Q: Do Discover cards charge foreign transaction fees for using them abroad? Specifically, I’m going to Europe in the fall.
A: I have good and bad news for you.
The good news is that Discover’s foreign transaction fee is 0%. Whether you’re right across the border in Canada or Mexico, or if you’re on the other side of the world in Europe, you won’t pay the typical 2-3% fee that most other banks charge.
Now for the bad news.
Discover’s acceptance in North America is quite good (Discover’s merchant network page says that Discover has the highest acceptance rate among the United States’ top 100 retailers) but if you’re traveling overseas you may not be as lucky. However, there are three foreign countries in which they have reasonable acceptance: China, Japan, and South Korea.
- In China, they’re a fairly widely accepted American card since they can be used anywhere China UnionPay is accepted.
- In Japan, you can use them at merchants that accept JCB, which is the second-largest network in the country.
- In South Korea, you can use them across the nation’s largest card network; BC card.
Elsewhere you’re probably going to run into trouble because acceptance will be limited. You probably won’t see any Discover signs in Europe, but you can use their cards anywhere outside the U.S. that accepts Diners Club (thanks to Discover’s acquisition of the Diner’s Club international payment network).
With the exception of those three countries, you’re definitely going to want to get a Visa or MasterCard. There are some that don’t charge foreign transaction fees and getting one can save you a lot of money. Think about it… the typical 3% foreign transaction fee on $1,000 of international purchases would cost you $30 in fees. If you spend $3,500, that will be over $100 wasted on currency exchange fees.
This article was written or last updated August 13, 2015