepted in many parts of Asia. Since acceptance varies even between different regions of the same country, it’s best to contact your credit card issuer about network coverage. When it’s time to travel, you can take credit cards from at least two different networks and always have cash on hand.
Take your chip and PIN credit card
Chip and PIN cards were first introduced in Europe, and many other regions of the world have embraced the technology. While magnetic stripe “swipe” cards might still work in some of these countries, using them may slow down the purchase or cause confusion. If you don’t have a chip and PIN or contactless card, you can usually swap out your magnetic stripe card by calling your credit card issuer.
Credit is the safe way to pay
If your credit card is lost or stolen, the maximum amount of fraudulent purchases you can be liable for is $50, thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act. With debit cards, you can be liable for $500 or more, depending on how long it takes you to report the fraud. Cash, while convenient, is easy to misplace and there’s little you can do to replace it if it’s lost or stolen.
Paying in U.S. dollars could cost you more
Merchants may ask you whether you’d like to pay in U.S. dollars instead of the local currency. This option requires dynamic currency conversion, and while it may seem appealing to know how much you’re spending upfront, it’s almost always a bad idea. With dynamic currency conversion, you pay a currency conversion fee upfront and banks may still charge foreign transaction fees if the purchase is processed by a foreign bank. Avoid the hassle and fees by paying in local currency with a no foreign transaction fee credit card card.
How to save money on future international travel
Avoiding foreign transaction fees should be at the top of your list when looking for a credit card to take with you on your future overseas trip. Here’s some advice to help save even more:
- Use a specialization strategy. If you venture abroad with multiple no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards, think about using the right card to maximize your rewards. For example, the Capital One Savor has a rewards rate of 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment. A second, flat-rate card such as the Capital One Quicksilver would earn more than the Savor (1.5 percent cash back vs.1 percent cash back) on other purchases. You could use Savor for dining and entertainment and make Quicksilver your general-purpose card.
- Know how your rewards programs define “travel” beyond airfare and hotels. Many rewards cards offer bonus points on smaller travel purchases, but issuers have their own definitions of travel. Some issuers put expenses such as rideshares and parking fees in the travel category, while others don’t. Pay attention to the specifics of your rewards program to earn the most points.
- Book through rewards portals or affiliate sites that add value. If you book a hotel room through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you may be able to boost the value of your points by 25%-50% depending on which card you have. With certain cards, American Express offers credits up to $100 at Hotel Collection locations.
- Avoid ATM fees by researching your bank’s network of international ATMs ahead of time. While international ATM fees may be unavoidable with some issuers, others, like Bank of America, provide a list of international partner ATMS where you can withdraw cash without BofA fees.
- Know what kind of handy travel perks your credit card provides, such as car rental insurance, lost luggage insurance or a TSA PreCheck credit. Whether its a card you already have or its a card you’re hoping to acquire before your travels, make sure you’re utilizing the built-in benefits that can save you money.
How we chose our list of best no foreign transaction fee cards
Bankrate uses a comprehensive system to evaluate credit cards and produce a 5-star score. In the case of no-foreign-transaction-fee cards, we’ve emphasized the criteria most relevant to consumers looking to maximize the value of their international purchases.
Most cards on our list are free of both annual fees and foreign transaction fees. However, some annual-fee cards offer incentives, like a large welcome or introductory offer, that offset the yearly cost of membership. For this category, we evaluated whether the total value justifies the cost of using the card.
We place priority on cards that put money back in your wallet — regardless of whether you’re using it in Tucson or Tuscany. For each card, we’ve evaluated the earnings rate and corresponding redemption value to identify the cards that accomplish more than just offering a line of credit.
Travel perks may not be your main motivation for getting a no foreign transaction fee card, but they often provide additional benefits that increase the card’s total value. Several credit card issuers offer additional features, like travel accident insurance or trip delay insurance, to make their cards more useful to consumers.
More information on overseas travel and credit cards
If you still need to do some research, check out these resources from Bankrate:
Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.