American Express Foreign Transaction Fees [2024 Guide]

Claire Millard
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
April 18, 2024

American Express is a popular card network which issues cards in Canada in its own name, through co-branding partnerships, and via Scotiabank. This guide looks at how to use your AmEx card internationally, including the fees you should consider.

Join us as we cover the American Express common card fees, limits, and exchange rates. To help you compare AmEx cards against the wider market, we’ll also touch on some alternatives like Wise card that could offer more flexibility with low transaction fees and better exchange rates.

Can I use my American Express card internationally?

Yes. American Express cards can be used internationally, anywhere you see the AmEx logo. That includes when you spend with merchants, and when you’re making cash withdrawals at an ATM.

It’s useful to know that American Express isn’t as commonly used in some regions as it is in North America. If you’re traveling it’s helpful to get an idea ahead of time, whether or not AmEx is a popular card network in your destination. There’s a merchant locator map available on the American Express website which can help, although it’s not supported in all destination countries.

To be on the safe side, it’s worth carrying a couple of different payment methods, including cards issued on other networks like Visa and Mastercard, just in case you struggle to pay with AmEx from time to time when you’re away.

Don’t forget, also, that even if your AmEx card is accepted where you’re headed, it may not be the cheapest available option, due to foreign transaction and currency conversion costs. We’ll explain how these fees work in depth in just a moment, and we’ll also give some helpful tips on how to limit or avoid these fees when you travel.

How does American Express compare on international fees?

In Canada, American Express issues many of its cards direct to consumers rather than through a bank. Some are offered in partnership with other companies as co-branded card options.

Let’s compare American Express cards which have been issued directly by AmEx against a couple of alternatives. We’ll include Wise as a digital provider option, as well as AmEx cards from Scotiabank, to see how the international fees can vary across different services.

Provider/ServiceExchange rateForeign transaction feeInternational ATM feeOther costs to watch out for
American ExpressAmEx exchange rateForeign transaction fees apply on cards it issues directly - see your cardholder agreement to learn moreVaried between different cards 

Cards may have annual fees

Credit cards have interest, late payment fees and penalties if you don’t repay in full

WiseMid-market exchange rate

No foreign transaction fee – currency exchange from 0.43%.

Free to spend from currencies you hold.

2 free withdrawals to 350 CAD/month free, then 1.5 CAD + 1.75%No annual, monthly or card order fee
Scotiabank (Gold American Express Card)Bank or network rateNo foreign transaction fee5 CAD + interest120 CAD annual fee + interest as applicable 

As you can see, the fees you face when using a card internationally can vary pretty widely depending on the bank or provider. Fees that are calculated as a percentage of your spending are especially important to look out for.

The percentage amount might seem pretty small, but as it’s applied to every dollar you spend when you’re away from home, the total amount you pay can mount up quickly.

We’ll cover more on this and the providers we’ve picked out here, in a few moments.


Go to Wise

Does AmEx have foreign transaction fees?

There is a broad selection of cards issued by American Express directly in Canada. American Express network cards are also offered by Scotiabank. All AmEx cards commonly available are credit cards, although they all have slightly different features and fees, to suit different customer needs.

Foreign transaction fees – when they apply – are a percentage added to the bill every time you spend in a foreign currency. That could be when you’re traveling abroad, or when you’re at home but shopping online with a foreign merchant. Foreign transaction fees can also be added when you make cash withdrawals – basically any time you spend in a currency other than CAD.

AmEx cards issued directly by the American Express network have a foreign transaction fee. Scotiabank waives this fee for some AmEx card options. Bear in mind though that even where cards waive this charge, they’re likely to have other costs – such as annual fees – to pay. To paint a picture, here are the key international and ongoing costs for 3 popular American Express cards issued directly by AmEx:

American Express CardForeign transaction fees and exchange ratesMaintenance feesRewards
Platinum card

2.5% foreign transaction fee

AmEx exchange rate

799 CAD annual fee2x rewards on dining and travel, 1x on everything else
Cobalt Card

2.5% foreign transaction fee

AmEx exchange rate

12.99 CAD monthly fee5x rewards on eligible food and drink, 3x on streaming, 2x on travel
Aeroplan Reserve Card

2.5% foreign transaction fee

AmEx exchange rate

599 CAD annual fee3x rewards on Air Canada

Where an American Express foreign transaction fee applies it is added every time you spend in a foreign currency. If you’ll be using your card overseas frequently you might prefer to pick a different card type from a specialist like Wise, which accesses low cost currency conversion and mid-market exchange rates. We’ll look at the Wise card – and how it can help avoid international fees – in a while.

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American Express international ATM fees

ATM cash withdrawal fees apply when you want to withdraw money from your account when you are abroad. These may be fixed fees, or they may be a percentage of the amount you withdraw. There may also be more than one fee to think about.

If you have an American Express credit card issued by AmEx directly you’re likely to pay a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%, plus a cash advance fee and interest which may be set at a higher rate compared to purchases. The exact costs when getting an AmEx card direct from the network will depend on the specific card you pick.

If you choose an AmEx card issued by Scotiabank you might find there’s no foreign transaction fee - but cash advance charges and interest will still apply. ATM fees are fixed at 5 CAD for ATMs in the Scotiabank network, and 7.5 CAD elsewhere.

As an alternative, you could check out the Wise debit card which offers 2 free withdrawals to 350 CAD/month free, after which 1.5 CAD + 1.75% fees apply. More on that in a moment.

Go to Wise

American Express card alternatives

Using your AmEx card abroad may be convenient and secure, but it’s not the most common network in many parts of the world. Carrying another card on a different network is a smart move, just in case – plus it may help you to cut down on foreign transaction fees and get better overall currency exchange rates.

Here are a few American Express card alternatives to consider:

WiseTD Bank Access CardRBC Debit Card
Card typesDebit - Mastercard or Visa networkDebit - Visa networkDebit - Mastercard or Visa network
Card order feeNoneNo card order fee - underlying chequing account has feesNo card order fee - some underlying chequing accounts have fees
Monthly/annual feeNoneUp to 29.95 CAD monthly fee0 CAD - 15.95 CAD
Currencies supported

40+ currencies for holding and exchange

Spend in 150+ countries

CAD only for most account options - cross border solutions available for USDCAD only for most account options - cross border solutions available for USD
Foreign transaction feeNone3.5%Variable depending on underlying account
ATM fee2 free withdrawals to 350 CAD/month free, then 1.5 CAD + 1.75%Depends on the underlying chequing account you select - some options waive ATM feesDepends on the country you’re in and the specific ATM operator
Exchange rateMid market rate, currency exchange from 0.43%Network rateNetwork rate

Which card provider is right for you will depend a lot on the type of card you prefer, and how you like to manage your money. Credit cards can be convenient for spreading costs over a few months, but can also be more expensive overall.

Debit cards often have lower overall fees and can come with extra perks like multi-currency holding features, but you’ll need to have the funds to add to your account before you spend. We’ll look at each of these American Express alternatives in a bit more detail next.

Wise card

  • Wise card is best for: Holding 40+ currencies, with mid-market exchange rates and a linked card for spending in 150+ countries

  • Foreign fees & exchange rates: Free to spend any currency you hold, mid-market currency exchange with fees from 0.43%

  • Is it safe to use internationally? Yes – Wise is a large, well regulated and trusted specialist provider

Open a Wise account online or in the Wise app, to hold 40+ currencies, send payments to 160+ countries, and spend with your linked Wise card in 150+ countries. It’s free to spend from any currency you hold. Wise uses the mid market exchange rate to convert the currency and charges a small conversion fee.

You’ll get some fee-free cash withdrawals every month, with low fees after that – plus if you need to receive money from overseas you can do that too, with your own local bank details for 10 currencies.

Wise prosWise cons

✅ Multi-currency account for holding 40+ currencies

✅ Free to spend in a currency you hold enough balance

✅ Mid-market exchange rate

✅ Transparent pricing

❌ Exchange costs from 0.43%

❌ Some transaction and service fees apply

Go to Wise

Learn more: How to use Wise card abroad

TD Bank

  • TD Bank Access card is best for: debit card option which you can link to several different underlying chequing accounts, to suit your needs

  • Foreign fees & exchange rates: Network exchange rate and 3.5% foreign transaction fee

  • Is it safe to use internationally? Yes. TD Bank is a major bank which is fully licensed and regulated

As a major bank TD has a good range of debit and credit cards. As an American Express alternative we’ve highlighted the Access Card which is a debit card option on the Visa network. You can link this card to several different chequing accounts depending on your needs - some have monthly charges which cover a lot of transactions, while others have a more pay as you go approach.

TD Bank prosTD Bank cons

✅ Visa network card

✅ Link to your choice of account

✅ Debit card - often cheaper than a credit card

✅ Large and reputable bank

❌ Some accounts have monthly costs

❌ 3.5% foreign transaction fee


  • RBC Debit card is best for: debit cards which have varied account options, and may offer cheaper ATM withdrawals in the US

  • Foreign fees & exchange rates: Currency is converted with the network rate, plus any applicable foreign transaction fee

  • Is it safe to use internationally? Yes. RBC is a major bank which is fully licensed and regulated

RBC has a few card options you may consider as an AmEx alternative. Accounts are primarily offered in CAD, although some USD services are available for cross border banking use. If you pick an RBC debit card you’ll be able to link it to a couple of different everyday accounts, with their own features and fees.

RBC prosRBC cons

✅ Choose different accounts to link your card to

✅ Some accounts offer cheaper ATM withdrawals in the US

✅ Cross border banking services available

✅ Well known bank with a large branch network

❌ Accounts may have monthly fees

❌ Foreign transaction fees are likely

AmEx exchange rates

When you spend overseas, the exchange rate used to convert your spending back to dollars is set by American Express. You’ll be able to see the rate that’s used on the AmEx website or app – bear in mind that the rate may be the one on the day your transaction is processed, which can be a day or two after you physically make the purchase.

AmEx exchange rates may include a small markup on the mid-market exchange rate. This is on top of any foreign transaction fee you pay.

Adding a markup to the exchange rate offered to retail customers is extremely common – but it does make it harder to see exactly what you’re paying when you spend in a foreign currency. Some providers, like Wise, split out the costs of currency exchange and use the mid-market rate for conversion. That can be more transparent and easier to see exactly what you’re spending every time.

American Express cards that have no transaction fees

As we’ve seen, AmEx does offer some cards that have no foreign transaction fees which are issued through Scotiabank, but they often charge other fees. Here’s a roundup of a few cards to look at if you’re planning on getting an AmEx:

American Express cards with no foreign transaction feesOther fees that might be applied
  • Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card

  • Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

  • Annual fee

  • APR, including cash advance APR

  • Balance transfer fee and APR

  • Cash advance fee

  • Late payment fee

  • Returned payment fee

Do you have to notify American Express when you travel?

Check your card’s terms and conditions to see if you need to inform AmEx of your plans – and make sure your contact details are all up to date with them should they need to get in touch while you’re away.

How do I know if I have to pay foreign transaction fees?

It’s important to read the terms and conditions of your card to check if there are foreign transaction fees to pay – or you can call the card issuer to ask directly if you’re unsure.

American Express card foreign transaction limits

The limits which apply to your American Express card will be set depending on your credit score. You’ll be able to see the card limit when you’re offered the option to apply – usually after an online credit check has been completed.

How to avoid foreign transaction fees when traveling

You may be able to avoid – or at least cut down – foreign transaction fees when you travel by picking an AmEx card with no foreign transaction fee, or going with an alternative with no foreign transaction fee, like Wise.

Here are a few other tips to make life easier, and keep down the costs of international spending:

  • Take the time to read your card’s terms and conditions, to confirm the fees for overseas spending and withdrawals

  • Opt to pay in the local currency wherever you are to avoid dynamic currency conversion

  • Check if you need to confirm to AmEx that you’ll be abroad, to avoid your card being blocked by the anti-fraud measures

  • Before making a withdrawal or spending money abroad, ensure that the ATM accepts your American Express card – look for the logo that’s usually displayed prominently

  • Make sure to pay your bills promptly to avoid incurring late payment fees from AmEx

How do I avoid AmEx international ATM fees?

Some banks have partner institutions overseas which waive ATM fees, but if yours doesn’t you might want to consider specialist providers like Wise which  has some fee free international ATM services monthly.

Conclusion: AmEx international fees

American Express has a broad array of cards available, primarily focused on credit cards. The AmEx cards issued directly from the network usually include a foreign transaction fee, but Scotiabank does have a couple of AmEx options with no foreign transaction fee to pay. Bear in mind that for these premium card options you’ll often find you pay an annual fee to get the card in the first place.

Before you decide on which card will suit your needs it makes sense to weigh up the benefits and costs, including potential extra fees like interest and late payment penalties. Compare these against alternative providers like Wise to see which works best.

Wise offers multi-currency accounts with 40+ supported currencies and a debit card you can use in 150+ countries. Consider non bank options like Wise instead of – or as well as – your AmEx card, to cut costs, and to make sure you have an extra method of payment if American Express isn’t available where you’re headed.

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FAQs on American Express overseas transaction fees

Does AmEx have foreign transaction fees?

AmEx cards have variable fees, depending on the specific product. Some cards have no foreign transaction fees – but may have higher annual fees – and others have foreign transaction fees which are normally set at about 2.5%.

Does my American Express card work internationally?

Yes. American Express can be used internationally, although the network isn’t as popular in some regions as it is in North America. It makes sense to carry an alternative payment method – such as a card on a different network from a provider like Wise – to cut overall fees, and just in case you can’t use your AmEx in a specific merchant or ATM.

Does American Express debit card have foreign transaction fees?

AmEx cards in Canada often have a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. Check your card’s terms and conditions to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee – and if there is, you might want to compare alternative debit cards from providers like Wise to see if you can save.