With international travel expected to approach pre-pandemic levels this year, the results of a nationally representative Foreign Transaction Fee Survey gauging people’s opinions on various aspects of spending money abroad was released today on international travel.
Read on for an informational Q&A with Delaney Simchuk, WalletHub analyst, on this timely issue.
Do most people know if their credit cards have foreign transaction fees?
41% of people don’t know if their credit card has a foreign transaction fee. This is most common among people over the age of 45, perhaps because they tend to have higher incomes and can afford not to worry about an extra 3% being tacked onto anything they happen to buy from a foreign merchant. Most people do not have the luxury of ignoring foreign transaction fees, yet a lot of us still do. The good news is finding out whether your credit card has a foreign fee is as simple as logging into your online account and pulling up the card agreement.
Is it clear to people that a foreign fee can be applied without foreign travel?
Most people do not have a clear understanding of when credit card foreign transaction fees come into play, and that could end up being very costly. For example, 7 in 10 people don’t realize foreign fees can apply without foreign travel. People simply assume you have to be on foreign soil for a foreign transaction fee to be charged, but these fees can also apply to purchases that you make through merchants based abroad while you are in the comfort of your own home. Fortunately, there are lots of really good credit cards without foreign transaction fees that people can use to make purchases from international sellers.
How do consumers feel about credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees?
62% of people think foreign transaction fees are unfair, including 71% of women and 52% of men. All in all, 53% of people say they would never get a credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee. People who want to avoid foreign fees have plenty of good options, especially from the major credit card companies that don’t charge foreign fees on any of their cards, like Capital One. Swearing off foreign fees entirely isn’t necessarily the best approach, however, since you could miss out on a great card for your domestic spending.
Do people know that credit cards get them the best exchange rate when traveling abroad?
Roughly 79% of people don’t realize that using a credit card gets them the best exchange rate when traveling abroad. Credit cards can save you 7% or more compared to currency exchange kiosks in the airport or exchanging hard currency at a local bank. In addition to saving you money on every international transaction, a credit card with no foreign transaction fee does the conversion automatically when you buy something, making spending money internationally more convenient and safer. Losing your credit card abroad is a lot less harmful than losing a wad of cash.
What do people worry about the most when using their credit cards internationally?
People’s top concerns about international credit card use are card loss and theft, which got 35% of the vote, followed by currency exchange rates at 28% and credit card foreign transaction fees at 23%. Overspending was at the bottom of the list, with just 13% of the vote. We’ve seen a willingness among consumers to go into debt for a vacation, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that most people aren’t too concerned about overspending abroad. Still, overspending is likely to have the biggest, most long-lasting impact on people.
What advice do you have for people looking to avoid foreign transaction fees?
Foreign transaction fees are easy to avoid. All you have to do is compare credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, find an offer that suits your credit standing and spending habits, then apply online. There are hundreds of no-foreign-fee cards available, including options for all credit scores. Once you have the right card, avoiding foreign fees is simply a matter of using the card for any purchases that might be processed abroad.