Going on an international trip is very exciting but it can also be very expensive. Using a credit card to pay for purchases when traveling internationally is often the best way to get a good exchange rate and the rate your bank gets will be better than the one you’ll get on your own if you exchange cash. Using a card also means that you don’t have to carry around a bunch of cash with you. However, many cards will add on a “foreign transaction fee” to any transactions made with anything except your home currency. Here’s an easy way to keep from paying that extra 2-3 percent on all of your purchases while away.
One thing to note is these charges will apply to any charges in a different currency, even if you’re still in your home country. Are you buying train tickets online to take the Eurostar train between London and Paris, or are you getting tickets to do Bridge Climb in Sydney during your trip to Australia? If you are buying from a company outside the United States, that purchase will include a foreign transaction fee, EVEN if the price quoted to you is in dollars. Rule of thumb is if it’ll happen outside of your home country, use a card that avoids these fees.
Personal cards that don’t charge fees
I’ll try to break this list into categories to make it easier to look through and I’ll note the ones that have no annual fees. All other cards will charge annual fees if not noted. This list is only for personal cards, not business cards. I’d also like to mention that while American Express and Discover have several cards on this list, their acceptance outside the US is limited. I’d suggest having a backup Visa or MasterCard just in case.
Cards that earn transferable points:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- American Express Platinum
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold
- Citi Thank You Prestige
- Citi Thank You Premier
Cards that earn airline miles:
- United MileagePlus Explorer
- United MileagePlus Club
- British Airways Visa Signature
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
- Citi American Aadvantage Executive World Elite
- Citi American Aadvantage Platinum Select
- Barclays American Aviator Red
- JetBlue Plus
- JetBlue Card (No annual fee)
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express
- Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express
- Delta Reserve American Express
Cards that earn hotel points:
- IHG Rewards Club Select
- Marriott Rewards Premier
- Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
- Hyatt Credit Card
- Wyndham Rewards
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Cards that earn points that can be used for travel expenses:
This is a hybrid category because these cards essentially earn cash but you can only spend the cash on travel expenses
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards (No annual fee)
- Bank of America Travel Rewards (No annual fee)
- Capital One Venture Rewards
- Discover it Miles (No annual fee)
- PenFed Premium Travel Rewards
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express (No annual fee)
Cards that earn cash back
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards (No annual fee)
- Discover it Cashback Match (No annual fee)
- Capital One Premier Dining Rewards (No annual fee)
This list is by no means complete but cards can change their policies at any time. I’m not going to be able to come back and update this every time they do so I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know if you discover any changes, or if there’s a card I left out of this list.
There are no shortage of cards on this list, including several that have no annual fee, so it’s much easier to avoid these fees when traveling internationally. I personally use either the Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire when I’m out of town, especially in another country. Both of these cards are accepted most places and have international customer service in case you have a problem. They’ll even overnight your card to you wherever you are if it’s lost or stolen.
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