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 2023
BRIM Financial Mastercards
Learn more about Brim Financial Mastercards
Home Trust Preferred Visa
Learn more about the Home Trust Preferred Visa
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Learn more about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Scotiabank Gold American Express
Learn more about the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
HSBC World Elite Mastercard
Learn more about the HSBC World Elite Mastercard
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Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card
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.
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.
Why you should get a credit card with no foreign transaction fee
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. Think of it as a card that gives you a 2.5% discount on all your purchases in foreign currency.
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.