The Ultimate No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card Portfolio

Last Updated on January 2, 2023

No FX Fee


In this feature of Rewards Canada's Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate one for those who make lots of purchases in currencies other than the Canadian dollar. It looks at credit cards in the Canadian market that do not charge a fee of 2 to 3% on purchases made in foreign currencies. It is the ideal portfolio for those traveling outside of Canada a lot, those shopping online from the U.S. and other countries and even business owners who are importing items that can be paid for with a credit card.

As we typically recommend, you should carry a Visa, a Mastercard and an American Express card in your wallet. This is standard with all of our Ultimate Wallets. The reason why is that there are benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We don't go into detail here as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but we do outline one card from each brand that will help you build up those travel rewards points all the while saving you a good chunk of change by not having to pay those pesky foreign transaction fees. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for such a portfolio but we look at one card from each issuing family that we feel are the best fit for this mission.

What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card portfolio? It's the following three cards:


American Express: Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Visa: Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Mastercard: HSBC World Elite Mastercard

I have to admit, not only is this the Ultimate No Foreign Transaction Fee credit card portfolio but it is a contender for the 'Ultimate' of Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios! It is a trifecta for someone looking to have an amazing travel rewards credit card portfolio. There are many reasons why this is so. You have a card that is one of the strongest points earning cards in Canada (the Scotiabank Gold Amex), a card that is a hybrid card - that is, you can use the points via the credit card's proprietary reward program or convert them to several airline frequent flyer programs (the HSBC World Elite Mastercard), provides travel benefits like airport lounge access (both the HSBC and Scotia Passport cards), airline fee benefits (HSBC) and much more. No to mention the fact that with the two Scotia cards the Scene+ points earned on each are pooled into one rewards account which accelerates the growth of your points balance! This portfolio truly has it all.

Related: No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards for Canadians

Five Key Benefits of this portfolio

  • All cards feature no foreign transaction fees
  • Strong points earning potential
  • Provides the utmost in reward flexibility
  • Great travel benefits
  • Strong insurance coverage

Why you want to get each of these cards

The first card in the portfolio is the Scotiabank Gold American Express card. This card would be set as the main card in this portfolio and you would want to put all your possible spending in Canada on the card. The main reason is that the card is very strong for points earning. It earns 6 points per dollar at Sobeys, Safeway and other Empire group stores. Then it earns 5 points per dollar spent at eligible grocery stores, on dining and entertainment (in Canada), 3 points per dollar spent at eligible gas stations, daily transit and select streaming services (in Canada) and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. The key wording here is 'in Canada' as all purchases not made in Canadian dollars will earn 1 point per dollar spent. Those numbers translate to a 5%, 3%, and 1% return when redeeming for travel and since this is travel rewards card portfolio that is key.

And when it comes to redeeming for travel this card is as flexible as they come. You book the travel how you want, when you want, with whomever you want and then when that travel charge shows up on your account you redeem your points against that charge. Want to book a flight directly with Air Canada, pay for it on this card and then redeem points for it! On top of that you'll still earn Aeroplan miles on the flight.

Related: Scotiabank Gold American Express - Enhancements launch today along with an increased welcome bonus

The second card in the portfolio is the HSBC World Elite Mastercard and was the bank's first competitive product designed that doesn't require you to bank with HSBC or hold a ton of assets. This is the card you will pull out of your wallet for travel purchases and any spending that doesn't have a category bonus with the two Scotia cards. For travel purchases the card earns 6 points per dollar spent which translates to a 3% return towards travel redemptions. Being a hybrid card, this card provides the highest level of flexibility out of all the cards in the portfolio. You can redeem for any travel purchase you charge on the card at a rate of 1,000 points for a $5 credit (this is how you find the 3% and 1.5% returns listed above).

And just like both of the Scotia cards, you book the travel how you want, when you want, with whomever you want. The other travel option this card provides is the ability to convert HSBC Reward Points to frequent flyer programs. Three of them to be specific, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. At the time of posting this conversions to this programs equated to 0.96 to 1.92 Asia Miles per dollar spent, 1.08 to 2.16 KrisFlyer Miles per dollar spent and 1.2 to 2.4 Avios per dollar spent. When you take into account that most frequent flyer miles (or Avios) are worth around 1.5 cents per mile for economy class redemption and typically no less than 2 cents per mile for business class or higher you can see where there is outsized value provided by the credit card. You do however have to take into account the intricacies of frequent flyer programs like availability issues, having to be flexible on your travel dates and undesirable routings to get to your final destination. As we have always said here on Rewards Canada - the key to making the most out of a frequent flyer program is flexibility - not on the part of the program but on the part of the member.

That brings us back to why we love Hybrid cards - they give you the best of both worlds - the flexibility found from a proprietary credit card reward program and the ability to take advantage of the huge value provided by frequent flyer programs. Then you have the benefits the card provides like Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey and an annual travel enhancement credit that provides some nice savings when travelling if you check bags, have to pay for seat assignments etc.

Related: HSBC World Elite Mastercard review

Rounding out this portfolio is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. It was the first no foreign transaction fee card in Canada to be issued by a major bank. This card is very similar to its Gold American Express card sibling except for being a Visa card of course! Its base points earning is the same at 1 point per dollar but then its category bonus rates are lower than the Gold Amex version and there is a good reason why. That higher earn rate of 2 points per dollar on grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit is not limited to purchases in Canadian dollars. It is awarded on purchases in those categories made in any currency. So if you are dining at a restaurant in Chicago you'll earn the 2 points per dollar and save your 2.5% thanks to the no foreign transaction fee. On the redemption side this card is exactly the same as the Scotiabank Gold American Express card - 1,000 points = a $10 credit on travel charges. And as we mentioned before, if you have both of the cards the points pool into one Scene+ account. With this portfolio you have the beauty of only dealing with two reward programs even though you have three cards. On the benefits side the key feature this card provides is a Visa Airport Companion Program membership with 6 free lounge visits which has a combined value of US$291 - and this is an annual benefit.

Related: Rewards Canada's Guide to Business Class Lounge Access

All three cards also come with some really good welcome bonus offers that provide you with well over $800 in travel credits and varying travel and purchase insurance benefits.

Here's how you should split up your spending with this credit card portfolio:

  • Grocery, Dining, Entertainment purchases (in Canada): Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
    (unless the merchant doesn't accept Amex - then use the Scotia Bank Passport Visa Infinite Card)
  • Grocery, Dining, Entertainment purchases (outside of Canada): Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
  • Costco Purchases: HSBC World Elite Mastercard
  • Travel purchases: HSBC World Elite Mastercard unless you are planning on redeeming points for the purchase from Scene+, then use Scotia Passport Visa Infinite card thanks to its good insurance coverage
  • Gas stations, daily transit* and select streaming services (in Canada): Scotiabank Gold American Express Card (unless the merchant doesn't accept Amex - then use the Scotia Bank Passport Visa Infinite Card for daily transit, HSBC on the rest)
  • Daily transit* (outside of Canada): Scotia Bank Passport Visa Infinite Card
  • All other purchases: HSBC World Elite Mastercard
    * - includes buses, subways, taxis, Ubers and more

Of note both of the Scotia cards have a $50,000 annual cap on the category bonus spending. Should you reach that cap on one card move your spending to the other. Meet the cap on both? Move all spending to your HSBC card.

Also with the above example we are considering that you are only interested in using points from all three cards towards credits for travel purchases made on any of the cards. Should the HSBC transfer options to British Airways, Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines be of more interest to you, you'll of course want to shift more of your spending to that card.

Here are the details on these three cards

Scotia Gold American Express Card

Annual Fee: $120 (First year free) Additional Cards: $29

Earn up to 45,000 bonus Scene+™ points in your first year (that’s up to $450 towards travel) and first year annual fee waived.1 Offer ends Apr 30, 2023

  • Bonus offer broken down as follows:
    - Earn 25,000 bonus Scene+ Rewards points by making at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months.
    - Earn 20,000 bonus Scene+ Rewards points when you spend $7,500 within your first 12 months
  • You will not pay 2.5% foreign transaction fees on any foreign currency purchases, including online shopping and when travelling abroad. Only the exchange rate applies
  • You’ll earn 6X Scene+ points for each $1 CAD charged to your account on all eligible purchases1 at Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Voilà by Sobeys, Voilà by IGA, Voilà by Safeway, Chalo! FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA West, Les Marchés Tradition, Rachelle Béry and Co-Op.
  • Earn 5X Scene+ points for every $1 CAD spent on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, and drinking establishments. Includes popular food delivery and food subscriptions
  • Earn 3X Scene+ points for every $1 CAD spent on eligible gas and daily transit. Includes rideshare, buses, taxis, subway, and more
  • Earn 1X Scene+ point for every $1 spent on every other purchase
  • Complimentary Concierge Services 24/7
  • Amex exclusive benefits (Front Of The Line)
  • Use your points to purchase travel online or over the phone through our full-service travel agency. Or book your own travel using your card and go online to redeem points for the purchase.
  • Receive up to 25% off qualifying car rentals
  • Travel emergency medical coverage is automatically provided for eligible persons for up to 25 consecutive days
  • Redeem points for merchandise and other rewards

    Apply Now

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

Earn up to 80,000 Points* PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year*

Primary Cardholder Annual Fee: $149 (1st year annual fee rebate*)
Authorized User Annual Fee: $50 Per Card
Annual interest rate: 19.9% on purchases and 22.9% on cash advances and balance transfers.
$80,000 personal or $150,000 household annual income

Special offer: Earn up to 80,000 points* ($400 travel value) PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder for the first year* ($149 value) and receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit*. Must apply by February 28, 2023. Conditions apply.

• Welcome bonus of 20,000 points* ($100 travel value)
• Earn 40,000 points* when you spend $6,000 within 6 months of account opening ($200 travel value)
• Earn 20,000 points* as an anniversary bonus ($100 travel value)
• First year annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder* ($149)
• Receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit*

• Earn 3% in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases (6 Points per $1) and earn 1.5% in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases (3 Points per $1)
• No foreign transaction fees. Only the exchange rate will apply
• Enjoy maximum flexibility and redeem your Points on your terms for:

• Travel
• Gift cards and valuable merchandise
• Financial rewards
• Rewards for miles

Apply Now

*Terms and Conditions apply
®/TM Mastercard and World Elite are registered trademarks, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Used pursuant to licence

This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer)

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Annual Fee: $150 Additional Cards: $0 for first card $50 for each additional
Minimum Income $60,000

Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel) and first year annual fee waived1. Offer ends Apr 30, 2023

  • Bonus offer broken down as follows:
    - Earn 30,000 bonus Scene+ Rewards points by making at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months.
    - Plus, as a Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite cardholder, you are eligible to earn an annual 10,000 Scene+ Rewards point bonus when you spend at least
    $40,000 in everyday net eligible purchases annually.
  • You’ll earn 3X Scene+ points for each dollar charged to your account on all eligible purchases1 at Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Voilà by Sobeys, Voilà by IGA, Voilà by Safeway, Chalo! FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA West, Les Marchés TradItIon, Rachelle Béry and Co-Op.
  • Earn 2x Scene+ Rewards® points on every $1 you spend on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis and more)
  • Enjoy no FX Mark-up
  • Enjoy Complimentary Airport Lounge Access, plus 6 free lounge visits per year

    Apply Now

There you go. With these three cards you are pretty much ensuring that you have a great travel rewards credit card portfolio covering all three major card issuers and not having a worry at all as to whether you'll be paying any foreign transaction fees!

Other card options you could consider:

You do have several other card options you could look at in this portfolio - not a whole lot though seeing there only around 10 no foreign transaction fee cards in Canada. For the American Express option you could look at using the American Express Cobalt Card, it is very similar to the Scotiabank Gold Amex in that it earns up to 5x points on purchases and provides the utmost flexibility when you redeem for travel and it has no set income requirement. The main difference from the Scotia card is that the Cobalt card still has a 2.5% foreign transaction fee but it's point multipliers do work globally not just in Canada. For the Mastercard side your best option instead of the HSBC card would be one of the Brim Financial Mastercards. They have two versions of their card from a no fee Mastercard to a World Elite Mastercard at $199. All of these Brim cards feature no foreign transaction fees. Finally on the Visa side your next best option after the Passport Visa Infinite card would be the Home Trust Preferred Visa as it is the only other Visa card in Canada with no foreign transaction fees but you don't earn any rewards on foreign transactions.

This article was first posted on December 6, 2019 and is continually updated


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