Canadians love to beat the cold winter climate and travel to sunnier destinations. Vacations to the U.S. and abroad means dealing with foreign currency – something that’s become easier as more and more travellers use credit cards. You might think your credit card provider is doing you a favour by converting your foreign purchases back into Canadian dollars, but think again.

Nearly all Canadian credit card issuers charge a 2.5% fee for foreign currency conversion, a stiff penalty that negates any rewards you might have earned on your trip. So what’s a traveller to do?  Luckily, there are two great credit card options for Canadians who are looking to save money on foreign travel and on items purchased through foreign retailers.

Best Credit Cards for Travelling Outside of Canada

Best Credit Cards for Travelling Outside of Canada

Chase Canada

Since entering the Canadian credit card industry back in 2005, Chase Card Services – a division of U.S. giant JPMorgan Chase – has been nothing more than a niche player.  But in 2012, Chase did something fantastic: it removed the currency conversion fee on its Sears Financial Voyage MasterCard, Rewards Visa, and Marriott Rewards Premier Visa.

But Chase decided to end its decade-old partnership with Sears Canada later this year, so that means come November 15th, 2015 it’s bon voyage for Voyage MasterCard customers.  That’s okay, because Chase still has two cards worth a closer look: Rewards Visa

The Rewards Visa is one of the hidden gems in the Canadian rewards credit card market. This no-fee card pays two points for every purchase made through and one point for purchases made anywhere else. You’ll get a $20 gift card just for signing up, and every 2,000 point earned will automatically get redeemed for a $20 statement credit.

As mentioned, the best feature is that foreign currency transactions are converted at the exchange rate set by Visa, without additional surcharges. The card won’t work in the following countries: Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Libya.

*Update: Chase Canada has closed the Rewards Visa to new applicants as of April 3, 2017.

Marriott Rewards Premier Visa

This hotel rewards card is one of the richest in Canada. Here’s a rundown of all the benefits:

You’ll get 30,000 bonus points after your first purchase. That’s good for 4 free nights at a category 1 hotel. New sign-up’s will also get an additional free night stay. Altogether that’s five free nights at a category 1 hotel, or four free nights at a category 2 hotel.

Each year on your card anniversary you’ll get an additional free night stay at any participating category 1-5 hotels. You’ll also get 15 Elite Credits toward your Marriott Rewards Elite membership level, guaranteeing you Silver Elite status or better.

The $120 annual fee is waived in the first year.

Earn 5 points for every dollar spent at Marriott locations worldwide, 2 points for every dollar spent on airfare, car rentals, and restaurants, plus 1 point for every dollar spent everywhere else.

The Marriott Rewards Premier Visa is the only hotel travel credit card in Canada with no foreign currency transaction charges in addition to the exchange rate.

Final thoughts

Foreign currency conversion fees are often hidden within your credit card statement – blended in with the exchange rate so you don’t even notice you’re paying an extra 2.5% on your purchases.  But don’t kid yourself – these charges add up in a big way.

It’s tough to earn 2.5% back on your spending – even with a premium rewards card. With the Rewards Visa and the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa, Canadian travellers will not only save 2.5% on their foreign purchases, they’ll also earn healthy rewards on their spending.

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