What are the best no foreign transaction fee travel rewards credit cards? When packing your bags for an international trip, be sure to also pack at least a couple no foreign transaction fee travel credit cards. It can be tricky, because even some cards that are billed as travel cards, such as the SPG AMEX, charge a hefty 3% foreign transaction fee. And remember, when settling your bill with a no foreign transaction fee card, to *never* accept an offer to convert the bill to U.S. or your home currency–you can bet that the hotel or vendor is not giving you as favorable an exchange rate as you'll get from the credit card company, so always pay in the currency of the country you're in.
In many countries outside the U.S., it's also helpful if your credit card includes an EMV chip; for more on these cards, see our post Best EMV Chip Travel Credit Cards. And for those vendors and taxis that only accept cash, check out No ATM Fees: Bank Checking Accounts That Refund ATM Fees. Without further ado, here are our top travel cards to avoid foreign transaction fees while also earning frequent flyer miles, loyalty points, or rebates of your travel expenses.
Ultimate Rewards points have declined in value, after the United Award Chart Devaluation, but the Sapphire Preferred remains a solid travel credit card because it offers a 2X bonus for ALL travel and dining spend, together with no foreign transaction fees. From dinner at a Michelin restaurant to settling your bill at a boutique hotel to a train trip or taxi fare (if it accepts Visa) the Sapphire Preferred is a good bet if you want to earn Ultimate Rewards points, say for United award redemptions that didn't suffer as much from the United devaluation, for Korean award flights, or for Hyatt award stays.
Pros: 2X bonus on ALL travel and dining spend with no foreign transaction fees. You earn 2X on the travel and dining spend.
Cons: Ultimate Rewards points aren't quite as valuable following the United award chart devaluation.
2. Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige card earns 3X points on air travel and hotels, so why don't I rank this card as highly as the Sapphire Preferred, which earns 2X on all travel? A couple reasons: The card, although the public 50K bonus is similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, comes with a $450 annual fee that is not waived the first year. Now, you do get a great $250 airfare credit per December to December billing statement, so you actually make money off the card your first year, but in subsequent years you're still paying $200 per year for the card, after taking into account the $450 annual fee less the $250 airfare credit.
Another reason I barely use my Citi Prestige card is that Citi ThankYou points aren't worth as much as other transferable points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and in particular, SPG Starpoints. There are fewer worthwhile transfer partners, and the one I value most is Singapore KrisFlyer and to a lesser extent Air France / KLM Flying Blue. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, I like transferring to Singapore KrisFlyer, Korean Air SkyPass, and British Airways Avios, with more occasional transfers to Air France / KLM Flying Blue, United MileagePlus and Hyatt Gold Passport.
Also note that the Sapphire Preferred bonuses ALL travel spend at 2X, including car rentals, tolls, taxis, trains, etc. The Citi Prestige 3X is only for air travel and hotels.
Pros: 3X on all air travel, hotels, and travel agency purchases
Cons: Citi ThankYou points aren't worth as much as other transferable points currencies. Also, note that Citi ThankYou points are attached to that specific card account; you can't keep them alive if you close the card, even if you have another Citi ThankYou card. See Where to Transfer AMEX Points and Citi ThankYou Points Before Closing Credit Cards?
3. Ink Plus
The Ink Bold or Ink Plus on its own isn't as good when traveling as the Sapphire Preferred, because it only provides a 2X bonus on direct hotel spend and on gas. You're probably not buying much at office supply stores, telecom/wireless services or cable TV services while traveling, so won't be getting the 5X for those categories.
Pros: 2X bonus on hotel and gas spend with no foreign transaction fees
Cons: 2X bonus is less than the 2.14X bonus you can receive using the Sapphire Preferred for travel spend. Non-hotel, non-gas spend doesn't receive the 2X bonus.
4. Hyatt Card
While many people get the Hyatt Visa mainly for its great signup bonus of 2 free nights at any Hyatt, including Park Hyatts, the Hyatt card is also good when paying for Hyatt nights abroad, since it awards 3 Hyatt points per $1 spent at all Hyatt properties. Now, in more expensive cities, you're probably using an award night anyway, but for incidental charges at those Hyatts it's still worth putting on your Hyatt card.
Pros: 3X Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at all Hyatt properties, with no foreign transaction fees; chip and signature card
Cons: The new benefit of 2X per $1 spent at restaurants, direct airline spend and car rental agencies isn't as good as the Sapphire Preferred, which would give you 2.14X thanks to the 7% annual points dividend.
5. Marriott Premier Rewards Card
Similarly to the Hyatt card, the Marriott Premier Rewards Card is also often gotten for its signup bonus, but it's also worth having for anyone who has regular spend at Marriott properties. It awards 5 Marriott points for every $1 spent at Marriott locations, and unlike the Hyatt card, it also awards 2 points per $1 spent on qualifying airline, dining and rental car purchases (though keep in mind these are Marriott points and not as valuable as the 2X Ultimate Rewards points you get with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold). As with all the cards in this article, it has no foreign transaction fees. Why do we put it last? Well, Marriott points just aren't worth as much to us as Hyatt points based on Marriott's more expensive award chart, so we almost never stay in Marriott properties, but of course your calculus could be different if you're a Marriott elite.
Pros: 5X Marriott points for every $1 spent at all Marriott properties, with no foreign transaction fees; 2X Marriott points for every $1 spent on qualifying airline, dining and rental car purchases
Cons: Marriott's award chart is expensive relative to Hyatt, especially for top-tier Ritz-Carlton properties.
6. Other Good Travel Credit Cards with No Foreign Exchange Fees
There's was a 100K Citi Executive AAdvantage card offer (now expired), albeit with high minimum spend of $10,000 in the first 3 months. Naturally, if you have some significant foreign travel coming up, it makes sense to work on the minimum spend for this card to earn the 100K bonus.
Similarly, if you've been lucky enough to receive a targeted 100K offer for the American Experess Platinum or 100K American Express Business offer, it makes sense to use those cards abroad while helping to meet minimum spend, since all of the AMEX Platinum cards (including the AMEX Mercedes-Benz Platinum) come with no foreign transaction fees. Be careful though–all other AMEX cards do charge foreign transaction fees.
Of course, there are many other credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, although without lucrative spend bonuses. Did we miss your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
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