Amazon is a name that you’ll be pretty familiar with already. It’s best known as an online shopping platform where you can pick up everything from books to microwave ovens. Since it was founded in 1995, Amazon has expanded a lot. It says it’s created 250,000 jobs directly and over 360,000 indirectly.¹ It’s maybe not a surprise that they’re now offering credit cards, too. Amazon is partnering on this with Chase, one of the largest banks in the US.²
Since Amazon is a really big name, and a company a whole lot of people use regularly anyway, many people see it as an obvious brand to take with them abroad. The Amazon Prime Visa credit card is targeted at them. In fact, its full name is the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card — but that’s a bit of a mouthful, so let’s stick with the shorter one.
This article will tell you the key facts about the card, to help you make up your mind about whether it’s the right choice for you. We’ll also talk about:
- How much it’ll cost you to use this card overseas
- Other key fees and features you need to know about
- Why card providers may not offer you the best exchange rate
- One simple tip that could save you plenty on your travels
Here’s some good news straight away: the Amazon Prime Visa card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.³ That means you’ll save every time you make an overseas purchase, or use an ATM abroad. Some other cards will add a percentage onto transactions like that, but this one doesn’t. Great news for globe-trotting travelers.
Though there aren’t any foreign transaction fees with the Amazon Prime Visa credit card, there are some other things to watch out for. The first is that you must have an Amazon Prime account — if you don’t, you can’t get this card, period.⁴ You can still apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card, but that doesn’t give as many benefits.⁵ Make sure you don’t mix up the two when you’re thinking about applying, so check the fine print carefully.
The Prime card has some attractive features and some, well, not so attractive ones. Let’s get the fees out of the way first. First up, there’s no annual fee — as long as you already have Amazon Prime membership. If you don’t, you’ll need to sign up for Prime first, and currently that’ll set you back $12.99 a month or $119 a year.⁶ Keep this in mind if you’re not already a member.
Once you’ve gotten past that, the fee structure for this card is pretty simple. If you need a balance transfer, you’ll pay 5% of the total or $5, whichever is higher. For cash advances, it’s 5% or $10, again whichever’s higher. Late or returned payments will cost you $38, but there’s no fee for a returned check. The interest rate you’ll pay is the Annual Percentage Rate (APR). When we checked, this was between 16.49% and 24.49%, depending on your credit rating. It’s a little higher for cash advances.⁷
There are several nice benefits to this card. Once you’re approved, you’ll get a $70 Amazon.com gift card to spend as you like. You’ll also get cashback on most purchases: 1% generally, but 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores. The standout offer is the hefty 5% discount you’ll receive when using your Amazon Prime card at the checkout on Amazon.com and at Whole Foods Market stores.⁸
When you’re traveling outside the US, you’ll naturally want the best deal you can get when you use your credit card. Hold up, though — you may not always get what you hope. That’s for a couple of reasons. One is that the company that handles your transactions, which could be your card provider or the ATM operator, may charge a fee. At least that’s upfront, though. The one that isn’t so clear is the markup you’re likely to get on your exchange rate. You often won’t even realize that until you take a look at your statement.
Look on sites like Yahoo, Google, or XE for “exchange rates” and you’ll see one simple number. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It would be… if that were the rate you actually got. In nearly all cases, it’s not. The one the websites will show you is the mid-market rate. That’s just what it sounds like: the midpoint between the buy and sell rates. When banks trade themselves, this is the number they use. The chance that they’ll offer it to you too is… well, it’s pretty slim. You’re likely to get a worse rate — and though that’s not called a fee, it doesn’t make much difference to your bill.
Since you can still end up losing out, you may be wondering if there’s any alternative option. Until recently, that was a tricky thing to find. Now, though, there’s the Wise borderless account. This is different from a standard bank account, and it’ll let you pay and get paid in around 40 currencies. This works seamlessly — you don’t need to keep setting up new accounts for different currencies. You can also get the Wise multi-currency debit card, which you can use to pay for goods and services all over the world.
Remember we mentioned one tip that could help you save while traveling? Well, here it is. When you’re at an ATM in a foreign country, you’ll often get the choice to work in the local currency or let the ATM convert to US dollars. Always, and we mean always, pick the local currency. This may sound a little counterintuitive — hey, “Dynamic Currency Conversion” (DCC) sounds exciting and helpful. But, really, it’s not. Here’s why.
If you choose the DCC option, the result will likely be a bigger bill for you. The reason’s pretty simple: the ATM operator will choose the exchange rate on the conversion. As we’ve already seen, that’s not likely to work in your favor. If you’re interested in finding out more about how this works, head over to our deep-dive DCC article. Otherwise, just keep one simple rule in your head: stick to local currency each and every time you get the choice.
The Amazon Prime Visa card could be an attractive option for people who already have, or intend to get, Prime membership. There’s no additional annual fee, and the zero foreign transaction fee is a major plus if you want to use your credit card abroad. The cashback offer is nice, too, and the rate is especially good if you buy a load of stuff on Amazon. On the downside, you really do need that Prime membership — you just can’t get this card without it. As well as that, the fees for advances could mount up if you need those services.
It’s always good to spend a little time comparing offers, and considering alternatives like the Wise borderless account, to see which one’s best for you. The little time this takes can really pay off in the long run.
All sources last checked on 5 April 2019
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 TransferWise 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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