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The 3 Best Credit Cards for Traveling Internationally

Credit cards in back pocket
The Digital Way/Pixabay

Chances are, if you’re planning some international travel, you’re more concerned about what clothes you should pack than what credit cards you’ll be bringing. But some cards are better than others.

How to Choose a Card for Traveling Internationally

When packing to travel abroad, make sure to think about the plastic you’ll bring along. Bring a card that’s widely accepted, has low (or no) fees, and lets you earn points back on your transactions.

Which Credit Cards Are Accepted Internationally?

You don’t want to be caught abroad without a way to access your money. You want your international travel card to be accepted around the world. That means you should bring a Visa or Mastercard when traveling.

Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards in the world. While both American Express and Discover have great cards with great benefits, they are not as widely accepted. You might not be able to use your American Express or Discover card at all while you travel.

Should My Card Be Chip-Enabled When I Travel Overseas?

Chip-enabled cards are standard across Europe and the rest of the world. Many places abroad don’t even have an option for swiping cards, so you’ll need a chip to be able to access your card.

If your credit card issuer hasn’t given you a card with a chip yet, you can contact them to ask for an updated version that contains a chip. Make sure to do make this request with plenty of time before your trip.

Our Picks for the Three Best Cards

Choosing the right credit cards for traveling can help you save hundreds of dollars in fees and prevent any mishaps with your cards not being accepted. Here are the three best cards we’ve found for traveling internationally.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

chase preferred web site

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is easily one of the best (if not the best) cards for traveling internationally. While Sapphire charges a $95 annual fee, it boasts no foreign transactions fees, so you can save hundreds of dollars in fees if you travel a lot. The card is also chip-enabled, which ensures greater security and usability abroad, especially in places that no longer allow cards to be swiped.

What makes Sapphire stand out, though, is its points-based bonus program. You’ll earn 2X points on travel and dining purchases abroad as well as one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. That means that the purchases you make while traveling can help fund future travel purchases. Sapphire has 1:1 point transfer programs with many leading airlines and hotels. You can also book through Chase Ultimate Rewards and receive 25% more value in points.

All in all, using the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is as close as you can come to getting paid to travel.

You need excellent credit to qualify for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. If you’re still building your credit, consider one of the other options below.

Note: Chase also offers the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which offers 3X points instead of the Preferred card’s 2X points. The Reserve card also offers some extra features like lounge access. It does have a steeper annual fee at $450, but it also offers $300 in travel credit annually. So, if you travel every year, the cost of the Reserve card comes close to the cost of the Preferred card and is probably worth it for the extra points and other features.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

capital one website

If your credit score isn’t quite top-notch, the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is an excellent option for making the most of your international purchases. This credit card boasts no international transaction fees and lets you earn 2x miles on all purchases.

All of your purchases on the Venture Rewards credit card will earn you 2x miles. These miles never expire and are redeemable for travel at any time. New cardholders will earn 50,000 miles if they spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months after they’ve opened the card.

The Venture Rewards credit card has a $95 fee that’s waived the first year. If you’d like to go with a no-fee option, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card gives you 1.25x miles on all purchases.

The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

bank of america web site

Bank of America offers another solid international travel option in their Travel Rewards Credit Card. The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card has no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee as well, making this card a solid money-saving option.

The Travel Rewards credit card offers 1.5 points for every dollar you spend on all purchases. These points can be redeemed for travel or cash back. Your points don’t expire, so you can spend time accumulating them and work towards earning a free flight or trip.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book  Females. Read Full Bio »
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