The past year has seen industry-wide hikes in the foreign currency (FCY) transaction fees that banks charge on credit cards.
- On 1 Apr 18, Maybank increased its FCY charge on Visa Diamante, Visa Infinite and World Mastercard from 2.5% to 2.75%
- On 4 Oct 18, Citibank increased its FCY charge from 2.8% to 3.0%
- On 1 Nov 18, HSBC increased its FCY charge from 2.5% to 2.8%
- On 1 Jan 19, CIMB removed the admin fee waiver for FCY transactions on the Visa Signature and Platinum Mastercard, thereby increasing the fee from 1% to 3%
- On 2 Jan 19, DBS increased its FCY charge from 2.8% to 3.0%
- On 15 Jan 19, BOC increased its FCY charge on Mastercard transactions from 2.5% to 3% (Visa fees increased from 2.5% to 3% on 1 Dec 18)
There are precious few banks that still have a sub 3% FCY fee, and now there’s one less as OCBC announced today that it’s increasing its FCY fee from 2.8% to 3% effective 15 March 2019.
With the latest update, here’s how the different banks stack up on FCY fees.
The lowest FCY fee is currently offered by AMEX at 2.5%. That’s kind of surprising, given AMEX’s reputation as the “high fee bank”, and one wonders how long that will continue given the overall market trend.
Should you use your OCBC cards overseas?
OCBC currently has two miles and points earning cards- the OCBC Titanium Rewards, and the OCBC VOYAGE.
The OCBC Titanium Rewards earns 4 mpd on the first S$12K spent each membership year on clothes, shoes, bags, department stores, electronics, and babies’ and children’s wear, be it in SGD or FCY.
The OCBC VOYAGE earns 2.3 mpd on FCY spending throughout the year, without cap. OCBC has informed me that this will be increased to 2.4 mpd from 15 March to 31 December, so be on the lookout for an alert next week.
With the revised 3% fee, here’s how these two cards stack up with the competition:
|Card||FCY Rate||FCY Fee||Cents Per Mile|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards (eligible 10X categories)||4.0||3.25%||0.81|
|Citi Rewards (eligible 10X categories)||4.0||3.25%||0.81|
|UOB Visa Signature (min $1K, max $2K FCY per statement period)||4.0||3.25%||0.81|
|SCB Visa Infinite (spend >$2K per statement period)||3.0||3.5%||1.17|
|SCB Rewards+ (capped at $2.2K p.a)||2.9||3.5%||1.21|
|HSBC Visa Infinite (spend >$50K in previous year)||2.25||2.8%||1.24|
|UOB PRVI Miles (all versions)||2.4||3.25%||1.35|
|DBS Treasures Black Elite||2.4||3.25%||1.35|
|Maybank Visa Infinite/Horizon Visa Signature||2.0||2.75%||1.38|
|HSBC Visa Infinite (reg rate)||2.0||2.8%||1.4|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card and AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend (June/Dec)||2.0||2.95%||1.48|
|Citi PremierMiles Visa, Citi Prestige, Citi ULTIMA||2.0||3.25%||1.63|
|DBS Altitude AMEX/Visa||2.0||3.25%||1.63|
|SCB X Card||2.0||3.5%||1.75|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||1.2||2.95%||2.46|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||1.1||2.95%||2.68|
|SCB Visa Infinite (spend <$2K per statement period)||1.0||3.5%||3.5|
I would certainly continue to use the OCBC Titanium Rewards for eligible 10X categories overseas, and the higher-than-average FCY earn rate for the VOYAGE means that cardholders shouldn’t feel too bad about continuing to use it overseas as well (especially since you’re earning VOYAGE Miles, which are more valuable than regular miles).
These changes take effect from 15 March so if the incremental fees change your overseas usage equation, you’re going to want to remember to switch cards accordingly.
My overall sense is that despite the recent increases in FCY fees, it can still make sense to use your credit cards overseas to earn miles (so long as you don’t fall prey to the DCC scam). Now, if only we had another crazy 5 mpd without cap promotion again…