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Credit Cards

Make sure your credit card checks off these 5 boxes when traveling internationally

These five kinds of credit cards can help take the hassle out of your next international trip.

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Emily Deltetto / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

When it comes to traveling abroad, most people put a great deal of thought into the clothes and accessories they're packing. While that's certainly important, it's also worth considering which types of credit cards you should be bringing along with you.

Credit cards aren't just a safe and convenient payment option — many of them also come with valuable benefits that can improve your travel experience and come to your aid in case of an emergency. With the right credit cards, you can skip buying travel insurance and still have peace of mind in knowing you'll be protected if your travels are ever interrupted or canceled.

Of course, there are other things to look for when it's time to pack your wallet for an international trip. You'll want to bring multiple cards that are widely accepted, especially those that waive foreign transaction fees and offer generous travel rewards. And while you may be able to accomplish this by bringing a single credit card, it's always best to have a backup or two, just in case. Here are five types of credit cards to take with you on your next trip overseas.

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No foreign transaction fees

Traveling abroad is costly enough when you tally up your hotel bill, ground transportation, dining and the occasional shopping expedition. Imagine having to pay 3% on top of those expenses just for using your credit card.

Many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees for purchases originating outside the U.S. Fortunately, these fees can be easily avoided when you use the right kind of credit card. Plenty of travel rewards credit cards — including the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the ultra-premium Platinum Card® from American Express — will simply waive them as a cardholder benefit.

Several no-annual-fee credit cards — such as the Discover it® Miles and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees)— waive foreign transaction fees as well, so there really shouldn't be a reason to have to pay them.

By packing one of these cards for your trip abroad, you'll be able to save on pesky fees while potentially earning even more travel rewards for all your overseas purchases.

Discover it® Miles

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the Miles earned for all new cardmembers at the end of your first year.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases.

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 28.24% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

  • *See rates and fees, terms apply.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    5 Miles per dollar on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for the first 15 months; 4% at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer you at any other time

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees. Terms apply.

 

Earns bonus points on travel

When you're planning a trip abroad, bringing along a travel rewards credit card is a must. Travel spending is one of the most lucrative bonus categories out there, so you'll want to take advantage of the opportunity to maximize it.

While plenty of travel rewards credit cards offer bonus points for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel expenses, the following four cards can provide especially lucrative points-earning opportunities.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) offers a very generous 10X miles per dollar spent when you book your hotel and rental car via the Capital One Travel portal, plus 5X miles per dollar on flights booked directly through Capital One Travel. All other purchases earn 2X miles per dollar, making this a valuable card to take with you on a trip abroad — plus, you won't have to worry about paying any foreign transaction fees. Although the card comes with a $395 annual fee, it can be offset by taking advantage of perks like the up to $300 Capital One Travel credit and 10,000-mile bonus on each account anniversary (worth at least $100 toward travel).

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars, 5 Miles per dollar on flights when booked via Capital One Travel; unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $395

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • See rates and fees. Terms apply.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is an excellent choice if you're planning to travel abroad, as it offers 10X points per dollar spent on rental cars and hotels booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. Flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® earn 5X points per dollar, while dining and general travel purchases let you pick up 3X points per dollar.

The card, which has a hefty annual fee of $550, also waives foreign transaction fees and offers an up to $300 annual travel credit, which is an excellent way to save on your travels. Plus, points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. So, 3X points is effectively a 4.5% return, 5X points is 7.5% and 10X is a whopping 15%.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    22.49% - 29.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • Terms apply.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is a budget-friendly alternative to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offering a modest $95 annual fee and generous rewards on travel spending.

Cardholders earn 5X points per dollar spent on Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel bookings (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the annual hotel credit); 3X points per dollar spent on online grocery shopping (except Target, Walmart, and other wholesale clubs); 3X points per dollar on dining, including takeout and delivery; 3X points per dollar on certain streaming services; 2X points per dollar on all other travel-related spending; and 1X points per dollar for all other purchases.

The card also comes with an annual $50 credit that's valid on hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and offers a 10% points boost on your anniversary.

Overall, it's a solid option if you're looking for a rewarding card that waives foreign transaction fees and has a reasonable annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express 

The Platinum Card® from American Express is on the pricier end with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), but lets you earn 5X points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or via the Amex Travel Portal (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotel bookings made through Amex Travel, and 1X points on all other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

While the points-earning category bonuses are more limited than those offered by other travel rewards credit cards, the Amex Platinum does come with a full suite of valuable travel protections to help make up for the lack of rewards, which brings us to the next point.

Offers travel protections

Earning points on purchases and saving money on foreign transaction fees is great, but one of the most important benefits you can have when you're traveling abroad is travel protection. A lot can go wrong when you're out of the country and travel insurance can help you recover nonrefundable travel expenses and get help during an emergency. You'll want to bring a credit card that comes with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car coverage, and baggage insurance.

For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers one of the most comprehensive collections of travel protections, including up to $10,000 per person in trip cancellation and interruption coverage. Cardholders also receive primary rental car coverage of up to $75,000 in the U.S. as well as abroad. Lost luggage reimbursement covers up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damaged luggage, while the included trip delay coverage gets you reimbursed up to $500 per ticket for meals and lodging if your flight is delayed by six hours or longer.

There are plenty of credit cards out there that offer this type of travel insurance, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your preferred card's benefits and pack one that will have you covered if things don't go quite as planned.

Learn more: How does credit card travel insurance work?

Grants airport lounge access

Traveling abroad can be exhilarating, rewarding, and life-changing, but navigating unfamiliar airports can sometimes be stressful. If you're traveling during high season, you might encounter crowded gates with nowhere to sit, let alone enjoy an overpriced coffee.

That's where airport lounges come in. Typically reserved for business-class and first-class passengers, they offer a relaxing reprieve from the chaos of busy terminals. 

While you can pay around $50 per person for a day pass, the right credit card can provide you with lounge access free of charge. Better yet, you can often bring a friend or two in with you. The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, offers the most comprehensive lounge perks, including access to its Amex Centurion Lounges, the Priority Pass network, Escape lounges, and Delta Sky Club lounges, among others.

If you don't want to shell out $695 for the Amex Platinum's annual fee, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card's (see rates and fees) $395 annual fee is more palatable and provides access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass lounges as well as those in the growing network of Capital One Lounges — plus, you can bring up to two guests in with you free of charge.

For an even more affordable option, consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees). Its reasonable $95 annual fee gets you two complimentary lounge passes per year for access to Capital One Lounges and those of its partner lounge network, making it a great option for infrequent travelers who don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a premium travel rewards credit card.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    5 Miles per dollar on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

Visa or Mastercard backing

When traveling abroad, it's important to carry a reliable form of payment, and credit cards backed by Visa and Mastercard are among the most widely accepted forms of payment worldwide. Taking a Visa or Mastercard with you can provide peace of mind with the knowledge that you can easily access your funds and make purchases without worrying about currency exchange rates or other fee-related issues.

These types of credit cards also offer included benefits such as travel insurance, fraud protection, and purchase protection, which can come in handy if your trip is interrupted or canceled for covered reasons.

If your card happens to be a Visa Signature or Mastercard World Elite credit card, you can even access premium travel perks and discounts. For example, both Visa Signature and World Elite Mastercard cards provide access to exclusive rental car perks, fine dining experiences, and discounts at participating hotels. These benefits can vastly improve your travel experience and help save you money as you go.

If you're going to be traveling with a Mastercard, bring a Visa credit card as backup, and vice-versa. You never know when you might need one or the other, and aside from ensuring your credit card will be accepted, bringing a backup along will come in handy should you lose your primary credit card. 

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

Bottom line

Traveling internationally can be an exciting adventure, but there's always a chance you could encounter some challenges along the way. By having the right credit card line-up, you can help to mitigate some of the difficulties you may face, all while saving money, earning travel rewards, and enjoying peace of mind.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Miles, click here.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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