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VISA, Mastercard & Amex: Euro exchange rates when abroad

Metal credit card GermanyWhen you use your German credit card within the Euro-zone, there is usually no fee for your foreign purchases. The Euro amount appears on your credit card balance as it would in Germany. However, when you travel abroad all credit card providers have to convert the local currency to Euro in order to put it on your credit card bill.

overview german credit cardsThe three largest credit card providers are VISA, Mastercard, and American Express. These credit card brands convert local currencies according to their internal currency exchange rate. The bank that issued your card may then add an additional foreign transaction fee of 1-2%. You can avoid this foreign transaction fee by simply choosing one of the many banks that do not charge you for a transaction that is not in Euro, for example N26, Advanzia Bank, or DKB.

The question is: If your bank does not charge you a fee for foreign transactions, what is the difference in exchange rate between Mastercard, VISA, and American Express? We wanted to find out which credit card brand has the most favourable exchange rate and decided to look at a sample time period. We checked the credit card exchange rates for U.S. Dollar to Euro for each day of November 2018 in order to be able to compare VISA, Mastercard and Amex. See the graph below for their daily rates. We compared all three rates to the official stock exchange currency exchange rate (EURUSD=X).

Credit Card Exchange Rates (USD to EUR)

VISA Mastercard Amex exchange rates Germany credit card
Click to show the underlying data
DateMastercardVISAAmexStock Exchange
1. November 20180.8842880.88494792080.9026540.8753
2. November 20180.8790710.88455652760.8986780.8728
3. November 20180.8790710.87942239540.8970970.8781
4. November 20180.8790710.87942239540.8970970.8768
5. November 20180.8804950.87942239540.8970970.8753
6. November 20180.8778090.88073911630.8986780.8742
7. November 20180.8773010.87803250480.8963090.8695
8. November 20180.8768850.87764720340.8908290.8736
9. November 20180.883080.88097188820.8947360.8795
10. November 20180.883080.88385289150.901060.8820
11. November 20180.883080.88385289150.901060.8827
12. November 20180.8895650.88385289150.901060.8822
13. November 20180.8914430.89173451280.9082810.8853
14. November 20180.8877970.89165500080.9099010.8813
15. November 20180.8870750.88801271630.9058610.8802
16. November 20180.8832080.88730357320.9058610.8755
17. November 20180.8832080.88346246610.9018560.8758
18. November 20180.8832080.88346246610.9018560.8756
19. November 20180.8775460.88346246610.9018560.8723
20. November 20180.8783150.87780128330.8947360.8716
21. November 20180.8799250.88050646730.8963090.8753
22. November 20180.8785610.88027394130.8978870.8746
23. November 20180.8823530.87888135980.8963090.8756
24. November 20180.8823530.88299441060.9002640.8813
25. November 20180.8823530.88299441060.9002640.8813
26. November 20180.8827370.88299441060.9002640.8785
27. November 20180.8827370.88322837640.9002640.8814
28. November 20180.8874750.88683143990.9042550.8782
29. November 20180.8810340.88769740170.9058610.8771
30. November 20180.8840950.88128244220.899470.8771

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As you can see, VISA and Mastercard consistently beat American Express. This is because the cheapest German American Express credit card that we found (Payback American Express) still charges a 1.75% foreign transaction fee. When comparing VISA to Mastercard, Mastercard seems to offer a more favourable exchange rate on many days of November 2018.

We calculated that if you spent 50$ on every day of November 2018, so a total of $1,500, you would have paid a total bill of:

  • 1323.41€ when using a Mastercard
  • 1324.57€ when using a VISA card
  • 1350.39€ when using American Express

This means that VISA bills you 1.16€ more than Mastercard for the same purchases. American Express even bills 26.98€ more than Mastercard.
This shows that you should always try to use a Mastercard credit card if possible (if your bank does not take a foreign transaction fee). It does not make a big difference for small purchases, but for larger bills of $1,000 or more, you could save a few Euros.

We have not looked into other exchange rates, such as pound sterling (GBP), Chinese yuan (RMB), Canadian Dollar (CAD) or Australian Dollar (AUD). It would be interesting to see if VISA or Amex exchange rates are better in these currencies. We will update this page as soon as we have looked into that.

If you are looking for an overview of all kinds of German credit cards, see our extensive list here.

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The following Mastercard credit cards don’t charge any foreign transaction fees:

The following VISA credit cards don’t charge any foreign transaction fees: