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Foreign Transaction Fees: How to Save When Using a Credit Card Internationally

Foreign transaction fees could increase your expenses while traveling overseas.

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Though the US dollar remains relatively strong, traveling abroad remains expensive -- especially when you tack on a foreign transaction fee every time you buy something.  Some credit cards charge a fee for any transaction made in a foreign currency -- typically, though not always, 3%.

There are credit cards that don’t charge any foreign transaction fees, however. Here’s everything you need to know about mitigating fees while traveling outside of the US.

What are foreign transaction fees? How do they work? 

A foreign transaction fee is charged when you buy something in a currency other than the US dollar. You’ll typically face the fee when you’re outside of the US -- but not always. You can get hit with a foreign transaction fee if you buy something online and the transaction is processed in a foreign currency.

Foreign transaction fees typically range between 2% and 5% of the purchase amount, but 3% is the standard fee. If you’re using a card overseas to pay for the occasional souvenir, that charge may not be a big deal. But if you’re paying for most of a trip’s cost with your credit card, it can add up.

There may be other fees, too. Your payment processor -- Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover – might also charge a currency conversion fee. It’s typically 1% of the purchase and is usually rolled into the foreign transaction fee.

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 highlight 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 travel credit card, which usually doesn’t charge them.

Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Travel rewards cards usually do not charge foreign transaction fees though 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 do not charge foreign transaction fees. Two cards worth a look are the Discover it® Cash Back* and the Discover it® Miles*.

The bottom line

Traveling overseas is expensive, and getting hit with a foreign transaction fee every time you swipe 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 readily adopted credit cards and cashless payments, and a credit card can reduce how much cash you need to carry in case of theft. 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 the cash at a foreign ATM, 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.

If you’re planning on traveling abroad more often, some cards are more widely accepted outside of the United States than others. The logo of the card you carry while traveling abroad is important -- but so is the type of card.

Chip credit cards

Magnetic stripe cards you “swipe” are rarely accepted anymore in most 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; the majority of card companies have switched to chip-and-pin or chip-and-signature credit cards.


Discover cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, but they’re one of the least accepted of the major credit cards. According to the company’s interactive card acceptance tool, Discover hasn’t made its way to most of Africa and the Middle East yet. Bolivia and Ukraine are other countries where it’s not accepted.

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 work.

American Express

American Express is the third most common card accepted overseas. However, it’s typically only accepted 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.

*All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Discover it Cash Back, and Discover it Miles 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.