For decades, globetrotters tolerated paying a percentage fee for the "convenience" of exchanging currency on the fly. Even after merchants around the world embraced credit cards, American tourists and professionals alike continued to let banks charge up to 5 percent on each transaction conducted outside the U.S. After all, if you had the cash to get yourself out of the country, you probably had some extra room in the budget for foreign transaction fees. Plus, they were almost always still cheaper than dealing with the high-cost street currency counter.
Credit card issuers have discovered over time that frequent overseas travelers typically spend far more with their accounts than cardholders who remain inside the United States. Eliminating foreign transaction fees means earning processing fees from merchants and annual fees from high-spending members. Whether you're a frequent flier on a first name basis with airport lounge attendants or just a casual traveler looking to save a few bucks, you can take advantage of the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.
Although Pentagon Federal Credit Union doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on any of its credit cards, this rewards card, which charges no annual fee, offers significant bonuses for airfare purchases made directly with airlines. PenFed designed their original cards to help soldiers and military families avoid banking fees during overseas deployments. With a one-time donation to an affiliated charity and a strong credit report, you can submit a credit card application for consideration, if approved you can enjoy some of those same benefits. Cardholders can also request an embedded EMV chip, a feature that has become almost essential for travel in most parts of Europe.
Our editor's take:
Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees across its entire credit card lineup. However, even casual travelers will love earning 2X miles per dollar spent on every purchase made on the Venture Card. This card's Purchase Eraser tool lets you pick out eligible travel expenses from recent statements, then eliminates them by issuing a statement credit. Unlike most other travel rewards cards, earned miles show up on your statement within a few days, enabling you to quickly convert large purchases into rewards toward flights or hotel nights. A typical household's monthly spending might earn more than enough rewards miles to offset this card's moderate annual fee ($0 introductory fee for the first year and $59 after that).
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
Our editor's take:
This travel rewards card charges no annual fee and offers a generous 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, redeemable toward a statement credit to pay for eligible travel purchases such as for flights, cruises, hotels, vacation packages, baggage fees or rental cars. With an active eligible Bank of America checking or savings account and you can earn an additional 10 percent customer points bonus on every purchase. An embedded EMV chip and an ATM alliance with Barclays Bank in the UK make this a great card for travel throughout the EU.
Our editor's take:
The original cash-back card has built a reputation for solid customer service, but it often gets overlooked as a serious travel card. Partnerships with JCB and UnionPay, along with Discover's ownership of the Diners Club brand, should make this your go-to credit card for trips to Asia, especially Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. This card charges no annual fee and includes 24/7 travel assistance, making it even more valuable if you lose your luggage, your passport, or your wallet. Currently there is an offer only for new Discover cardmembers to earn double all the cash back they've earned at the end of their first year with the card.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus ™ World Elite MasterCard®
Our editor's take:
This relative newcomer to the travel rewards market packs a punch: earn 2X miles per dollar spent on purchases and get 10 percent miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits. Barclaycard waives this card's competitive annual fee of $89 for the first year, along with offering some significant signup bonuses for new customers. An embedded EMV chip and access to MasterCard's World Elite concierges and luxury travel specialists make this a great deal for casual travelers who want to see the world in style.
Avoid hidden surcharges on 'no-FTF' cards
Even if you pick one of these "no-FTF" credit cards for your next international adventure, you could still get socked by fees from local banks or retailers. Here's how to keep your trip surcharge-free:
- Despite what your bank might tell you, merchants don't always welcome every American credit card equally. Stores might request or require you to use a card that transacts on their preferred network. If you prefer to carry an American Express or Discover card, pack a "spare" Visa or MasterCard to ensure acceptance.
- Watch for "dynamic currency conversion" offers. Point-of-sale systems in tourist havens often use an unfavorable exchange rate while tacking on processing fees. Ask to do business in local currency and let your bank save you money.
- Use ATM cash advances for emergencies only. Even "no-FTF" credit cards charge hefty cash advance processing fees. Plus, you'll usually have to pay a surcharge to a local ATM operator that can run as high as $20 in tourist districts. Instead, drop cash into an online checking account with a no-fee debit card.
Finally, protect yourself against pickpockets by writing down your credit card companies' emergency phone numbers and key account details before you leave. Keep a copy separate from your wallet or valuables. If your card gets lost or stolen, your bank's emergency assistance team can help replace your card or provide an emergency cash advance much more quickly than if they have to look up and verify your account information.