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I live in the US and have a Bank of America credit card with 3% foreign transaction fees. From time to time, I order something online in USD from a firm whose headquarters is outside the US but may have a branch in the US (e.g., non-US e-commerce websites and non-US airlines). How can I know before paying whether the payment will incur foreign transaction fees?

Is there some information I could acquire from the merchant, or something I could ask my bank about the merchant, in order to determine whether the purchase will incur a fee?

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  • You should call BoA to ask that question.
    – littleadv
    Aug 29 at 3:16
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    @littleadv how would you word that question though? Tell them the website url?
    – TTT
    Aug 29 at 19:50
  • Word what question? Just as it is there, just call the phone number on the back of the card and ask it there.
    – littleadv
    Aug 29 at 20:00
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    @TTT I suspect you understood littleadv's "ask that question" to mean ask if a specific merchant charge will have a fee. Rather, I suspect littleadv meant to ask BofA the same general question asked here: "Is there some information I could acquire from the merchant, or something I could ask my bank about the merchant, in order to determine whether the purchase will incur a fee?"
    – nanoman
    Aug 29 at 20:30
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    @nanoman litteadv's comment was before I made that edit. In fact, that comment is what prompted me to make that edit, since I'm imagining being in this scenario and wondering what I would even ask my bank.
    – TTT
    Aug 29 at 20:36

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I run into this problem from time to time and have not found a reliable way to tell if a foreign merchant, even when charging in USD, ends up as a foreign transaction fee on my credit card statement. The bank has suggested that I ask the merchant if they are domestic or foreign. The merchants, however, often don't understand the question and simply reply that the charge is in US Dollars and I get dinged again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

As a solution, I signed up for another credit card from a local credit union that does not charge foreign transaction fees (and gives cash back rewards). I use this card whenever I'm traveling or when the domestic/foreign status of the merchant is in doubt.

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  • Thanks! I was trying to use my Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card as it has 5.25% cash reward (but 3% of foreign transaction fee). Do some local credit unions offer the same % of cash reward or higher? I use my Bank of America Travel Rewards with 2.625% cash reward to avoid foreign transaction fee, as this card has no foreign transaction fee. Aug 29 at 20:33
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    5.25% !! That seems too good to be true. Even with a 3% hit on foreign charges, that's a keeper, but you might want to check on that 5.25% number? I've seen 1.5% cash back and no foreign fees at PenFed credit union, and 2% cash back but 1% foreign fees with Fidelity. Amex and Discover usually have no foreign fees, too, with varying rewards.
    – Rocky
    Aug 29 at 22:02
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    @Rocky - I've happily gotten 2% back, to a 529 that paid for 3 full years of my daughter's college, now going to her Roth IRA. The 5.25% is 3% for a chosen category, plus a 75% bonus for preferred members. Limited to $2500 in purchases per quarter. So, effectively, $525/yr for a pre-chosen category of 6 offered. A small bit of attention and card swapping makes it a good fit for the right person. Nothing to sneeze at. But not quite for me at this point. See this link at BOA Aug 30 at 10:46
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    Wow! You are the card whisperer! I'm going to have to look into this, thanks!
    – Rocky
    Aug 30 at 17:29
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    @Rocky - when you have a moment, here's me sharing the best credit card deal I ever got. 10 years ago. The year I was retired. Time really flies. (Divide the rebates I got by your own hourly "rate", let me know if you'd have grabbed this to the extent I did. Enjoy!) Sep 1 at 14:57

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