Canada’s best no foreign transaction fee credit cards 2021

Millions of Canadians travel abroad with their domestic credit cards and dont realize theyre racking up foreign transaction fees (often referred to as “forex” fees) that can amount to 2.5% on top every purchase. The good news is, there are a few credit cards out there that offer either zero foreign transaction fees or a return of the fees as cash back.

If you like to vacation in other countries or your work frequently takes you abroad, it’s worth considering a no-foreign-transaction-fees card that travels with you. 

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The best no-foreign-transaction-fees credit cards in Canada 2021

Brim Financial Mastercards*

Brim Financial has three Mastercard options to choose from, none of which charge foreign transaction fees. The no-fee, entry-level Brim Card offers 1 point per $1 spent, plus a Boingo membership with free global Wi-Fi—a great perk if youre a frequent business traveller.

Featuring a unique digital interface in which you simply swipe on the posted purchase to redeem your points, rewards are as easily earned as they are redeemed. Specifically, the mid-range World Mastercard earns 1.5 points per $1 spent, while the World Elite offering provides 2 points per $1 spent (both up to $25,000 in purchases). The only feature that comes up short is the cards out-of-province emergency travel medical insurance, which pales compared to most other travel credit cards.

  • Annual fee: $0, $99 and $199, respectively, for entry Brim, Brim World and Brim World Elite Mastercard credit cards
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 1 point per $1 for the Brim card; 1.5 points per $1 for the Brim World; 2 points per $1 for World Elite, up to $25,000 in purchases
  • Additional rewards: Boingo membership with global Wi-Fi access in airports, lounges, etc.; Lounge Key for the World and World Elite; common carrier accident insurance; mobile device insurance; extended warranty and purchase protection
  • Income requirement: $15,000 for Brim card; $60,00 (personal) or $100, 000 (household) for Brim World; $80,000 (personal) or $100, 000 (household) for Brim World Elite

Get more details about Brim Mastercard*

Home Trust Preferred Visa*

Home Trust offers one of the only credit cards that has no foreign transaction fees whatsoever. Its a no-annual-fee card, plus you get a simple 1% cash back with no limits on how much you earn. Previously, there were no restrictions on where you can earn, but now you only receive cash back on domestic purchases. However, compared to other cards, the simplicity of Home Trust Preferred Visa is attractive.

As there are no annual fees, the card is pretty lean on extra coverage, but cardholders do receive roadside assistance at no additional charge. (Note: This card is not available to residents of Quebec.)

  • Annual fee: $0 
  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 1% cash back on all Canadian purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn
  • Additional rewards: Collision and loss insurance coverage on auto rentals
  • Income requirement: $15,000

Get more details about the Home Trust Preferred Visa*

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite*

One of the first cards from a major bank to boast no foreign transaction fees, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is great for those looking for a travel card with a few more perks. While users will pay $139 a year for the card, theyll receive a complimentary Priority Pass membership with six free airport lounge visits per year, plus a bonus of 30,000 Scotia Rewards Points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of having the card.

Combining the simplicity of a no-foreign-transaction-fees card and a flexible Scotia Rewards program that you can redeem for flights (without blackout dates), hotels and car rentals, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is a great rewards card for travel as well as everyday purchases here at home.

  • Annual fee: $139
  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 30,000 Scotia Rewards points by making a minimum $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 2 Scotia Rewards Points per $1 on travel, groceries, restaurants and entertainment; 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases
  • Additional rewards: Travel insurance benefits; complimentary Priority Pass membership with six airport lounge visits per year; earn 10,000 bonus points if you spend $40,000 in everyday purchases in a year 
  • Income requirement: At least $60,000 per individual or $100,000 as a household

Get more details about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite*

Scotiabank Gold American Express*

The Scotiabank Gold American Express is a very competitive option, especially if you’re a snowbird who travels frequently to the U.S. Its points accumulation structure is similar to that of the American Express Cobalt Card, with 5 points per $1 earned on dining, groceries and entertainment purchases in Canada. Plus, of course, it comes with no foreign transaction fees.

Redemptions can be made on travel at 1 point per $0.01—or 1%. At a $120 annual fee, the card offers robust traveller and purchase protection, and you can earn up to 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months )—a $250 value.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 5 points per $1 spent on dining, groceries and entertainment-related purchases in Canada; 3 points per $1 spent on gas, daily transit (including buses, rideshare services and taxis) and select streaming services in Canada; 1 point per $1 spent on everything else (including all foreign purchases)
  • Income requirement: At least $12,000 per individual

Get more details about the Scotiabank Gold American Express*

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC World Elite MastercardHSBC’s World Elite Mastercard has robust travel features, no foreign transaction fees, and strong earn rates. When you make foreign purchases on this card, no fee is charged (only the exchange rate applies) and a $100 annual travel enhancement credit allows you to charge seat upgrades, baggage fees or airport lounge passes to the card and get them redeemed for credit on eligible airlines. The HSBC World Elite Mastercard also participates in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, which gives users access to over 850 lounges worldwide (you’re charged at USD$27 a visit).

While the card has an annual fee, HSBC waives the first year for the primary cardholder, and you get emergency travel medical insurance coverage for trips up to 31 days. Earn 3% in points (or 6 points per $1) on eligible travel purchases, and 1.5% (or 3 points per $1) on all other purchases.

  • Annual fee: $149
  • Welcome bonus: 20,000 points ($100 in travel rewards), 9% in rewards on all eligible travel purchases for the first 90 days up to a maximum of an additional 40,000 points
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: Earn 3% in points on eligible travel purchases; 1.5% in points on everyday purchases
  • Income requirement: At least $80,000 per individual or $150,000 household income

Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card

Meridian Visa InfiniteAt $99 per year, the fee for this card rings in lower than other competitive cards at $120 a year—and, as a bonus, the first year is free. This card offers a robust suite of Visa Infinite benefits, from emergency healthcare coverage of up to $5,000,000 per insured person on eligible medical care and services required, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage insurance, and mobile device insurance. As for rewards rates, users earn 3 points per $1 on foreign purchases (since 1 point = $0.01 when redeemed for travel, that brings you 0.5% ahead compared to standard 2.5% foreign transaction fees). You’ll get 1.5 points per $1 on your everyday purchases. 

  • Annual fee: $99 (first year free)
  • Foreign transaction handling: 2.5% standard, but you’ll get points per $1 on charges made in another currency that more than cover forex fees
  • Rewards earn rate: Earn 3% in points on eligible travel purchases; 1.5% on everyday purchases
  • Income requirement: $60,000 individual or $100,000 household

Rogers World Elite Mastercard

The no-annual-fee Rogers World Elite Mastercard is super-flexible, especially when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards. The standard 2.5% forex fee is still charged, but with 3% provided back, cardholders are essentially ahead 0.5% on the value of their U.S. travel as well as online shopping purchases in U.S. currency. (Note that other foreign currencies are not subject to the 3% earn rate.) Users can redeem rewards toward all eligible purchases over $20 made in the prior 90 days. Plus, you get World Elite Mastercard insurance protection, which includes emergency air transportation or evacuation, emergency dental care, and more.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: $25 in cash-back rewards when you use the card to make a purchase within 3 months of receipt
  • Foreign transaction handling: 2.5% standard, but 3% is returned on charges made in U.S. currency
  • Rewards earn rate: 3% cash back on purchases made in U.S. currency; 1.5% on all other purchases charged to your card
  • Additional rewards: Out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical insurance; access to lounges in more than 400 airports
  • Income requirement: At least $80,000 per individual or $150,000 as a household

Rogers Platinum Mastercard

Rogers Platinum MastercardThis Mastercard from Rogers is an excellent no-annual-fee option for those who want to earn cash back while travelling south of the border. It gives users 3% cash back on U.S. currency purchases, which works out to 0.5% when you factor in the standard 2.5% foreign transaction fee. On all other card purchases, whether in Canadian dollars or a foreign currency, youll earn 1% back. The card doesnt have a minimum-income requirement, so those who dont qualify for the Rogers World Elite Mastercard listed above may want to consider it.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: $25 in cash-back rewards when you use the card to make a purchase within the first 3 months 
  • Foreign transaction handling: 2.5% standard for foreign transaction fees, but 3% is returned on charges made in U.S. currency
  • Rewards earn rate: 3% cash back on purchases made in U.S. currency; 1% on all other purchases charged to your card
  • Income requirement: None

Honourable mention

Koho Premium Visa*

The Koho credit card.This unique high-tier, prepaid, reloadable Visa allows you to spend your own money, mirroring the convenience and rewards of a credit card. This card also has no foreign exchange fees, making it ideal for travellers. You’ll get 0.5% cash back on all purchases, and up to 2% cash back when you spend on transportation, groceries and dining, and extra cash back at select merchants. The card does come at a cost—an $84 annual fee—but it doesn’t charge interest. You also gain access to free financial coaching if you opt for it.

Get more details about the Koho Premium Visa*

What are foreign transaction fees and what do they mean for you?

The fee (typically 2.5%) charged by many credit cards for purchases you make in a foreign currency might not seem like much, but it can add up quickly. To be clear: The fee is applied to every purchase made in a currency thats not Canadian dollars—even when you shop online. For perspective, that’s $25 in transaction fees for every $1,000 you spend on your card, and you have to pay the exchange rate as well.

Is the foreign transaction fee affected by exchange rates?

No, the foreign transaction fee is an additional charge added on top of the current exchange rate. These exchange rates are determined by the credit card companies, using the up-to-date value of the Canadian dollar and the value of whichever currency you’re converting to. 

Your fee will vary according to which credit company you choose, so it’s worth it to look into the various options if you’re a frequent traveller or you often find yourself shopping in another currency. Ultimately, choosing a card with no foreign transaction fee, or which offers a rebate on foreign transaction fees, is one of the best ways to save money when you spend in a foreign currency. 

Benefits of using a no-foreign-transaction-fees credit card versus cash

As long as credit cards are widely accepted at your destination, you can avoid taking out large amounts of cash at currency exchange kiosks, airports or ATMs. Plus, purchasing with your card helps you earn rewards on every dollar spent, you get purchase protection and PIN protection, and you can easily cancel your card if it’s stolen while you’re abroad.

Our picks of the best no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards in Canada are based on our analysis of each cards benefits and annual fees; foreign transaction fees and how theyre handled (if rebated); and whether there are additional rewards incentives for using the card domestically and/or abroad.

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The post Canada’s best no foreign transaction fee credit cards 2021 appeared first on MoneySense.

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