List of credit cards for foreign currency transactions
Cards with no conversion markup (0% over payment network's rate):
- Brim Financial Mastercard Basic/World Elite: 1%/2% (cash back statement credit redeemed any time). $0/$199 annual fee. Unavailable to Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut residents.
- Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Consumer version: 1-2% depending on merchant category, $139 annual fee, and Business version: 1.5% on all spend, $199 annual fee. Earned in Scene+ points.
- Scotiabank American Express Gold and Platinum : 1%/2% in Scene+ points (redeem for statement credit against travel expense). $120/$399 annual fee.
- HSBC World Elite, Premier World Elite and Jade World Elite Mastercard: 3% on travel and 1.5% on other purchases (Tiers changing on Feb 1 2023: 3% on travel, 2% on grocery, gas, and drugstore, and 1% on other). Earned in travel points. $149/$149/$299 annual fee. Premier and Jade require very large deposits/investments with HSBC.
- Home Trust Preferred Visa: 0%. $0 annual fee. 10 transaction limit per day. Unavailable to Quebec residents.
- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Canada) UnionPay Dual Currency Card Classic/Gold version, 1%/2% paid in cash back. $19/$49 annual fee. China UnionPay payment network only.
Cards with 2.5% conversion markup (that you earn back in points/cashback):
Meridian Credit Union Visa Infinite Business Cash Back Plus Card: Net rewards: 0.5% (3% on foreign currency transactions minus 2.5% conversion fee, redeem for statement credit anytime ($50 minimum) $110 annual fee. Unavailable to Quebec residents.As of August 2 2022, all Meridian cards are grandfathered and no longer available. Meridian Credit Union Travel Rewards Visa Infinite: Net rewards: ~0.0%-0.5% (Earned in travel points, 3 points—not exactly worth 1¢ each—minus 2.5% conversion fee.) $99 annual fee. Unavailable to Quebec residents.As of August 2 2022, all Meridian cards are grandfathered and no longer available.
- MBNA Amazon Prime Mastercard: Net rewards: 0% (earned in Amazon.ca store credit). 2.5% minus 2.5% conversion fee. No annual fee but Amazon Prime membership required ($99/year)
Cards suitable for buying things only at certain places:
Your credit cards that charge 2.5% currency conversion fee but pay accelerated rewards in certain merchant categories can beat your 0% conversion fee card when spending at those kinds of merchants. Examples:
- Net 2.6% on grocery stores, restaurants, bars: American Express Cobalt, MBNA Rewards World Elite
- Net 1.5% on grocery stores:
Meridian Cash Back Visa Infinite, CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite, Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite
- Net 1.5% on gas:
Meridian Cash Back Visa Infinite, CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite
Prepaid (not credit) cards:
- Wealthsimple Cash Card: Net rewards: 1%. 0% conversion fee. Restricted countries list
- EQ Bank prepaid Mastercard: Net rewards: 0.5%. 0% conversion fee. Restricted countries list unknown.
- wise.com Prepaid Visa. Net rewards: None. 0% conversion fee. Warning: All methods of loading money into the card have fees. Restricted countries list
- Interactive Brokers Mastercard: Net rewards: none. 0% conversion fee. Restricted countries list unknown.
- Koho Premium prepaid Visa Net rewards: 2% grocery, restaurant, gas, transport. 0.5% other. $9 monthly or $84 annual fee. Restricted countries list
USD-spending-only credit and prepaid store cards
- Rogers Platinum (grandfathered) and World Elite Mastercard: 0.5% (3% on USD spend minus 2.5% conversion fee. Cash back redeemed for statement credit. $0 annual fee. No net benefit for spending in other foreign currencies.
- RFD list of gift cards that work in both USA and Canada (unclear what the FX markup is on most of those cards, but for many it is close to mid-market)
- Costco Shop Card for US Costco spending. Buy in Canada, spend at Costco in the USA. You get the mid-market exchange rate. The digital version bought at Costco.ca cannot be spent at gas pumps or in the food court, but the physical version bought in-warehouse can be.
MASTERCARD and AMEX ADVANTAGE
RFDer @mech9t5 sampled Visa's and Mastercard's daily foreign exchange rates for 364 days and averaged them. He found that Mastercard's average markup over XE.com's reported mid-market rate was 0.188%, while Visa's was 0.392%. No statistics were available for American Express. The ~0.2% advantage that Mastercard has over Visa has NOT been included in the net rewards listed above. RFDers have also reported FX rates used by American Express to be very close or even better than Mastercard, even when converting from currencies other than USD.