American Express Cards increasing FCY transaction fee to 3.25%

From 1 October 2023, American Express will be hiking its FCY transaction fee to 3.25%, ending the era of sub-3% fees in Singapore.

Over the past few years, banks have been increasing their foreign currency (FCY) transaction fees like clockwork, shrugging off the emergence of alternatives like Revolut and YouTrip. 

These annoying fees are what make many cardholders think twice about using their card overseas, and the upward trajectory is odd to say the least. I’d have thought that if anything, the cost of processing FCY transactions would fall over time (you’re assuming these fees have something to do with costs? oh my sweet summer child…)

American Express was the last card issuer with a sub-3% FCY fee, but unfortunately that’s ending come October 2023.

American Express hiking FCY transaction fee

From 1 October 2023, American Express will hike the FCY transaction fee on all its cards from 2.95% to 3.25%. 

This will put it on par with most issuers on the market, and draws the curtain on the days of sub-3% fees. Going forward, Singapore cardholders can expect to pay FCY fees of 3-3.5%, depending on bank.

💳 FCY Fees by Issuer and Card Network
(from 1 Oct 2023)
Issuer↓ MC & VisaAMEX
Standard Chartered 3.5% N/A
American ExpressN/A2.95%
 3.25% 
Citibank 3.25% N/A
DBS 3.25%  3% 
HSBC 3.25% N/A
Maybank 3.25% N/A
OCBC 3.25% N/A
UOB 3.25%  3.25% 
BOC 3% N/A
CIMB 3% N/A

In many ways, this is just the continuation of a trend. Over the past few years, the market has moved out of the 2% range and into 3%, and who knows if this is the last we’ve heard of this!

Evolution of FCY card fees

What’s the cost per mile?

AMEX cards were never known for their robust earn rates, so the FCY fee increase makes using them overseas marginal propositions at best. 

CardFCY Earn FCY FeeCPM
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card
1.1 mpd
3.25%2.95
2 mpd
(Jun & Dec)
3.25%1.63
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend
1.2 mpd3.25%2.71
2 mpd
(Jun & Dec)
3.25%1.63
AMEX HighFlyer Card1.8 mpd3.25%1.81
amex centurionAMEX Centurion 0.98 mpd3.25% 3.32
AMEX Platinum Charge0.78 mpd3.25%4.17
AMEX Platinum Credit Card0.69 mpd3.25%4.71
AMEX Platinum Reserve0.69 mpd3.25%4.71

In a best case scenario, you’d be paying 1.63 cents per mile with the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend and AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card, and even then, only in June and December.

Some of these figures are just eye-popping, especially for Platinum cardholders. There’s really no reason why you should be using your Platinum card overseas, with obscenely high cost per mile figures. 

What’s the best card to use for overseas transactions?

Despite the rising FCY transaction fees, there are still a few cards out there which offer enough miles to make overseas usage worthwhile.

Basically, any time you have the opportunity to earn 4-6 mpd, be it with the Citi Rewards, UOB Lady’s Card, UOB Visa Signature etc., I’d wager it’d be worthwhile for most people to pay the fees involved (even better if you can stack your card with Amaze!) 

If you have a StanChart Journey Card (formerly known as the X Card), you can also earn 2 mpd on FCY transactions with a rebate of the 3.5% FCY transaction fee, for November and December 2023 only.

For those who don’t care about miles (blasphemy!), prepaid debit cards like Revolut and YouTrip offer competitive exchange rates, with the option to lock in the rates today for spending tomorrow. 

And if you dislike the idea of a prepaid wallet, then the Trust Credit Card has no FCY transaction fees; you basically pay the Visa rate and nothing more. 

For a rundown of the various options, refer to the post below:

2023 Edition: Best cards for overseas spending

Conclusion

American Express cards will be increasing their FCY transaction fee from 2.95% to 3.25% from 1 October 2023, marking an end to sub-3% FCY fees in Singapore.

Frankly, I hardly ever use my AMEX cards overseas in the first place, so this doesn’t change things very much for me. But together with the nerfing of rewards for charitable donations and education, the use cases for spending on AMEX cards are certainly shrinking.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Tony

It is unfortunate that Singapore based issuers are charging such astronomical rates for overseas card usage. Most private travellers that I met have switched to youtrip or Revolut. Maybe the bundle of money they made on corporate customers using CC more than compensate for the loss of private travellers. Trust card seems interesting.

Mark

Yawn! The ONLY time I have ever used a credit card overseas in recent years and paid the ridiculous 3.25% (or whatever it is) is the odd case when renting a car. You have to have a hold placed on your credit card when renting a car – and you can’t use a debit card. Therefore no Amaze for that, but then some rental car companies say the payment must be made using the same card as the hold. Ridiculous rule, but in the cases where this happened, I could not use Amaze to pay and a credit card for… Read more »

Rondo

You just answered your own question – stupid people unless there is truly no other alternative, and Amaze linked cards have had their caps maxed.

Jacquelyn

I use an Amex card when I rented Hertz in LA. But when I rented from Nippon Rent-A-Car in Hokkaido, I managed to use Amaze card for hold and payment.

Harold

Actually, with a card that gets you 2.2 miles per dollar spent overseas, you still break even with the miles, as long as the FCY fee is lower than … 6.5%. Not convincing enough to quit the mile-chase.

Avi

You can use the Amaze card for car rentals. I use it frequently in US and Europe and never faced any issues. The hold placed depends on the car type and most rental companies charge either USD 300 or EUR 300.

Alternatively, you can use a credit card during the rental pick up, and after you return the car, ask the company to charge on Amaze.

Ben

They may figure that people still use credit cards with FX surcharges doing so out of inconvenience. Those price-sensitive will already have shifted to Amaze, Revolut etc. So rational to increase the charge on those price-insensitive customers to offset loss of price-sensitive customers.

Tony

I did a google on the forex fees charged for Malaysian issued credit cards and it seems they are in the region of 1% to 3%. Are we the most expensive in the world…I wonder?

Stajin

bottom line is we need more mastercards to link with amaze! all else is irrelevant

Anna

Even with that FCY fee, you would still break even, getting 207,000 miles while using your Amex credit card overseas, instead of paying at least S$6,200 for a return biz class ticket to Europe. I mean, most of the time, that ticket costs 7-8k, actually, so no brainer. YouTrip and the likes are interesting propositions only for transactions which don’t give miles at all.

bizbizbiz

Business travellers are the ones that tend to spend big overseas and needed the credit card statement for claim purposes, they are not exactly targetting vacation goers here

Linus

AFAIK, ICBC credit cards foreign currency fees are still 2.5%, ICBC Global Travel MasterCard still offering 3% cashback for overseas foreign currency spend, for a nett 0.5% cashback.

Alice

If you own a card that gives you 1.5 mile per dollar spent (not Amex then), even a 3.5% FCY fee is an ok opportunity cost to buy miles, given that airfares are at a high now. Granted, there are cheaper way to buy miles but not a good reason to give up on the mile game altogether. At a 5% FCY fee, I would reconsider, though.

Dan

I live abroad and use the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card as a Preferred Member as my daily use card. It has no fees and quite good exchange rates.

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