Nice sunset view as we pass over London, England, on our way to Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Shkodra, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans, June 13-24!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Foreign exchange transaction fees

The Canadian dollar (CAD) has been finally gaining strength versus most other world currencies. Of course this makes our travels outside of Canada cheaper, and a strong dollar is better for the country as a whole.  And, the U.S. dollar (USD) has been weakening versus most other world currencies, after an abnormally long period of strength.

For our personal situation, it pretty much evens out because our blog and Amazon income is mostly paid to us in U.S. dollars.

And of course, we have absolutely zero control over the swings in the currency market. So all we can do is to minimize as much as possible the amount that we pay out in foreign exchange fees whenever we buy something that is not priced in Canadian dollars.

The Canadian dollar is past a two year high versus it's U.S. counterpart.

To that extent, I went looking for a Canadian credit card that has zero foreign exchange transaction fees. I didn't find very much! I knew that they were not common up here in Canada because there are only five big banks and they don't offer very much competition. Therefore, the vast majority of Visa and Mastercard credit cards in Canada all come with a 2.5% fee whenever you purchase something that is not in Canadian dollars.

There are at least a dozen different cards without foreign transaction fees available to anyone with a social security number and an address in the U.S.

Yet in Canada, there are only two that I can find.

Why is this? Well, Canadians travel internationally a whole lot more than Americans do. So these foreign transaction fees add up to a huge chunk of revenue for Canadian credit card providers.

Essentially, it's just one more way that the banks take advantage of us up here in Canada. Fees up the ying yang!

Anyhow, the choices here are only a Chase Marriots Rewards Visa, or a Home Trust Preferred Visa. The Chase card has an annual fee, and we don't really want any Marriot Rewards points anyhow. The Home Trust Visa is from a little trust company through Home Capital Group. Plus, there is no annual fee, and 1% cash back on all purchases. And, zero % foreign exchange transaction fees! We might go that route.

We're not charged any ATM fees from our TD Canada Trust chequing account (provided we keep a minimum balance), even when in foreign countries. So taking out cash isn't an issue, but if the best exchange rate is with the card, we'll use that whenever possible.

I think I'll contact Home Trust Visa tomorrow.

The Coleman Oversized Quad chair with Cooler is under twenty bucks each!

Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler

And in Canada, a great deal on the Black and Decker Max lithium vacuum...

Black and Decker Max Lithium Vacuum


  1. Replies
    1. Unfortunately, Amazon Visa in Canada (through Chase) stopped accepting new applicants back in April of this year.

  2. I know this has nothing to do with obtaining the right credit card, but you and Ruth will be taking a caravan to Mexico. And this type of camper may cause you problems if you have a customer with this set up. Saturday, Terri and Mike Church (who you both know) were refused entry into Mexico with a truck camper on a 1 ton truck. Not sure if the issue is the truck being a 1 ton or the fact the truck camper has no plate. I've always thought that the truck is the only one that carried the plate because the camper slides into the truck bed.

    1. Yep, already aware of it thanks. It has to do with the camper itself.

  3. I have the same kind of TD chequing account for 26 years...likely the one you have. The minimum balance used to be $500 for no fees...I was grandfathered in until 2 years ago then they upped it to $2000 so I keep our big bill fund there (house tax and insurance money) parked so I pay zero fees. It pays more than interest would. We usually pay cash for most of our travel except what we buy up front (and I actually take cash and then make withdrawals) so only have the exchange fees involved when I buy. This year I might buy Euros early though as the Canadian dollar is worth so much right now

    1. That account with the $2,000 minimum doesn't have free foreign ATM use though. You have to upgrade to the $5,000 minimum one for that. And when you actually take cash upfront, you normally get a worse exchange rate than if you used a foreign country ATM.

  4. Did you look at getting a US Dollar Mastercard from BMO? That is what I do. There are no transaction fees, and they always wave the yearly fee if you use it for over a certain amount during the year. They never have charged me a fee with it. You have to pay the monthly amount in US dollars. So online, just transfer from my US dollar account at BMO, to the card a couple of days before due. The card does not have free foreign ATM use, but I use very little cash, normally take enough to last me the winter, and charge everything. In Canada I use their Canadian card which pays me 1% cashback with no fee. Some people also use the Canadian Snowbird Association to buy US dollars through the year, at a half decent rate.

    1. That's fine if you're just spending lots of time in the United States. But we will be only a month or two per year. The rest of our traveling time is Mexico or other international.

  5. Hi Kevin: I have gone through the Home Trust Visa agreement and I could not see where the foreign exchange fee was discussed/covered. Can you direct me to where you found this explained. Your post was timely as I am looking for a 0% foreign exchange fee card as well. Thanks.

    1. Yep, you actually have to click where it says "apply now" and on that first page it has the disclosure statement.


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