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Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees of November 2019

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Traveling abroad can be expensive, but it's even worse when you have a credit card that charges you foreign transaction fees. It's frustrating to review your credit card statement after returning from a vacation and see all your charges marked up by 3% or more. That fee can add up quickly, especially when you're paying for big ticket items like hotel rooms or rental cars.

Thankfully, there are a number of credit cards geared specifically toward travelers that don't charge foreign transaction fees. And anyone who travels abroad — even if it's just once a year or every other year — should have one of these cards in their wallet. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

These days, it's practically standard for travel rewards cards to not charge foreign transaction fees, as you'll find in CNBC Select's roundup of the best travel credit cards of 2019. In this round up, we dug a little deeper into specific categories to provide you with a few more options.

Here are CNBC Select's picks for the best credit cards without foreign transaction fees:

Best for No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Best for No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
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Information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3X points on dining out and ordering in; gas, rideshares and transit; flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals; and popular streaming services. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months — worth $300

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Variable APR

    15.49% to 27.49%

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater, for 120 days from account opening. After that, up to 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Additional travel perks

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $680*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,199

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • No blackout dates on air travel when redeemed through Go Far Rewards
  • Cell phone protection for damage to or theft of your phone up to $600 per claim and $1,200 per 12-month period ($25 deductible applies and you must pay your cell phone bill with your Wells Fargo Propel Amex Card to qualify)

Cons

  • Minimum reward redemption amount of 2,500 points
  • Balance transfers incur a 3% fee ($5 minimum) for the first 120 days; 5% fee ($5 minimum) after that
  • No Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit offerings

Who's this for? This card offers a strong rewards program whether you're a frequent traveler or someone who spends most of their time closer to home (or, like many of us, are a combination of the two). The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card is a well-rounded card that offers unlimited 3X points per dollar spent on dining out, ordering in, travel and a number of streaming services, including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM Radio Inc. and Spotify Premium.

Frequent travelers will like this card because it gives you points not just on flights and hotels but also car rentals, homestays and ridesharing services. There are no blackout dates on flights booked through Go Far® Rewards, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Who's this for? This card offers a strong rewards program whether you're a frequent traveler or someone who spends most of their time closer to home (or, like many of us, are a combination of the two). The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card is a well-rounded card that offers unlimited 3X points per dollar spent on dining out, ordering in, travel and a number of streaming services, including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM Radio Inc. and Spotify Premium.

Frequent travelers will like this card because it gives you points not just on flights and hotels but also car rentals, homestays and ridesharing services. There are no blackout dates on flights booked through Go Far® Rewards, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

There's also an impressive welcome bonus for a no-annual-fee card: Earn 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first three months. That's the equivalent to $300 in cash.

The additional perks geared toward travelers are also worth noting. Cardholders can take advantage of lost luggage reimbursement, car rental loss and damage insurance, roadside assistance and 24/7 travel and emergency assistance.

This card also provides a year of no interest on purchases and balance transfers. (After the introductory period there's a 15.49% to 27.49% variable APR.) If you have expected upcoming expenses that you want to pay for over time, or you're looking to consolidate debt, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card can help you finance debt without incurring interest charges.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for Cash Back: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Best for Cash Back: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card
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Information about the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3% unlimited cash back on all purchases during the first year; 2.5% on all purchases after

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $99, waived the first year

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Variable APR

    11.99% to 14.99%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated cash back earned after 1 year

    $656

  • Estimated cash back earned after 5 years

    $2,445

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 3% cash back on all purchases during your first year
  • 2.5% cash back on all purchases after year one
  • Annual fee is waived the first year
  • Simple cash-back program that doesn’t require activation or spending caps

Cons

  • $99 annual fee after the first year
  • No welcome bonus
  • No special financing offers

Who's this for? The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card ranks as CNBC Select's best cash-back card, even with its $99 annual fee (waived the first year). This card earns the average American the most cash back compared to other cards with an estimated $656 after the first year and $2,445 after five years.

Cardholders earn an industry leading 2.5% cash back on every purchase. And, during your first year from account opening, you earn 3% cash back on all purchases.

Who's this for? The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card ranks as CNBC Select's best cash-back card, even with its $99 annual fee (waived the first year). This card earns the average American the most cash back compared to other cards with an estimated $656 after the first year and $2,445 after five years.

Cardholders earn an industry leading 2.5% cash back on every purchase. And, during your first year from account opening, you earn 3% cash back on all purchases.

Beyond rewards, this card has a competitive 11.99% to 14.99% variable APR, which is helpful if you wind up carrying a balance (though we always recommend paying on time and in full to avoid interest altogether).

This card also has no foreign transaction fees and comes with travel benefits, such as travel accident coverage, roadside assistance and auto rental collision damage waiver.

You have to become a member of Alliant Credit Union and open an account. The easiest way to become a member is by supporting Alliant's partner charity, Foster Care to Success. You don't need to pay the charity directly — Alliant pays $5 on your behalf when you apply to join the credit union. Membership is also open to family members of current members, employees of partner organizations or those who live or work in qualifying towns and communities near Chicago's O'Hare International airport.

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Information about the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for Dining Out and Restaurants: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for Dining Out and Restaurants: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
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Information about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95, waived the first year

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases

  • Variable APR

    16.24% to 25.24%

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $767

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,251

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases
  • 8% cash back on all Vivid Seats ticket purchases through May 31, 2020
  • Free Postmates Unlimited membership through December 2019
  • Ability to redeem rewards at any amount, unlike some other cards with $25 minimums

Cons

  • $95 annual fee after the first year
  • Cable, digital streaming and membership services are excluded from the 4% cash-back rate
  • No introductory 0% financing offers for purchases or balance transfers

Who's this for? Sports fans, movie buffs and adventure seekers will all find a common reason to like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases. Compared to other rewards cards, this is the highest unlimited rewards rate on entertainment spending, whether you're buying movie tickets, taking a family trip to the zoo or spending the evening bowling with friends.

Through May 31, 2020, cardholders who buy tickets through Vivid Seats, a ticket resale site, can take advantage of 8% cash back.

Who's this for? Sports fans, movie buffs and adventure seekers will all find a common reason to like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases. Compared to other rewards cards, this is the highest unlimited rewards rate on entertainment spending, whether you're buying movie tickets, taking a family trip to the zoo or spending the evening bowling with friends.

Through May 31, 2020, cardholders who buy tickets through Vivid Seats, a ticket resale site, can take advantage of 8% cash back.

Cardholders can also benefit from exclusive access to entertainment events, such as the iHeartRadio Music Festival and the Capital One JamFest.

Beyond entertainment perks, there's also 4% cash back on dining, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. And you can benefit from a free Postmates Unlimited membership through December 2019, which gets you free delivery on orders over $15.

This card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it's waived during the first year from account opening and can be offset by the cash back you earn.

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Information about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for Luxury Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best for Luxury Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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Information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $450

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Variable APR

    18.74% to 25.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $1,193*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,567

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide
  • Special benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Cons

  • High $450 annual fee, but it can be offset by taking advantage of all the card’s perks
  • No introductory APR
  • Relatively high balance transfer fee

Who's this for? If you're a frequent traveler looking to make your flights and hotel stays more luxurious, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® should be on your radar. This card is geared toward frequent travelers with 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and no foreign transaction fees.

The value of Chase rewards points varies depending on how you use them. If you redeem points for cash and gift cards, each point is worth $.01, which means that 100 points equals $1 in redemption value. (See more on how the value of points is calculated.)

Who's this for? If you're a frequent traveler looking to make your flights and hotel stays more luxurious, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® should be on your radar. This card is geared toward frequent travelers with 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and no foreign transaction fees.

The value of Chase rewards points varies depending on how you use them. If you redeem points for cash and gift cards, each point is worth $.01, which means that 100 points equals $1 in redemption value. (See more on how the value of points is calculated.)

When you use points through Chase Pay® for a statement credit to cover all or part of a purchase made at participating Chase Pay® merchants (Amazon, for instance), each point is worth $.008, which means that 100 points equals $.80 in redemption value. Redemption values for other reward options may be worth more or less than this.

The value of points increases 50% when you redeem for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruise reservations when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to maximize the value of your rewards and makes this card stand out from the pack.

While this card offers great rewards and benefits, it does come with a hefty $450 annual fee. However, if you take advantage of all the annual credits, you can come out well ahead of the fee. There's an annual $300 travel credit, as well as a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees cardholders can redeem every four years. And the Priority Pass™ Select membership, which gives you access to more than 1,000 lounges in 500 cities worldwide, has a value of about $429.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
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Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase, plus 10X miles on thousands of hotels on hotels.com/venture (through January 2020)

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0 first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Variable APR

    17.49% to 24.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $988*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,805

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Annual fee is waived the first year
  • 10X miles at hotels.com/venture through January 2020
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every 4 years

Cons

  • No introductory APR
  • There’s a $95 annual fee after the first year

Who's this for? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards rate on select hotel purchases: Earn 10X miles per $1 spent on thousands of hotels on hotels.com/venture through January 2020 (so if you spend $500 on the site, you earn 5,000 miles). If you're looking to take a trip before the end of the year, this is a great way to maximize the amount of miles you can earn.

This card also earns 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending, which is a great flat rate. While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, it's waived during the first year. And $95 is low compared to some other rewards cards, with some annual fees up to $550.

Who's this for? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards rate on select hotel purchases: Earn 10X miles per $1 spent on thousands of hotels on hotels.com/venture through January 2020 (so if you spend $500 on the site, you earn 5,000 miles). If you're looking to take a trip before the end of the year, this is a great way to maximize the amount of miles you can earn.

This card also earns 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending, which is a great flat rate. While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, it's waived during the first year. And $95 is low compared to some other rewards cards, with some annual fees up to $550.

In addition to rewards, every four years cardholders receive a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, up to $100. If you travel often, this is a great perk that can save you time and money.

This card has no foreign transaction fees and comes with a bunch of additional travel perks, such as travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services and an auto rental collision damage waiver.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus. When we calculated the first year returns for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, we assumed the cardholder would spend $572 a year on hotel rooms booked via hotels.com/venture. Since the 10X miles offer is only valid through January 2020, we assumed 5X miles for hotel purchases for years 2 through 5. You may earn a higher or lower return depending on your travel spending habits.

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Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Our methodology

To determine which cards will put the most money back in your pocket, CNBC Select evaluated 127 popular rewards credit cards offered by major banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including travel rewards (points and miles), annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, one-time perks, annual perks, redemption rates, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2018 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $21,800 in retail spending. This budget is comprised of the most common spending categories, including groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961). The travel budget includes spending $527 a year on airfare and $572 a year on hotels. General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses. CNBC Select used this budget to compare cards that reward specific purchases and estimate how many rewards the average consumer might earn.

We then estimated how much the average consumer would redeem over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your travel habits.

Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Best for... Credit Card Estimated rewards earned after 5 years
No Annual FeeWells Fargo Propel American Express® Card$2,199
Cash-backAlliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card$2,445
Dining Out and RestaurantsCapital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card$2,251
Luxury TravelChase Sapphire Reserve®$2,567
HotelsCapital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card$2,900
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.