Until now, the easiest way to avoid paying credit-card fees for foreign purchases was to use a Capital One card (which has no annual fee). It has been the only major brand card that skips the 2% that AmEx tacks on or the 3% Visa and MasterCard charges.
But there's good news: CitiBank has rolled out cards without foreign exchange fees. To simplify its lineup of rewards-based ThankYou credit cards, Citi debuted a couple of cards, basic and preferred, that waive foreign currency conversion fees.
CORRECTION (Jan. 25):
Citi has introduced a couple of cards with no fees for foreign transactions, but they are the Premier and the Prestige cards, which have customary annual fees of $125 and $500, respectively. They're not the basic and preferred cards. Sorry for the error.
Citi's conversion rates are lower than those associated with exchanging cash.
Last month, Chase dropped foreign currency fees on its co-branded cards with British Airways, Hyatt, and Intercontinental Hotels. These cards generally charge significant annual fees.
If getting a new credit card doesn't appeal to you, consider signing up for a credit union debit card—that's treated as a Visa card by overseas operators by belonging to a major banking network—for all purchases and currency exchanges. At a typical 1% for foreign exchange, it's a good deal. But as reader kyvoyageur has pointed out before:
"The only exception is for car rental, where saving the cost of insurance using a regular VISA card far outweighs the 3% transaction charge."Good point.
For more info, check out BT's story "What Your Bank Won't Tell You About Currency Conversion."
Here's hoping the no-fee trend spreads to other cards!
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