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Best Credit Cards for International Travel

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

When you find yourself in a foreign country, and need access to funds, it is always a good idea to have a credit card that you can fall back on. However, between hidden fees and compatibility with outside payment systems, not all credit cards will be able to serve you well on your travels. The following credit cards are the ones that are best suited for individuals who find themselves frequently traveling overseas.

Best Credit Cards for International Travel

The following list is meant to fit a broad spectrum of consumer profiles - ones we believe to be the most common. Choosing a credit card is seldom a "one-size-fits-all" question, and therefore we urge consumers to use our interactive tools to find the best credit cards for you based on your own individual spending profile. Read more to see which cards are our general top picks for travel abroad, who they're best suited for, and why.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®: Best Overall Card

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
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The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a must for anybody who is travelling to countries where Chip + Pin cards are the standard. Not only is this credit card one of the few to support this variant of EMV technology, but it also happens to be one of the best overall travel rewards credit cards. It offers a solid 2.1% rewards rate on anything you buy (the card actually offers 2 miles for every $1 you spend, but we value each mile at $0.0105). It also comes with no foreign transaction fees, which saves you about 3% on every transaction overseas versus most standard U.S. credit cards.

In the short term, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® also gives a fantastic signing bonus. If you can spend $5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, you'll be awarded 70,000 miles. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers a 5% miles dividend to cardholders who redeem their rewards towards travel statement credit.

Highlights

  • Great rewards across all spending
  • Chip + Pin technology makes it accessible in all countries
  • 5% miles back on travel redemptions

The information related to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best Chip + Signature Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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If you travel to countries where the use of chip & signature credit cards isn’t an issue, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card is one of the best options to have. This is one of our favorite credit cards, for both travel and overall rewards. When you book flights and hotels using this card you can earn as much as 2.5% back through rewards (2 points per dollar multiplied by the 1.25 bonus when redeeming for travel on the Chase portal). The same rate applies to dining. Because of this, the card is the perfect choice for a traveler who also spends a lot on cuisines (whether internationally or back at home).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s strength lies in the Ultimate Rewards program. The points you earn through it are among the most valuable of any credit card on the market. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a number of different partner programs, including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, Marriott Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, and more.

It also offers users a sizable 60,000 point welcome bonus. To qualify, users must spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The value of this bonus is roughly $750, when those points are used towards booking travel arrangements through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Highlights

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards® is a fantastic rewards program
  • Sizable welcome bonus, worth up to $750
  • Flexible rewards points that can be transferred to a number of different hotel and airline partners

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for Luxury International Travel

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Anyone who spends a lot of time in airports will find value in the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This premium credit card has a hefty annual fee of $450 per year. However, the card pays for itself with the plethora of perks the card offers. The $300 Annual Travel Credit alone drops the card’s price to $150 per year for users who take advantage of the feature.

Frequent travelers can skip the long lines at the airport by utilizing the card’s TSA Pre✓/Global Entry application reimbursement—a $100 value. Once through the security line, cardholders can head to an airport lounge to take advantage of the Wi-Fi, free snacks, beverages, and more. The card also features one of the best trip cancellation/insurance policies we’ve seen on a credit card. The feature reimburses you up to $10,000 for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses if your trip is cancelled due to a covered situation, such as illness.

What makes this card great for luxury international travel is that there are perks for every step of your journey. On top of earning rewards for using the card, you’ll have access to car rental discounts and upgrades, roadside assistance, lost luggage reimbursement, and more. The culmination of the card’s features is a seamless travel experience for cardholders.

Highlights

  • 3x points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases (3 points on travel after you earn the $300 travel credit)
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit automatically applied to your account for travel purchases charged to your card
  • Complimentary Airport Lounge Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide
  • 1:1 Point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review.

Citi Premier℠ Card: Best for Earning International Travel Miles

Citi Premier℠ Card
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Out of the credit cards we surveyed, the Citi Premier℠ Card has one of the best assortments of international airline partners. Points earned with the Citi Premier℠ Card can be converted into miles at advantageous conversion rates, which makes it one of the best cards for anyone looking for international miles. Savvy international travelers are able to convert their ThankYou points—generally worth $0.01—to a higher valued reward programs points. The Citi Premier℠ Card allows users to transfer their ThankYou points to several partners.

Even international travelers who aren’t interested in transferring points can benefit from this card. The Citi Premier℠ Card offers cardholders a rewards rate that ranges from 1% to 3%. Another reason that the Citi Premier℠ Card is an excellent card for international travelers is due to its lack of foreign transaction fees.

Highlights

  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on Travel, Including Gas Stations.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Dining Out & Entertainment.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on All Other Purchases.
  • Citi Premier℠ Card Review.
The information related to the Citi Premier℠ Card has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.

How To Find The Best Credit Cards for International Travelers

If you’re searching for credit card offers by yourself, there are a three key points to keep in mind that will allow you to identify whether a card has “international potential”.

No Foreign Transaction Fees – whenever you use a typical credit card outside of the United States, your issuer will charge you a 3% fee. While it may not seem like a huge fee, if you shop overseas frequently enough, it will add up quickly. When searching for a credit card fit for your travels, we recommend looking at ones that do not charge you this fee.

Smartchip Technology – different countries throughout the world have infrastructure to support either chip & pin or chip & signature credit cards. If you get a credit card that is chip & pin, you will be fine using it in any place in the world which accepts credit cards. However, if you pick a card with the chip & signature, we suggest you be a little bit more careful. In countries that are designed to accept chip & pin cards (such as France and the UK), you may have trouble getting your card accepted – especially at unmanned payment terminals. The map below serves as a quick reference as to whether countries have a predominantly chip + pin or chip + signature set-up.

Mastercard, and Visa - If you're visiting major tourist destinations, resorts, hotels, and museums, then you should have no problem paying with your card there. While Visa and Mastercard are accepted nearly everywhere, you should always check before travelling. These networks don't operate in every single country - most notably in Russia.

This map shows at a glance which countries have predominantly adopted the chip and pin versus chip and signature for their credit card processing.

With the above factors in mind, you can consult our tool to determine the cards that offer you the highest rewards rates. You can enter your spending, and we’ll do all the math for you.

Credit Card Comparison Tool

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Comments and Questions

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).