The best credit cards for international travel can make traversing the globe a more comfortable and rewarding experience. Compare our top picks to see how they work for your travel style and goals.
The Bank of America content was last updated on March 8, 2021.
The best credit cards for international travel can make traveling a more comfortable and rewarding experience, and in more ways than one.
The right rewards credit card can help you score valuable travel perks like airport lounge access and expedited airport security. Some cards even let you avoid unnecessary foreign transaction fees. The top travel cards in the market also let you earn points and miles you can redeem for free flights, hotel stays and more.
If you’re in the market for a credit card for international travel, you’ll want to compare all the top cards to see how they might work for your travel style and goals. Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards for travel overseas, what they offer in terms of perks and rewards and how you can sign up.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best credit card for international travel
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is frequently listed as the top travel credit card on the market today, and for good reason. This card gives you 3X points on travel (after earning $300 annual travel credit) and dining purchases plus 1 point per $1 on everything else you buy. Through March 2022, you will also earn 10 points each dollar you spend on rides with Lyft. As an added bonus, you will earn 3X points on up to $1,000 per month in grocery spending through April 30, 2021 as well.
New cardholders are also eligible to earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. That’s worth $900 in travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Redemption options are very flexible: You can redeem rewards as statement credits toward any travel purchase, or for travel through the Chase portal to get a 50% redemption bonus (making your points worth 1.5 cents apiece). Also, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to 11 travel partners, including United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards.
In exchange for the $550 annual fee, you’ll also receive excellent travel benefits like a TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. Furthermore, the card comes with some of the best travel protections around, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance and primary car rental insurance.
The card also offers a $300 annual travel credit that applies to most travel purchases. So, if you make at least $300 in travel purchases each year, you’ll cancel out most of the card’s fee.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best credit card for international lounge access
Frequent travelers who want superior perks should also consider The Platinum Card from American Express. This card gives you 5X points on up to $500,000 in airfare booked annually with airlines or through American Express Travel as well as 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. You also get 1 point per $1 on everything else you buy as well as 75,000 points when you use your card for $5,000 in purchases within six months.
Amazingly, you can also earn 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined purchases) in the first six months.While you may not want to go solo with the Platinum card due to its more limited acceptance in foreign countries, you’ll find that the card is a great choice for getting comfortably to your destination. The Platinum card is piled with perks, including access to one of the largest and lushest lounge networks in the world, encompassing Amex Centurion lounges, Delta SkyClub lounges and the Priority Pass network.
Furthermore, the card is laden with valuable travel credits, including an airline fee credit of up to $200, up to $200 in Uber credits each year, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership and a $75-$100 hotel credit.
The credits can be trickier to apply than the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit (the airline fee credit, for instance, only applies to incidentals on one airline that you must designate at the start of each year). However, if you know how to use the Platinum card’s perks, you can easily outmatch the $550 annual fee.
See related: When is a credit card annual fee worth it?
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flexible card for international travel
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers an interesting rewards proposition and miles you can use in more than one way. Once you sign up, you’ll rack up a flat 2X miles for each dollar you spend. The card also offers 100,000 miles if you spend $20,000 in your first 12 months or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, worth $1,000 or $500 in travel, respectively.
Redemption is simple and straightforward: You can redeem Capital One miles for any type of past travel on your credit card statement at a rate of 1 cent per mile using. Or, if you’re a bargain hunter and want to get a little extra value out of your miles, you can transfer them to a number of airline and hotel partners at a transfer ratio that varies based on the program.
If you decide not to travel, you can even redeem your miles for purchases made through PayPal.com or Amazon.com.
The card also offers a couple of features that make it a great choice for taking it abroad: It doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, and you’ll get up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, which can help you get through customs and security much faster. A $95 annual fee applies.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® card: Best credit card for infrequent international trips
If you want to earn rewards for international travel but you don’t take many trips abroad, it can make sense to sign up for a premier travel credit card that offers fewer international travel perks with a lower annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best options out there due to the fact you can transfer your points 1:1 to popular airlines for international travel, including Emirates, United Airlines, British Airways and more. You can also book international travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and you’ll get 25% more value when you do.
This card starts you off with 80,000 points worth $1,000 in travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening, but you’ll also earn 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022), 2X points on travel and dining and 1X points on all other purchases. Through April 30, 2021, you’ll also earn 2x points on up to $1,000 per month in grocery spending.
While you won’t get perks like airport lounge access or Global Entry membership, you’ll only pay $95 per year to keep this card.
See related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best international credit card with no annual fee
While we generally prefer premium travel cards over no-annual-fee travel cards, you should check out the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card if you’re trying to avoid an annual fee. For international trips, the Bank of America Travel card is a great choice – it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, plus you can add a PIN number to your card.
A PIN number is a convenient option for foreign countries where chip and pin cards are standard – you can use your card in more places, including unattended terminals that require PIN numbers.
The Bank of America Travel card also offers a solid rewards program: You get 25,000 points when you spend $1,000 on your card within the first 90 days, plus an unlimited 1.5 points for each dollar that you spend. When it comes to redeeming your rewards, you can cash them in for travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per point, or for gift cards, merchandise and more.
As a nice bonus, you’ll qualify for 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%. This perk can help you finance a large international trip then pay it down without interest for the first year.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students: Best international credit card for students
If you’re a student with no credit history trying to qualify for a travel card, you should check out the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students. The card offers a couple of key advantages: It doesn’t charge an annual fee, and it doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.
It also offers an exceptionally good rewards program for a student travel card. You get the same 25,000-point sign-up bonus as the regular Bank of America Travel card and the same 1.5-point earning rate, allowing you to rack up lots of points that you can use to fund your travels.
Redemption is just as easy and flexible as the regular Bank of America Travel card – you can redeem points as statement credits to cover any travel purchase. And like you would with the regular card, you’ll get 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 22.99%.
See related: What happens when your 0% introductory APR ends?
Compare top credit cards for international travel
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$550|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$550|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred card||$95|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||$0|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students||$0|
How to choose an international travel card
When choosing a card for international travel, you’ll want to look for rewards and benefits that match your travel plans and preferences. Most importantly, you need a card that you can use where you’re planning to travel. Here are the key features to consider:
- Global acceptance – Visa and Mastercard are most likely to be accepted around the globe, though American Express is also widely accepted in some parts of the world. Make sure you select a card that will be accepted where you travel the most.
- No foreign transaction fees – Choosing a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees will save you from paying an additional 3% or more on purchases you make abroad.
- Chip and PIN technology – Chip and PIN technology is immensely helpful when you travel abroad, but not all travel credit cards offer this perk. See which cards have chip and PIN technology before you choose a card.
- Good exchange rates – One big benefit of using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees is that the currency you pay with will be converted to your home currency with no fees required on your part. Mastercard typically offers slightly better rates than its competitors.
- Earning categories – The best credit cards for international travel tend to offer bonuses on certain categories of spend. Search for cards with category bonuses that match your spending patterns.
- Good redemption options – The top cards in this realm let you redeem for travel directly or transfer points to airline and hotel partners at a good value (1 cent per point or mile is standard). The more options you have and the more value you get on your points and miles, the better off you’ll be.
- Travel insurance benefits – The best travel credit cards offer free travel insurance like trip cancellation/interruption coverage, auto rental coverage, lost baggage insurance, baggage delay coverage and travel accident insurance.
- Airport lounge access – Look for cards that let you enter a range of airport lounges at airports around the globe, but specifically in destinations you travel to often.
- Global Entry/TSA Precheck – Also look for credit cards that offer a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit. Both these benefits let you enjoy expedited airport security, saving you time and stress when you travel.
- Hotel or airline preferences – If you travel frequently with certain hotels or airlines, you’ll find that certain cards are a better fit for you. On the other hand, if you aren’t loyal to any hotel or airline program, you may be better off with a more flexible travel card.
- Origin or destination of travel – Make sure the card’s rewards and benefits fit with your travel plans. For instance, some cards may offer better lounge options along your route, or you may find that certain rewards cards don’t offer good redemption options where you’re planning to travel.
- Customer service – Having a card with excellent customer service could come in handy in case of an emergency. According to J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, American Express and Discover received the highest marks for customer service satisfaction last year, followed by Bank of America.
Tips for using credit cards while traveling internationally
- Notify your card issuer that you will be out of the country to reduce the chance of having your account frozen at an inconvenient time.
- Bring multiple credit cards (preferably from different payment networks) in case a merchant doesn’t accept your main card, or your card gets declined.
- Rotate your cards to get better rewards on certain purchases.
- Have plenty of cash on hand for situations where you can’t use your credit cards.
- If you are traveling to a country with chip and PIN cards, see if your issuer will allow you to add a PIN to your card.
- Have your card information and your issuer’s emergency card services phone number on hand in case your card gets lost or stolen.
- Opt to put your charges in the local currency to avoid paying more for the currency conversion.
- Use your credit cards instead of cash where you can – as long as you are charging in the foreign currency, you can get a better exchange rate.
- Avoid using your cards for cash advances, unless it’s an absolute emergency.
- Use your credit card instead of a debit card to make purchases – not only can you avoid foreign transaction fees, but your purchases are more secure.
Picking a credit card for foreign travel can be an especially complicated choice. While you may have your eye out for a card with a large sign-up bonus and lots of points, you should have some travel goals in mind before you choose a card. If you know where and how you intend to travel, you’re more likely to find a card that can take you far in your journeys.
All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card for Students has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.