Study: Credit Card for European Travel
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If you’re looking for a credit card that can take you to Europe and back, you might need to look past what’s already in your wallet. Let’s do a quick inventory: any credit cards with a small chip located on the left-hand side? Put aside any that are missing that telltale square box. They’re bound to let you down as you make your way through international lands.
Why? Because the U.S. uses a different credit card technology than the rest of the world, and the American method is losing ground.
Many credit cards in the U.S. rely on “swipe and signature” technology. This involves the familiar magnetic stripe that is on everything from a driver’s license to a hotel key. When you want to buy something, you swipe the card, sign the receipt and you’re ready to go.
However, destinations like Europe and Asia use a process known as “chip and pin.” The computer chip in these cards requires use of a pin code, making them less vulnerable to security threats.
Because of safety reasons, more international companies are abandoning the “swipe and signature” method in favor of chip-enabled transactions. Some overseas places will actually reject your old-fashioned American credit card because of security reasons or they’re not equipped to handle it.
U.S. credit card companies have responded to this shifting tide by releasing, or announcing they intend to release, chip-enabled cards. Unfortunately, these cards are "chip and signature", so you’ll still need to sign to approve a purchase. That means you could run into trouble with automated tellers, self-service kiosks, or ticket machines.
The good news is that you don’t need to wait to embrace improved security and easier European travel. CreditDonkey.com has put together a list of some of our favorite chip-enabled credit cards on CreditDonkey to help you travel and spend more securely and smoothly on your next European trip.
Here are the main factors we considered in comparing European travel cards:
- Signup Bonus
- Travel Rewards
Fees are no fun, of course, but with credit cards, sometimes the extra costs are justified by their benefits. It’s a balance you’ll want to consider by looking at each card’s annual fee and foreign transaction fee. Annual fees are the price of membership for being a cardholder. Foreign transaction fees occur when you make purchases abroad; credit card companies will charge you a percentage on top of the total price of each purchase you make. If you do a lot of traveling, these fees can add up fast, so look for a card with no foreign transaction fees.
Most travel cards offer an introductory signup bonus to entice new members. The bonus is usually a large amount of points or miles that you’ll receive if you spend a certain amount of money by a specific time. For savvy card users, these bonuses can more than justify most cards’ annual fee. But if you’re not going to spend enough money to get the bonus, getting one of these cards doesn’t make financial sense.
In addition to a generous bonus, a good travel credit card should also provide ample opportunity to earn points and miles to help pay for your next trip. Ideally, you’ll get a card that gives you double rewards for any travel purchase. Then you’ll want flexibility in how you can use those rewards. You don’t want to be limited in your choice of airlines or hotels.
CreditDonkey.com wants to help you decide which one of these travel cards is the right one for you. We rated each factor on a 1-5 scale to come up with our world-ready picks.
Credit Cards for European Travel
Barclaycard Arrival World Plus
- Fees: $89 annual fee (waived first year), no foreign transaction fee, 4/5
- Bonus: 50,000 miles (when you spend $3,000 in first 90 days), 4/5
- Travel Rewards: 2X miles on all purchases, 5/5
- CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5
With a generous signup bonus, no foreign transaction fee, and a straightforward 2x miles on all purchases rewards system, the Barclaycard Arrival makes a strong case for signing up. The card simplifies the rewards process by giving you double miles for all purchases, all the time, with no mileage caps.
Why We Like It
The Arrival Plus encourages you to redeem miles for travel rewards by offering 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits. That means if you redeem 20,000 miles for travel, you get 1,000 miles back.
Plus, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus supports Chip and PIN, a helpful feature if you use any unmanned kiosks while in Europe.
The $89 annual fee
Who It Works Best For
Its combination of signup bonus and rewards makes it a smart choice for all international travelers.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Fees: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95; $0 foreign transaction fee, 4/5
- Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®., 5/5
- Travel Rewards: Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide; 1:1 point transfers for participating frequent travel programs, 3/5
- CreditDonkey Score: 4/5
The Chase Sapphire Preferred provides one of the largest signup bonuses available. Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. After that, Chase makes it easy to keep the bonuses coming by giving you double points for all travel purchases.
Why We Like It
The Sapphire Preferred lets you pile on the points and gives you the freedom to use them. You can transfer the points at full 1:1 value to select frequent travel programs with no additional fees.
The card is Chip and Signature instead of Chip and PIN. To learn the difference, read our Beginner's Guide to Smart Chip Credit Cards.
Besides the annual fee, the card is not easy to get. You will need excellent credit to qualify and reap the rewards of the Sapphire Preferred.
Who It Works Best For
Frequent travelers with excellent credit who can take advantage of the signup bonus.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.