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Updated June 27, 2016

Study: Credit Card for European Travel

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Traveling to Europe? Look for a card with chip technology and no foreign transaction fees. Here are our favorite cards for international travel.

Credit Card for Europe

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Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. While many American credit cards work in Europe, you should make sure your credit card has no foreign transaction fee.

Roundup Methodology

Here are the main factors we considered in comparing European travel cards:

  1. Fees
  2. Signup Bonus
  3. 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

© CreditDonkey

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Apply for Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
At Barclaycard's Secure Site
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a fee for balance transfers.
Introductory Bonus Airline RewardsTravel RewardsAirline RewardsHotel RewardsCar Rental RewardsNo Expiration on RewardsTravel Accident InsuranceEmergency Assistance
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/A
0% for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable
$89 - Waived first year

  • Fees: $89 annual fee (waived first year), no foreign transaction fee, 4/5
  • Bonus: 40,000 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 Downsides
The $89 annual fee (waived first year)

Who It Works Best For
Its combination of signup bonus and rewards makes it a smart choice for all international travelers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
At Chase's Secure Site
  • 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

  • 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 Downsides
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.

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About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.