While 3 percent is still the norm, a handful of credit card issuers have reduced or eliminated the foreign transaction fee.
The first time I ever traveled abroad, over 20 years ago, converting currency required lots of time and effort. A few merchants welcomed my Citibank Visa and my American Express Green Card, but only after making triplicate copies of my purchase receipts. Paying 3 percent of each transaction was cheap, compared to waiting in line to cash travelers cheques or exchange cash.
Today, shifting cash across borders takes a lot less effort. Most European countries have united under the Euro, eliminating many complex foreign exchange calculations from daily business. Currency conversion now happens on the fly, using nightly interbank rates. Vendors all over the world have embraced credit card transactions, even for small purchases. Authorizations happen in real time, across networks designed for global security. Yet, most credit cards still charge the same 3 percent international transaction fees I had to pay in the 1990s!
Some travel credit cards eliminated their foreign transaction fees, since an instant 3 percent rebate can attract some elite globetrotters.
Regardless of which card you choose, make sure you alert your bank that you'll be traveling abroad so you can avoid "false positive" fraud detection decline notices.