Travelling to a foreign country gets expensive. You’ve got to pay for your airline tickets, hotel room, car rentals, food purchases, and not to mention, pricey tickets to local attractions.
But even if you’ve done your research and correctly budgeted for all of these amounts, you’re bound to forget about a few extra charges.
One of the biggest travel expenses that often gets missed is the foreign transaction fees on your credit card.
Fortunately, there are several no foreign transaction fee credit cards in Canada, and today we’re reviewing our top picks.
The Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards in 2021
Credit Card Best For More Info Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card Luxury VIP perks Learn More Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card Points-earning potential Learn More Home Trust Preferred Visa Cash Back earning potential with no annual fee Learn More HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
Travel perks Learn More
What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?
Foreign transaction fees are that annoying 2.5% charge you get on your credit card every time you make a purchase in a foreign currency. That means you get dinged every time you buy something that’s not in Canadian dollars, even if you’re shopping online from the comfort of your couch.
It might not seem like a lot, but these charges can accumulate quickly and really cost you in the long-run. Plus, you have to pay the exchange rate as well. Wowsers.
Why Use a No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card
Foreign transaction fees are a fee charged by your credit card company when you make purchases at a non-Canadian retailer. Foreign transaction fees are applied to purchases that you make in a foreign currency, whether you are out of the country or not.
The fees are charged as a percentage of your purchase and are usually baked into the exchange rate, so you may not even notice that you are paying a few percentage points on every purchase you make in foreign currency.
While a few percentage points here and there may not sound like much, if you’re a power traveller or small business owner who regularly makes purchases in foreign currency, those few points could add up to hundreds of dollars.
The Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards in Canada
Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
Our top pick is the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card. This credit card wins big points because, on top of charging no foreign transaction fees, it’s also one of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada. With this credit card, you’ll earn:
- 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases (including taxis, buses, and subway tokens).
- 1 Scotia Rewards point per $1 spent on everything else.
- Earn up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $300 towards travel )‡
- No foreign transaction fees
How the welcome offer works: earn 20,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months.
Plus, as a cardholder, you are always eligible to earn an annual 10,000 Scotia Rewards point bonus when you spend at least $40,000 in everyday eligible purchases annually on your Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card account.
Another perk of this credit card is free Priority Pass membership that includes six free visits per year to airport lounges worldwide.
Of course, the no foreign exchange fee markup on purchases made in foreign currency at home or abroad also has major appeal.
- Annual Fee: $139
- Minimum Income Eligibility: Minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 or a minimum assets under management of $250,000
- Credit Score: Good to Excellent
- Welcome Offer: Up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year‡
- Other Perks: Priority Pass membership and no foreign exchange fee markup
- Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card
That means you will not pay 2.5% foreign transaction fees on any foreign currency purchases, including online shopping and when travelling abroad — only the exchange rate applies. A huge cost-cutting perk! With this card, you’ll also get:
- 5x Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, drinking establishments, and entertainment.
- 3x Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible gas, daily transit, and select streaming services.
- 1x Scotia Rewards point per $1 spent on any other purchases.
What’s also exceptional about this credit card is the flexibility in rewards redemption. All you have to do is login to the system and select the “Apply Points to Travel” option.
Then just use your accumulated points to offset any travel cost (flights, rental cars, hotels, etc.) charged on your credit card. It’s that easy – no black-out periods or mind-boggling restrictions.
Plus, for a limited time, this card has an amazing welcome bonus: new cardholders will receive 25,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when they spent $1,000 within the first 3 months.
This card has the potential to reap you considerable rewards in your first year as a cardholder. If you spend $5,000 on groceries and going out, $5,000 on gas, transit and streaming and $5,000 on everything else, you’ll get 45,000 points total. That, plus the welcome bonus, means you could earn 70,000 points in your first year. Those points could be worth as much as $0.01 each, which doesn’t seem like much, but really adds up when you make the majority of your purchases on your card.
- Annual Fee: $120
- Minimum Income Eligibility: $12,000
- Credit Score Required: Good to Excellent
- Welcome Offer: 25,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Other Perks: No foreign transaction fees, comprehensive travel insurance, Amex Front of the Line® access
- Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Home Trust Preferred Visa
If you want to save on foreign transaction fees, but you aren’t ready to pay a high annual fee for a credit card, the Home Trust Preferred Visa is an excellent option.
This credit card has no annual fee and allows you to earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases.
Perks of this credit card include no foreign currency fees charged on purchases made abroad, or foreign transactions online.
A heads up: The Home Trust Preferred Visa isn’t available to residents of Quebec and has a daily transaction limit of 10 purchases per day. It also doesn’t allow tap payments,and as of 2020, cash back is not earned on international transactions.
These are small drawbacks, but may be worth reconsidering if you use your credit card for a high volume of purchases per day, or you live in Quebec.
- Annual Fee: $0
- Minimum Income Eligibility: $15,000
- Credit Score Required: Fair to Good
- Welcome Offer: N/A
- Other Perks: No foreign currency surcharges
- Other Card Info: Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 19.99%
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
If you’re looking for a great all-around travel card that delivers on the perks and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees (only the exchange rate applies), check out the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®.
If you make travel-related purchases with your card you’ll get 6 points/$1, which is a 3% return, and all other eligible card purchases earn 3 points/$1 or 1.5% return. What you do with those rewards is up to you—you can redeem them for travel rewards, merchandise, HSBC financial products, gift cards, and more.
When you sign up, you can earn up to 70,000 Points plus a first-year annual fee waiver for the primary cardholder when you apply by September 27, 2021. That’s an estimated value of $499! Conditions apply. Plus, you get a $100 annual travel enhancement credit that you can use for nice little perks such as upgrading your seat, covering baggage fees, and more. And, for those that like to travel in style, your card also includes a complimentary membership to Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, which means you can access more than 800 lounges worldwide.
There’s even Worldwide Emergency Travel Medical insurance rounding out this impressive package, with coverage for 31 days. Other perks include unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi and 10% off select hotel bookings made through the HSBC Expedia and Agoda.co, making this a very attractive card indeed.
- Annual Fee: $149
- Minimum Income Eligibility: Annual individual income of $80,000 or $150,000 household income, or a minimum of $400,000 in assets under management.
- Credit Score Required: 650+
- Welcome Bonus: Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Points (up to $100 value) PLUS apply by September 27th and get an additional 20,000 Points (up to $100 value) when you spend $5,000 within 6 months of account opening*, and get a 1st Year annual fee waiver for Primary Cardholder*($149 value/$99 value), earn 10,000 Points (up to $50 value) for adding your 1st Authorized User*, and receive an additional 20,000 Points (up to $100 value) as an Anniversary Bonus*
- Purchase APR: 19.9% | Cash Advance and Balance Transfer APR:22.9%
This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer).
*Terms and Conditions apply.
®/TM Mastercard and World Elite are registered trademarks, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Used pursuant to license.
Comparison: Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards in 2021
Credit Card Annual Fee Special Card Feature More Info Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card $139 Up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year Learn More Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card $120 Earn 20,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months Learn More Home Trust Preferred Visa $0 None Learn More HSBC World Elite® Mastercard
$149 Earn up to 70,000 Points plus a first-year annual fee waiver for the primary cardholder when you apply by September 27, 2021. That's an estimated value of $499! Conditions apply. Learn More
No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card vs. Cash
When travelling abroad, it’s smart to carry a bit of cash in your wallet (usually $100 or less), which you can use for small purchases, taxi rides, public transit rides, and tips.
But travelling with a big wad of cash is never a good idea. There’s no replacement if you misplace your money and zero recourse if you get robbed. You’re out of luck!
Since credit cards are widely accepted worldwide, why not use a no foreign transaction fee credit card instead? You’ll get the benefit of purchase protection, and you can put a hold or cancel your card if it’s stolen or lost while travelling.
Plus, with some credit cards, you’ll rack up cash back or travel rewards that you can put towards your next vacation.
Tips For Using Credit Cards Abroad
Travelling abroad with a credit card definitely makes managing your money a little easier, but there are a few things to keep in mind on top of just having a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Here are a few tips:
- To get the best rates, make sure that you always choose the local currency over Canadian currency. Your card offers better exchange rates than the vender will.
- Change your pin to 4 digits. Some of the older machines won’t accept cards that have longer pin numbers.
- Notify your credit card provider that you are travelling. Some companies don’t require this but others, including the Home Trust Preferred Visa, request that you notify them of your travel plans.
- Have a back-up credit card, just in case.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a small business owner who spends thousands of dollars on foreign currency purchases every year, or you’re a traveller looking to minimize the unexpected costs incurred while travelling abroad, one of the no foreign transaction fee credit cards listed above will suit your needs. While some may want to use their travel card for everyday spending, others may want to spend strategically. Consider using your travel card for your cross-border online purchases and then choose another of Canada’s top credit cards to use for your everyday spending.
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