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One of the many great improvements we’ve seen with credit cards over the past few years is that so many mid-range cards now don’t have foreign transaction fees. This makes it lucrative to use many cards when traveling abroad. For example, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer double points on dining and travel, so not only do you pay no foreign transaction fees when abroad, but for many of us that means we’re earning double points on most of our purchases.
At the moment I “only” have 17 credit cards, and nearly a dozen of them don’t have foreign transaction fees. So when I travel I have no trouble avoiding those fees. However, today, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, I made several purchases with foreign transaction fees. How did that happen?
Well, first of all, I should explain my wallet situation. I have a couple of different wallets I use. I have one traditional wallet, which has my backup cards, plus a money clip, which has the primary cards I’m using at any given point.
Typically both are in my carry-on at all times, though when I’m out and about, I usually only have my money clip with me. I change which cards are in my money clip based on which cards it makes the most sense to put spend on at any given point. So in that money clip at the moment are the following cards:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers 3x points on dining an travel
- The Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x points on air travel and hotels, and 2x points on dining and entertainment
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offers one Starpoint per dollar spent
- The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, which offers up to 5x points on office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which offers 1.5x points on everyday spend
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which I use for grocery store, gas, and many non-bonused purchases
- The Platinum Card® from American Express, which I keep for the perks, including lounge access
Well, we’re in Italy at the moment, and today we went on a day trip. Unfortunately I made six purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® today, which does have foreign transaction fees. While the amount wasn’t huge, this kills me a little bit inside.
So, how did this happen?
- I can’t use the Chase Sapphire Reserve at the moment, since I had some fraud on the card and am waiting on a replacement, which I haven’t been able to get my hands on while traveling internationally
- My backup plan was to use the Citi Prestige Card, though for whatever reason it hasn’t been working anywhere; the card has a funky design so I’ve had to show everyone how to insert it into the chip reader or slide it, but even the transaction doesn’t go through, and I’m not sure why
- My backup then was to use the Starwood Business American Express, though not a single place I’ve been today has accepted American Express
- With Amex cards eliminated, my only option left was to use one of my Chase cards with foreign transaction fees, so I used the Freedom Unlimited so I’d at least earn 1.5x points. The way I see it, the rewards are basically a wash with the fee, but I’d still rather use a card so I can keep track of expenses, rather than paying cash
I guess for the rest of the trip I should put The Hyatt Credit Card in my wallet, since it has no foreign transaction fees, is a Chase card, and offers 2x points on dining. It seems like the next best option in this case.
I never thought I’d be paying foreign transaction fees in 2017, especially when I have four cards with no foreign transaction fees in my wallet, but oh well…