The foreign transaction fee (aka international transaction fee) is the surcharge assessed to your credit card on transactions processed outside of the United States. Most issuers charge 2% – 4% of each purchase you make – potentially turning an international vacation into an even more costly affair than you’d expected.
For example, if you make $1,000 worth of purchases while traveling in Europe or you buy something from an international merchant online, you’ll get hit with a $30 fee. This can add up to a lot over time, so it may be worth applying for a credit card that does not have a foreign transaction fee before traveling or purchasing internationally. Capital One and Discover lead the market in this category, eliminating foreign fees from all of their offers, though a number of other major issuers have stripped them from certain cards as well.
Below you can find a breakdown of the largest credit card companies’ foreign fee policies, as well as some helpful tips and tidbits that will enable you to fully understand the relationship between credit cards and international spending.
- A credit card foreign transaction fee is generally the combination of charges assessed by the card network (e.g. MasterCard, VISA) and a fee that your credit card issuer (e.g. Bank of America, Citi) charges on top of that.
- Foreign transaction fees are at the sole discretion of the issuing bank, while the countries in which a card will be accepted depends on the credit card network (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Amex).
- Remember, you don’t actually need to leave American soil to be charged a foreign transaction fee. Any time you make a purchase online that is processed through an overseas merchant, you will be charged this fee. If the prices on a website are quoted in a foreign currency, that’s a good indication you are transacting with an international merchant.
- You should also keep an eye out for dynamic currency conversion. This happens when an overseas merchant offers to convert your credit card transaction from the local currency into U.S. dollars. While it may sound tempting to see your transaction in a currency that you are familiar with, you should always refuse this offer. Many merchants will charge exorbitantly high exchange rates, as high as 7%, to do the conversion and pocket the difference as a fee.
- Always call your credit card company before using your credit card to make purchases abroad so they do not become suspicious and suspend your account due to fraud concerns.
While American Express credit cards have historically charged 2-3% fees for foreign use, with most of their cards currently charging 2.7%, the company now offers at least one card without foreign transaction fees. American Express cards are, obviously, on the American Express network and can be used in over 160 countries worldwide. To inquire about your Amex card’s foreign transaction fees or to notify American Express about any upcoming international trips, please call the Amex customer service department at 1-800-528-4800.
Bank of America
Bank of America credit cards have historically come with foreign transaction fees in the 1-3% range, and the company does not currently offer a no foreign fee card. Bank of America offers cards on the Visa, MasterCard and American Express networks. Visa and MasterCard each boast acceptance in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, while Bank of America Amex cards can be used in over 160 countries. If you have questions about your Bank of America credit card, please contact the BofA customer service department at 1-800-732-9194 .
Capital One has always been the largest issuer of no foreign transaction fee credit cards. It has been the company’s long standing policy not to charge any foreign transaction fees, and this policy applies to all of Capital One’s credit cards and debit card products, which are issued on the Visa and MasterCard networks–both accepted in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Still, if you wish to speak with a Capital One customer service representative about using your card internationally, please call 1-800-955-7070.
Traditionally, the vast majority of Chase credit cards charged foreign transaction fees of around 3%. Recently, a significant number of Chase’s new credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees, while the rest still have 3% fees for international use. Chase offers cards on the Visa and MasterCard networks, which can be used in over 200 countries and territories around the world. If you have questions about your Chase credit card, please call the number on the back of your Chase card.
Though Citi does offer a handful of no foreign transaction fee credit cards, the vast majority of Citicards have traditionally and still do charge 3% foreign transaction fees. Citi offers Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards. Visa and MasterCard cards can be used in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, while Amex is accepted in over 160 countries. If you would like to ask about the fees on your Citicard account or to notify Citi about an upcoming trip out of the country, please contact Citi’s customer service department at 1-800-950-5114.
As of Nov.6, 2011, Discover no longer charges foreign transaction fees for any of its cards, all of which used to have 2% fees for foreign use. Discover is currently accepted in 49 countries and territories outside of the U.S. You can use your card wherever you see a Discover, Diners Club International, China UnionPay, or JCB acceptance mark in the following locations:
- North America: Canada, Mexico
- Europe: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey
- Central/South America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, Ecuador
- Caribbean: Almost all countries/territories in the Caribbean
- Asia: Mainland China, Japan, South Korea
- Africa: South Africa
For further information about using Discover cards internationally, the Discover customer service department can be reached at 1-800-347-2683.
Traditionally, using an HSBC credit card abroad resulted in a 1-3% foreign transaction fee. Since 2007, however, HSBC has offered at least one credit card without these fees. HSBC currently offers cards on the MasterCard network, which can be used in over 210 countries and territories. For specific information about your HSBC credit card, call 1-800-477-6000 and speak with the HSBC credit card customer service department.
MasterCard does not charge foreign transaction fees. A card’s foreign fees are determined by its issuer (e.g. Capital One, Bank of America, USAA, etc). Cards on the MasterCard network are accepted at over 30 million merchant locations and one million ATMs in more than 210 of the roughly 260 countries and territories in the world.
USAA credit cards charge 1% fees for any purchase made with a foreign merchant, though deployed service members can qualify for reimbursement for such fees. USAA has American Express and MasterCard credit cards. Amex cards can be used in over 160 countries, and MasterCard is accepted in over 210 countries and territories. Contact the USAA customer service department at 1-800-531-8722 with any questions about your USAA credit card.
U.S. Bank is another issuer that still exclusively offers credit cards with foreign transaction fees. The fee for a purchase made in a foreign currency will be 3%, and a 2% fee will be applied to purchases processed outside the U.S. but made in U.S. dollars (i.e. dynamic currency conversion). USAA’s cards are on either the Visa or MasterCard network and can therefore be used in over 200 countries and territories across the globe. The U.S. Bank Cardmember Services number is 1-800-285-8585.
As is the case with MasterCard, Visa does not charge any foreign transaction fees, given that they are determined independently by credit card issuers. Visa cards can be used at tens of millions of merchant locations and 1.8 million ATMs in over 200 of the roughly 260 countries and territories worldwide.
Wells Fargo exclusively offers Visa cards, which can be used in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. A majority of Wells Fargo’s credit cards have 3% foreign currency fees for transactions converted by Visa. The fee is not assessed for transactions when the merchant handles the currency conversion (i.e. dynamic currency conversion). Questions about specific Wells Fargo credit cards should be directed to the Wells Fargo customer service department, which can be reached at 1-800-642-4720.
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