17 Best Credit Cards for International Travel 2017

17 Best Credit Cards for International Travel

credit card advice

Ray FitzGerald
By: Ray FitzGerald
Posted: November 17, 2017
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

International travel can be an awakening experience — or a test in how much inconvenience you’re able to put up with. Juggling passports, exchanging money to the local currency (for a fee each time), and language barriers are some of the hurdles that can be either exciting or exhausting, depending on your temperament.

My go-to currency on trips is plastic, but not all credit cards are equal internationally. Foreign transaction fees, usually 3% to convert your funds into local currency, can kill a budget. Be certain your credit card is among the best for international travel before boarding the plane for that dream trip overseas.

No Foreign Transaction Fee | Chip + PIN | Sign-Up Bonus | No Annual Fee | Business Travel 
  Student Travel  | Fair Credit

Best “No Foreign Transaction Fee” Credit Cards for International Travel

The average cost of a 12-day international vacation is $3,251 per person. If you put those costs on your credit card and get hit with foreign transaction fees, you’re looking at another $97.53 per person. That money could be spent on an extra night on the town or souvenir for a loved one – or better yet, in savings.

To get the most out of your vacation, you should choose a rewards card that is widely accepted across the globe and charges minimal, or no, foreign transaction fees. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, if you know you’re going to spend some cash, pick a card that doesn’t cost you to use it, starting with our two favorites.

  • Earn 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® Review

at Barclaycard'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.4/5.0
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable
$89 - Waived first year
Excellent

Before you decide which card is right for you, make sure it’s accepted in the area you’re visiting. Visa and Mastercard are the most common issuers international businesses accept. Citi’s acquisition of Diner’s Club gave it a foothold in many European territories, but it’s still not accepted everywhere. American Express, once a non-entity in Europe and Asia, is more commonplace now and is accepted in many areas that tourists frequent.

Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to keep a backup card on hand, just in case. Accidents happen — cards get left behind at a restaurant, security alerts can cause a card to lock up when it’s being used in a different country. Even if your backup card doesn’t have the favorable terms your primary card has, it won’t get used as much if you’re well prepared.

Best “Chip-and-PIN” Credit Cards for International Travel

Cards that contain a security chip and require a PIN for each transaction are still fairly new in the US. A good number of consumers haven’t switched over to the security-rich technology yet. In Europe, and many other foreign countries, chip-and-PIN cards have been standard for more than a decade, and many retailers don’t accept cards that are not enabled with the technology. Whether it’s buying a dinner or paying for train fare, you’ll need a chip card with a PIN to be on your way.

To avoid delays in purchases — or embarrassment at the register — it’s important to make sure your card is as ready for your vacation as you are, perhaps with one of our top-rated picks below.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 3X points at U.S. gas stations, 2X points at U.S. restaurants, 1X point on other purchases
  • Redeem points for travel, gift cards, cash redemption options or merchandise through Go Far® Rewards
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
  • Earn an annual relationship bonus of 10% on non-bonus rewards points if you maintain a qualifying Wells Fargo account
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 13.99%-25.99% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99%-25.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® Review

at Barclaycard'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.4/5.0
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable
$89 - Waived first year
Excellent

These cards will ensure you’re not trapped in an awkward “card not accepted” situation, and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® even offers the convenience with no foreign transaction fees.

5. Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card

The Wyndham Rewards credit card from Visa offers the stability of chip-and-PIN technology that makes foreign transactions easy. Reward points are credited as two points per $1 spent on gas, utility, and grocery store purchases, and three points on eligible hotel purchases made through Wyndham.

Wyndham Rewards Card by Visa

  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after your first purchase (enough for 1 free hotel night)
  • No annual fee for membership
  • No foreign transaction fees

With hundreds of locations around the world, there’s almost always a Wyndham property close by. This card offers tiered interest rates based on creditworthiness and a rewards program that gives cardholders free nights faster than most loyalty programs. With no annual fee or upcharge for foreign transactions, this card is at home in the wallet of any international traveler.

American-based card issuers like Discover are already in the process of transitioning from chip + signature to chip + PIN cards to catch up with their international brethren. If you plan on using your card regularly on your trip, upgrading to a chip-and-PIN card will help you avoid lots of unnecessary headaches, making your foreign transactions as smooth as they are at home.

Best “SignUp Bonus” Credit Cards for International Travel

Credit Cards are necessary for a digital age. That doesn’t mean credit card issuers won’t sweeten the pot every now and then to attract new customers. With so much competition, whichever card offers the best rewards, rates, and signup bonuses usually get to the top of consumers’ wallets fastest.

If you have an international trip coming up, or plan to schedule one in the future, you can get a head start toward free flights with a credit card that offers bonus miles or rewards for signing up and using it. Some cards offer enough bonus miles for a second trip if you take full advantage of the signup bonus. Even though you may be planning a vacation, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next one by exploring our top signup bonus travel cards.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.99%-22.99% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Keep in mind that many signup bonuses are predicated on your charging a certain amount within an introductory period. Don’t incur debt that you’re not capable of paying off just to get a reward. After interest charges, any balance you carry over can negate the benefit of those rewards. More than half of travel rewards cardholders carry a balance each month.That’s what issuers aim for with signup perks. Don’t fall into the trap.

Best “No Annual Fee” Credit Cards for International Travel

Many credit cards boast big perks and rewards through bold print in advertising. Look down in the fine print and you’ll see an annual fee that renders most of the benefits useless if you don’t charge large amounts to your card each year.

Cards with no annual fee may not look as attractive on the surface, but you’ll be happy you chose that option when you don’t have to pay dues each year. There are several cards that allow travelers to enjoy their international experience without an annual fee. Here are some of our favorites.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer*
  • Points are redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants and department and home stores. 2,500 ThankYou® Points can be redeemed for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on dining out and entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on all other purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent

Some annual fees can be worthwhile if you use your rewards card a lot. The amount of miles or cash back you rack up might offset the cost of credit in that case. When all things are equal, though, it’s always smarter to go with a card that doesn’t charge you for having it in your wallet.

Best “Business Travel” Credit Cards for International Travel

The cost of doing business today isn’t just about rent and advertising. The world is growing smaller by the day thanks to increased technology and interest in global business. If your work has you globetrotting to various destinations to get things done, why not reap some rewards for your efforts?

Most business cards feature miles or cash back rewards that can be used for future travel, whether for business or pleasure. It isn’t a far stretch to be able to pay for a personal trip from the rewards card proceeds of a few business trips. After all that work, you’ll need a little R&R time to yourself.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earning unlimited 1.5% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 13.99%-21.99% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Use Spark Cash Select across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
13.99% - 21.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business is a great choice, offering unlimited cash back rewards that never expire, and a one-time cash bonus when you meet the minimum spending requirement within 90 days of account opening.

13. Ink Business Preferred

An Ink Business Preferred credit card from Chase gives business owners and travelers a high level of rewards possibilities, with bonus points for purchases in relevant categories.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Receive 80,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in first 3 months

The Ink Business Preferred card is widely accepted around the globe and features three points for every $1 spent on travel expenses, shipping purchases, and internet, cable, and phone service, as well as advertising purchases made with social media and search engine sites. Keep in mind that 3X rewards are limited to the first $150,000 in combined category purchases each account anniversary year. Points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, travel, and more and never expire.

No matter the scope or size of your business, it’s always a good idea to have a card on hand that understands the needs of business travelers. From telephone concierges and travel insurance to bonus perks for entertaining clients, there is a host of rewards available to meet the needs of anyone traveling overseas for work.

Best “Student” Credit Cards for International Travel

College is supposed to be a time for learning and exploring. Why shouldn’t that apply to a student’s travels? No matter if you’re going back home, traveling abroad for class, or just getting away on spring break, many cards offer student-friendly perks. These allow students with newer credit profiles a chance to get out and see the world without building debt that outweighs their GPA.

Credit cards intended for students often have more lax credit requirements than standard offerings. Issuers understand that many students are in the process of building a credit history and may not have the scores required for many cards. They also know that every dollar is at a premium for your average college student, so a number of options, including our expert picks, are also annual-fee-free.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • There's no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® for Students Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
13.99% - 22.99% Variable
$0
Fair

To offset the risk issuers take by granting cards to students, there are often fees attached to the card. These can vary from annual membership fees to service charges or late fees. Make sure you understand the full terms of any card before taking it overseas as your primary form of payment.

And, of course, like all travel cards, make sure you understand any potential foreign transaction fees that may be charged before making purchases during your semester abroad. These fees can add up quickly if you aren’t careful.

Best “Fair Credit” Credit Cards for International Travel

Many cards that offer big perks and top rates are set aside for consumers with excellent credit, but One-third of Americans have a credit score at or below 601. That’s a large number of people who still want to travel and need access to a credit card that meets their needs for international commuting. With many Americans falling into the fair credit category, it’s no surprise that many cards are geared toward them.

Not all are created equal, though. Some cards offer cash back options, with an annual fee to offset some of the savings. If you’re going to charge enough to outweigh the fee, these cards may be the place to look. If you’re more frugal with your charges, and just need a card for emergencies or small purchases, ditch the cash back and look for a card that won’t charge you for membership. Our top picks include both options to get you started.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Use your QuicksilverOne card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

Fair credit doesn’t have to be a hindrance to great travel or the thing that limits you to in-state vacations or trips to visit family members that live nearby. With the right card — and responsible usage — you can travel anywhere you want to go while maintaining access to a line of credit that’s accepted wherever you shop.

Travel Internationally with the Comforts of Home

Travelling doesn’t have to be a hassle. Despite having to cram your entire life into a suitcase (while somehow managing to keep track of your passport) and the costly hassle of exchanging your money for local currency, there are certain comforts that extend from your doorstep to wherever in the world you find yourself.

With many options to choose from, it’s important that you know what cards are accepted wherever you’re traveling, and the format the card must be in. Many European countries require the chip and PIN technology that’s been standard there for years but is only emerging in the American market. Issuers like Visa and Mastercard are staples around the globe, while other brands aren’t guaranteed to be accepted everywhere.

A good travel credit card will be accepted all over the globe and not pile bloated fees onto your balance for the right to make purchases in a foreign land. With a little research, and careful planning, your trip overseas can be smooth sailing — and a memory you won’t soon forget.