American Express International Transaction Fees: Your full guide

Aman Saxena

American Express, or Amex for short, is a credit card company with services available in India. Mostly known for travel and lifestyle benefits, Amex credit cards can be a consideration for many Indians but keep an eye on fees. Read on to learn more about one such fee, the foreign transaction fee, before reaching for an Amex card.

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Is there a foreign transaction fee on American Express?

Yes, there is a fee of 3.50% for all transactions done in a foreign currency for all American Express cards. Titled “Foreign Currency Transactions - Currency Conversion Factor Assessment”, this fee is for all non-Indian rupee transactions conducted on the cards.

Amex has 7 different credit cards available in India, and their overall fees differ by card. Let’s take a look at each one:¹

American Express® Platinum Card

The American Express® Platinum Card is a premier credit card that comes with travel reward points. It requires a minimum annual income of ₹25 lakhs and has an annual fee of ₹60,000. It comes with the Amex foreign transaction fee of 3.5% but also with access to airport lounges and stay vouchers at prime hotels.

American Express SmartEarn™ Credit Card

The American Express SmartEarn™ Credit Card is an accessible credit card with perks for spending within India. With a requirement of an annual income of ₹ 4.5 lakhs, the bar for eligibility is lower than other Amex cards. There is an annual fee of ₹495 but if you spend more than ₹40,000 on the card in a year, your renewal fee can be waived. The 3.5% foreign transaction fee applies for any purchases made internationally.

American Express Membership Rewards® Credit Card

The American Express Membership Rewards® Credit Card maximizes earning reward points. You can then redeem reward points for travel vouchers at the Taj hotels or Vistara airlines, among other options. But this card comes with a first-year annual fee of ₹1,000 that bumps up to ₹4,500 every following year. It can be waived if you spend at least ₹1,50,000 on the card the preceding year. It carries a 3.5% foreign transaction fee on international purchases.

American Express® Platinum Reserve Credit Card

The American Express® Platinum Reserve Credit Card has travel benefits with airport lounge access in India and access to Priority Pass membership for international lounges. Cardholders are required to have a minimum annual income of ₹6 lakhs to apply. The card has a first-year annual fee of ₹5,000 which becomes ₹10,000 from the second year on and the 3.5% foreign transaction fee..

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card offers discounts, perks, and benefits across daily purchases, hotel stays, travel getaways, and more. The card comes with an annual fee of ₹4,500, which can also be paid monthly. It is a premier card that helps accumulate reward points on purchases, and has the standard 3.5% foreign transaction fee..

American Express® Platinum Travel Credit Card

The American Express® Platinum Travel Credit Card focuses primarily on travel rewards and benefits. With complimentary access to airport lounges and points that go towards travel bookings, it is one of the few cards for travelers. It has an income requirement of ₹6 lakhs annually, and an annual fee of ₹5,000. The annual fee is at a discount for the first year at ₹3,500. But there is no discount on foreign transactions so there is a fee of 3.5% on every international purchase.

American Express PAYBACK® Credit Card

The American Express PAYBACK® Credit Card is focused on PAYBACK rewards, which is India’s largest loyalty program. You can earn 2 PAYBACK Points for every ₹100 you spend on purchases beyond your daily purchases. The points then can be cashed in with partner brands and programs. There are no specific travel benefits and there is the normal charge of 3.5% on all foreign transactions.

American Express foreign transaction fees

American Express has two main fees: one is the foreign transaction fee of 3.5% and the second is a hidden exchange rate fee.

The first is the cost of using your Amex for foreign currency purchases- which can also include transactions done on international websites. This is a flat fee of 3.5% of your transaction and is applied automatically.

The second fee is slightly harder to spot. It is actually tucked away in the exchange rate that American Express offers you when your transaction requires a currency conversion. Amex marks up the exchange rate from the real exchange rate you see on Google or Reuters, and in that mark-up, they are able to take a hidden fee. So for every dollar or Euro or Baht, you convert into Indian rupees, Amex takes a cut.

And while the fees can seem small, they can really add to your overall costs. American Express is not transparent on their exchange rate so unfortunately, you may not know how much a transaction can cost you until you complete it.

On top of the exchange rate fee and the transaction fee, you can also expect fees if you need to get cash from an ATM abroad when traveling. All American Express credit cards in India have the following ATM charges:

  • A 3.5% fee of the cash withdrawal with a minimum of ₹250 fee
  • Any ATM operator charges
  • an Exchange rate fee

You can also only take out ₹25,000 within a two-week window and the withdrawal can not be more than 20% of your credit limit.³

Alternative methods for international transactions

There are alternatives to making purchases abroad that can save you money. Here are a few ways to send money overseas or shop internationally and their main features.

SWIFT/ wire transfers

SWIFT transfers are wire transfers from one member bank to another around the world. It is for deposits to another bank account, and while they are often a cheap way to send money, SWIFT transfers can take longer than more modern options. You can typically send a SWIFT transfer through your online banking portal or at your local bank and transfers can take 3-5 days. .

Bank forex cards

You can find forex (foreign exchange) cards at most banks. They are typically prepaid cards where you load up on a certain currency before your travels and then you can spend like a local abroad. This can be a convenient option when you are shopping but it does cap how much you can spend as it draws down from the card balance. Also, it may require a few weeks of preparation to sign up and get the card in time for your travel.

Payment providers

Modern online payment providers like Wise, PayPal, and Western Union can be fast and cheap options for sending money overseas. All 3 companies provide direct transfers to local bank accounts, or in some cases for cash pick up like with Western Union.

PayPal is a trusted provider that helps send money to other PayPal wallets instantly for free, but the fee for depositing funds in a bank account and the exchange rate can add up. Western Union provides additional flexibility with in-person branches to help send money. And while they may have low transaction fees, Western Union can be found to have high hidden exchange rate fees.

Wise helps send direct transfers from India to local bank accounts abroad at the real exchange rate and with a low transaction fee- and often is cheaper than PayPal or Western Union. Wise transfers can take 1 day or less on popular routes. But if you are looking for a card to shop abroad, you will be required to be in a country that is approved for the Wise Multi Currency Account.

Save on international transfers with Wise

Wise Web/Android/ iOS app is an easy, fast and cheap way to send money around the world

Wise is an online money transfer provider where you can send money directly to local bank accounts abroad- right from your mobile or computer. With a free account for Wise, you will only have to pay one low transfer fee and the real exchange rate on every transfer.

And if you are in a currently supported country abroad, check out the Wise Multi Currency Account with a linked debit card. So whether you need to send payments for tuition, give gifts or just shop like a local while on holiday, the Wise Multi Currency account has you covered.

Sources used for this article:

  1. American Express credit cards
  2. RBI Amex
  3. Fees

All sources checked as of 22 May, 2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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