Zero The Hero or How To Pay 0% Credit Card Transaction Fees When Traveling Outside The US

INTERIOR LIVING ROOM COUCH – CALLING CREDIT CARD COMPANY

“Hello, how much are your transaction fees when traveling outside of the United States?”

“3%”

“3%?! Does that include Canada?”

“Yes, sir.”

“But Canada is so close! Can’t you work out some kind of deal? They’re nice people, I’m sure they’ll work with you.”

“Sir, that’s not exactly how it works.”

“OK, well, can you give me a discounted fee?”

“No, sir, I’m sorry we can’t do that.”

“I’d do it for you.”

“I’m sorry sir. But please keep in mind that while traveling if you ever have any problems. Should you need a replacement card or some other assistance, for example, our concierge is ready to serve your needs 24 hours/day 7 days/week. Just call the toll free or international collect numbers on the back of your card.”

“Thank you, yeah, I’ll use that…”

And so it goes.

I called 7 credit cards.

How Many Credit Cards Had Fees Between 2-3%?

If you guessed 7, you’re right. (I’m disappointed in you Amex Platinum, we’re such good friends.)

Let’s think about that for a minute. If I’m traveling and end up spending just $1,000 I pay an extra $20-30 in fees just for the “privilege” of using my credit card.

That negates any points I receive on the spending and it’s money I could use for a decent meal or two (or more, depending).

Next I called the company with those annoying TV commercials. (Are they still on TV? I haven’t watched since 2006.)

The Capital One No Hassle card I hadn’t used in years has 0% transaction fees around the world.

Period.

End of story.

Now, I’m not saying you need to get a Capital One card for your travels.

What I’m saying is if you don’t get a Capital One card for your travels you’re being stubborn.

No international fees and the No Hassle Miles card DOES earn you points after all.

ATM Fees

If you’re using your Capital One card as an ATM card to withdraw cash (as I do) you will have to pay the cash advance fees. I get around that by paying my bill ahead of time. i.e. I keep the credit card balance at $0 at all times.

Most foreign ATMs have their own transaction fees which you will also have to pay. These can be steep (I paid $10 for an ATM withdrawal in Germany!) so instead of making lots of small withdrawals make infrequent larger withdrawals.

How To Get Around ATM Fees

I don’t have a comprehensive list, but Bank of America has relationships with foreign banks. If you use those ATMs you don’t pay ATM withdrawal fees. I know this because I’m visiting Australia soon and somebody told me WestPac Bank in Australia doesn’t charge ATM fees to Bank of America customers. I called BoA to confirm and immediately signed up for a free BoA checking account.

10 Second Recap:

- Use a Capital One No Hassle card for credit card purchases

- Find out if Bank of America (or any other bank) has relationships with banks in whatever country you’re visiting to save on ATM fees.

Bonus: Digital Nomad, Location Independent, Etc, Etc?

If you work for yourself from your laptop you’re going to want another credit card in addition to the Capital One. Not for actual purchases but for all the other benefits.

The American Express Platinum card ($450/year annual fee) has a slew of features, but the most useful are:

* Regus Gold Card – The Regus Gold Card gets you access to over 1,000 business lounges around the world. Free wifi, coffee/tea, and a quiet place to get work done. This normally costs $300/year from Regus. www.Regus.com for locations and more info.

* Airport Lounge Access – Relax in the American Airlines, Continental, and Delta/Northwest airport lounges whenever you’re traveling on those airlines.Here’s what you get in the lounges:

o Free coffee/tea.

o Free fruits/snacks.

o Clean bathrooms (some with showers).

o Comfortable chairs and quiet areas.

o Multiple TVs if you don’t feel like getting work done.

o Some of them have free alcohol. (I though alcohol was free in all the lounges, but I got charged for beer at the Chicago O’Hare (ORD) AA Admiral’s Club bar.)

o Some of them have free WiFi.

But the best aspect of the airline lounges is their employees are tremendously more helpful than the “regular” airline employees and gate agents. This is most useful during flight cancellations.

While everybody else is fighting for attention outside, you can walk into the lounge and get taken care of quickly.

Lounge access is $50/day or ~$400/year per airline without the Amex Plat.

* Concierge – Need tickets/reservations/anything? They can do it. Lose your passport? They’ll help you. Forget your wallet in a Haitian cab? They’ll find it. Or maybe you need to settle a silly bet between friends in Vegas? No request is too crazy.

* Lots of other features I’ve never used like room upgrades when staying in fancy hotels.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a casual traveler or a nomad the most important card in your travel arsenal is the Capital One No Hassle Card. And it seriously took everything in me to write a full article instead of just leaving it at that. :)

Do you have any other money related travel tips? Do you, maybe, prefer a different travel credit card?

Photo Credit

{ 6 comments }

Brook

Only use BOA if you don’t care about hidden fees. Don’t believe me, do a simple google search and witness the many unsatisfied customers. Only use BOA if you have lots of money in your account, they reserve the right to change depit posting dates and they will make your account dip into the negative if they can–to charge more fees. When do we say enough!!!

Karol

Hey Brook,

Thanks for your comments! I’ve heard good and bad things about BoA. Every big business has unsatisfied customers and they’re more vocal than the satisfied customers (unfortunately). I’ve heard good things about people using BoA/WestPac in Australia and I will find out soon enough what the deal is. I will definitely report back here when I know for sure. (I got $75 deposited into my account just for opening it…so that’s a good start!)

Brook

ps. that so called free checking account you signed up for charges fees, look at the fine print my friend…

Karol

I’ve had it for about 6 weeks without fees. We’ll see what happens. :) Thanks again for posting!

paurullan

Here in Spain is inconceivable to make an ATM withdrawal and pay commission.
How diverse this world is!

Karol

hehe, yes, yes it is :)

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