Be Wary of Overseas Credit Card Charges When Traveling

Going on vacation is usually a happy, wonderful experience. You get to spend time with your family, experience a different culture and get away from the distractions and work of your normal life.

Sometimes though, there can be a nasty surprise waiting for you if you decide to use a credit card to make purchases while you’re vacationing. Most banks and credit cards will charge a fee simply for you withdrawing money from a cash machine or whenever you initiate a credit transaction! On top of that, any money withdrawn and not paid off in full, could be subject to up to 29.9% interest!

Credit Card Fees on Overseas Spending

Being educated on these fees while abroad is one way you can keep a cap on your spending and reduce any additional APR that might be charged while you’re away. Consider shopping offers online or check out the best available credit card options to see which one suits your needs.

Look carefully at the foreign transaction fees associated with each card – the amount of interest you’ll be charged on any spending. If you have a credit card that contains fees, then make sure that you try to limit transactions using the credit cards. However, if you do your research in advance, and know you’ll be spending quite a bit of money overseas, then compare cards and look for one that doesn’t charge a fee.

Knowing the additional transaction charges ahead of time will allow you to budget for them or you can choose alternate routes of accessing money such as using a prepaid credit card (if you choose not to apply for a new credit card that doesn’t contain the transaction fees). Prepaid credit cards are cards that you pre-load with money and use like a credit card, without the risks of overdrawing your account.

They’re useful if you have the available funds in your bank to do so, but aren’t an option for many people. Just make sure that when you go overseas that you’ve researched, and know the best card for your spending, and that you reduce charges wherever possible.

WSL Editor’s Note: Mrs. WSL and I have only been overseas (together) one time and that was during a cruise for our honeymoon. At that time I didn’t use credit cards, cleared my debit card with my bank before we set sail, and incurred no fees while we were traveling. However, now that we’re taking more advantage of credit card rewards, I quickly reviewed my two current cards and I found out that my Chase Freedom card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee whereas my Chase Sapphire card has no foreign fee. Hmm…interesting.

Readers: have you ever traveled overseas and got hit with foreign transaction fees without realizing you were incurring them? If you travel overseas frequently, have you specifically applied for cards because they don’t charge foreign transaction fees?


  1. One of the tricks that we have learned over the years is to withdrawal cash from the ATM in that country for a few days worth of expenses. We have a bank that reimburses us for the ATM fees and we have found that the conversion rate is stellar. This way you don’t have to pay a commission to some “currency exchange” place or any credit card fees at all 🙂

  2. I don’t travel overseas enough to know which cards have fees, but will certainly find out if we ever get to go again. It seems like when we went to Italy, we checked before, because I don’t remember any fees. Mostly we just used our debit card to take out local currency and spent that.

  3. Thad P says:

    We have travelled a good bit (overseas). Credit cards are a convenience, but as with any convenience, they come with a price. Good advice here.

  4. I’ve traveled overseas extensively when I was in international sales for my company. (a few years back). I had a work credit card, so I never had to worry about fees – but this article is certainly true. Usually I also recommend having cash with you always. In many countries to just leave the country you have to pay and exit fee & this fee is only in cash 🙂

    • Andy says:

      That’s great to know Andy! It sounds like I will be doing a lot of research before I ever leave the U.S. I do like carrying around cash, but if I was traveling in a foreign country I’m not sure how much I’d like to have on me though.

  5. Smart post! I can remember clearly when Mrs.CBB was in the UK and I had actually asked her if she had any fees that she would get charged on her credit card. She said she hadn’t really noticed in the past (oh how times have changed with her now). The reason she hadn’t noticed was no she was not being charged but she also did not realize she could have potentially been charged if she had used a different credit card. The mastercard she was using at the time had no fees associated with the UK only the exchange. I remember being in the mall here in Canada and using my debit card. The bank charged me $15 just to take money out….last time that ever happened let me tell you. Mr.CBB

  6. Even on cards with no explicit fee, there’s often a spread between the current exchange rate and the rate that the CC will use.
    I recently go ta US dollar visa and it will save me a lot of money over the year (I’m Canadian), on those spreads and fees. Plus, I have a USD account, so when the rate is good I can move money into it. It’s also at a very slight discount. I spend a few grand per year in USD, so it will definitely add up to some savings 🙂

  7. Jay says:

    This has been an issue for a long time, we travel internationally at least once a year I am not current on which cards do or do not charge a foreign transaction fee, I do know 4 years ago the only company that did not was Capital One. We have had a Capital One card since then that is 1% cash back and has no foreign transaction fee, we only use it when traveling internationally. When we are in places that charge in US dollars even when overseas the fee doesn’t apply, so if it is a restaurant that I know charges in US dollars I will use my Costco AmEx card which gives me 2% cash back on dining, otherwise it is Capital One all the way.

    We spend anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks overseas every year so the foreign transaction fees really add up.

    • Andy says:

      Interesting! So there may only be foreign transaction fees if the retailer charges in a foreign currency. Hmm…my interest is growing on this subject.

      • Jay says:

        We have a timeshare in the Caribbean, as we go every year we know which restaurants charge in US dollars from trial and error. Everything is priced in dollars as most of the tourists are Americans, but a lot places charge in local currency, my guess is it is cheaper for them to process in local currency and the credit card charges the card holder the foreign transaction fee. That is just a guess though as there is no discernible pattern to which restaurants charge local vs. US dollars.

        This only happens on small Caribbean islands, in Europe everything is in Euros or Pounds in London, same thing in Asia you will never find things charged in US dollars.

    • My husband and I went to Canada last year without thinking about this and then we were charged with international fees using our Discover card. We didn’t use it very often (only a few times) so the fees were quite minimal. Funnily enough, right after we returned from our trip (within the month) I received a notice from Discover saying they were no longer going to charge a fee to use their card internationally.

      Just letting you know there might be another company out there.

  8. Hmmm, I’ve never used my card while traveling Asia but it’s interesting that they charge a fee even though you take out of their own ATM there? Or is it just for other ATMs?

    • Andy says:

      That’s a good question! I’m sure that if it’s a local bank and associated ATM card then it won’t be a problem. It’d be interesting to know if these issues apply to people that live overseas when they visit other countries (such as the US or Asia), however it’s definitely an issue for Americans whenever we cross the pond.

  9. Mackenzie says:

    I’ve never travelled overseas, but this is good info to know when I do. I wasn’t aware that they had these kind of charges.

    • Andy says:

      You and me both! I’ve read about it elsewhere, but just skimmed through it with the realization that I wasn’t planning on traveling anytime in the near future. lol. It’s good to know for when we take that European vacation (someday) though!

  10. We made sure to get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees for our upcoming vacation in February. It will be our first time leaving the country so we wanted to be prepared!

  11. We’ve been overseas before and used our credit cards on each trip. We’d call the card before hand and they would tell us if the countries we were going had fees or not. I think all totaled we were charged maybe $5-10 in fees.

    • Andy says:

      When the fees are only 3%, you’d have to spend A LOT of money for the charges to really hurt your budget. Regardless, that is $5-10 you could have saved by opening up a different credit card. 🙂

  12. I know this isn’t about credit cards but this reminded me of a story that was on the news tonight about a woman who got stung with $6000 worth of data charges on her phone. She didn’t realise that she was roaming when she went overseas and so she racked up the dollars pretty fast.

    • Andy says:

      I’ve heard a few stories a long those lines. We just get so used to being in our little bubble that we don’t realize that things operate a little different once you cross the boarders.

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