The Best Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees

Traveling the world shouldn’t be a fee-laden experience.

If you’re smart about how you make purchases abroad, you’ll search out credit cards that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. This fee is usually 3% and added on to any transaction you make when you’re out of the country.

What’s frustrating about these fees is that they’re usually tacked on to a transaction through which you’re already getting a poor exchange rate from your bank. I have first-hand experience with credit card fees.

My wife and I used our Hyatt Visa when we lived in southern Germany and Barcelona for three years. Luckily, the card didn’t have any foreign transaction fees – one of the reasons we used it.

However, we did have to deal with the exchange rate; the rate we received for our purchases didn’t always reflect the lowest exchange rates we found online.

Imagine spending hundreds or thousands of dollars overseas, only to have another 3% tacked on to your purchases.

This is exactly the situation that most of us want to avoid. In our guide, we’re going to give you a list of the top 6 credit cards without foreign transaction fees.

We’re going to list each card along with our analysis of the rewards you can earn with the card over the course of the year and how those rewards can help you as you travel the world. We’re also going to point out each card’s weakness as it relates to travel.

Before we get there, though, we want to point out that travel rewards credit cards typically have no foreign transaction fees. This class of credit card includes hotel, airline and general travel rewards.

So, we’ve split up our list according to hotel cards, airline cards and general travel cards that aren’t associated with a particular travel brand. Each section will include two of the best cards, based on our extensive research of travel rewards cards.

Two of the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards Without a Foreign Transaction Fee

Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards Without a Foreign Transaction Fee

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

The World of Hyatt card launched in June 2018 as an improved version of the Hyatt Visa. The new iteration of Hyatt’s credit card is better than its predecessor.

First, you earn one free night on the anniversary of when you were approved for the card. Also, you can earn an additional free night if you can spend at least $15,000 in your cardmember year. These two free nights are good at any Category 1-4 hotel, which includes a host of good properties in the United States and abroad.

Another perk of owning this card is the ability to earn up to 60,000 points through the card’s sign up bonus. You’ll get 40,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, then another 20,000 if you spend $6,000 in the first six months.

 

The World of Hyatt Credit Card
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Highlights: An all-around solid hotel rewards card whose strength lies in the fact that rooms can be booked for as little as 5,000 points. Upgrade to Discoverist status gets you complimentary upgrades when available.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
29,000 points 60,000 points $95

 

The card’s rewards structure follows a 4%-2%-1% pattern. You get 4 points for every dollar you spend at a Hyatt property or through the Hyatt website, 2 points for every dollar you spend on restaurants, commuting and gym memberships and 1 point per dollar on everything else. We estimate the yearly points total at 29,000 points without spending any money with Hyatt.

That point total is enough to get you five nights in a Category 1 property, a tier in which Hyatt Place dominates.

The downside to the card is that the sign-up bonus isn’t as lucrative as the Marriott Rewards Premier’s 100,000 points. Also, Hyatt’s rewards program misses the 5th-night-free promotion that Marriott runs for those who book at least a four-night stay with rewards points.

Also, Hyatt has less than 100 hotels in Europe, a relatively limited selection compared to Marriott.

Hyatt’s more well-known brands abroad include Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Andaz.

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus is the flagship hotel rewards card of the Marriott chain which, after the completion of its merger with Starwood in 2018, became far and away the biggest hotel chain in the world.

The brand’s hotel rewards card is formidable as well, providing a massive sign-up bonus of 75,000 points if you can spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of owning the card.

 

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Highlights: Plenty of opportunities to rack up points every year – nearly double the World of Hyatt Visa. Fifth night is free when you book at least a five-night stay with your rewards. The card has a substantial sign-up bonus, too.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
50,000 points 75,000 points $95
More on this card: Read Our Full Review

 

Like the World of Hyatt card, you’ll get a free night on your cardmember anniversary. That free night entitles you to a stay at up to a Category 5 hotel, which would normally cost 35,000 points.

In addition to those two aspects of the Rewards Plus’ rewards, you also get a spending bonus structure that gives you the following rates:

  • 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties or online at Marriott.com
  • 2 points per dollar on everything else

If you didn’t spend any money at a Marriott property during the year, our research indicates that the average household can earn at least $50,000 points a year with this card, which is good for six nights in a Category 1 hotel.

As we mentioned earlier, Marriott runs a 5th-night-free promotion, which means that, if you book a four-night stay, they’ll give you a fifth night free. So, instead of a five-night Category 1 stay costing you 37,500 points, it will only cost you 30,000 points.

In our opinion, the drawback to the card is that the points required for hotel stays increases quickly as you move away from Category 1 hotels. The following chart shows you the cost of the first four tiers as compared to those in the World of Hyatt network:

Hotel Marriott Hyatt
Category 1 cost 7,500 5,000
Category 2 cost 10,000 8,000
Category 3 cost 15,000 12,000
Category 4 cost 20,000 15,000

So, while the Marriott card can get you about 21,000 more points a year than Hyatt, their hotels are, on average, 20 - 25% higher than Hyatt’s.

Some of the Marriott brands found in other countries include Le Meridien, W, Protea, St. Regis, Bulgari and AC. Part of the card’s strength lies in the fact that it has more than 300 hotels throughout Europe, or more than three times the amount that Hyatt does.

The two cards that we selected in this category are representative of the best that hotel rewards cards have to offer. Other cards from this category you may be interested in are:

Two of the Best Airline Rewards Cards Without a Foreign Transaction Fee

Best Airline Rewards Cards Without a Foreign Transaction Fee

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card

Citi’s AAdvantage Platinum Select is in a class of airline cards that offer substantial rewards and perks for an annual fee of less than $100.

This particular card’s features make it one of the best, and a lot of that has to do with the combination of a strong sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles and a good collection of day-of travel benefits.

Your 60,000 bonus miles, combined with special reduced mileage rates you get, means you can get a flight from New York to Barcelona for 60,000 miles.

 

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
Highlights: The card’s strengths lie in its big sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles as well as the ability to board early and avoid the rush. The card also gives double miles for gas and restaurant purchases, which make it one of the more lucrative airline rewards for yearly rewards.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
31,000 miles 75,000 miles $95
More on this card: Read Our Full Review

 

On the day of your departure, you’ll get priority boarding as well as one free checked bag, both of which are luxuries if you’re packing heavy for a vacation. You’ll get on the plane first and you won’t have to worry about cramming all your belongings into a carry-on.

Aside from the big sign-up bonus and the day-of perks, the card has an excellent rewards rate on purchases, giving you 2x miles on purchases from American Airlines, gas stations and restaurants. By our estimation, those rates, along with the base 1x on everything else, can earn the average family at least 31,000 miles a year.

If you can spend $20,000 a year on the card, then American will give you a $100 credit you can use to purchase a ticket through American Airlines. This credit has to be put toward paid ticket, not a rewards ticket.

The downside to the card is that the average household isn’t going to earn enough points every year to get a free international flight. Like the United TravelBank, which we’ll talk about next, you can get just enough points to pay for a one-way ticket from New York to Barcelona.

However, the fact that you can get a $100 credit toward the purchase of a flight eases the pain of having to pay for your return ticket with cash. At the time of publishing, a round-trip fare was $648.

United TravelBank Card

The United TravelBank is part of a group of newer airline rewards cards that pare down all the complex perks of a typical airline rewards card and leave you with a modest sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles plus a 1.5x rewards rate on all non-United purchases.

What this means is that, if you can spend $25,000 a year on the card, then you can earn yourself around 37,500 miles. Those miles are good for a one-way ticket to Barcelona from New York. So, while you can’t use your yearly rewards to get a free flight, you can certainly cut the cost in half by getting your to-Europe flight for 30,000 points (in most cases) and less than $10 in taxes and fees.

 

United TravelBank Card
United TravelBank Card
Highlights: One of the few airline rewards cards without an annual fee, the 1.5x rewards rate on this card make it both lucrative and affordable. There are no day-of perks like priority boarding, but the yearly rewards total is enough to earn you three one-way tickets.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
37,500 miles 15,000 miles $0
More on this card: Read Our Full Review

 

What makes this card a strong choice despite its bare-bones features is that you get a 1.5% bonus rate for every dollar you spend that isn’t a United purchase. No other mainstream airline credit cards have a rewards rate that high for everyday purchases.

The downside to this card is that it doesn’t provide you with day-of travel perks like priority check-in or priority boarding. Many of the high-annual-fee airline cards also provide at least one free checked bag on domestic and international flights.

We chose the two cards in this section because they provide a good balance between cards with high annual fees and cards with no annual fees. Other popular choices in this category are:

Two of the Best General Travel Rewards Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

Best Travel Rewards Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

General travel credit cards tend to offer lower value than cards linked to an airline rewards or hotel loyalty program. However, they still offer excellent value between their sign-up bonuses, yearly rewards, and redemption options.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card

The B of A Premium Rewards card is a multi-faceted travel rewards card without an annual fee that is among the best we’ve researched.

The card’s strengths lie in the rewards you can earn with it. The sign-up bonus is 50,000 points and, according to our calculations, you can earn $396.50 in cash rewards via the card’s spending bonuses (2x on travel and restaurants, 1.5x on everything else).

 

Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card
Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card
Highlights: The card's rewards aren’t tied to an airline or hotel, so your rewards balance can be used for all types of travel. The yearly cash total you can earn – $396.50 – is among the best and can pay for at least one round-trip flight, based on national averages.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
39,650 points 50,000 points $95
More on this card: Read Our Full Review

 

We feel this card has a solid sign-up bonus because it can pay for nearly all of a round-trip ticket from New York to Barcelona. The yearly rewards spending is enough to get you a free one-way ticket, just like the American Airlines and United Airlines credit card we talked about in the previous section.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that, while the card doesn’t offer a free checked bag, you do get a $100 yearly reimbursement for “airline incidentals”, which includes baggage fees.

American Airlines will give you one bag free on a transatlantic flight and the second one will be $100 for each ticket. If you need to take two bags with you for your overseas trip, then your Premium Rewards credit will cover the cost of the bag for one transatlantic round-trip.

The card’s downside is that you can’t redeem your points for frequent flyer miles. In most cases, the value of your frequent flyer miles is greater than the value they’d have in cash.

For example, a round-trip American Airlines flight from New York to Barcelona costs $648. It would cost you 60,000 miles for that seat but it would cost you 64,800 points to book it.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most beloved travel credit cards because of one reason – the points you earn on the card can be transferred to 11 different hotel and airline loyalty programs:

  • United
  • Southwest
  • AirFrance/KLM
  • Aer Lingus
  • Iberia
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • IHG
  • Ritz-Carlton

This is what makes the card different than the Premium Rewards card, which gives you points you redeem for cash.

The Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus is 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and, based on our calculations, the average family can earn about 29,650 points a year. Assuming you can get to 30,000 points a year, you’re looking at a free one-way trip with United.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Highlights: Long considered the best travel rewards card, its yearly points are weak but, because you can transfer the points to 11 travel partners including Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Southwest and United. 25% bonus when you use points to book travel through Chase’s travel site.
Yearly Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
29,650 points 50,000 points $95
More on this card: Read Our Full Review

 

What makes this card a powerful tool for travel is that you can pair it with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, a card that earns 1.5 points per dollar you spend. That card, based on our expertise, can earn you 37,500 points a year.

You can convert those points into frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty program points simply by logging into your Chase account and transferring the points to your Sapphire Preferred card. By doing this, you earn a considerable amount of yearly points.

Another benefit to using the Sapphire Preferred with the Chase Freedom Unlimited is that you get a 25% bonus anytime you redeem your points in the Chase travel portal, which is Chase’s in-house version of Expedia or Orbitz.

So, if you got 50,000 points you want to redeem for a flight, those points are good for $625 in travel, whether it’s a plane ticket to Brazil or a few hotel nights in France.

The other main advantage of the Sapphire Preferred is that you can use your points to book hotels with four hotel chains, two of which have hundreds of overseas locations: Hyatt and Marriott.

The downside to the card is two-fold. First, the yearly rewards you earn with the Sapphire Preferred are low compared to the other cards we’ve mentioned here. Second, the 25% bonus is only good in certain situations. For example, when we searched Chase’s travel site for flights from New York to Barcelona, the cheapest options were $1,270, which is a far cry, points-wise, for what it would cost you to take the same flight on American or United.

Other solid choices in this category are:

The Final Word: Lots of Value Among Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

Each of the six cards on this list is an excellent example of the types of points, miles, and benefits you can expect from credit cards without a foreign transaction fee.

Inherent in their lack of this fee is the acknowledgment that people drawn to these cards are travelers by nature and are looking for good value as they plan their next trip.

The World of Hyatt and Marriott cards provide at least 12 free nights a year in their Category 1 hotels, while both the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the United TravelBank provide enough points every year to get a free one-way ticket to the destination of your choice.

The general travel cards we listed are good examples of the similarities and differences between cash travel cards and points travel cards. Either way, both the B of A Premium Rewards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred can earn you enough points to get a free one-way flight to Europe, for example, or free nights in hotels at your next international destination.

Some of the general advantages we didn’t list above are that each of these cards waives the annual fee the first year and they provide various levels of travel protection ranging from trip cancellation insurance to trip delay/lost baggage coverage.

The biggest mistake you can make with these cards is carrying a balance on them, as their interest rates are, on average, at least 1-2% higher than cash rewards cards.

In general, our research shows that you’ll be happy with any one of the cards on the list.

If you want to learn more about our thoughts on other cards in the hotel, airline and travel categories, read through our in-depth guides for each one:


J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a personal finance reporter who examines credit cards, credit scores and bank products. J.R. is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism contest and his advice has been featured in MSN and Fox’s money sections.


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