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By: Griffin Miller

Updated: August 14, 2018

In this article:

How we chose the best foreign travel credit cards

We reviewed rewards cards without foreign transaction fees to find the absolute best cards to use when traveling abroad. A number of factors were considered when selecting our favorites: our proprietary Bankrate score, rewards rate, perks, and fees.

Editor’s Analysis

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for booking hotels

Why you’ll love it

You’ll earn 10x miles on every hotel booking made at hotels.com/venture and paid for with your Venture card. That’s an unheard-of rewards rate, even for the best rewards cards available. Keep in mind that because of Capital One’s tie-in with hotels.com, you won’t earn that 10x bonus if you book directly with hotels or through a different booking site. Since hotels.com is worldwide, you’ll have no trouble finding a place to stay no matter where you are — and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees.

Card Details:

  • Best For: booking hotels
  • Bankrate Score: 94
  • Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Consider this

The Venture® card carries a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived your first year. If you still want to earn big points on booking hotels without paying an annual fee, check out the Wells Fargo Propel American Express, which offers 3x points on hotels (the second-best hotel rewards rate on this list).

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

Why you’ll love it

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to get a flavor of the local cuisine while you’re traveling then this is the card for you. The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card offers unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. If you regularly dine out at home and like to indulge in the local delicacies when you’re abroad, this card’s generous cash back rewards could end up giving you great returns. Capital One is also offering a sign-up bonus of $500 after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening the card, this is a sizable and achievable bonus. Having no foreign transaction fee is a nice additional perk to add to this card’s already long list of attributes. It does, however, charge a $95 annual fee (which is waived for the first year), though there are no annual fee cards that also don’t charge foreign transaction fees, this card could more than pay for itself for heavy spenders in dining and entertainment.

Card Details:

  • Best for: Dining, entertainment, and groceries.
  • Bankrate score: 97/100
  • Rewards rate: 4% on dining and entertainment, 2% at the grocery store, 1% back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: $500 sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months of opening the card.

Consider this

The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card is a firm favorite for foodies. The card offers generous and straightforward rewards and easy redemption. If you already spend heavily on the highest cash back categories of dining and entertainment this might be the card for you. Pairing this card with a high-cashback card in another category you spend heavily in, such as travel, can maximize your returns.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best sign-up bonus

Why you’ll love it

The 50,000 sign-up bonus points are super valuable, as Chase Ultimate Rewards are among the most flexible credit card points. If you redeem your points through the Ultimate Rewards portal, they take on another 25% in value, which can add up to hundreds of dollars. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® was designed for travelers; it rewards you with 2x points for pretty much every expense you may incur while travelling, from dining out to rideshares and more.

Card Details:

  • Best For: a big sign-up bonus
  • Bankrate Score: 95
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Consider this

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is a great all-around rewards card and useful travel companion, especially when abroad, but better rewards rates can be found elsewhere. If you’re committed to accruing as many points as possible, consider the Platinum Card® from American Express.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card: Best all-around reward rates

Why you’ll love it

By offering 3x points on four spending categories (eating out, gas stations, travel, popular streaming services), the new Propel card gives you the opportunity to consistently earn above-average rewards in a variety of ways. Top that off with the fact that you won’t have to pay an annual fee and this can be your new go-to card for using on almost anything, anywhere (no foreign fees).

Card Details:

  • Best For: high all-around rewards rates
  • Bankrate Score: 97
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Consider this

The Propel card and its high rewards rates will serve you well in the long term but its 30,000-point sign-up bonus is less than exceptional, especially considering you need to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to get it. If you’d like to take an award trip soon, you’re better off going with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and its 50,000-point bonus.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card: Best 0% APR introductory offer

Why you’ll love it

This flat-rate cash back card will earn you 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, anywhere in the world. For people who want simple rewards and the option to gradually pay off the cost of their (possibly foreign) vacation over the course of 15 months, Quicksilver is the way to go. You’ll also receive a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, which is a nice discount on any foreign travels.

Card Details:

  • Best For: its 0% APR introductory offer
  • Bankrate Score: 93
  • Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Consider this

Once the 15-month introductory period is over, your APR will be a variable 14.74%-24.74%. If you plan on paying off your credit card bill every month and the introductory APR won’t necessarily come into play for you, you may be better off with a cash back card with higher reward rates, like the Discover it® Cash Back.

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best luxury perks

Why you’ll love it

Luxury perks rain upon you when you carry the Platinum Card. You’ll gain access to a personal travel concierge, Centurion lounges worldwide, exclusive VIP events, and more. If you’re flying often, especially internationally, the 5x points you’ll earn on airfare will add up quickly. American Express has plenty of travel partners, making it easy to redeem those points for top-notch hotel stays, first-class flights, and much more.

Card Details:

  • Best For: luxury perks
  • Bankrate Score: 95
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $550

Consider this

The Platinum Card bears a $550 annual fee, which is reason enough for most people to opt for a less expensive travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you’re intent on adding an Amex to your wallet, consider the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which offers similar benefits at a $195 cost annually.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN: Best business card

Why you’ll love it

American Express gives you the option to choose 1 of 5 categories you would like to earn 3x points on — you’ll earn 2x points on the others. This feature is an asset for small business owners working in different industries; it’s a customizable approach to rewards that puts you in control of what you earn. Additionally, you won’t pay an annual fee your first year. After that, a very manageable $175 annual fee is your only limitation.

Card Details:

  • Best For: businesses
  • Bankrate Score: 88
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $175 (waived the first year)

Consider this

Points are valuable, especially for business owners who fly frequently. However, if your business isn’t particularly reliant on travel, you might be better off with a cash back card like the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, which offers 2% cash back on every purchase.

What are foreign transaction fees?

Foreign transaction fees are charged by credit card issuers when purchases are made outside of the United States. If your credit card has a foreign transaction fee, you’ll often be charged an additional 3%-5% of the total amount you spend, every time you make a purchase abroad.

Card issuers charge foreign transaction fees to cover currency conversion and to offset the cost of transferring money through a foreign bank.

As most cardholders know, credit card fees are a surefire way of losing out on the benefits you signed up for. Consider the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express — a popular card with good benefits and no annual fee. It does carry a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, which would quickly negate the 1x points you’d earn on purchases in other countries since those fees don’t translate to any extra rewards points. Let’s say you spent the summer in Europe, spending $100 per week for 12 weeks. You’ll have earned 1,200 points (worth $12) and racked up roughly $32 in foreign transaction fees by the time you head home. Because the foreign transaction fees don’t apply to your rewards spending, you won’t be getting an additional 32 rewards points either.

Other ways to save while traveling internationally

Avoiding foreign transaction fees should be at the top of your list when looking for a credit card to take with you internationally. There are secondary factors to consider and measures you can take when traveling abroad to help save even more:

  • Plan your transportation ahead of time and use a credit card that pays a bonus. Though many rewards cards offer bonus points on “travel” purchases, “travel” is defined differently by issuers. For instance, Chase considers rideshares and parking fees travel purchases, while American Express generally does not. Pay attention to the specifics of your rewards program to earn the most points.
  • Look for flights on alternative airlines. Many smaller airlines like Britain’s EasyJet and Norway’s Norwegian Air Shuttle are low-cost alternatives that can still get you where you want to go, for a lot less. It also doesn’t hurt to check with your preferred airline’s affiliate network for cheaper flights.
  • Book through credit card portals or affiliate sites. If you book a hotel room through Chase Ultimate Rewards, your Chase points take on 25%-50% more value. If you use your Capital One Venture Card on hotels.com, you’ll earn 10x miles. Some American Express cards offer $75 credits or more at their exclusive Hotel Collection locations.

Why use a credit card while traveling?

We’ve all gone on vacation, enjoyed ourselves, and returned home to a credit card bill. It can be an unpleasant reality if you haven’t employed a credit card strategy; if you have, you may just return home to a stockpile of points, which can redeemed for a future trip.

Although in some countries it may unrealistic to plan on using a credit card for everything, the benefits of attempting to do so can be ample. Like using a rewards card while at home, using it throughout the world is a smart way to save money and plan for future trips — as long as the card has no foreign transaction fees.

Fortunately, some of the best credit cards in general have no foreign fees. Here is a recap of our top picks:

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
  • Capital One® Quicksilver® Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

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