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2012 survey: 36 credit cards without foreign transaction fees

by Gwendolyn Pearce

If you're a frequent international flier, then you may already know the perks of owning a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. But for those who are just planning the itinerary, it's a good idea to pack one of these cards in your wallet-belt thingy.

What is a foreign transaction fee?

A foreign transaction fee, or FTF, is usually a 3 percent charge for each purchase made outside of the United States. It is a charge made up of 1 percent from the credit card issuer, such as Visa or Mastercard, and an additional 2 percent from the issuer's bank. Many may be inclined to dismiss this seemingly insignificant amount, but add on 3 percent to a large chunk of your trip budget and that could be a significant amount. With train tickets, restaurants, your hotel bill and that expensive souvenir that you know you'll buy, that 3 percent will add up quickly. Fortunately, many credit card companies are removing the fee completely. And when you factor in the perks that some of these cards carry, you could be enjoying your vacation a whole lot more.

What about the card I already have?

The best news is that one of these cards may already be in your wallet. All credit cards from both Capital One and Discover are FTF free. Many of these cards also do not charge an annual fee and have excellent rewards programs. Of the 36 credit cards on the list, 15 do not charge an annual fee. If you're considering a trip abroad but aren't a frequent flier, you'll likely find that these well-rounded cards will still be of use once you're back home.

Got chips?

Another feature that savvy travelers are sure to enjoy is the EMV technology built into three of the cards on the list. The Citi Prestige Card, British Airways Visa Signature from Chase, and Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card all have this embedded chip. This security technology has been embraced in Europe and is now spreading into the American market. Don't think it will make a difference? Some globetrotters have reported difficulty using the traditional magnetic strip credit card as some merchants and ticket kiosks no longer accept them.

Put that money to good use

Credit cards that have steep annual fees -- American Express Platinum and Business Platinum and Citi Executive/AAdvantage WorldElite MasterCard coming in at $450 -- often put cardholders into another tier of rewards and perks. Perhaps you could consider that money you'll save in FTF fees an investment in a premium card. Ten of the cards on the list offer a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year then in year two the annual fee will be charged. So if you're in the market for a card that not only earns you points but includes luxuries such as concierge service, VIP access to events, trip insurance and airport lounge access and gives you a taste of the posh life take a look at our list.

2012 survey results

This list from CardRatings.com of 36 credit cards is compiled from common issuers to showcase features and benefits in addition to eliminating the FTF.

Card name Annual fee Other benefits
Platinum Card from American Express $450 Receive up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees like checked bags fees, flight-change fees, and snacks, to be eligible you need to enroll and select a qualifying airline.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN $450 When using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points 20 percent travel bonus.
Bank of America BankAmericard Travel Rewards $0 1.5 points per dollar
Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards TBD TBD
Bank of America WorldPoints Travel Rewards for Business Visa $0 1.5 points per dollar, expense tracking features
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card $0 1.5% cash back on every purchases; for excellent/good credit
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card $39 1.5% cash back on every purchases; for average/fair/limited credit
Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business $0 50% bonus on the cash back you earn every year
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $0 intro annual fee for the first year $59 after that 2 miles per dollar on every purchase
Capital One VentureOne  Rewards Credit Card $0 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
British Airways Visa Signature from Chase $0 Intro Annual fee, thereafter $95 EMV-compatible
Fairmont Visa Signature Credit Card from Chase $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year. After that, $95. 5/2/1 point model (5 points for every dollar spent for Fairmont stays; 2 points for every dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines; 1 point for every dollar on all other purchases)
Ink Plus Business Credit Card $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year. After that, $95. 5/2/1 point model (up to 5 points per dollar on the first $50,000 in combined purchases spent annually on select eligible business purchases; 2 points per dollar on the first $50,000 in combined purchases spent annually at gas stations and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel; 1 point for every dollar on other purchases)
Ink Bold Business Charge Card from Chase $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95 up to 5 points for every dollar on the first $50,000 in combined purchases spent annually on select eligible business purchases
IHG Rewards Club Select Visa from Chase $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, after that $49. 5/2/1 point model
Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $85 5/2/1 point model for Marriott stays
The Hyatt Credit Card from Chase $0 Intro Annual Fee, after that $75 3/2/1 point model for stays at Hyatt properties worldwide
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase $395 5/2/1 point model for Ritz-Carlton stays, $200 annual credit for airline fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred $0 introductory annual fee the first year, after that $95 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value – that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
United MileagePlus Club Card from Chase $395 1.5 miles per dollar, 2 miles per dollar for United purchases, Premier Access priority airport services (where available)
Citi Executive/AAdvantage WorldElite MasterCard $450 Admirals Club membership, priority check-in, airport screening, boarding privileges (where available), first bag free
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card $95 10 HHonors Bonus points for every dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Honors portfolio
Citi Prestige Card $400 EMV-chip, earn ThankYou points on eligible purchases
Discover it card $0 5% cash-back bonus on varying categories, subject to quarterly enrollment and spend cap, limited international acceptance
Discover it for Students $0 5% cash-back bonus on varying categories, subject to quarterly enrollment and spend cap, limited international acceptance
SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card from US Bank $80 15,000 SKYPASS Bonus Miles with your first purchase
Harvard Alumni Card from Harvard University Credit Union  $0 World MasterCard Benefits, concierge services, travel accident and luggage insurance. Rewards.
Sony Card from Capital One $0 5 Points per dollar spent on Sony purchases at Sony stores, Sony.com and Sony authorized retailers.
Capital One Secured MasterCard Credit Card $29 automatic reporting to the three major credit bureaus
Journey Student Rewards Credit Card $0 1% cash-back on all purchases
FNBO Graphite American Express $0 intro Annual Fee for the first year. After that, $99 annually. 3% cash back on airlines, 2% cash back on gas and groceries, 1% cash back on all other qualifying purchases. Cash back earned on eligible purchases only.
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards $0** Plus Card 5% cash back on gas purchases paid at the pump with a qualifying PenFed product
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card $0 5 points on gas purchases paid at the pump, 3 points on grocery purchases at supermarkets, 1 point all other purchases** Limited time offer
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express $0 Two complimentary Airport Lounge Club visits when you spend $15,000 annually
PenFed Promise $0 No fees
PenFed Visa Gold $0 NA

Published 08/13/12 (Modified 07/20/14)


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