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What is a foreign transaction fee?

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Everything you need to know about foreign transaction fees and how to avoid them.

If you use your credit card overseas, a foreign transaction fee or currency conversion fee may be tacked on your credit card bill — adding to the cost of paying with plastic when you’re in another country or shopping online internationally. This page explains when these fees are charged, the potential cost and how you can avoid or minimize them.

Compare no foreign transaction fee credit cards

Updated May 20th, 2019
Name Product Foreign Transaction Fee Annual Fee Purchase APR
None
$0
17.99% to 26.99% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
None
$95
18.24% to 25.24% variable
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0
15.24% to 26.24% variable
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
None
$0
15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$450
19.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
None
$250
See Rates & Fees
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & fees
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($49 thereafter)
16.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 25,000 enrollment FlexPoints worth $375 in travel after spending $2,000 in the first 4 months. Rates & Fees
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 26.99% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
18.24% to 25.24% variable
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
None
$0
14.24%, 20.24% or 25.24% variable
An 15 months 0% intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
18.24%, 22.24% or 25.24% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$495
17.24% variable
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
17.24% variable
Earn 2% point value when redeemed for airfare or cash back through the Luxury rewards program.
None
$195
17.24% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$149
15.99% to 25.99% variable
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
None
$95
17.99% to 26.99% variable
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

When is a foreign transaction fee applied?

couple_travel_shopping_ShutterstockCredit card providers may apply a foreign transaction fee for any of the following transactions:

  • Overseas transactions
  • Transactions made online in a foreign currency
  • Transactions made with a retailer outside of the US

Foreign transaction fees are most common for payments when you’re using your card overseas. It’s important to note that any payment that’s processed overseas can attract this fee, even if it’s made in US dollars. If you do swipe your card overseas, always pay in the local currency to avoid being hit with the currency conversion fee.

How much are foreign transaction fees?

In general, foreign transaction fees are 3% to 5% of your total transaction amount in US dollars. However, foreign transaction fees vary depending on your card and your card provider.

How do foreign transaction fees work

Let’s say you’re paying $1,000 for an overseas accommodation and use a card that charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, the additional cost would be $30. Similarly, if you were shopping online and spent $100 with a retailer overseas, you could expect to pay $3 extra. Even though this percentage can seem like a small amount, with large expenses like travel-related costs, these extra fees can add up to a substantial amount over time.

How can I avoid foreign transaction fees?

Here are some options that allow you to avoid or minimize foreign transaction fees:

  • No foreign transaction fee credit cards. These are credit cards tailored for international use and allow you to spend without any foreign transactions fees. Some of them, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, come with complimentary travel perks.
  • No foreign transaction fee debit cards. Stay on the lookout for a debit card with low or no foreign transaction fees — some even waive international ATM withdrawal fees. The upside of using a debit card is that there is no interest since you’ll be spending your own money.
  • Prepaid travel money cards. Travel money cards offer the convenience of a credit card without the costs of international transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees.
  • Foreign cash. Using cash eliminates bank transaction and ATM fees, but you may still have to pay a fee for the currency exchange. You could also use a money transfer service to send money to your destination and pick it up when you arrive. Be careful with large amounts of money — if you lose it, it’s not replaceable.
  • Traveler’s checks. These can help you avoid international transaction fees, but they are slowly being phased out because of other fees and limited acceptance.

Avoiding international transaction fees can result in some savings over time, but may not be the right option for every traveler. You should always consider a range of payment options before traveling overseas or shopping online to make the most out of your money.

Comparison of travel money products

Updated May 20th, 2019
Name Product Foreign Transaction Fee Welcome Offer Rewards
None
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
None
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on travel and dining. 1x points on all other purchases
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
None
3% cash back bonus on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5%
3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit. 1x points on all other purchases
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on flights booked directly or flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
None
35,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on airfare booked directly with airlines; 4x points at US restaurants; 4x points at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1x points)
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & fees
None
25,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 4 months
2x points on gas, groceries and airlines, whichever you spend the most on each month, 2x points on cell phone services and charities and 1x points on all other purchases
Earn 25,000 enrollment FlexPoints worth $375 in travel after spending $2,000 in the first 4 months. Rates & Fees
None
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
None
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
None
N/A
N/A
An 15 months 0% intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
None
70,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days
2x miles on all purchases
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare or cash back
Earn 2% point value when redeemed for airfare or cash back through the Luxury rewards program.
None
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
3x miles on Avianca purchases, 2x miles at gas stations and grocery stores and 1x miles on all other purchases. Plus 15% discount on purchases of miles with Multiply Your Miles
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
None
125,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
12x points on Hilton Portfolio spending, 6x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

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    Other costs to consider when using your card internationally

    couple_outdoor_with_iPad_ShuttesrstockOn top of the foreign transaction fee, the following costs could also apply:

    • Currency conversion. When spending overseas, you may be given the option to use local currency or USD. You could lose money as a result of the currency conversion before even being charged the currency conversion fee — always pay in the local currency if that’s an option.
    • Foreign ATM fees. This is a common fee when using your card to withdraw cash from an ATM internationally. Unless your bank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance that allows you to use other ATMs for free, this fee could be around $5 per transaction.
    • Cash advance fees. Another common credit card fee is the cash advance fee, which is typically around 3% to 5% of each transaction. Cash advance fees are not limited to ATM withdrawals — there are other transactions treated as cash advances as well.
    • Interest charges. If you don’t repay your balance in full and on time, interest charges will apply. With cash advances, interest charges apply immediately, so try to steer clear if you can.

    Pictures: Shutterstock

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