Canada's best no foreign exchange credit cards at a glance
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Earn up to $1,100+ in value in the first 12 months, including up to 35,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived on your first supplementary card.
Home Trust Preferred Visa
Earn 1% cashback on eligible purchases in Canada, with no caps on cashback earn.
Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card
earn up to $650 in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points. Must apply by July 1, 2024.
Our methodology: how we choose the best cards
What are foreign transaction fees?
Foreign transaction fees are charges placed by financial institutions on credit card transactions that involve foreign currency. While they typically occur when a customer is using their credit card to make purchases in a foreign country, they can also apply to online transactions where the vendor is processing payments in a foreign currency.
While they were originally established by banks to offset the expense of processing international payments, these concerns have been largely solved by the more modern global banking system of today. Regardless, many credit cards will still charge users a foreign transaction fee, so it's important to know if your chosen card carries this charge before signing up for it (especially if you're a frequent traveller).
Is it worth it to get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees?
If you travel outside your home country regularly, or you frequently shop on foreign websites, it's in your best interest to choose a rewards card without any foreign transaction fees. While the fees themselves might not seem that scary on their own (usually around 2-3% total per transaction), those costs can quickly add up if you're using your credit card as a primary payment method while abroad or online shopping, so try to avoid them if at all possible.
Are foreign transaction fees refunded?
If your credit card comes with foreign transaction fees, they typically won't be refunded if you've used the card abroad or to make online purchases in a foreign currency. If your card has no foreign transaction fees, you may be able to get a refund on any extra charges from foreign ATMs, but it's best to ask your provider for the clearest answer.
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.
Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that let you save on those pesky fees. We've listed out the benefits of using the best credit cards with no international fees.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite was the first credit card from one of Canada’s major banks to eliminate foreign transaction fees.
- No foreign transaction fees: Saving you money when you travel abroad or make any international online purchases
- Enticing welcome offer: earn up to $1,100+ in value in the first 12 months, including up to 35,000 bonus Scene+ points. Offer ends January 3, 2024.
- Robust travel insurance: Benefit from a strong travel insurance package to enhance your travel experience
- Competitive reward program: Earn 3 Scotia points per $1 at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and Freshco (among others), 2 Scotia points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, entertainment, and daily transit (including taxis), and 1 point per $1 on everything else
- Flexible redemption: Enjoy flexible point redemption including flight purchases on any airline with no blackout dates
- Exclusive offers: Enjoy 25% off car rentals at participating Avis locations – a perk that is offered to all Scotiabank credit card holders.
Home Trust Preferred Visa
The Home Trust Preferred Visa not only saves you from foreign transaction fees but also offers several additional advantages. With no annual fee and the added perk of earning 1% cash back on all your spending in Canada without any limits or caps, this card benefits you in many ways.
- No foreign transaction fees: Save 2.5% on all non-Canadian currency purchases
- No annual fee: Enjoy the card's travel benefits without an annual fee; however, it is important to note that the card has 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)
- Cash back earnings: Earn 1% cash back on all Canadian purchases, providing consistent rewards
- Additional perks: Take advantage of a number of other perks, including car rental insurance and Visa Zero Liability coverage to help ensure you 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.
Scotiabank Gold American Express
The Scotiabank Gold American Express, with its removal of foreign transaction fees in 2019, offers a range of benefits that make it an attractive choice for travelers.
- No foreign transaction fees: Eliminates foreign transaction fees, saving you money during international trips and any purchases made in non-Canadian currencies
- Lucrative welcome offer: earn up to $650 in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points. Must apply by July 1, 2024.
- Enhanced return on spending: Earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating grocery stores (like Sobey's, IGA, Freshco, and more), 5 points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, food delivery, and entertainment - one of the best in class multipliers in the market. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas and transit expenses and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
- Extensive insurance coverage: Enjoy top-notch travel insurance benefits, which means it would also make a great choice for an all-in-one travel card
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When you're travelling abroad, every transaction you make with your credit card has to be converted from the country's currency to Canadian dollars before appearing as a charge on your statement. For the trouble of doing this, many providers charge a foreign transaction fee (usually 2.5%) in addition to the spot rate. This may look like a small amount of money, but added up over multiple transactions (let's face it - everyone spends a lot while on vacation) they can quickly become a problem. This is why having a credit card with no foreign transaction fees can save you more money than you think.
Not only that, but for those who like to online shop on foreign websites (U.S. included), you'll save the same 2.5% on all your transactions.
What to look for in a no foreign transaction fee credit card
Outside of the obvious - no foreign transaction fees - there are a couple of other features that you'll want to look out for when shopping for a card of this type.
Because you'll primarily be using this card while abroad, you'll want to choose one that also offers great rewards on spending outside of Canada. It's an often-overlooked detail on rewards cards, but many of their great point values and cash back rates don't apply outside of the country. There's no point in getting a card with no foreign transaction fees if it won't also rewards you for using it in foreign countries, so make sure yours will.
Along with that, see if your chosen card also comes with any travel perks, such as VIP airport lounge access, hotel upgrades, checked baggage, or rental car discounts. If you don't already have travel insurance, it's also a good idea to select one with a thorough, comprehensive travel insurance package to cover events like emergency medical, stolen/lost baggage, and flight delay/cancellation, among others.