Canada’s 13 best no foreign transaction fee credit cards for 2021

by Barry Choi April 27, 2021 / 34 Comments

Most people don’t realize it, but just about every credit card out there charges foreign transaction fees. Whenever you buy something in a non-Canadian currency, you end up paying an additional 2.5% on top of the exchange rate.

If you make regular purchases online in foreign currencies and travel often (or plan to when it’s safe to do so and you’re fully vaccinated), these fees can add up. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to spend that money on myself.

Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that let you save on foreign transaction fees. Each has its pros and cons, so we listed out the features of every no foreign transaction fee credit card available in Canada to help you decide which card to pick up.

Ratehub.ca’s best no FX fee credit cards for 2021

Credit card Rewards/perks Annual fee
BRIM Mastercard (VIEW)
  • 1% on everyday purchases
  • 3% on eligible airlines
  • +3% on partner retailers
  • No FX fees
$0
BRIM World Mastercard (VIEW)
  • 1.5% on everyday purchases*
  • 3% on eligible airlines
  • +3% on partner retailers
  • No FX fees
$99
Home Trust Preferred Visa (VIEW)
  • 1% on CAD purchases
  • No FX fees
$0
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite (VIEW)
  • 2 pts per $1 on food, entertainment & transit
  • 1 pt per $1 on everything else
  • Airport lounge access
  • No FX fees
$139
Scotia Gold AMEX (VIEW)
  • 5 pts per $1 on food, entertainment & transit
  • 1 pt per $1 on everything else
  • No FX fees
$120
BRIM World Elite (VIEW)
  • 2% on everyday purchases*
  • 3% on eligible airlines
  • +3% on partner retailers
  • No FX fees
$199
KOHO Premium Visa (VIEW)
  • 2% on groceries, dining & transit
  • 0.5 on everything else
  • No FX fees
  • Prepaid Visa Card
$84 ($9 per month)

* Up to $25,000 annual spend. Earn 1% back in points thereafter


BRIM Financial Mastercards

  • BRIM Mastercard: $0 annual fee; 1% on everyday purchases
  • BRIM World: $99 annual fee; 1.5% on everyday purchases*
  • BRIM World Elite:$199 annual fee; 2% on everyday purchases*
  • All cards have no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn up to 3% (or more) at over 200 retail partners

If you’ve never heard of BRIM Financial before, it’s time to get up to speed as they offer some seriously impressive rewards credit cards.

First launched in 2018, all three of BRIM’s cards charge no foreign transaction fees – from the entry-level BRIM Mastercard ($0 annual fee) and the mid-tier BRIM World ($99 annual fee) to the premium BRIM World Elite ($199 annual fee).

In addition to the ability to save 2.5% on fees when making foreign currency purchases, BRIM cardholders will earn rewards on all everyday purchases. Depending on which BRIM Mastercard you choose, you’ll earn either 1%, 1.5%, or 2% on all everyday purchases (with the BRIM Mastercard, BRIM World, and BRIM World Elite respectively).

The kicker: BRIM cardholders can rack up bonus rewards when shopping from over 200 eligible partner merchants. Some of our favourites include up to 4% on Apple and Microsoft, and 3% on Nike, Lufthansa, Etihad, and Emirates Airlines.

While you’ll technically earn points, BRIM Rewards effectively acts as cash back. You can redeem 100 points for $1 in cash credits towards any card purchase.

All BRIM Mastercards also offer complimentary mobile device insurance and free Boing Wi-Fi Membership. Plus, the World and World Elite versions provide rental car insurance and out-of-province/country emergency medical insurance.


Home Trust Preferred Visa

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee charged on purchases in a non-Canadian currency
  • Earn 1% cash back on all Canadian purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Not available to residents of Quebec

Aside from being a no foreign transaction fee credit card, the Home Trust Preferred Visa also has no annual fee and comes with the additional benefit of 1% cash back on all your spending in Canada with no limits or caps.

A true no foreign transaction fee card, Home Trust uses the exchange rate set by Visa without any additional surcharges.

Home Trust Preferred Visa cardholders can also take advantage of a number of other perks including car rental insurance and Visa Zero Liability coverage to help ensure cardholders are protected against potential fraudulent activities. The downside is that this card is not available to residents of Quebec. It’s also worth noting that the card is limited to 10 authorized transactions per day – which is something we point out in our full review of the Home Trust Preferred Visa.

Finally, while the Home Trust Preferred Visa doesn’t charge an annual fee, it does have what’s called an inactivity fee. If you don’t use the card to make at least one purchase during a consecutive 12-month period, you’ll be charged $12. It’s an inconvenience for sure, but it’s easily avoidable. Just make sure to charge a purchase to the card at least once per year – even if it’s just a few dollars.
 

 


Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139
  • No foreign transaction fee charged on purchases in a non-Canadian currency
  • Welcome offer: Earn 30,000 bonus points (value: $300) when you make $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, entertainment, and transit
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Enjoy complimentary Priority Pass membership, plus six free visits per year from the date of enrolment.

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite was the first credit card from one of Canada’s big banks with no foreign transaction fees. Combined with its welcome offer of 30,000 bonus points (for new Scotiabank cardholders) and six free visits per year to Priority Pass airport lounges, this card is a great choice for an all-in-one travel card.

It also offers robust travel insurance benefits and a competitive rewards structure of 2 Scotia points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, entertainment, and daily transit (including taxis), and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Scotia Rewards are flexible and can be redeemed for flight purchases on any airline with no blackout dates. For context, 1 Scotia point = $0.01, or 1% in travel rewards. You’re also eligible to receive 25% off car rentals at participating Avis locations – a perk that is offered to all Scotiabank credit card holders.


Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $120
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on groceries, entertainment, and restaurants
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on gas, daily transit, and eligible streaming services
  • Get 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Welcome Offer: Up to 40,000 bonus points in your first year

Scotiabank added a second no foreign transaction fee card in its roster of travel credit cards in 2019, as the Scotiabank Gold American Express now no longer charges a 2.5% fee for purchases made in non-Canadian currencies.

The Scotiabank Gold AMEX also gives you 5 Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, and entertainment in Canada – which is one of the highest earn rates for everyday spending.

Additionally, this card comes with top-notch travel insurance benefits, which means it would also make a great choice for an all-in-one travel card. You can also earn a welcome bonus of up to 40,000 points ($400 travel value) as a new Scotiabank cardholder: 30,000 points when you spend $1,000 within your first three months and an additional 10,000 points provided a total of $7,500 is charged to the card within the first year. The one drawback of this card is since it’s issued by American Express, it may not be as widely accepted in some countries. All purchases made in a foreign currency will earn 1 point per dollar – regardless of the category.


KOHO Premium Visa Prepaid Card

  • Annual fee: $84 ($9 per month)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 2% cash back on groceries, restaurants, and daily transit
  • 1 free international ATM withdrawal per month
  • Easily load your card with cash via e-transers

Sure, the KOHO Premium Visa isn’t technically a credit card (it’s a prepaid card), but nonetheless, it still deserves a shoutout on this list.

The card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, which means you can completely avoid the roughly 2.5% to 3% in additional fees that are tacked on most conventional credit cards when making purchases in a non-Canadian currency. It also earns cash back on all your everyday purchases with up to 2% on daily essentials including groceries, transit, and dining.

As an added plus, you can withdraw cash from the KOHO Premium Visa at an ATM outside of Canada’s borders free once per month (additional international ATM withdrawals are typically $2-$3 each).

Since the KOHO Premium Visa is a prepaid card, you’re guaranteed to receive the card with no credit check required, and instead of being assigned a credit limit, you’ll use your own money (similar to a debit card). Loading your cash on the card is super simple and can be done via e-transfer. As a prepaid card, the KOHO Premium Visa will help you avoid the potential pitfalls of ever having to owe interest or racking up credit card debt. You’ll even be paired with a certified financial coach to help answer your money questions.

If you want to use the KOHO Card as a way to build (or rebuild) your credit score as well as save on everyday purchases and foreign transaction fees, you can sign up for KOHO’s separate Credit Building feature (though, it’ll set you back an extra $7 per month).

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Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card

  • Annual fee: $99 (waived for first year)
  • 3 points per dollar on purchases in foreign currencies
  • 1.5 points per dollar on everything else
  • Robust travel insurance, including: travel emergency, trip cancellation and interruption, and more)
  • Mobile device insurance

The Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card isn’t a no foreign transaction fee credit card per se, but it does offer 3% in rewards points on foreign purchases. After accounting for foreign transaction fees, that works out to about a 0.5% return on purchases made in a non-Canadian currency – so you’ll still come out ahead. The card also offers a flat 1.5% on all other purchases along with great travel insurance coverage (including $5,000,000 in emergency health coverage), mobile device insurance, and a welcome offer that waives the $99 annual fee for the first year.


HSBC World Elite and Premier World Elite Mastercards

HSBC has two no foreign transaction fee credit cards: the HSBC World Elite Mastercard and the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard. Both are premium cards – each with a $149 annual fee, individual annual income requirements of $80,000, and welcome bonuses valued at over $300 for new cardholders. In terms of rewards, you can pocket up to 3% in points for every dollar you spend on eligible travel purchases. The cards also include great travel insurance benefits. A drawback of the cards, however, is their redemption structure as you’ll need to rack up 25,000 points before you can start redeeming for travel rewards.
 

 

Rogers Platinum

The Rogers Platinum Mastercard doesn’t technically waive its foreign transaction fees but it does offer savings on US dollar purchases, which can beneficial for snowbirds or anyone who frequently travels south of the border.

The no-fee, entry-level card offers 3% cash back on eligible purchases made in US dollars. Since foreign transaction fees typically hover around 2.5%, your net rewards on USD purchases would come out to 0.5% cash back.

The obvious drawback is you’ll only reap savings on USD transactions and still owe FX fees on purchases in any other international currency. That’s a major limiting factor compared to the other no FX fee cards on this list. The one silver lining is many international websites and merchants do offer the ability to pay in USD – even if they’re not based in the United States.

When it comes to all other everyday purchases, the Rogers Platinum Mastercard earns 1% cash back.


Rogers World Elite Mastercard

In the same vein as the aforementioned Rogers Platinum Mastercard, the premium Rogers World Elite isn’t a true no foreign transaction fee card and only offers savings on select foreign purchases. Specifically, it earns 3% on purchases made in US dollars, which means you’ll come out ahead by 0.5%.

Purchases made in any foreign currency other than USD will result in the typical foreign transaction fees.

It’s a major drawback for sure, but considering many international websites and merchants do accept USD as a payment option, you could still technically save on some foreign purchases outside of the US.

The bigger downside of the Rogers World Elite is the fact you must spend at least $15,000 on the card annually just to be considered eligible to keep it. If you don’t hit that $15,000 minimum, you may be forcibly downgraded to the entry-level Rogers Platinum Card covered above. It’s an odd stipulation and essentially forces you to default to using the Rogers World Elite for the majority of your everyday purchases.

The Rogers World Elite does offer an impressive 1.5% cash back on all other everyday purchases and charges no annual fee. The card does have a steep income requirement though and you’ll need to earn at least $80,000 annually in order to be approved.


Amazon.ca Rewards Mastercard

The Amazon.ca Rewards Mastercard is a co-branded credit card offered by MBNA, and well, obviously, Amazon. The card doesn’t waive its foreign transaction fees per se but offers cardholders who are also Amazon Prime Members an accelerated earn rate of 2.5% on all international purchases, which effectively means you’ll break even on anything bought in a non-Canadian currency since FX fees usually hover around 2.5%.

The major caveat of this card is you can only save on FX fees if you’re also an Amazon Prime Member (non-Prime cardholders will earn a standard 1% on foreign purchases). So, while the Amazon.ca Rewards Mastercard technically has no annual fees, you will have to pay $7.99 per month for Prime to access the FX savings.

This card will earn you Amazon.ca Rewards points, which act as cash back with one distinct limitation: points can only be redeemed for purchases from Amazon. For example, 250 Amazon Rewards points is worth $2.5 in Amazon gift cards.

It goes without saying this card is catered to loyal Amazon shoppers, offering either 1.5% or 2.5% on Amazon purchases depending on whether or not you’re a paying Amazon Prime Member. You’ll earn a standard 1% on everything else.


Final word

If you travel often, then applying for one of these cards is a must. The Home Trust Preferred Visa is great for those who want a card with no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee. If you travel often, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is a good choice as it comes with no foreign transaction fees as well as the six free visits to PriorityPass lounges.

If you’re looking for a card that suits your day-to-day needs and offers the most savings on foreign purchases, the Scotiabank Gold American Express is a great choice. For more credit cards, check out the credit card comparison tool to find out which card is best for you.

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