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Global travel is becoming more and more accessible with great airfare sales, low-cost carriers, and the ability to earn and use frequent flyer miles for international tickets. It’s all but essential to have a credit card for international travel, but not all cards are created equal—not by a long shot. If you have the desire to travel internationally, or even already have a trip planned, you should stock your wallet with a credit card that serves you well overseas. A number of credit cards offer perks like travel insurance, airport lounge access, a Global Entry fee credit, and no foreign transaction fees to make your travel even more enjoyable.
Sometimes those perks can make the difference between a travel hassle and travel disaster. Defunct discount airline Wow Air stranded passengers when it closed up shop in March, 2019, and its bankruptcy interrupted vacations around the world. Passengers who had bought their tickets with cash were out of luck. But passengers who had paid with a credit card had options like chargebacks or, in some cases, travel insurance to reimburse the canceled tickets and cover the cost of a new flight home.
If you have international travel in your future, these six choices could be the best credit cards for you.
The best no foreign transaction fee credit cards of June, 2019:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
- Citi Prestige Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
How we evaluated
I’m a travel writer who has been writing about credit cards for the last six years and studying card benefits for many years longer. Many credit card options help elevate your international travel experience, and I’ll help you figure out which option is the best for you.
To examine cards, I looked at major credit cards with flexible points and great benefits while traveling abroad. Yes, no foreign transaction fees was an absolute requirement! The best cards were chosen based on the value of rewards (both points and perks), fees specifically connected to international travel.
Things to know about credit cards
- Most of these cards come with an annual fee, but some cards offer perks each year that significantly defray (or even negate) the fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a good example of this.
- APR rates and credit limits vary based on your individual credit. Credit limits and interest rates for each card are determined based on each cardholder’s personal situation, so we did not take that information into account when evaluating these cards. One thing to remember is that if you pay your card off in full every month, you will not be charged interest.
- Banks have the final say on who they accept for a credit card. These recommendations were put together with the assumption that applicants would have average credit or above. That being said, banks decide who they will issue credit cards to using criteria including, but not always limited to, an individual’s credit score when evaluating each applicant.
Best Overall: Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the premium travel credit card with the most—and most valuable—travel benefits, making it easily our top pick. Users earn flexible and valuable points and a slew of trip-related perks. This card has a $450 annual fee, but its excellent returns quickly make it worthwhile for jetsetters.
Points: Chase created a proprietary reward system called Ultimate Reward points. The Sapphire Reserve card offers 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases, and 1 Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent on everything else. The points can then be used to book hotels, cruises, car rentals, vacation rentals, and tourist activities directly through Chase’s travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point ($0.015). For additional flexibility, points can also be transferred to partners like Hyatt and United Airlines.
Perks: The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for any purchases you make abroad. It offers purchase protection (basically, insurance for your purchases) and extended warranty protection (to extend the manufacturer’s warranty for items you purchase). It also offers primary car rental insurance coverage up to $75,000 in physical damages or theft, meaning you don’t have to pay extra for the car rental company’s insurance and if something happens to your rental car, you won’t have to make a claim to your own insurance policy first. You’ll also benefit from trip delay coverage, trip cancellation coverage, and lost and damaged baggage coverage.
What’s more, the Sapphire Reserve also offers a $300 annual travel credit, where the first $300 in travel purchases (from taxi fares to hotels to flights) made on your card each year will be refunded via a statement credit, effectively reducing the annual fee to $150. You’ll also receive a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit (a $85 or $100 value) every four years, and a Priority Pass Select Membership, giving you access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Best Value: Barclaycard Arrival Plus
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a solid all-around travel card, and it’s a great credit card to travel with internationally. This card earns great rewards on all purchases, regardless of category. It has an $89 annual fee, which is waived the first year. For these reasons, it has earned our best value distinction.
Points: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers 2 Arrival Plus miles per dollar spent on all purchases. The miles can be redeemed as a statement credit for all kinds of travel purchases including hotels, cruises, car rentals, and flights at a value of 1 cent each. That’s equivalent to getting 2% back on all of your purchases. What’s more, every time you redeem your miles, you’ll get 5% of the miles back to use toward your next redemption, which actually means this card earns 2.1% back on all of your purchases. And, on top of that, for any purchase categorized as “travel,” you can apply the cash value of your miles as a statement credit toward paying it off it. In other words, if you accrue 10,000 miles, you can apply them as payment to cover $100 of travel spending.
Perks: In addition, the Arrival Plus card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and currently offers a 0% introductory APR period for 12 months on balance transfers made within the first 45 days of opening the account (only one other card on our list, the no-annual-fee Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, also offers this). After the introductory 0% APR period, a variable APR (between 18.24% to 25.24% based on creditworthiness) will apply. The Arrival Plus also comes with Chip + PIN functionality—a common payment method in Europe—which can make international purchases more secure and easier (for example, some European train kiosks only accept this type of card).
Learn more about the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige Card has a couple of unique benefits beyond lounge access and an annual travel credit, but, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s not a card that comes cheap. The Citi Prestige has a $495 annual fee.
Points: The Citi Prestige Card earns Citi ThankYou Points which, like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, can be transferred to a number of different partners including British Airways and Singapore Airlines. The Citi Prestige Card earns 5 points per dollar spent on air travel and dining purchases, 3 points per dollar spent on cruises and hotels, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. In addition to transferring, you can redeem points at a rate of 1 cent each ($0.01) through Citi’s travel portal.
Perks: The Citi Prestige Card offers some similar perks to the Sapphire Reserve including a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost and delayed baggage coverage, and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit. Citi also offers a $250 annual travel credit ($50 less than the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s) that will give you a statement credit for the first $250 in travel purchases you put on your card each year, effectively defraying the annual fee to $245. Last, but certainly not least, is the Citi Prestige’s most unique benefit: “4th Night Free” hotel reservations. You’ll get the average nightly price of your four-night (or longer) hotel stay rebated to your credit card, exclusive of taxes and fees. But be aware: You can only use this perk twice a year.
Learn more about the Citi Prestige Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the lower-annual-fee sibling of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, costing $95 per year. It has been a favorite credit card for travelers since it was introduced in 2009, and was named our overall best travel credit card. It comes with fewer benefits than the Sapphire Reserve, but may be a better choice for people that don’t travel frequently enough to get value out of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or anyone who spends less than $5,500 per year on travel and dining combined.
Points: The Sapphire Preferred earns the same Ultimate Rewards points that the Sapphire Reserve does, though at a slightly lower rate. You’ll get 2 points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Ultimate Rewards points can then be used to book hotels, cruises, car rentals, vacation rentals, and tourist activities directly through Chase’s travel portal at an also-lower rate of 1.25 cents per point ($0.0125). Similarly, these points may be transferred to Chase’s airline and hotel partners like Hyatt and United.
Perks: Just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Sapphire Preferred doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for any purchases you make abroad. It also offers purchase protection and extended warranty protection on purchases made with your card where the manufacturer’s warranty is three years or less. You’ll also get primary car rental insurance coverage, trip delay coverage, trip cancellation coverage, and lost and damaged baggage coverage.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred
American Express Platinum
While American Express cards aren’t accepted widely outside of the US (typically only at international locations of US-based hotel and restaurant chains and sometimes high-end stores), having the Platinum Card from American Express might be useful as a second card when traveling abroad. Specifically, the Platinum Card plugs you into Amex’s excellent travel concierge service, which is like having a personal travel agent a phone call away, no matter where in the world you are. This card is also a good option for people who like to fly and can make use of American Express’ best-in-class Centurion Lounges, with locations in eight international airports and growing. This card has a $550 annual fee, though, so you’ll definitely want to use it often in the US to make its points and perks worthwhile overall.
Points: The Platinum Card from American Express offers 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. These points can be redeemed through Amex Travel with a value of 1 cent each ($0.01) or they can be transferred to American Express transfer partners like British Airways and Air Canada.
Perks: Even though you may not be able to spend money on your Platinum Card everywhere you travel, it still has many benefits that are worthwhile for international travel. First off, American Express travel concierges are the best, and accessible for . assistance with restaurant reservations, concert tickets, and more anywhere in the world when you’re a Platinum cardholder. In addition, each calendar year, you may select an airline for your $200 airline incidentals credit. This credit can cover things like seat selection, upgrades, checked bag fees, drinks onboard, and more. Similar to other premium credit cards, you’ll get a Priority Pass Select membership with access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, but you will also have access to American Express’ amazing Centurion Lounges (currently eight within the US and eight international lounges, with more opening every year) and to Delta’s lounges when you fly Delta. And you’ll also have your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee covered when you pay for it with your card. The Amex Platinum also offers $200 annually in Uber credits ($15 per month, $20 in December) but only for use in the US.
Learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express
Bank of America Travel Rewards
The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card’s main selling point is that it doesn’t charge an annual fee and, like all other cards on this list, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees either. Since it is a card without a fee, it’s also lacking the benefits that other cards on this list has and earns a lower rate of rewards. That said, if you spend less than $14,833 on your card each year (an average monthly total of $1,236), this card might be a better choice for you compared with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which has similar benefits and an annual fee of $89.
Points: The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card offers 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. When you want to use your points, you can pay for your flight, hotel, car rental, vacation package, cruise, or baggage fees with your card and redeem your points as a statement credit to offset the cost of the purchase.
Perks: This card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, it also offers an introductory 0% APR period on purchases for the first 12 billing cycles. After which, your APR will be between 17.24% and 25.24%.
Learn more about the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
When you sign up for one of these cards, Reviewed may receive an affiliate commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network.
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