Credit Card International Charges

    When you travel outside Singapore and swipe your credit card, you incur a lot of administrative charges that you generally don’t pay attention to. However, it is your money that is being spent, so you need to be aware of all the charges lay yourself open to when using your credit card abroad. The 2 main fees that you end up paying on overseas credit card use are:

    1. Foreign currency fees
    2. Cash advance/ATM fees

    Foreign currency fees:

    This is the administrative fee charged by your bank and payment system (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.) for conversion of the transaction amount and processing. This charge is applicable in 4 kinds of transactions:

    1. Payment for items purchased outside Singapore in a foreign currency
    2. Payment for items purchased outside Singapore in Singapore dollars
    3. Payment for items purchased online in a foreign currency
    4. Payment for items purchased online in Singapore dollars

    A transaction is considered a foreign currency transaction either if the transaction takes place outside Singapore, or if the transaction takes place through a vendor or bank that is not in Singapore. So online payments in Singapore dollars, processed through a foreign bank or vendor, would still come under foreign currency transaction. However, different banks may have slightly varying ideas about this fee. Foreign currency fee consists of 2 main components:

    • Cross-border fee plus currency conversion fee – MasterCard and Visa charge 1% of the transaction amount as cross-border currency conversion fee, while American Express charges up to 2.5%, depending on the credit card.
    • Bank’s administrative fee – Each bank charges its own rate on foreign currency transactions. For example, OCBC charges 1.8% of the purchase amount, HSBC charges 1.5%, and CIMB charges 1.4%.

    Other than this, some merchants have a dynamic currency conversion option. This option is used only if the merchant has the required infrastructure or equipment. Your payment system would charge a dynamic currency conversion fee for using this option. Under this payment, instead of converting your Singapore dollar payments into the currency of the country that you are in, the card will pay directly using Singapore dollars. Visa and MasterCard charge 1% of the transaction amount for this category. The currency conversion rates of the day would apply, and this would usually cost you more than the foreign currency transaction fee rates of banks. In addition, payment system administrative charges of 0.8% to 1% will also apply.

    Cash advance or ATM use fees:

    If you take cash advance from an ATM outside Singapore, some payment systems and banks would charge extra fees for use of an ATM of a third-party system or a different bank. This differs from bank to bank, but is likely to be similar to the foreign currency transaction fees.

    Credit cards with low foreign currency transaction fees:

    If you are a frequent overseas traveler, then you should consider getting credit cards that either charge low foreign currency transaction fees or have other overseas spending benefits. We are listing here some cards that are good for overseas transactions:

    Credit card Foreign currency benefit Other related benefits Minimum monthly spending required Minimum income required (annually)
    CIMB Platinum MasterCard No bank administrative fee Dining, shopping and travel offers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia None S$30,000
    CIMB Visa Infinite Card Cash rebate of 2% on overseas purchases Discounts at dining, retail and lifestyle outlets in all ASEAN countries S$2,000 S$120,000
    BOC Dual Currency Diamond Card No fees for RMB transactions 2 Bonus Points for every S$1 or equivalent spent on foreign currency transactions except RMB None S$50,000
    BOC Visa Infinite Card No bank administrative fee NA S$120,000
    ICBC Visa Dual Currency Card No fees for USD transactions 3 Reward Points for each S$1 or equivalent spent None S$30,000
    ICBC UnionPay Dual Currency Card No fees for RMB transactions None S$30,000
    Maybank Platinum Visa Card Cash rebate of 0.3% on foreign currency transactions None S$30,000
    OCBC 365 Credit Card 3% cashback on dining overseas S$600 S$30,000
    American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card 2 KrisFlyer Miles for every S$1-equivalent spent overseas in June and December every year NA S$30,000
    Citi Rewards Card 10 Citi Rewards or 4 Citi Miles per S$1 spent on buying clothes, bags or shoes, at department store purchases outside Singapore, and on online shopping websites None S$30,000
    UOB PRVI Miles cards 2.4 miles or 6 UNI$ for every S$1 spent overseas NA S$80,000
    UOB Visa Signature Card 10 UNI$ per S$1 spent overseas, and on online purchases S$1,000 in foreign currency S$50,000

    CIMB credit cards

    CIMB has waived off its administrative fee of 1.4% on foreign currency transactions for the CIMB Platinum MasterCard. The MasterCard fee of 1% is still applicable, though. In addition, CIMB gives you dining, shopping and travel promotional offers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. CIMB Visa Infinite Card gives unlimited cash rebate of 2% on overseas purchases and a cashback of 1% on local purchases.

    BOC credit cards

    You don’t have to pay any fees for Chinese Renminbi (RMB) transactions made through the Bank of China Dual Currency Diamond Credit Card. For payments in other foreign currencies, a fee of 2.5% is levied. In addition, BOC gives you 2 Bonus Points for every S$1 spent on overseas transactions in currencies other than RMB. Remittances to mainland China at any BOC branch will also be cheaper by 30% discount. BOC Visa Infinite Card is another card on which you don’t have to pay the 1.5% foreign currency fee on any overseas transactions.

    ICBC credit cards

    ICBC waives off the bank’s administrative fees on US dollar transactions done anywhere in the world using the ICBC Visa Dual Currency Credit Card. Transactions made in other currencies will attract a fee of 2.5%, though. Moreover, the card gives you 3 Reward Points for each S$1 or equivalent spent on the card, which means that overseas transactions are as well rewarded as local ones. With the ICBC UnionPay Dual Currency Credit Card, the bank gives you discount on the foreign currency fees for RMB transactions. Other foreign currencies will attract 1.5% fee. As in the Visa iteration of the ICBC Dual Currency Card, you get 3 Reward Points per S$1 or equivalent charged to the card.

    UOB credit cards

    UOB Visa Signature Card gives its cardholders 10 UNI$ per S$1 spent on overseas expenses and on online transactions in foreign currencies. UOB PRVI Miles cards in all payment system iterations give 2.4 miles for every S$1 spent overseas.

    Other bank cards

    Maybank Platinum Visa Card gives you a cash rebate of 0.3% on foreign currency expenses. With the OCBC 365 Card you can get 3% cashback on dining at cafes, fast food outlets, caterers, and restaurants in countries outside Singapore. To avail this, you need to spend at least S$600 per month. The American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card allows you to earn 2 KrisFlyer Miles for every S$1-equivalent spent abroad during the months of June and December every year. Citi Rewards Card gives 10 Citi Rewards or 4 Citi Miles per S$1 spent on buying clothes, bags or shoes at department stores or other retailers outside Singapore, as well as on foreign online shopping websites.

    The best way to know how much you’re being charged on overseas transactions is to read the cardmember agreement documents carefully, and to check with the bank executive before signing your credit card agreement.

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