I Got Duped By Foreign Transaction Fees

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I’ve seen several posts today about how American Express will be eliminating the foreign transaction fees on the co-branded Delta cards.  I’ll admit, my initial reaction to those posts is….so.  Hasn’t pretty much every other rewards credit card already nixed foreign transaction fees?

The answer honestly is no, and I of all people should know that since I just got nailed with a foreign transaction fee last week by not paying attention.  I’ll get to that in a second, but first since we are on the subject:

As of May 1, 2014, the foreign transaction fee is waived for American Express Consumer and Business Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards (Gold, Platinum and Reserve) issued in the U.S. or PRVI. Card Members should start to receive notice of this change in their February statement.

Also happening May 1, EMV chip technology will be available on all American Express Delta Cards. After May 1, interested Card Members can call the number on the back of their Card to request a new Card with chip.

This will apply to cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express.  I’m not a huge Delta person myself, but this is still good news to those of you who are since it isn’t any funny getting nailed with a fee to use your card in another country!

My Own Foreign Transaction Mistake:

I was recently making some reservations via the Club Carlson program for some of their properties that are outside the United States.  I used points for some nights, but hate using points on one night stays since I find them so much more valuable on two night stays, so I can get the “last award night” free by having the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card.  I paid for my reservation with the Club Carlson credit card since it awards 10 points per dollar on Club Carlson hotel charges.

Foreign transaction fees

One of the reservations I made was prepaid in order to get a better rate, and the bill has already come in the mail.  I opened the bill and quickly realized my error.  Yes, I had earned 10 points per dollar for the prepaid reservation, for a total of 1,674 points, but I had also paid $5.02 in foreign transaction fees since this card still has pesky foreign transaction fees that I had totally forgotten about.  I probably still came out ahead based on how I value Club Carlson points for my own use (even if you value them at 1/2 a cent each that is over $8 worth of points), but it would have been smarter to just use a card with no foreign transaction fees like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and earn 2x Ultimate Reward points on that travel charge with no foreign transaction fees.

At least it was a good reminder that this card, and a few others, still have foreign transaction fees.  I’d rather get that reminder after one charge than after a whole trip’s worth of charges!

Do you ever forget and use the wrong card outside the US?  Which cards are you still waiting to see drop the foreign transaction fees (ahem, SPG Amex)?


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  1. I just got tripped up on this, too! We were staying at a Starwood property in Canada. It was a kids sports tournament and because it was a group rate I wasn’t getting SPG points. Even though I KNOW this card has a foreign transaction fee, I was thinking “well at least I’ll get the credit card points” (I even charged meals in the restaurant to my room) and apparently forgot that Canada is actually a foreign country. The charge was pretty hefty, at around $30. So annoyed with myself!

  2. How many other Amex cards do not have foreign transaction fees? I thought that these cards and Amex PLT doesn’t have it (a bit of a surprise that Amex PLTs doesn’t)? I believe Amex Golds still do. I usually assume Amex has ’em.

  3. I was shocked to see them waiving the forex on the Delta Amex cards. It makes no sense to me. First of all, skymiles are useless and I would never actually spend anything on a DL card. I wonder how many people will actually use this card internationally (Delta doesn’t sell a lot of palen tickets or fees in other currencies).

    My primary credit card is the SPG Amex. I stay at a lot of SPG properties internationally and I always use my Chase cards there. SPG has a large international footprint and it doesn’t make sense why I am paying a forex to use a cobranded SPG card at their international locations. Yet, they dropped the forex on the Delta cards? Seriously? I hope that they roll this out to the SPG Amex soon.

  4. I was actually just thinking about this/fearing this with regard to a C&P booking I made for a friend at the Hotel Imperial in Vienna. I used my Starwood Amex originally. Thanks to this post, I just changed it to the Ink Bold. I don’t even think they charge the card immediately on C&P, but I am not taking chances.

  5. I love points and miles as much as anyone else (Okay. Maybe not as much as everyone here) but you seriously wrote a post about a five buck charge and wondered if you may have come ahead by three bucks. That is some seriously crazy obsession. Sorry.

  6. Virgin Atlantic had a chance to drop the FX fee when BoA changed the card from Amex to Mastercard. Not being a leading edge travel card provider, BoA opted to keep the fee income. Hard to figure a cc for an international airline or (in your case) hotel charging FX fee.

  7. sometimes, though, the cards which don’t charge foreign transaction fees end up giving an inferior conversion rate. In the end, you lose more $$$ than if you’d just paid the fee.

    Anyway, I just think it’s important to remember that with no foreign transaction fee cards, YMMV.

  8. I don’t worry about these “fees” at all … If you do the math (and I recall there was a great post about it around a year ago), you’ll usually find that “no fee” cards use a pretty unfavorable exchange rate (Compared to Amex anyway), so as often as not you’re paying the “fee” anyway; it’s just buried in the rate.

  9. I am traveling to Berlin in August to see a DJ, Paul Van Dyk. I purchased my tickets online on a German ticket website using my SPG Amex. A few days later I saw the ~$3 foreign transaction fee and realized my mistake. Doh!

  10. I’m usually pretty careful about this — basically, by exclusively using the Chase no-fee cards overseas (particularly Sapphire, which provides 2x on most of the type of expenses I incur abroad). That said, I did get dinged for a few bucks by giving a Carlson card as a “deposit” on a foreign hotel room. I didn’t realize I’d be charged in advance. I think it was through booking.com. My suggestion would be to be careful whenever booking a foreign travel component.

  11. @Simon, the only Amex cards that don’t have them at this moment are the Platinum charge cards (business, personal, Mercedes Benz, Goldman Sachs, etc…).

    I made the mistake of buying a Delta fare in euros sitting in my office in Los Angeles. I should have known better, but I called and asked to have it removed. They didn’t. lol. My friend did the same thing, he called and asked them to remove it, and they did. Oh well. I may give up my Platinum charge card and upgrade the Platinum Delta card to the Reserve. My Platinum charge has quite a bit of spending power (never gotten them to say no…gotten it up to +$25k with some work expenses), whereas my Platinum Delta card only has $3500. 🙁

  12. It’s a myth that no FX cards charge a higher conversation rate (or AmEx a better rate) and no, one blogger (who’s getting a commission on AmEx cards) comparing exchange rates for a single transaction is not “proof”!
    There has been much better research comparing many transactions across multiple locations and while the exchange rates used fluctuate by day and country, over the long haul the different providers charge very comparable rates.
    Therefore, you should never use a card with an FX fee abroad! The fees eat up any gain from rewards, especially with good rewards cards not charging an FX fee!

  13. I use my citi hilton reserve at SPG and Club Carlson properties overseas, due to the FX fees. It is sad that I have to do that ( have SPG and club carlson cards), but FX fees are a ripoff.

  14. I have an Excel spreadsheet listing all my credit cards and credit lines with all the silly 3 digit codes and also whether it has an EMV chip or foreign transaction fees……then when I make a virtual purchase at home or at work I just pull up the spreadsheet and make the choice without having to carry all those cards……….both computers require encryption so it’s as save as having physical cards stored in a dresser drawer………

  15. Not only that but I got duped by using my Carlson card last January to pay award fees on a BA Avios booking. Despite it being made on ba.com it cost me 2% fee for some odd reason on nearly $900 it was nearly $20. Did that trying to meet min spend requirements.

  16. Another trap – some overseas travel packages. My GF and I just signed up for a Jane Austen tour (advertised by a US-based organization, but actually run by a UK outfitter). The tour price was quoted in dollars, but when I called on an unrelated matter the outfitter’s rep casually mentioned they would actually be billing my credit card in British Pounds. Oops….I was lucky to catch this in time….

  17. It’s a racket. There are still a lot of them, and they charge those fees because they can and because too many people let them get away with it. Unless you’ve carefully done the math, and do find the value of the points worth more than the fees (and the 10x for Club Carlson may truly work, depending on how you use those points), never use one of those ripoff cards abroad.

    When I cancel that type of card, and they ask why, I generally say, “Because a lot of my credit card spending is done overseas and this card is worthless to me for that.” I don’t want to pay an annual fee just for spending I do at home.” I do wonder what the tipping point is between the value to the company of the fees collected and the loss to the company from people leaving their card in the sock drawer when they travel. Looking at you, PRG and SPG.

    I was part of a class action suit that did recover some money due to a settlement based on the previous highly deceptive practice of not listing this fee as a separate charge, so people weren’t aware of it. I think any maneuvering to use a worse exchange rate to cover for that on a non-fee card would be illegal and would be hit with a lawsuit in a hurry.

  18. I’m also not inclined to believe that you come out ahead on an exchange rate by paying a foreign transaction fee. I think it is a shame that so many rewards cards made for travelers still have them, but at least we are heading in the right direction.

    In the meantime, I am heading overseas as we speak and have my trusty Ink and Sapphire Preferred ready for action. 😉

  19. Amex needs to drop the foreign transaction fee on the SPG card. They would be making much more money if they did. Tons of people don’t use their SPG while staying at a Starwood property abroad, precisely because of the foreign fees. If they dropped that fee, everyone would use it! Duh!! Amex, are you listening?????

  20. I agree with everyone above that is calling for Amex to drop foreign fees from SPG cards. Why would I use an SPG card at a foreign property if I have to pay a fee? 🙁

  21. Thanks for the reminder about the SPG Amex! I’m staying at a Westin in Montreal in a few months, and I totally would have forgotten and used my SPG card. Chase Sapphire will be getting my business for that trip. Totally silly of SPG and Amex not to drop the fee on that card.

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