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No foreign transaction fee credit cards

Save $2.50 for every $100 you spend when you travel overseas or shop online with international retailers.


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When you’re travelling internationally or shopping online with overseas retailers, you may be subject to a fee on every credit card purchase you make. Known as a foreign transaction fee, this fee increases the cost of using your credit card on international purchases without providing any extra benefits. But using a no foreign transaction fee credit card can eliminate this extra fee and save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

Compare cards with no foreign transaction fees

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
$0 annual fee for the first year ($149 thereafter)
Earn 3% in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases (6 Points per $1 spent) and earn 1.5% in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases (3 Points per $1 spent).
Earn up to 100,000 Points ($500 travel value) plus get a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year. Apply by December 28, 2020. Conditions Apply. This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec. (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer).
BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard
$35 USD
Receive an annual fee rebate with a minimum yearly spend of US$1,000. Plus, spend in US Dollars with no exchange rate surprises.
When your purchases total US$1,000 or more in a year, the next year's annual fee (US$35) is rebated to your card.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, dining and entertainment purchases, 3 points per $1 spent on eligible gas, transportation and select streaming services, and 1 point per $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
Earn 25,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months. Apply by November 1, 2020.
Scotiabank Passport  Visa Infinite Card
Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible grocery store, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases, and earn 1 Scotia Rewards point for every $1 spent elsewhere.
Earn up to 35,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points (up to a $350 travel value) in your first year. Apply by November 1, 2020.

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What is a no foreign transaction fee credit card?

A no foreign transaction fee credit card is one that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases you make with international processors. Using a no foreign transaction fee credit card when you’re travelling (or shopping online with international retailers) can save you hundreds of dollars in additional fees over the lifetime of the credit card.

What’s great about a no foreign transaction fee is that the savings are automatic. You don’t have to make any redemption or take extra steps to have the foreign transaction fee waived; the fee simply isn’t charged to you at all.

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Why would I want to avoid a foreign transaction fee?

A foreign transaction fee is usually a percentage – normally 2.5% – of the transaction in Canadian dollars. It’s charged whenever you make a purchase from a company located in another country or a business that uses a credit card processor that’s located outside of Canada. This means the fee can be charged when you travel abroad and use your credit card overseas, or when you simply shop online with an international retailer from the comfort of your own home.

Foreign transaction fees aren’t based on the type of currency and might be charged even when the purchase is made in Canadian dollars (such as shopping online with an international retailer or opting to pay in CAD when prompted on a debit/credit machine overseas). The 2.5% fee may not sound like much, but it’s $3.75 on a $150 transaction. If you go on a vacation and spend $5,000, that’s $125 in foreign transaction fees.

How to choose a no foreign transaction fee credit card

The lack of a foreign transaction fee itself is a great perk, but it’s not the only thing that matters in a credit card. As you consider no foreign transaction fee credit cards, check out the other features of the credit card to choose the best one for you.

  • Annual fee. If you want to avoid foreign transaction fees, you might also want to minimize your credit card cost by avoiding the annual fee, too. Some rewards no foreign transaction fee credit cards may charge an annual fee. Before you choose a card with an annual fee, make sure the benefits are worth paying an additional fee.
  • APR. The annual percentage rate or APR, on the credit card influences how much interest you pay whenever you do not pay your balance in full during the grace period. It’s best to pay your balance in full to avoid interest and debt. But if you carry a balance, a lower annual percentage rate will minimize the amount of interest you pay on balances you carry.
  • Promotional rates.No foreign transaction fee credit card vs. using cash Some no foreign transaction fee credit cards offer 0% introductory promotional interest rates on balance transfers or purchases, or both. You’ll pay no interest during the promotional period as long as you make your payments on time. With a low promotional rate, you can use your credit card to book a trip and make purchases while you’re travelling at no interest and with no foreign transaction fee. Consider also the length of the promotional rate and the interest rate after the promotion ends.
  • Rewards. No foreign transaction fee credit cards commonly pay rewards that you can use toward future travel. With a credit card that pays rewards, pay close attention to the rewards you earn for each dollar you spend. Look for a credit card that pays the most rewards on the categories where you typically spend the most money. Be sure also that the rewards you earn are rewards you can use.
  • Signup bonus. Many rewards credit cards offer a sign up bonus, which is a lump sum of rewards that you can earn by spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of having the credit card. Compare signup bonuses based on the amount of the bonus you can earn and the amount you have to spend to earn the bonus. Keep in mind that your spending habits and credit limit will influence your ability to meet the spending requirement.
  • Security features. Many credit cards now feature safer EMV chip technology, which makes it more difficult to copy or duplicate the credit card. Fortunately, many foreign countries already accept EMV chip credit cards. Look for a no foreign transaction fee credit card with EMV chip technology for safer transactions when you’re travelling abroad.
  • International credit card acceptance. Don’t take for granted that your card will be accepted while you’re travelling to other countries. Visa and Mastercards are widely accepted worldwide. However, Discover and American Express are not as widely accepted in other countries. Consider where you’re likely to travel and research to learn whether the credit card network is widely accepted in that country.
  • Other credit card perks. Many no foreign transaction fee credit cards include other travel perks. These perks can make the credit card even more worth using. Benefits like travel insurance, waived baggage fees, and priority boarding are things that you should consider when you’re choosing a no foreign transaction fee credit card. Read the fine print of these perks to be sure they continue to apply when you travel internationally.
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No foreign transaction fee credit card vs. using cash

You might wonder if it’s easier to carry cash as a way to avoid paying foreign transaction fees. While cash is universal and many currency exchange providers around the world accept Canadian dollars, a credit card is often a better choice. You should carry at least some cash for smaller purchases, but a credit card is a better option for the majority of your purchases.

  • Cash can get lost or stolen. Carrying cash is risky because of the increased presence of pickpockets. This is especially common in tourist-heavy areas of the world. If your cash is lost or stolen, you can’t recoup your funds. On the other hand, your credit card issuer likely has a zero fraud liability policy that will eliminate your responsibility for charges made on a stolen credit card.
  • Declaring cash. Carrying cash can make travelling more cumbersome, depending on the amount you’re carrying. Some countries will require you to make a declaration if you carry cash through customs over a certain amount. Failing to declare your cash can result in stiff penalties. You don’t face the same requirements if you carry a credit card.

When withdrawing cash from an ATM, always use your debit card. Using a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM can get incredibly expensive. You’ll have to pay an ATM fee, a cash advance fee, and you’ll start accruing interest on the withdrawal right away.

Drawbacks of no foreign transaction fee credit cards

While the ability to avoid paying a foreign transaction fee is attractive to many credit card users, there are some drawbacks.

  • There’s a very limited number of credit cards to choose from. There are plenty of credit cards on the market, but only a small number of them are no foreign transaction fee credit cards. This means that you only have a select number of credit cards to choose from.
  • They may not offer the best rewards. If you’re looking for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to double as your main rewards credit card, you may not be happy about your options. Many credit cards that fit this category require lots of spending to provide noticeable benefits.
  • You may still pay fees. While a no foreign transaction fee credit card let’s you avoid paying foreign transaction fees, that doesn’t mean that you are exempt from other fees. You can end up paying an annual fee, late fee or transactional fees like a cash advance fee on the credit card. Make sure you’re aware of the fees your credit card charges and what you need to do to avoid paying these fees if you want to keep your credit card as close to free as possible.

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