With a travel rewards credit card, not only will you avoid having to carry around large amounts of cash, but you’ll also have the added benefit of fraud protection — and, depending on the card, the chance to earn rewards on your purchases. These rewards could result in thing like being able to book free airfare or being able to get a statement credit for travel purchases.
One of the caveats you may face, however, is a fee that might be charged each time you swipe your card abroad, which is also usually the case with a debit card. This is known as a foreign transaction fee.
The good part is, with many options out there it’s likely that there's a great no foreign transaction fee credit card option for you. You can rest easy — or travel easy — knowing you’re not getting dinged every time you buy something.
The best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Here are our recommendations on the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. Most of these credit card offers will earn you points or miles, but if you prefer a cash rewards credit card with the flexibility of using that money for travel, there are a couple of the best cashback credit cards on this list too.
The best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees:
- American Express® Gold Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Ink Business Preferred
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
Capital One Venture Rewards
- Citi Premier
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
Some of these cards will earn you points or miles in a flexible rewards program. While others will get you automatic status benefits in airline or hotel loyalty programs. Make sure to check out the details for every card and consider how you travel and how you spend your money. Here is some additional info about each card so you can pick the best credit card for your personal finance situation and goals.
American Express Gold Card
Yes, there’s a $250 (See rates and fees) annual fee on the American Express Gold Card. But there's no foreign transaction fees, and the perks you get with this travel rewards card are likely worth it if you take advantage of them all.
First, you earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases. Plus, you can take advantage of the welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.
Whether you're craving fast food or making gourmet dining purchases, this American Express card is an excellent option. But if you want even more travel perks, then you might check out the The Platinum Card® from American Express, which also charges no foreign transaction fee.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a go-to card for international travelers for a reason. This well-known travel card give you a chance to earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. On your spending, you'll earn 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. You'll also get 25% more in airline and hotel travel redemption when you redeem your Ultimate Rewards to book your trips through the Chase travel portal, plus each year on your card anniversary, you will earn bonus points equal to 10% of the total purchases you made in the previous year.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers complimentary insurance coverage, such as trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip interruption insurance, and primary auto rental collision damage waivers. You will also get benefits related to DoorDash's subscription service known as DashPass. You'll pay zero delivery fees and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12. A DashPass subscription normally costs $9.99 per month.
You'll also enjoy shopping protections no matter where you're making purchases. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, eligible purchases are covered for up to 120 days from damage or theft, and eligible purchases will have their warranty extended by up to one year.
If you want even more luxury travel benefits, then make sure to check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You can enjoy even higher rewards rates and perks like Priority Pass lounge access and a free year of Lyft Pink.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
If you do international travel for business reasons, then the Chase Ink Business Preferred could be a good fit for you. New cardholders can earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months. Your spending will earn 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else.
Like the Sapphire Preferred, you'll get 25% more value out of your Ultimate Rewards when you use them to book travel through the Chase travel portal.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card
For those who like to travel but who prefer to earn rewards in the form of cash, the Capital One Quicksilver can be a versatile card to have in your wallet. This card is especially great for making sure you earn a good rewards rate on your everyday purchases.
With this card you can earn 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase, every day. You can also earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.
In addition, this card can help you take some time to pay of large purchases. New cardholders get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months after account opening. Just remember any balance left after that time will be subject to the regular APR.
Capital One Venture Rewards Card
If you like the idea of earning a lot of easy rewards and simply "erasing" your purchases, then the Capital One Venture Rewards Card is for you. On your spending, you can earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases. And new cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
The Venture card also gets you special travel perks like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit of up to $100.
Citi Premier Card
The Citi Premier Card is another flexible travel rewards card that lets you book travel through the Citi website or by transferring to travel partners. New cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. On your spending, you'll earn 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases.
When you use your Citi ThankYou Points to book travel through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center, each point has 25% more value. That means 20,000 points will be worth $250 toward travel, as opposed to the $200 they would be worth when redeemed for cash.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
With the Delta SkyMiles Gold, you can earn rewards to pay for your travel just by eating at restaurants and shopping at the grocery store. New cardmembers can earn 70,000 bonus miles after you send $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. When you spend with this card, you'll earn 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
For the regular traveler, there are a lot of perks to having this card in your wallet. With this card, you'll receive car rental loss and damage insurance (secondary coverage), priority boarding, one free checked bag on Delta flights, a global assistance hotline, and no foreign transaction fees. Select benefits require enrollment and this card has an annual fee of $99 (waived first year) (See rates and fees).
Delta has a number of co-branded credit cards available. So if the Delta Skymiles Gold doesn't seem like a good fit, you might want to check out the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
Note: If you prefer to fly American Airlines, check out the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard so you can enjoy free checked luggage and preferred boarding on top of a generous welcome bonus.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
If you frequently stay at Marriott properties, then you may want to consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless. With this card, you can earn 17X points at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (when coupled with your complimentary Marriott Bonvoy membership and Silver Elite status) and 2X points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. New cardholders can also earn 125,000 bonus points (plus 1 bonus free night award) after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. And you'll enjoy an annual free night certificate when you renew your card on your account anniversary.
Cardholders will automatically be given Silver Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. With Silver Elite status, you’ll get 10% bonus points on Marriott stays, priority late checkout, a dedicated elite reservations line, and no blackout days when using points to book. Along with Silver Elite status, you’ll also receive 15 Elite Nights Credits toward earning higher statuses.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
If you prefer to book your hotel stays at Hilton properties, then the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass might be a best fit for you. New cardmembers can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. And when you spend, you can earn 12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.
The Surpass gets you complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, which opens the door to an 80% bonus on all earned Hilton Honors base points, room upgrades when space is available, and free breakfast at all hotels. On top of that, if you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status. You can also earn a free Weekend Night Reward after spending a minimum $15,000 using your card within a calendar year.
This card will also give you free Priority Pass access. You'll get 10 complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge visits after enrolling your card in the Priority Pass Select program. This will get you access and potential freebies at airport lounges around the world. The annual fee is $95 (waived first year) (See rates and fees).
What to look for in a card with no foreign transaction fees
Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees won’t do you much good if you can’t use them, so check to make sure your credit card is widely accepted by the foreign merchants wherever you’re heading. Credit cards using the Visa or Mastercard networks are probably your best bet in this regard, as they have the highest number of merchants in their networks when compared to Discover and Amex.
If you’re considering a card that comes with travel rewards, there are some additional factors you may want to look for:
A sign-up bonus with a minimum spending threshold you can meet
A sign-up bonus is a huge opportunity for cardholders to jumpstart progress toward free or discounted travel. You typically earn a welcome or sign-up bonus by spending a certain amount of money within a certain time period after account opening. Since you often have to spend a fair amount within the first few months, consider your normal day-to-day spending and see if it aligns with the requirement of the card you're considering.
Category or spending bonus
To continue earning rewards points, you want a credit card that will reward you for the things you’re likely already spending your money on, such as groceries, restaurants, gas, and entertainment. If you frequently travel abroad, having a travel rewards credit card that earns you points or miles for every purchase will ensure you’re reaping all the benefits and that you’re not missing out on any points. Make sure you pick a card that has a rewards rate that makes sense for your spending and travel goals.
Special travel perks
Whether it’s travel insurance, cell phone protection, or free checked baggage, many credit cards offer great perks that can make your life easier. Being able to jump in the TSA Pre Check line could make a major difference. Plus, some hotel credit cards will offer you a free night certificate on your anniversary year or an airline credit card might award you with bonus miles. Compare all the benefits while you’re shopping around to make sure they align with what you need the most.
What are foreign transaction fees?
A foreign transaction fee is what your credit card issuer charges for foreign currency purchases made through their network.
To process these foreign transactions, your credit card company might charge you a percentage of the purchase, usually between 1 to 3%. While this may not seem like much, it can quickly add up, considering it applies every time you use your card internationally.
This fee isn’t only reserved for physical purchases abroad either. Any transaction you make online from a non-U.S. retailer could be subject to a foreign transaction fee.
How do I know if my credit card charges a foreign transaction fee?
You can check the terms and conditions or your card issuer’s website to determine if it charges this type of fee. If the card does and it makes sense for your situation, you may want to consider having a backup travel credit card that doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees.
Is it better to use a credit card or to exchange my money overseas?
If you want to have cash on hand, you could exchange your money once you reach your destination. However, you'll likely be subject to unfavorable exchange rates and will pay fees for the service of changing your money as well. If you use a credit card to get cash from an ATM, you'll pay a high rate of interest on your cash advance and you may be limited in how much money you can get as well.
Credit cards are the simplest way to pay for items while you travel internationally as you'll get a better exchange rate and never have to hunt down an ATM. If you're looking for the best way to exchange money so you have cash on hand, then you'll need to plan ahead and exchange some of your U.S. dollars for the local currency of your destination before you head out on your trip.
If you’re planning on traveling abroad, it’s a good time to compare credit cards and consider the many benefits a card has to offer when it comes to all the purchases you’ll be making.
While some of these cards charge annual fees, these can be offset by the lack of foreign transaction fees and by taking advantage of other card perks. Many of these credit cards can help you get to where you’re going using travel rewards and will reward you for your spending while you’re there.
The best rewards credit card for you depends entirely on your goals and spending habits, but using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees is a simple way to save money while traveling abroad.