Avoiding foreign transaction fees on credit cards

Depending on the length of your stay in a foreign country there are a variety of ways to avoid foreign transaction fees on credit cards. For short trips, you may want to convert your spending money before leaving. Long stays may require you to open a temporary bank account and use wire transfers to move your money. Expatriation, however, will require you to transfer all your funds, close your accounts, and open new accounts in a foreign country. Each option comes with its own set of benefits and risks.

Short Trip

When you’re traveling to a foreign country for only a few days or weeks, it is likely that you will be able to pay many of your expenses in advance. This includes hotel and transportation accommodations in addition to much of your tours, entertainment, tickets, and other admission costs. Onces these things are paid for, it is not unreasonable to convert the money you will need for spending and dining prior to leaving for foreign lands. However, this means that you’re broke if you get robbed, pick pocketed, or separated from your money in some other way. For this reason, if you choose this method, it is best to keep your money divided into multiple pockets, suitcases, and hotel safes in order to reduce the chance of everything being taken at once.

Long Stay

While planning for a longer stay, or if you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to consider international banking institutions. These include Citi Bank and Wells Fargo, among others. These banks often offer accounts with reduced cost or free international ATM usage. However, you will still pay a foreign fee for in store purchases using these credit and debit cards. The only way to avoid this is to open a local account and transfer your money into that account prior to making purchases at local stores. Depending on the fees charged by the local bank and your international account, it may be more cost effective to withdraw the money from an ATM and transport it to your new local branch or you may want to use a wire transfer. For many banks, amounts over $1,000 cost less to move as a single wire transfer while amounts under $1,000 cost less to withdraw from an ATM.


When you join the expat community of a foreign country it will be necessary to move your money and accounts with you. This will likely require the liquidation of assets in your former home country and the accumulation of similar assets in your new country. Once you setup your new accounts you can begin moving your money and using these new accounts while avoiding foreign transaction fees on your credit cards. However, your financial future will now be tied to the economy of this new country. For this reason, many expats find it useful to maintain accounts in multiple countries for business and travel purposes. Although it will make filing your taxes more difficult, it is much easier to switch cards when the money and accounts are already waiting for you.

Frank Jones

Frank Jones

Frank Jones has been an entrepreneur, writer, and student in the fields of restaurant management, information technology, philosophy, and political science since 1995. Having completed his B.S. in political science and philosophy at UNC-Asheville, he is continuing his study of transatlantic political science at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In addition to Debtors Unite, Frank Jones writes on a variety of topics for Demand Studios, Associated Content, and Jones PC Repair. He is the kind of student who takes Chemistry, Calculus, and Statistics as electives. This same thirst for knowledge which has darted him between studies in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Culinary Arts, Philosophy, and Political Science, also pushes his writing and research into many areas of interest and expertise. Managing his own personal debt, rebuilding his credit, and the entrepreneurial spirit he inherited from his father has provided Frank with some practical experience which is backed up with his research in these areas. Frank is always looking for new adventures in education and travel which is why he will be spending the second year of his masters studies at UPF in Barcelona.
Frank Jones

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