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CREDIT CARDS AND CURRENCY CONVERSION COSTS

Bankrate.com

Although you're not likely to find it anywhere on your credit card statement, most credit card issuers charge currency-conversion fees for foreign purchases made on their credit cards, debit and check cards, and ATM cash withdrawals.

Over the course of your travels, that can add up to a significant increase in the cost of your vacation -- money you could save by picking the right credit card.

In the chart below, the percentage shown beside each credit card is the amount charged by your credit issuer, plus the charge by Visa or MasterCard for a foreign purchase. Visa and MasterCard have a standard 1% charge on foreign purchases; in exchange, Visa or MasterCard converts your foreign currency purchase to U.S. dollars. All Visa or MasterCard cards will carry that 1% charge.

However, your credit issuer or bank often charges an additional fee, usually 2%, which adds up to a 3% total charge on foreign purchases. Bankrate contacted several credit card issuers, and all refused to explain the reason for the charge.

The percentage posted under debit-and-checking-card purchases is the charge assessed by both Visa and MasterCard and your credit card issuer or bank. A fee is also assessed by each card issuer and bank for ATM cash withdrawals. ATM charges vary for each card.

Credit card issuer What do you charge for a credit card purchase made in foreign currency?* What do you charge for a debit card purchase made in foreign currency?* What do you charge for an ATM card withdrawal made in a foreign country/currency?*
* The percentage shown includes the 1% charge Visa and MasterCard charge for foreign-currency conversion.
Citibank 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars Conversion fee 1% Conversion fee 1%
MBNA America 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars N/A Withdrawal fee 3%
Capital One Financial Corp. 1% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars Do not offer a debit card at this time No ATM cards
JP Morgan Chase 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars 3% or $5, whichever is greater or 3.5% conversion rate $3 for withdrawals; no other fees
Bank of America 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars

Conversion fee 3%

$5 dollar flat fee; no charge if within Global Alliance network
Household Credit Services (note: becoming HSBC) 1% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars Conversion fee 1%
No fee using an HSBC Worldwide ATM / 3% withdrawal fee on non-HSBC ATM
Providian Financial Corp. 1% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars Do not offer a debit card at this time No ATM cards
U.S. Bancorp 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars Conversion fee 2%
Wells Fargo 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars $5 for withdrawal
First National Bank of Omaha 3% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars 2% of the amount of each foreign-currency purchase after it is converted into U.S. dollars $2 for withdrawal
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