No matter where you go or how long you travel, using a credit or debit card with no foreign transaction fees is one of the easiest ways to save money while travelling, period.
Currency exchange booths at airports and banks can be convenient, but a lot of your money goes towards exchange fees (e.g. $10 per exchange) and hidden commissions padded into poor exchange rates (especially the booths advertising “no commissions”). With a bit of research and planning, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in fees over the long-term!
Credit and debit cards with no foreign transaction fees are the cheapest, easiest ways to get money and make payments overseas. Credit cards are accepted worldwide, and ATMs are internationally networked through the Visa/Plus and Mastercard/Cirrus networks. You enter your PIN and withdraw your cash just like you would at home, while the exchange rates are automatically handled by the banks.
However, some credit and debit cards are better than others! For the majority of cards, banks still try to add commissions and fees to each payment or ATM withdrawal made abroad. Even if you don’t travel a lot, these fees add up quickly.
We’ve rounded up the best credit and debit cards around the world that minimize or eliminate these fees, putting more money back into your adventure funds!
NOTE: These are cards to be used overseas to avoid foreign transaction fees. For cards that you should use at home for building up travel points, check out the Travel Rewards Credit Cards section of our top credit cards page, and our free guide “How to Get Free Flights with Travel Credit Cards and Points“!
The best travel credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Credit cards have various features that can make or break your travel savings. Ideally, these are the features to look for in a credit card:
- Foreign transaction fee of 0%
- No annual fee
- Competitive points or cash-back rewards program (at least 1% of the purchase price)
- Extra perks, like free car or travel insurance
To our American readers: you have the cream of the crop when it comes to credit card options, and they’re constantly improving. We highly recommend checking out the No Foreign Transaction Fees section on CardRatings.com for up-to-date card comparisons and sign-up bonuses.
So what are the best credit cards for travel? Check your country below to see what’s best for you!
|Name||Home Country||Network||Foreign transaction fee||Annual fee||Cashback / Points||Perks||Signup Bonus|
|28 Degrees||Australia||MasterCard||0%||$0||n/a||Price guarantee and merchandise protection for 6 months after purchase||n/a|
|Bankwest Zero Platinum||Australia||MasterCard||0%||$0||n/a||6 months of complimentary travel insurance with purchase of return flight tickets||n/a|
|Rogers Platinum Mastercard||Canada||MasterCard||0% (3% cashback - 2.5% foreign transaction fee = 0.5% gain)||$0||Cashback: 3% - 2.5% fee = 0.5% on foreign transactions, 2% on Rogers products, 1.25% on all other CAD transactions||n/a||Get $25 in cash back on your first purchase|
|Halifax Clarity||United Kingdom||MasterCard||0%||$0||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|aqua Reward Card||United Kingdom||MasterCard||0%||$0||0.5% cashback||n/a||n/a|
|Capital One Quicksilver (read more)||United States||Visa||0%||$0||1.5% cashback||Double the U.S. manufacturers warranty on items purchased with the card||$100 cash bonus if you spend at least $500 in the first 3 months|
The best travel debit cards with no foreign transaction fees
These are the ideal features to look for in a debit card:
- Foreign transaction rate of 0%
- International ATM withdrawal fee of $0
- Refund of third-party ATM withdrawal fees (This is rare, but it exists!)
- Competitive points or cash-back rewards program (at least 1% of the purchase price)
Many banks around the world have come together to establish the Global ATM Alliance. If your card belongs to a bank in the alliance, you can make withdrawals from banks at other alliance member ATMs around the world without paying additional fees. Here’s our roundup of the best debit cards for travel.
|Name||Home Country||Network||Foreign transaction fee||ATM withdrawal fee||Monthly fee||Notes|
|Tangerine Thrive Chequing||Canada||Mastercard / Cirrus||0%||ATM Alliance: $0|
Other ATMs: $2
|$0||$50 signup bonus when you use Orange Key 16782070S1|
|Citibank Plus Everyday Account||Australia||Mastercard / Cirrus||0%||$0 + no third-party fees on Citibank ATMs worldwide||$0|
|ING Orange Everyday Account||Australia||Visa / Plus||0%||$0 + all third-party ATM fees refunded||$0||Must deposit $1000+ and make 5 debit transactions per month for these travel perks|
|Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account||United States||Visa / Plus||0%||$0 + all third-party ATM fees refunded||$0|
|Virgin Money Essential Current Account||United Kingdom||Visa / Plus||0%||£1.50||$0|
Essential tips for using debit and credit cards while travelling
1. Pay using a credit card whenever possible.
Foreign ATMs can still inflate their exchange rates and charge withdrawal fees, but a direct credit card payment only involves the credit card you signed up with in your home country. And with a good points or cashback program, this beats any other method of foreign payment.
Bottom line? Always pay with a credit card, but NEVER withdraw cash from an ATM with one. Credit cards charge interest on cash advances from the moment you withdraw it at the ATM.
2. Never take the option of paying in your own currency
Card terminals at shops and hotels will often detect that your card is from another country and offer to bill you in your home currency. Never choose this option – always pay in the foreign currency! The exchange rate offered will be inflated by the card terminal, so if you’re using one of the credit cards recommended above, you will receive a much better exchange rate.
3. Inform your debit and credit card providers of your travels
Credit and debit cards are frequently being monitored by security departments for suspicious activity. If you’re from the U.S. and you make an ATM withdrawal in Thailand when they don’t know you’re overseas, this could appear suspicious to your bank, and your card might be locked the next time you withdraw. Give your bank or credit card provider a call and let them know when and where you’ll be travelling. Take it from us – you do not want to be stuck without cash and a useless card!
4. Obtain at least one debit and credit card on each of the Visa/Plus and MasterCard/Cirrus networks.
Even if you follow the advice in tip #3, it’s possible your card could get locked anyway. On top of that, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where an ATM accepts only one network and not the other. For example, when we travelled in Japan, the only ATMs we could find that would even accept international cards were at 7-Eleven, and they only worked with cards on the Visa/Plus network. I speak from experience – there’s nothing more stressful than needing more cash and not being able to withdraw it, so be prepared and bring multiple cards on multiple networks.
5. Consider a credit card with included insurance
The jury is still out on whether it’s safe to rely on car and travel insurance that is sometimes provided by credit cards, and unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to file a claim after the accident has happened. If you’re concerned about insurance, its best to be safe and purchase it from the car rental company, but if not, you might as well pay with a credit card that offers car insurance and hope for the best if you do end up in an accident. We generally try to use American Express cards when thinking about insurance, as they are managing the insurance on the cards worldwide, whereas Visa/Mastercard insurance is often handled by the card’s issuing bank, and may not be as straightforward to redeem.
6. Keep backup cards in your hotel room
If you lose all your credit and debit cards while overseas, you’re going to be in quite the pickle. Always keep at least one extra card back at your accommodation in case your main card or entire wallet is lost or stolen while you’re out.
7. Bring $100 USD as backup cash
When all else fails, U.S. dollars are the closest thing to a global currency that we have today. It’s the most commonly accepted currency, not only at exchange booths, but even at shops and restaurants in other countries. If there are no ATMs in sight or your cards have been stolen, an emergency backup of U.S. dollars will get you out an emergency situation.
Do you have another card recommendation? Know something we don’t? Write it in the comments below!