You might want to go fishing if you ever visit British Columbia. We shall take a look at the important things to do and the places to go to, in this article.
International credit cards are popular products in Canada, designed for those who travel around the world or just make a lot of foreign purchases. But not all such cards offer zero foreign transaction fees. You could still end up paying 3% extra on every single purchase you make abroad.
While no foreign transaction fee credit cards in Canada are still a rarity, they do exist. And in this article you can see some of the best options available. You’ll also learn about the Wise card and how it can help you save money when you travel abroad or when you pay in different currencies.
|Foreign transaction fee
|Points / cash back
|Other features include
|1 point per $1
|Various types of insurance
|Brim World Mastercard¹
|1.5 points per $1 (up to £25k)
|Access to airport lounges; increased insurance allowances; travel assistance
|Brim World Elite Mastercard¹
|$199 (currently waived in first year via offer)
|2 points per $1 (up to £25k)
|Increased insurance allowances; trip cancellation and interruption insurance
|Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite²
|$139 (currently waived in first year via offer)
|1 point per $1; 2x on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, transit; 5x on travel
|Avis Preferred Plus membership for car rental; 6x airport lounge access; insurance including trip cancellation and interruption
|Scotiabank Gold American Express³
|1 point per $1; 3x on eligible gas, transit, listening, and streaming services; 5x on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, etc.
|Airport lounge access; concierge services; insurance including trip cancellation and interruption
|HSBC World Elite Mastercard⁴
|6 travel rewards points per $1 on eligible travel purchases; 3 travel rewards points per $1 on other eligible purchases
|$100 travel enhancement annually; airport lounge access; 10% discount on Expedia/Agoda hotel bookings; insurance
|Home Trust Preferred Visa⁵
|1% cash back on eligible purchases
|Eligible items insured for 90 days; guaranteed hotel reservations
|Koho Premium Visa⁶
|$84 (or $9 monthly)
|2% cash back on transport, groceries, restaurants; 0.5% cash back on others
|Price protection; financial coaching; one free international ATM withdrawal monthly
|Changing rewards with partner brands
|No ATM fees
Wise card: save your money when you spend abroad
Whether you’re travelling internationally, buying online overseas or taking your business global, you should know that in Canada you can have a Wise card. This is not a credit card - but you can set up your Wise account and order the card in just a few minutes. Oh, snd you might also want to know that using Wise is 4x cheaper than banks for spending abroad..
You won’t have any high or hidden foreign transaction fees - your money gets converted with the real mid-market rate, no matter if you spend in-person or online in over 200 countries.
The only cost you’ll have is a low and transparent conversion fee, in case you need to convert your Canadian dollars. Unlike other accounts, there are no monthly or annual charges, nor any minimum balance requirements.
The Wise card is part of the Wise account, which means that you can add, hold, and convert over 40 currencies instantly. You can get your own bank details for 10 different currencies (including CAD, USD, GBP, EUR, and more) to receive money from those places.
The first no foreign transaction fee credit card option is in fact three options. Emerging digital bank Brim offers a trio of Mastercard credit cards, none of which charge any foreign transaction fees. In fact, they’re all clearly designed to be international credit cards, with frequent travelers in mind. Extra features include global wifi and a variety of insurance deals. Here are the three cards on offer from Brim:1
Brim’s basic offering has no annual fee but still offers plenty of perks including global wifi and a few types of insurance travelers will be keen on, including common carrier accident and mobile device. You get 1 point per dollar.
For $99 a year, the Brim World credit card gives you 1.5 points per dollar up to $25k, and tops up the basic card’s insurance offerings with some increased limits and some extra offerings including lost or stolen baggage. Travel assistance is on offer too. Plus there’s a Lounge Key to get into various exclusive lounges around the world.
$199 a year ups the offering even more: on top of the perks mentioned above, you get 2 points per dollar up to $25k, as well as even more insurance including for trip cancellation and interruption.
Probably the best known Canadian bank offering zero foreign transaction fees on its credit cards is Scotiabank. Two of its credit cards have this feature: the Passport Visa Infinite and Gold American Express. Like with the Brim cards, it’s clear their targeting the frequent traveler market. Here they are one at a time:
$139 a year gets you the Passport Visa Infinite, which gives you 5 points per dollar on eligible travel purchases and will help you out with car rental via complimentary membership of Avis Preferred Plus. It also offers a lot of insurance coverage, including if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip. Being a Visa card, its coverage around the world is very good.
Scotiabank’s alternative is the Gold American Express, priced slightly lower at $120 a year. The points offering is different, but you still get 5x on plenty of purchases. The insurance on offer with this card is very similar to the Passport Visa Infinite. A major difference is the set of perks that you get with this as an American Express card. You may want to factor in Amex’s slightly lower global reach – although if you’re often traveling to the US then that’s less of a consideration.
For those with an income above $80k individually or $150k across their household; HSBC’s World Elite Mastercard offers no foreign transaction fees as well as a number of other benefits. Points can be spent on travel rewards, and you earn 3 per dollar at home or 6 when travelling on eligible purchases.
You get a range of insurance coverage including worldwide emergency travel medical insurance, so long as you and your spouse are under 65 and you’re not going to Cuba. And you also get $100 yearly in travel “enhancement” – think seat upgrades, lounge passes, that sort of thing.6
A straightforward no foreign transaction fee credit card is on offer from Home Trust, and it’s called the Preferred Visa. As well as no foreign exchange fees, the card offers 1% cash back on eligible purchases (which don’t include foreign transactions).
In a nod to frequent travelers, the card lets you request a hotel reservation that’s guaranteed, even if you turn up late. Plus, you get purchase security for 90 days against theft or damage. It’s not available in Quebec, though.4
Fintech company Koho doesn’t actually offer a credit card, but this prepaid Visa is still worth a look if you’re seeking no foreign transaction fees. The standard Koho Visa doesn’t offer this feature, but if you sign up for a Premium Visa – which will cost $89 yearly or $9 monthly – and you can make international purchases without having to shell out the FX charge.
There are some extra features too, including price protection, so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal on purchases, and they offer financial coaching if you want it too. The cash back offer is also enticing. Bear in mind that it’s a prepaid card, though: you’ll have to top it up with enough funds; you don’t borrow any credit.5
Like Koho, Stack isn’t a credit card but rather a top-up or reloadable card. While Koho is a Visa, though, Stack is a Mastercard. In addition to zero foreign transaction fees, Stack offers its users a range of offers partnering with various brands. Use your card alongside Stack Travel for further perks during a trip.
Stack also boasts no ATM withdrawal fees. In fact, it says it has “zero fees” in general – there’s no annual fee to worry about either.7
It’s still unusual for Canadian credit card providers to scrap foreign transaction fees entirely. There are several options, however, that reward enough points back on foreign purchases that you recoup the value of the FX fee. So, while they still do charge a foreign transaction fee, effectively you’re not losing out, so long as you can use the points.
While you do still have to pay foreign transaction fees with this Meridian card, you get 3 points per dollar of net purchases when you spend in foreign currencies. As the card’s name suggests, it’s designed with travelers in mind, who can redeem rewards on hotels, flights, and cruises, as well as on local purchases if you prefer. There’s also a lot on offer in terms of insurance⁸.
These two cards from Rogers both still require you to pay foreign transaction fees, but if you mainly spend in US dollars they could still prove good value.
The Platinum Mastercard gives 3% unlimited cash back on eligible USD purchases⁹. The World Elite Mastercard does the same but additionally offers benefits including insurance¹⁰.
A foreign transaction fee is an additional charge you may face when making a purchase in a foreign currency. It’s often around the 3% mark.
It’s still the norm for credit card issuers to charge foreign transaction fees, although there are a few that don’t – especially those targeting frequent travelers. As you’ll have seen from the list above, there are also some non-credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees: prepaid/top-up cards are worth bearing in mind as well.
Simply put, if your card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, you’ll save that fee every time you spend money abroad – and 3% on every purchase is a decent saving.
But of course, there are plenty of other credit card fees you could be charged, so when looking for a decent deal you’ll need to weigh up the FX fee against concerns like the annual fee, as well as the amount of points on offer and how widely you can redeem them.
The foreign transaction fee is a discrete charge that tends to show up separately on your statement, while the exchange rate is the rate at which your money gets converted.
If you’re traveling or paying on a foreign website, your Canadian dollars will likely need to get converted into a different currency - and that conversion happens at a rate that is often set by the bank or credit card issuer. Typically, that exchange is already set to include a conversion fee. However, if the bank claims not to have any foreign transaction fees, it would be normal to have the money converted with the mid-market rate.
In any case, regardless of which bank or card you use, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the exchange rate used to process your payment.
- Brim Comparison Chart
- Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
- Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
- HSBC World Elite Mastercard
- Home Trust Preferred Visa
- Koho Premium
- Stack, Stack features, Stack Travel
- Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card
- Rogers Platinum Mastercard
- Rogers World Elite Mastercard
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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