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I've never traveled abroad in the past. I live in the US, and am taking a vacation shortly to Italy. At this time, I'm trying to understand what additional fees will be incurred if I attempt to use a US-based credit card while traveling abroad.

I am ultimately trying to decide on how much cash to convert from USD to foreign currency when I take my trip. So, if I need to charge something to a credit card while in Italy, what additional fees will be charged to the card for each transaction?

Edit: I have multiple cards from multiple issuers, as well. Capital One/Visa, American Express, Citi/Visa. I have done some research and it seems that the Capital One card has "no foreign transaction fee". I am not sure if there would be other fees with using this card abroad. I know currency exchange is a big place they take advantage of you, but I'm not sure how that works with credit cards.

  • Matt - Which company are you with/who issued the card? – gef05 Jan 29 '12 at 20:13
  • @gef05 Added some info about the credit cards in question. – Matt D Jan 29 '12 at 20:30
  • Do not convert to local currency in the USA. The US Banks give terrible exchange rates. Just go to an ATM in Italy and withdraw Euros there. Your bank may charge you a small fee, but the rate will be honest. – MattMcA Jan 30 '12 at 0:09
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In the credit card fees disclosure they tell you how much they charge for a foreign currency transaction, it is usually 1-3%. Check with your card issuer the fee for your particular card (same issuers can have different fees for different cards).

If the transaction is in USD, then the credit card issuers don't charge fees (usually, that is, check with your issuer) but you'll pay much more because of the unfavorable exchange rate.

It is my personal experience that buying with credit cards is the cheapest way to convert money while traveling.

  • So, in the event that a credit card transaction is made in the foreign currency (not USD) and my card is a Capital One with no foreign transaction fee, does that mean I should theoretically not pay any additional fee/overhead? – Matt D Jan 29 '12 at 20:45
  • @MattD yes, but take a note of their conversion rate. I would try each at least once, and check online which one in the end provides the best rate (all and all, currency conversion and the usage fee together). – littleadv Jan 29 '12 at 21:35
  • (I know it's been seven years but) All of my cards that charge a foreign transaction fee do so based on the country of origin of the card, not on the currency of the transaction. So if you let the merchant do the conversion, you get hit twice: once by the poor exchange rate and once by the foreign transaction fee. – stannius Jul 9 at 20:01
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It depends on your credit card issuer. A 3% fee for foreign purchases is typical, but cards such as Capital One don't charge a fee.

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None, if you use a card that waives these fees! Chase Sapphire Preferred for example.

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