Virtually every bank and credit card issuer card in Canada charges a 2.5 percent fee to convert your foreign purchases back into Canadian dollars. It’s an insidious charge, often hidden within your credit card statement and blended in with the exchange rate so you don’t even notice.
While seemingly benign, a 2.5 percent foreign currency conversion fee represents a significant cost to those who frequently travel to the U.S. or abroad, or who shop online in U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies.
Savvy credit card users can avoid these sneaky fees by carrying a ‘no foreign currency conversion fee’ card. With that in mind, here are three credit cards to save on foreign currency fees.
The No Fee, No Frills Option
Home Trust Preferred Visa Card
Home Trust is a subsidiary of Home Capital Group and offers a no annual fee cash back card that does not charge foreign currency conversion fees.
The Home Trust Preferred Visa Card gives users 1 percent cash back on every purchase, with no limit to their total rewards and no restrictions on where they earn rewards. Customers also get a Roadside Assist membership at no extra charge.
All foreign purchases are converted at the spot rate set by Visa without any additional charges.
Interested applicants should be aware that applications for the Home Trust Preferred Visa Card may take two to four weeks to be approved.
The Perks and Points Option
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card
Scotiabank became the first major Canadian financial institution to offer a no foreign transaction fee credit card earlier this year when it launched the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card.
Cardholders earn two Scotia Rewards Points for every dollar spent on groceries, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases, plus one point on all other purchases.
In addition to not being charged a foreign currency conversion mark-up on foreign currency purchases online or outside of Canada, this card also offers airport lounge access with a complimentary Priority Pass membership and six free visits per year.
This card does charge an annual fee of $139 and successful applicants must have a minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 to qualify for the card.
The ‘It’s Complicated’ Option
Fido MasterCard by Rogers
One other credit card option available to Canadians looking to save on foreign currency conversion fees is the Fido MasterCard by Rogers Bank.
While this card does charge the standard 2.5 percent mark-up on purchases made in a foreign currency, it also pays a healthy three per cent cash back on those purchases to negate the fee and then some.
Not just limited to Rogers or Fido customers, this card comes with no annual fee and pays 1.25 percent cash back on Canadian dollar purchases.
Fido customers do get added perks, with 2 percent in unlimited cash back rewards on Fido products and services charged to the card. Customers can also put their cash back rewards towards their monthly Fido bill or save them up for other Fido accessories.
Finally, successful applicants will get a $25 cash back bonus when they make their first purchase within three months of card ownership.
Consider the number of credit card users that go out of their way to earn an additional one or two per cent worth of cash back or travel rewards on their spending. Yet Canadians spend billions each year traveling to the U.S. and abroad, plus billions more shopping online at foreign retailers, unknowingly paying hidden fees each time they do so and negating any rewards advantage in the process.
That’s why, if you do plan to make significant purchases in U.S. dollars, or other foreign currencies, then it’s wise to carry a credit card that does not mark-up the cost of those purchases by 2.5 percent.