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What Are Foreign Transaction Fees and Can You Avoid Them When Using a Credit Card Internationally?

Foreign transaction fees could increase your expenses while traveling overseas, but there are ways to avoid them

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Though the US dollar remains relatively strong, traveling abroad can get expensive quickly -- especially if your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee every time you make a purchase. 

But you can avoid forking over an extra 2% to 5% by choosing a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Here’s everything you need to know about foreign transaction fees and how to find a credit card that doesn’t charge them.

What are foreign transaction fees? How do they work? 

A foreign transaction fee is charged when you make a purchase in a currency other than the US dollar. You’ll typically incur the fee when you’re outside of the US, but you can also get hit with a foreign transaction fee for an online transaction that’s processed in a foreign currency.

Although a foreign transaction fee will show up on your billing statement as one fee, it’s comprised of two fees: 

1. Issuing bank fee. Your credit card issuer -- think Citi, Chase or American Express -- may charge you for a transaction made in a country outside the US. 

2. Network fee (currency conversion fee). Your payment processor -- think Visa or Mastercard -- may also charge a currency conversion fee.

Added together, the range for these two fees is generally between 2% and 5%, but 3% is the standard rate. 

Additionally, you should watch for an optional currency conversion fee, also known as a Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It’s a service that lets you see how much you’re paying in US dollars at the point of purchase but adds another 1% on top of any foreign transaction fees. You can avoid this convenience fee by opting to pay in local currency.

If you’re using a card overseas to pay for the occasional souvenir, these charges may not seem like a big deal. But if you’re paying for most of a trip’s cost with your credit card, those fees can add up.

How are foreign transaction fees calculated?

To calculate a foreign transaction fee, multiply the purchase price after currency conversion by your credit card’s foreign transaction fee rate.

Suppose you’re visiting France and use a credit card that charges a 3% foreign transaction fee to buy something that costs €94.79, which converts to $100. Based on the converted amount, you’ll incur a $3 fee so the total amount you’ll pay is $103.

Why do some cards charge foreign transaction fees?

Credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees do so as a way to make money for processing a transaction through a foreign bank or in a currency other than the US dollar. 

There’s no benefit to you, the consumer, for paying foreign transaction fees. If you travel overseas or shop online at international merchants, a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee can help you save money.

Can I avoid foreign transaction fees?

The best way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to get a credit card that doesn’t charge them

To find out if a credit card charges a foreign transaction fee, take a look at the card’s terms. You can find them on the card issuer’s website. If you don’t see one listed, it likely means you don’t have to worry. Issuers will typically prominently note it if a card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

If your primary credit card charges a foreign transaction fee, you may want to add a dedicated credit card that doesn’t charge them.

How to spot a foreign transaction fee on your credit card

Your credit card billing statement should list each foreign transaction fee as a separate charge from your purchase. It should be identified as a foreign transaction fee. You can also find this in your account history when you log onto your credit card issuer’s online portal or app.

Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Travel rewards cards usually don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, and some secured and cash-back cards don’t either.

Here’s an overview of issuers and cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

American Express

American Express doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for its flagship travel cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.

Capital One

No Capital One cards charge foreign transaction fees. Capital One’s Venture card family (Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card*, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card* and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card*) are some of the best travel cards to consider.


Chase offers some of the most popular travel rewards cards with high rewards-earning potential and no foreign transaction fees. Consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®


Though Discover isn’t widely accepted internationally, the company’s cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. One card worth a look is the Discover it® Miles*.

Which credit card processors are accepted internationally?

Some cards are more widely accepted outside of the US than others. 

Visa and Mastercard

Visa and Mastercard are the two most prominent payment processors and the most popular cards globally. Typically, if credit cards are accepted, either of them will usually work.

American Express

American Express is the third most common card accepted overseas. However, it’s typically accepted only at larger merchants or companies with an international presence. Smaller businesses and “mom-and-pop shops” will likely prefer payments in cash, Mastercard or Visa.


Discover cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, but they’re one of the least accepted of the major credit cards. Check with the company’s interactive card acceptance tool to confirm its acceptance in the countries you’re planning to visit.

Which types of credit cards are accepted internationally?

If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to make sure you bring along a chip credit card. Magnetic stripe cards you “swipe” are rarely accepted anymore in most European countries in Europe and other parts of the world. Credit cards with chips or with contactless payment tech are the standard. They’re also safer -- a chip card with a PIN (instead of signing a credit card slip) will significantly lower your risk of fraud and unauthorized charges.

If you don’t have a chip card yet, contact your card issuer or bank and request one; most card companies have switched to chip-and-pin or chip-and-signature credit cards.

The bottom line

Traveling overseas is expensive, and getting hit with a foreign transaction fee every time you use your credit card will make it more so. If you plan to go abroad, it’s worthwhile to bring along a travel credit card that won’t charge this fee -- and which may provide rewards or other benefits.


Many places have adopted credit cards and cashless payments, and a credit card can reduce how much cash you need to carry. But there are countries whose businesses still conduct most of their transactions in cash. Travel around parts of Europe, and you may find many restaurants and small businesses require a minimum amount (usually the equivalent of $10 or more) before they’ll accept a credit card. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a debit card on hand as well.

Remember that exchanging money yourself is usually far more expensive and time-consuming than withdrawing the funds using a debit card. Many currency exchanges charge fees to exchange your dollars and give you a less favorable rate. When you use your debit card to withdraw cash at an ATM in a foreign country, you’ll get the bank’s wholesale rate -- as long as you decline any currency conversions the ATM offers to make for you.

However, there may be international ATM fees you need to keep an eye on. Before you travel, ask your bank about what fees you’ll be charged on withdrawals.

You can avoid a credit card foreign transaction fee by either paying cash or using a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee note it on their website, but you can also look at the credit card’s terms and conditions page.

Transactions made in a currency other than the US dollar are considered foreign transactions. A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge your credit card issuer and credit card processor attaches to those transactions. 

Look at your credit card agreement. Within the terms, it should state that your credit card charges foreign transaction fees -- they may also be called foreign purchase transaction fees or foreign currency transaction fees. You can also find this information on your card issuer’s website. Issuers will typically prominently highlight if a card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

It’s possible to get a foreign transaction fee waived, but it isn’t easy. Call your credit card issuer’s customer service department and request that they waive the fee. It works best if you’ve had the credit card for many years, but even then, there’s no guarantee the issuer will waive the fee.

*All information about the Discover it Miles, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Besides, her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN,, and She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women's NGOs about small business development.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a senior editor for CNET Money with a focus on credit cards. Previously, she covered personal finance topics as a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. She is passionate about helping people make the best money decisions for themselves and their families. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and has been a writer and editor for publications including the New York Post, Women's Running magazine and Soap Opera Digest. When she isn't working, you can find her enjoying life in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband, daughter and a very needy dog.
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