in our free newsletter.

Thousands benefit from our email every week.

Fact Checked: Scott Birke

🗓️

Updated: September 18, 2023

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

Best credit cards in Canada

Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

AnnyStudio / Shutterstock

Fact Checked: Scott Birke

🗓️

Updated: September 18, 2023

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware this post may contain links to products from our partners. We may receive a commission for products or services you sign up for through partner links.

Many Canadians are in for a nasty surprise after a trip abroad. The bad news is most Canadian credit card companies add a 2.5%-3% foreign transaction fee to each purchase that cardholders make outside the country. The good news is that a select few credit cards in Canada make up for or waive the fee so that you’re not charged at all.

Unlike the United States, where credit card issuers are increasingly abandoning foreign transaction fees altogether, FX fees usually represent too large a part of Canadian credit card companies’ income streams for them to walk away from. The fact is, Canadians travel out of Canada a lot more often than Americans travel out of the United States, so it’s easier for an American issuer to give up on FX fees than for a Canadian issuer. For a quick comparison: 30% of Americans have a passport, compared to 70% of Canadians.

Why you want a no foreign transaction fee credit card

So what’s the big deal about a credit card that subsidizes foreign transaction fees? Well, the savings can be huge for some Canadian customers, especially:

  1. 1.

    Snowbirds who winter in the south

  2. 2.

    People who shop across the border regularly or shop online

  3. 3.

    Those who use their credit card to make business purchases from U.S. vendors.

Think about it. If you use your credit card while wintering in the United States, you could easily rack up $10,000 – $20,000 in credit card charges. That’s $250 to $500 in foreign exchange fees going to the credit card companies. Not to mention it also wipes away the 1-2% in rewards you thought you were earning.

Aside from that, using a credit card that subsidizes or waives your foreign transaction fee is actually cheaper than exchanging currencies at the bank, or at a boutique foreign exchange bureau – which routinely cost anywhere from 1%-3% to exchange your money. Debit and out-of-country ATM cash withdrawals are no better, each typically charging a foreign exchange fee of 2.5% or more.

Best no foreign transaction fees credit cards in Canada

Credit card Foreign transaction fee offer Annual fees Special card feature
Home Trust Preferred Visa 0% fee $0 1% cash back1 on eligible purchases
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® 0% fee $149 Earn 3% in travel rewards on eligible travel purchases*
Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card 0% fee $150 Complimentary Visa Airport Companion Program membership, plus 6 complimentary lounge visits per year
Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card 0% fee $120 Accelerated earn rates like 5X the Scene+™ points for every $1 CAD spent on other eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, and drinking establishments
Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard® 2.5% fee $0 0.5% cash back on purchases in U.S. dollars after factoring in the foreign transaction fee

Home Trust Preferred Visa

Who's eligible?

Quick Facts

– Minimum Credit Score: N/A
– Minimum Income: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Canadian

One card that offers relief from foreign transaction fees is the Home Trust Preferred Visa. Aside from waiving the 0% foreign transaction fee option, this credit card also gives Canadians 1% cash back1 on all eligible purchases, without any limits on how much cash back you can earn. And there’s no annual fee.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Home Trust Preferred Visa review.

1 Cash advances, balance transfers, interest, fees and foreign transactions (including online purchases in foreign currencies) are not eligible for CashBack Rewards.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

Who’s eligible?

Quick Facts

– Minimum Credit Score: Excellent
– Minimum Income: Minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 or a minimum assets under management of $250,000
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Canadian citizen or permanent resident
– Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years

The HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® is lucrative for those who make a substantial amount of purchases in foreign currencies, because it charges no foreign transaction fees and all eligible purchases made with the card, be they foreign or domestic, earn HSBC Rewards points. It’s a significant feature given that other no foreign transaction fee cards (e.g. the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card or the Home Trust Preferred Visa) might waive foreign transaction fees but won’t necessarily apply the same rewards earn rates to purchases in all currencies.

The main drawbacks to the card are: A. Its high-ish $149 annual fee, and B. The fact that its accelerated earn rate of 6 Points per $1 spent applies only to travel purchases*, but not everyday purchases like groceries or gas. That said, the combined value of its travel features outweigh those drawbacks, and the card is made even more appealing because of its huge Welcome Bonus for new cardholders: Earn up to 50,000 points ($250 travel value), plus a full annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder for the first year ($149 value) and receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit Must apply by September 29, 2023. Conditions apply. 

Aside from those who qualify for the HSBC Premier Chequing Account, we recommend the card to anyone who travels regularly either within Canada or abroad, and who anticipates making about $850 or more in purchases each month. That level of spending will give you enough points to make up for the annual fee and then some.

Key Features

  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% (only the exchange rate will apply)
  • Annual Fee: $149
  • Welcome Bonus: Earn up to 50,000 ($250 travel value) for the first year! Must apply by September 29, 2023. Conditions apply.
  • Rewards Earn Rates: Earn 3% in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases* (6 points per $1); 2% in travel rewards on all eligible gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases* (4 points per $1); and 1% in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases* (2 points per $1)
  • Added Travel Benefits: Annual travel enhancement credit*; airport lounge network membership; travel insurance.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® review

HSBC Premier Chequing Account Issued by HSBC Bank Canada.

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.

Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card

Who's eligible?

Quick Facts

– Minimum Credit Score: Excellent–
Minimum Income: Minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 or a minimum assets under management of $250,000
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Canadian citizen or permanent resident– Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years

Though accompanied by an annual fee of $150, the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card not only waives foreign transaction fees, but also offers great rewards rates for spending in foreign currency, as well as superior travel benefits. You’ll pay no fees for purchasing online or abroad in a foreign currency and will earn 3X Scene+™ points points on every $1 you spend at Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland & Participating Co-ops, and more eligible grocersÂą; 2 points for each $1 spent on other eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases, no matter what currency the purchase was made in. 1 Scene+ point per $1 spent is earned on all other eligible purchases.

Additionally, travellers who frequently face layovers will appreciate the card’s 6 free airport lounge passes that renew each year. They’ll also like the travel protections that accompany the card, including travel medical, trip interruption and cancellation, and rental car insurance. Furthermore, there’s currently an offer for new cardholders. 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.Âą Earn 25,000 bonus Scene+ points by making at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months. Plus, as a Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite cardholder, you are eligible to earn an annual 10,000 Scene+ point bonus when you spend at least $40,000 in everyday net eligible purchases annually. Offer ends October 31, 2023.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* card review.

Âą Conditions Apply. Visit here for the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card to learn more.

Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card

Who's eligible?

Quick Facts

– Minimum Credit Score: Excellent
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Canadian citizen or permanent resident
– Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years

Like the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card, when you use the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card for any overseas purchases, you’ll only have to pay the exchange rate, with no foreign transaction fees added on top. But unlike the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card, you won’t earn extra points for purchases in special categories if the purchase is made in foreign currency.

That said, the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card still holds its own, combining a sizable first-year bonus with steady earning power after that. Earn up to $650* in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ pointsÂą. Earn 20,000 bonus Scene+ points by making at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months. Plus, for a limited time, you are eligible to earn a 20,000 Scene+ point bonus when you spend at least $7,500 in everyday eligible purchases in your first year. Offer ends October 31, 2023.

Plus regular earn rates of 6X Scene+™ points on every $1 CAD you spend in Canada at Sobeys, Safeway, FreshCo, Foodland, and more eligible grocersÂą; 5X Scene+™ points per $1 CAD spent on other eligible grocery, dining, and entertainment purchases; 3X Scene+™ points per $1 CAD spent on eligible gas, daily transit, and select streaming services; and a standard 1X Scene+™ point per $1 spent on all other purchases (last applicable to all currencies).

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank Gold American Express® card review.

Âą Conditions Apply. Visit here for the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card to learn more.

Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard®

Who's eligible?

Quick Facts

– Minimum Credit Score: Good-Excellent
– Minimum Income: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
– Age: Age of majority in province of residence
– Residency: Canadian
– Other: No bankruptcies in the past seven years

Credit cards can help travellers avoid foreign transaction fees by matching any fees with an equal amount of cash back, or more. The latter is true with the impressive Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard®. Applicants must meet a higher annual income and credit requirement (though the card still has no annual fee), but receive perks and superior cash back rates as a result. With the World Elite card, cardholders will receive 3% cash back for their purchases made in U.S. dollars, and 1.5% cash back for any purchases made in Canadian dollars.

The Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard® can net a total cash back rate of 0.50% on purchases in U.S. dollars after factoring in the 2.5% foreign transaction fee. Cardholders will also get a comprehensive insurance package that includes collision damage coverage for rental vehicles, and trip interruption, trip cancellation, and emergency travel medical insurance. This is an excellent deal for no annual fee, but applicants need to show $80,000 in annual income or $150,000 in household income.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard® review.

Can’t I just use a USD credit card?

Those who do most of their foreign spending in the US might be wondering if they can successfully avoid foreign transaction fees with a U.S. Dollar credit card. But remember that unless you actually keep USD in your bank account , it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to truly avoid the fees. Ultimately you’ll have to pay your U.S. Dollar credit card bill in U.S. dollars, and if you don’t have the USD handy to do so, you’ll need to convert your Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars at the bank. At that point the bank will charge you its 1%-3% foreign exchange surcharge.

What about prepaid cards with no foreign transaction fees?

For those looking for a prepaid card instead when planning their next trip the no-annual fee CIBC Air Canada® AC Conversion™ Visa* Prepaid Card allows cardholders to upload cash across up to 10 foreign currencies at a locked-in exchange rate. It's an easy solution for spending local currency in your next travel destination.

Will more no foreign transaction fee cards enter the Canadian market?

Hopefully more Canadian credit card issuers that don’t rely on foreign transaction fees for a substantial portion of their revenue will soon step up to the plate and issue more no foreign transaction fee cards. Perhaps some of the niche issuers like President’s Choice, Walmart, or Canadian Tire can shake things up a little bit the way Home Trust, HSBC, Scotia and Rogers have. But as of right now, those are four of the only games in town, and they’re offering Canadians a SUPERLATIVE opportunity. Just not enough of us know about it.

About our author

Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker, Freelance Contributor

Sarah Pritzker has been writing for Money.ca since 2017, and loves learning about the latest trends in Canadian personal finance. Topics of particular interest to Sarah include investing, debt consolidation, debt counselling, and rewards programs. When she's not researching credit cards or loan repayment strategies, Sarah is most likely hanging out with her husband and three kids.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Money.ca is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.