Canada’s Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards - MoneySense

Canada’s Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards

Cards that waive or refund the fee for foreign currency charges are few and far between—but if you’re a frequent traveller they’re worth seeking out.

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No foreign transaction fee credit cards in Canada

Currency exchange board showing cross rates between various countries.

Millions of Canadians travel abroad with their domestic credit cards—and not realizing they’re racking up foreign transaction (also called “forex”) fees amounting to 2.5% of every purchase. The good news is there are a few credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees (or their fees are returned to you as cash back), ultimately helping frequent travellers put the 2.5% back into their pockets.

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

The best no foreign transaction fee credit cards in Canada 2019


Home Trust Preferred Visa*

Home Trust offers one of the only credit cards that has no foreign transaction fees whatsoever. It’s a no-annual-fee card, plus you get a simple 1% cash back with no limits on how much you earn. There are no restrictions on where you can earn, so while the cash back is low compared to other cards, the simplicity of Home Trust Preferred Visa is attractive.

As there are no annual fees, it 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 purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Additional rewards: Roadside assistance, with up to 4 service calls per year; collision and loss insurance coverage on auto rentals

Click here for more details about the Home Trust Preferred Visa.*


Rogers World Elite Mastercard

Recent updates to the no-annual-fee Rogers World Elite Mastercard make this pick super flexible, especially when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards. The standard 2.5% forex fee is still charged, but with 4% provided back, cardholders are essentially ahead 1.5% on the value of their travel purchases in another currency. While the telco has issued a similar credit cards for several years, previous iterations returned the 4% cash back on all purchases in a foreign currency could only be spent on Rogers products and services; now, users can redeem rewards towards all eligible purchases over $20 made on the card in the last 90 days, so it no longer has to be just Rogers products and services, making it a much more attractive card. Plus, you get World Elite Mastercard insurance protection, which includes emergency air transportation or evacuation; coverage of hotel and meal expenses up to $200 a day (maximum 10 days); 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 4% is returned on charges made in another currency (see below)
  • Rewards earn rate: 4% cash back on purchases made in a foreign currency; 2% on Rogers products and services; 1.75% 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


Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite*

One of the first cards from a major bank to feature no foreign transaction fees, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is great for those who are looking for a travel card that offers a few more perks. While users will pay $139 a year for the card, they’ll receive a complimentary Priority Pass membership with six free airport lounge visits a year, plus earn a bonus of 25,000 Scotia Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of having the card.

Packing the simplicity of a no-forex-fee card and a robust and flexible Scotia Rewards program where you can redeem for flights without blackout dates, hotels and car rentals, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is a great rewards card for travel and everyday purchases here at home.

  • Annual fee: $139
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus points (valued at $250) after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 2 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on travel, groceries, restaurants, entertainment; 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
  • Additional rewards: Travel insurance benefits; complimentary Priority Pass membership with 6 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

Click here for more details about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite.*


BRIM Financial Mastercards

BRIM Financial has a range of three Mastercards, all of which don’t charge foreign exchange fees. The no-fee entry-level BRIM Card offers 1 point per dollar spent, plus a Boingo membership included with free global Wi-Fi—a great perk if you’re a frequent business traveller.

Featuring a unique digital interface where 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 dollar spent, while the World Elite offering provides 2 points per dollar spent (both up to $25,000 in purchases). The only lacking feature 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 Mastercards
  • Foreign transaction handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 1 point per dollar for entry BRIM, 1.5 points per dollar for mid-range World Mastercard; 2 points per dollar spent for World Elite Mastercard up to $25,000 in purchases
  • Additional rewards: Boingo membership with global Wi-Fi access in airports, lounges, etc., Lounge Key for mid- and high-tier cards, common carrier accident insurance, mobile device insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection


Scotiabank Gold American Express*

The Scotiabank Gold American Express has seen some changes that make this card a very competitive option, especially if you are a snowbird who travels frequently in the United States. Its points accumulation structure is similar to the American Express Cobalt Card’s, with 5 points per dollar earned on dining, groceries and entertainment purchases. Plus, the Scotiabank Gold American Express comes with no foreign exchange 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 30,000 bonus points (25,000 bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months and 5,000 points after spending $10,000 after the first year)—a $300 value.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 30,000 bonus points (25,000 bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months and 5,000 points after spending $10,000 after the first year)
  • Foreign exchange handling: No fees charged
  • Rewards earn rate: 5 points per dollar spent on dining, groceries and entertainment-related purchases in Canada; 3 points per dollar spent on gas, daily transit (i.e. taxis), and select streaming services in Canada; 1 point per dollar spent on everything else (including all foreign purchases)
  • Income requirement: At least $12,000 per individual

Click here for more details about the Scotiabank Gold American Express*


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

The 2.5% charged for every purchase you make in a foreign currency might not seem much, but can add up very quickly. The fee is charged for every purchase made in a currency that’s not Canadian dollars—even when you shop online. For perspective, that’s $25 in forex fees for every $1,000 you spend on your card, and you have to pay the exchange rate as well.

Benefits of a no foreign transaction fee credit card versus cash

As long as credit cards are widely accepted at your destination, this means you can avoid taking out large amounts of cash at currency exchange kiosks, airports, or ABMs. Plus, purchasing with your card helps you earn rewards on every dollar spent, you purchase protection and pin protection, and can easily cancel your card if it is stolen abroad.

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

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