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June 20, 2018

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. Read this before you take off.

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Here are the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards for 2018:

50,000 Bonus Points

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

The 3 Big Factors to Consider

When looking for a credit card for international travel, we recommend focusing on three key factors to start:

  • Foreign transaction fee: When you travel outside the country, paying by credit card gets a bit complicated. Many cards charge a foreign transaction fee that adds about 3% to every one of your purchases.

    If you travel internationally often, these fees can really start to add up. Spending $1,000 while overseas could mean an additional $30 in fees with the wrong card.

    You don't want to add 3% to your entire trip. With so many cards with no foreign transaction fees, there's no reason why you should pay them at all.

  • Chip technology: A credit card with a smart chip helps out a lot with global acceptance.

    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, there is still the occasional unmanned kiosk, like on a highway tollbooth, that will require a PIN. If you run into this problem, some machines will let you hit cancel to continue. Hitting cancel to continue doesn't make much sense, but sometimes, it works. However, sometimes you might just have to use another payment method.

  • Worldwide acceptance: No foreign transaction fee and the right smart chip are two signs you have the right card, but it won't do you much good if the merchant doesn't accept the card's network. While American Express and Discover are popular in the United States, that might not be the case where you're going.

    Generally speaking, we recommend that folks traveling abroad carry a Visa or MasterCard.

    But that doesn't mean you have to leave your Discover card your home if you already have one. Discover doesn't have any foreign transaction fees and does have partnerships with other networks such as China UnionPay and JCB. China UnionPay is accepted widely across China, and JCB is accepted widely in Japan. So, bring the Discover card along, but it's probably a good idea to have a backup.

    Tip: Most travel credit cards are only for those with great credit score. If you have less than excellent credit, you may need to consider a credit card for fair credit.

Once you know the three most important factors, start to take a look at the travel benefits for individual cards. Some offer special perks, but you usually have to pay for them.

Top Credit Cards for International Travel

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

In our opinion, these cards are the best travel companions to have around on your next trip.

  • Barclays Arrival Premier
    Apply for Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard
    Barclays Arrival Premier earns 2x miles on every purchase. Plus, each year earn up to 25,000 loyalty bonus miles. That's 75,000 miles each year if you spend $25,000 on purchases. This card comes with LoungeKey with access to over 800 lounges worldwide (fees apply). This card has international Chip and PIN capability and no foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad. There is a $150 annual fee. Apply Now | Rates & Fees

  • 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 and dining worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. 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.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
    The 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 the Chase Sapphire Preferred, read our review and analysis on whether the benefits are worth it for you.

Other Cards to Consider

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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.

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.

Why It Matters

Imagine this: you are in Paris and you need to get on a train to London.

However, your credit card isn't working and you don't have enough cash for a ticket. You'll be helpless as you watch the train leave without you.

This happens to many Americans, all because they didn't have the right credit card for traveling abroad. Besides trying to deal with your credit card not working in a foreign country, you could also be charged a fee for every swipe. This could put a huge damper on your vacation when you get home and see the 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 travel mishaps by getting a credit card ideal for using out of the country.

Not only will this help your purchases go more smoothly while abroad, these cards offer many other travel benefits, including access to great deals on flights and hotels, rewards for everyday purchases, travel insurance, and more.

In fact, it's smart to get started on applying for that new card before your next trip. You can save hundreds of dollars on airfare with the right lucrative sign-up bonus.

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

Remember

© CreditDonkey

Before you go: Remember to notify your bank about your travel plans. Especially if you plan to visit a place you have never been to. When banks see a bunch of unusual charges to your credit card, they might suspect fraud and decline transactions. For that reason, we always recommend you carry more than one type of payment just in case.

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Airline Miles and Points before you go. Once you learn how to navigate the miles and points system, you'll be racking up some 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, 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.

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Airline Miles for Beginners


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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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