What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It?

Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyer’s life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, what’s the average fee, and how can you avoid them?

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.

For example, imagine that you’re on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of £150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.

If we assume that £150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.

When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’re moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, there’s a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.

Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site you’re using is based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll face these charges.

It isn’t always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.

Other Issues that American Travelers Face 

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesn’t accept your credit card at all.

In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, it’s all but non-existent in the UK. 

Discover has claimed that the card has “moderate” acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless you’re shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely won’t be accepted.

There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.

Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?

Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.

How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and don’t have to worry about extra charges.

This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isn’t the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and it’s also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when you’re on vacation. 

Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit card’s terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the provider’s website.

To get you started, here are a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

  1. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
  2. Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
  4. Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards. 
  5. Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
  6. Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.

Summary: One of Many Fees

Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; you’re rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.

Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that won’t punish you for the things you do regularly.

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is an International Credit Card?

When you have an international credit card, you can use it both in your home country and abroad. It’s not uncommon to come across businesses abroad that only accept native currency. That’s when an international credit card comes in handy. If you want to avoid the hassles of carrying cash or traveler’s checks everywhere you go, these types of credit cards are the perfect solution.

Several established hotels, restaurants and retail outlets you encounter during your travels will accept your international credit card. That card offers many of the same features as a standard version and can also be used at ATM machines. Thus, no matter where you are, you can get cash from your bank account. You can also check your account balance from an ATM, so you can keep track of your spending and make sure you’re sticking to your budget.

Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

A foreign credit card transaction fee is charged when you make a payment in a different country with your card. The sale also includes a fee because you’re paying in a foreign currency. Typically, foreign transaction fees are equal to 3% of the total cost of the transaction. They are also set in U.S. currency. If you purchase an item or souvenir in another nation’s currency and the total bill comes to $100, with 3% in foreign transaction fees tacked on, you pay a total of $103.

Foreign transaction fees can be charged on different types of transactions, including withdrawing money from ATM machines, reserving hotel rooms, or even booking your flights. The terms and conditions that apply to foreign transaction fees are usually included in the fine print of your international credit card’s cardholder agreement. So, make sure you review this information and are fully aware of the terms before using your card for purchases.

The International Chip and PIN

The international chip and PIN are part of a system being integrated into a number of credit cards. Many foreign merchants no longer accept standard magnetic strip credit cards, claiming they’re unsafe and outdated. The point of an international chip and pin is so that you won’t end up at an unattended kiosk unable to use the card because it requires a PIN to complete your transaction. This specifically applies to retailers in Europe.

Top 4 Brands of International Credit Cards

There are many different international credit cards, but four in particular offer better benefits and interest rates than others.

1. Capital One Venture Rewards Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is another credit card you probably want to consider. The Capital One Rewards card also gives you a solid introductory rate and travel rewards points. It also provides you with a sign-on bonus of up to 50,000 miles or $500 in travel when you spend $3,000 in your first three months from account opening. The only downside is that this card comes with a  an annual fee after the first year.

2. Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card

If you enjoy the Capital One brand but prefer to avoid the annual fee, consider the Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card. The card gives you all the advantages of Capital One without an annual fee. This card also gives you major perks—you’ll get 20,000 miles if you $1,000 in the first three months.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

on Chase’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Balance Transfer:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Annual Fee:
$95


Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.

Card Details +

Lastly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card has low introductory rates for purchases and balance transfers, though its rewards offerings are somewhat weaker by comparison. This is another card that gives you a major bang for your buck—you can earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Do Your Due Diligence Before Traveling Abroad with Your New Cards

Even with an international means of payment, your credit card may not be accepted at all locations. Recently, a Credit.com staffer who traveled to Amsterdam tried to use his World Elite Mastercard at some locations and found that local merchants didn’t always accept a Mastercard branded card.

Before going on your trip, check either with stores or the credit card network (Mastercard, Visa, Discover or American Express)  to see if any conditions exist that might prevent your card from being accepted by foreign merchants. Alternatively, you can take a few different brands with your or have some cash or traveler’s checks on hand.

Check Your Credit

Before applying for an international credit card, it’s important to check your credit score to see what you qualify for. A low score or no score at all could get in the way of your goals of traveling with an international credit card in hand. Be sure to check your score before you apply. Most credit card companies that offer cash-back or miles require a good or even excellent score.

Checking your credit is easy and free depending on the site you use, and checking doesn’t hurt your score. You can get your free Experian credit score by visiting Credit.com. Instead of a hard inquiry, Credit.com does a soft inquiry without harming your credit score.

Using Credit.com for Your Travels

Traveling overseas with a credit card is convenient, but it can also be tricky. If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s important to research which international credit cards will serve you best. Having a credit card that can be used anywhere in the world is a great tool to have in your pocket. But the terms and conditions of each card vary depending on several factors including your credit history, your spending habits and the places you visit.

Credit.com offers travelers just like you the opportunity to check their credit scores and apply for cards that will benefit them on their international journeys. If you’re interested in learning more about credit cards, check Credit.com

Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.

Some offers mentioned here may have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.

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Source: credit.com