Best credit cards for international travel

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Credit cards can be valuable tools when you use them close to home, but they should also be an essential part of your packing list any time you travel overseas. Not only do you normally need a credit card to put down a security deposit to rent a hotel room, but you’ll likely need a credit card to rent a car as well.

Plus, some travel credit cards let you access consumer benefits like free trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary auto rental coverage and zero liability for fraudulent purchases.

Credit cards for international travel can also work as “emergency funds” wherever the road takes you. If you run out of cash while on your trip, for example, a credit card lets you charge whatever you need and pay the balance when you return home.

The best credit cards for international trips let you avoid added fees on international transactions, and they also let you earn rewards for each dollar you spend. If you’re planning a trip overseas this year, here are some of the absolute best cards to consider.

Best Overall

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express makes it easy to earn American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be used for gift cards, merchandise, travel through the American Express Travel portal or transfers to popular airline and hotel partners, including Virgin Atlantic, Delta SkyMiles and Hilton Honors. You’ll start off by earning 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $6,000 on your card within six months of account opening. You’ll also earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), as well as prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel, as well as 1x points on other purchases.

As a cardholder, you’ll receive statement credits for CLEAR membership and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, up to $200 in Uber Cash each year for U.S. rides and eats, automatic Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status (enrollment required) and more. A $695 annual fee applies (effective Jan. 1, 2022, for existing cardholders), but the first-year benefits can more than make up for it.

Why this card is ideal for international travel

You won’t pay foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, and this card comes with the broadest airport lounge membership of all travel cards as well as statement credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and your CLEAR membership. Not only will you receive a Priority Pass Select membership, but you’ll also be able to access Centurion lounges and over 1,300 lounges across more than 500 airports and 140 countries. You’ll also get access to a Global Assist hotline, which can help with emergency planning if you run into legal or medical issues when you travel.

Best for domestic and international travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® lets you earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, travel through the Chase portal or 1:1 transfer to partners like Southwest Airlines, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt.

Once you sign up, you can earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Cardholder benefits include a $300 travel credit each year, one year of Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value; activate by 3/31/22), a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, giving you access to more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. You’ll also get a DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21. The Chase Sapphire Reserve does come with a hefty $550 annual fee.

Why this card is ideal for international travel

This card comes with some of the best travel protections of any travel credit card including primary auto rental coverage, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance and more. You’ll also get Priority Pass Select membership and a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, along with no foreign transaction fees.

Best international card with no annual fee

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee for a credit card for international travel, consider the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. This card comes with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, and you’ll also get zero percent intro APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles from account opening, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent.

In terms of rewards, you can start off by earning 25,000 points, worth $250 toward travel purchases, when you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening. You’ll earn a simple 1.5x points on all qualifying purchases, which can go toward covering any expenses that fit Bank of America’s generous definition of travel or dining. That means you’ll also be able to use your rewards to cover everyday dining purchases even when you’re not traveling, which can make it a bit more useful than other no annual fee travel cards that earn reward miles. Plus, if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25 percent to 75 percent more rewards on each purchase.

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card content was last updated on 08/23/2021.

Why this card is ideal for international travel

You can earn flexible ongoing rewards that can cover non-travel purchases like dining without paying an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Loyal Bank of America members with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards status can also increase their rewards rate up to 2.625x points on all purchases.

Best international card for students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

If you’re a student who wants to use a credit card to monitor and build your credit over time, you should check out the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students. This card lets you earn valuable rewards without an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and you get a look at your FICO score each month for free.

When it comes to rewards, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5x points for every purchase. You’ll also earn 25,000 points when you spend $1,000 on your card within 90 days of account opening. When you’re ready to cash in your points, you can redeem them for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, baggage fees and more at a rate of 1 cent per point.

Why this card is ideal for international travel

This card allows students to build positive credit habits and earn rewards without an annual fee, and then redeem rewards for travel planning essentials, like transport and accommodation, with no foreign transaction fees.

The information about the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Best international card for flexible rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

If you want to earn flexible rewards and enjoy travel perks without an overly expensive annual fee, you should consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This card lets you earn 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You’ll also earn 2x miles for each dollar you spend. You can redeem your rewards for any type of travel at a rate of one cent per mile, but you can also transfer miles to a handful of airline partners.

This card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, but it does charge a $95 annual fee. You also get a credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.

Why this card is ideal for international travel

Earn rewards flexible enough for any aspect of your international trip including hotels, airfare, rental cars and trains. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees, and you’ll get a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Tips for getting the most from a travel credit card

Signing up for a travel credit card can make travel more convenient and affordable, but it’s important to use your card the right way. These tips can help you get the most out of your travel credit card, particularly if you’re hoping to maximize your card’s perks.

Use your credit card for all your regular expenses

To earn as much as you can in rewards, make sure to use your travel credit card for all purchases you can while you travel overseas and at home. In addition to using cards for groceries and gas, you can also see if you can use plastic for day care, health insurance premiums, kids’ sporting activities and all other purchases you make on a regular basis.

Never carry a balance

While travel credit cards offer a lot of convenience to consumers, the fact that the average credit card comes with an APR over 16 percent makes them expensive to use if you carry a balance. We recommend using travel credit cards for purchases only if you have the cash to pay your credit card bill in full each month.

Take advantage of all your cardholder perks

Make sure you understand your new card inside and out, including cardholder perks you’ll receive. If you have annual travel credits, for example, you’ll want to know what they can apply to so you can take maximum advantage. Also, take the time to apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck if your credit card offers a credit, and make sure to enroll in any airport lounge membership your card offers.

How to choose a credit card for international travel

Choosing a card for international travel shouldn’t be too difficult since there are so many options available. However, these tips can help you wind up with the best card for your needs.

  • Earn the rewards you want the most. First off, it’s important to pick a travel credit card that offers the type of rewards you want to earn. If you can’t decide which type of travel rewards you want, consider flexible rewards credit cards that let you earn points you can use for gift cards, statement credits, travel and more.
  • Choose a card with no foreign transaction fees. You should definitely pick among credit cards that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, which includes all cards on this list. If you don’t pick up a card that waives foreign transaction fees, you’ll wind up paying an extra 3 percent on average for each purchase you make abroad.
  • Check for airport lounge access. This perk can be immensely helpful if you hate waiting for your flight at the crowded airport gate, or if you fly often on itineraries with a long layover. Cards that offer airport lounge access typically charge higher fees, but the free food and drink you receive can more than make up for them.
  • Get a card that offers a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Finally, consider cards that let you get expedited security access with one of these programs. Both let you skip lines at airport security, which can easily save you hours of wait time over the course of a year.
Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News
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