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Updated November 13, 2018 8:43 PM PT

Study: Credit Cards for International Travel 2018

Traveling abroad? Before you leave home, make sure your credit card is prepared for the trip.
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The best credit cards for international travel have no foreign transaction fees, chip technology and worldwide acceptance. But what's the right travel card for you?

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Here are the best cards with no foreign transaction fees for 2018:

50,000 Bonus Points

$0 foreign transaction fee, Smart chip, Visa worldwide acceptance

Imagine you're vacationing in Paris and want to hop the train to London. But you're short on cash and the ticket machines won't take your credit card.

Or maybe your card does work but you're being charged a foreign transaction fee for every swipe. That'll make for an unpleasant surprise when you get home and check out your bill.

We've used our American credit cards plenty overseas in the past year. London is great because they use touchless pay terminals everywhere, which means we can use Apple Pay. China is the worst, as it can be hard to find places that accept American cards even though credit card payment is common there.

In many countries, like Colombia and Cambodia, you're best off just going with cash, as credit card is rarely accepted.
Ken @ Mouse Hacking

Before you take that next big trip, prepare for these very-avoidable mishaps by getting a credit card ideal for international travel. Find the right card and you'll also enjoy other travel benefits like:

  • Access to great deals on flights and hotels
  • Rewards for everyday purchases
  • Travel insurance and more.

Better yet, by applying for that new card BEFORE your next trip, you might save hundreds of dollars on airfare with the right lucrative sign-up bonus.

Before you apply, learn the features every world-traveler needs.

Three Must-Have Features

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Looking for a great travel card for international travel? Start with these must-have features.

  • No foreign transaction fee: When you travel outside the country, paying by credit card gets a bit pricey. Many cards charge a foreign transaction fee that adds about 3% to every purchase.

    Spending $1,000 while overseas could mean an additional $30 in fees with the wrong card.

    These fees can really add up if you're a frequent traveler, especially when you factor in what you may already be paying due to the exchange rate.

    Tip: Avoid exchanging money when you travel. You're likely to get better rates for purchases with a no foreign transaction fee credit card

    With so many cards with no foreign transaction fees, there's no reason to pay any extra.

  • Chip technology: A credit card with a smart chip can make life a lot easier when you travel.

    There are two types of smart chips: chip-and-signature and chip-and-PIN. Most U.S. banks are issuing chip-and-signature these days, while most European banks are issuing chip-and-PIN credit cards. Just like miles vs. kilometers, the U.S. just has to do things differently.

    What does that mean for you? Well, while having a smart chip helps, you may find the occasional unmanned kiosk (like a highway tollbooth) that requires a PIN.

    If you run into this problem, some machines will let you hit cancel to continue—doesn't make sense but it sometimes works. Otherwise, you'll have to use another payment method.

  • Worldwide acceptance: No foreign transaction fee and the right smart chip are great BUT they do you much good if the merchant doesn't accept your card.

    Which credit card can be used internationally? We recommend you travel abroad with a Visa or MasterCard. Some popular U.S. cards like American Express and Discover may not work where you're going.

    But consider bringing your Discover card along as a backup. Discover doesn't charge foreign transaction fees and partners with other networks like China UnionPay and JCB. China UnionPay is accepted widely across China, and JCB is accepted widely in Japan.

    Tip: Most travel credit cards require great credit. If you have less than excellent credit, you may need to consider a credit card for fair credit.

Once you've narrowed your choices using these three key factors, start looking at the benefits and bonuses each card offers.

But remember: you may end up paying an annual fee for some special perks.

Read on for our top picks and best deals.

Top Credit Cards for International Travel

© CreditDonkey

Redeeming miles toward flights and hotel stays always comes in handy for travelers. Many travel cards offer these benefits, but they usually limit you to one airline network or hotel chain.

These cards are our picks for the best travel companions on your next trip.

  • What is the best credit card to use in Europe?
    Barclaycard Arrival Plus supports Chip and PIN. Many credit card readers in Europe use a chip-and-PIN system instead of the chip-and-signature system used in the US.

    Barclaycard Arrival Plus
    Apply for Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
    Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days. 60,000 bonus miles is enough to redeem for a $600 travel statement credit. This card earns 2x miles on all purchases. And when you redeem, you get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is a $89 annual fee (waived first year). Apply Now | Rates & Fees

    Tip: Have great credit? Many travel credit cards offer huge bonus points when you sign up and meet the spending requirement.

  • Which credit card gives the best travel rewards?
    Chase Sapphire Reserve
    Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve
    Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This card offers a $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.

    This card earns 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has $0 foreign transaction fees. The card comes with access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. There is a $450 annual fee.

    Tip: Do you have existing credit card debt? If so, instead of focusing on rewards, focus on low interest credit cards. You can do a balance transfer to help pay off credit card debt fast.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
    Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great international card with the following benefits:

    • No foreign transaction fees
    • A smart chip for enhanced security and wide acceptance
    • It's Visa, so it's accepted in many places around the world.

    Deal Alert: Right now, their promotion earns you 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®, Chase's online travel portal.

    You can earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.

    What else? If you're already into airline miles, you know how lucrative they can be. The Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you transfer points, on a 1:1 basis, to leading frequent travel programs, such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, Hyatt, and even the Ritz-Carlton.

    Related: Learn more about airline and hotel loyalty programs with our beginner's guide to airline miles and credit card points.

    The card also has premium travel and purchase protection benefits, including trip cancellation, trip interruption insurance, and auto rental collision damage waiver.

    Watch Out: Is there a catch? Yes. It has an annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95), so only serious travelers should consider this credit card. Otherwise, it will cost you more than it rewards you.

    To learn more about Chase Sapphire Preferred, read our review and analysis on whether the benefits are worth it.

It's important to keep all receipts. Do not let them get wet or altered in anyway as this is your last resource for corroboration of claims on your behalf and a record of your transaction. Also ask about the interchange and foreign exchange rate assessed to your credit or debit card use. Opt to pay in U.S. dollars, or if the euro is stronger, you can charge in that currency and see lower cost centers charged to your account."

Jim Angleton, President of AEGIS FinServ Corp

Other Cards to Consider

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  • Capital One Venture Rewards earns 2x miles per dollar but has an annual fee. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card earns 1.25 miles per dollar but has no annual fee. Both cards have no foreign transaction fees.

    Tip: Because Capital One Venture gives you 2x points on all purchases, you'll rack up the points faster than you would with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. But with Capital One Venture, you don't have the option to transfer miles to frequent flyer programs.

    The card that's better for you all depends on how you like to play the air miles game. You can read our comparative review here.

  • No Annual Fee: Don't like annual fees? Discover it Miles will match all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year. This offer is limited to new cardmembers only. This card earns 1.5x miles on all purchases and has no annual fee.

    Plus, Discover will pay you back for your in-flight WiFi fees, up to $30 a year, through an automatic statement credit.

    Did you know: You can use Discover cards wherever you see the China UnionPay logo in Mainland China?

    According to The Nilson Report, an industry leader in global card payment analysis, "UnionPay debit cards were the most popular payment product based on [global] purchase volume, followed by Visa credit cards."

  • Students: Capital One Journey offers 1% cash back on all purchases. If you pay on time, you can boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month. After you make your first 5 monthly payments on time, you may get access to a higher credit line. There is no annual fee.

  • Ink Business Preferred
    Apply for Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
    Business Travelers: Ink Business Preferred lets you earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 80,000 points is worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee.

Remember to notify your bank about your travel plans before you leave--especially when visiting a place you've never been.

When banks see a bunch of unusual charges on your card, they might suspect fraud and decline transactions. That's why we always recommend carrying more than one type of payment just in case.

Bottom Line

© CreditDonkey

International travel can be exciting—and stressful. But the right credit card can make your life easier and save you money. Find the best one before you leave to take advantage of bonus points.

You can also check out our Beginner's Guide to Airline Miles and Points . Learn how to navigate the miles and points system, and you'll be racking up serious rewards in no time.

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.

Disclaimer: The information for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, and Discover it® Miles has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

More from CreditDonkey:


Foreign Transaction Fee


Airline Miles for Beginners


Credit Cards for Excellent Credit

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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®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 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
  • Go to issuer's official application, terms, and details
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/A
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

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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 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.

†Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

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.