About 83% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 49 own a credit card. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of types of credit cards offered in the US by banks and other financial institutions. You can get a store-specific credit card, a rewards card, a travel card, or other types of cards.

With all of those options available to us, it can be difficult to decide which credit card is the best option when you’re traveling trying to get the best rewards while avoiding high foreign transaction fees and increased security threats compound the difficulty of your decision.

To make your life a little simpler, and to narrow your search, we’ve come up with a list of the ten best credit cards for travel abroad. Before we get to those cards, we’ll talk about how to choose the best option for you and what’s important to look for in a travel credit card.

Comparison Table


Product

Image

Price

Chase Sapphire Preferred

sapphire preferred credit card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

Capital One VentureOne

ventureone credit card from Capital One

Image Source: capitalone.com

Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire reserve credit card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

Wells Fargo Propel by American Express

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Image Source: wellsfargo.com

Bank of America Travel Rewards

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

Image Source: bankofamerica.com

Hilton Honors Ascend by American Express

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Credit Card

Image Source: americanexpress.com

IHG Rewards Club Premier

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

The Platinum Card by American Express

The Platinum Card by American Express

Image Source: americanexpress.com

United Explorer

United Explorer Credit Card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

Capital One Quicksilver

Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card

Image Source: capitalone.com

The Basics


So you’re interested in owning a credit card specifically for travel. There are a lot of things to consider before making an official decision. How often do you travel? Is it always abroad or do you do domestic traveling as well? Are you loyal to one airline or hotel chain? All of these things make a difference in which card you choose.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at some of these considerations to help you make the best possible choice.

Co-Branded or General Cards

three credit cards from popular credit card networks

Image Source: Pixabay.com

There are two main types of travel credit cards you’ll come across on your search: co-branded and general. General travel cards can help you earn rewards like cash back or points that you can use on a variety of travel brands. Co-branded cards are affiliated with a specific airline or hotel brand, which can limit your options.

This is the part where your loyalty comes into question. First, are you loyal to an international airline like Delta or United? If so, you may want to consider a co-branded card offered by one of these two groups. The same goes for those of you who will only stay at Hilton or Hilton affiliated resorts when you travel.

If you are more loyal to your pocketbook than a specific brand, you’ll probably want to go for a general card. You can still earn rewards quickly; sometimes on things that aren’t even travel related, but you’ll have the ability to use almost any airline or hotel you’d like during your trips.

Domestic or International Travel 

a person slipping in a passport into the pocket of his bag

Image Source: Pexels.com

If you are traveling a lot, but most of that travel is done domestically, you may want to consider a card with higher rewards opportunities, without putting much consideration into foreign transaction fees. If you are an international traveler first and foremost, however, you’ll want to opt for a card with no fees.

Foreign transaction fees typically cost about 3% of what you spend on a trip, so if you’re booking a $2000 trip on your card, you’ll pay an additional $60 in transaction fees. That might not seem like much, but it does add up, and with so many cards offering no fees at all, it’s silly to pay the extra money if you’re traveling all the time.

In addition to foreign transaction fees, you’ll also need to consider whether your card will even be accepted overseas. Some brands aren’t widely accepted outside of the United States. American Express, for instance, is pretty hit or miss, where Visa and MasterCard are utilized all over the world.

What Else to Look for in a Travel Card


So you’ve made your decision about co-branded or general cards, and you know where you’re more likely to use the card you get, now what? There are still some other considerations to look at before committing to a specific travel credit card. Rewards, sign-up bonuses, and protections are all important pieces to the puzzle.

Travel Rewards and Sign-On Bonus 

a person filling up an application online

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Not all travel cards are created equal when it comes to rewarding customers for their spending. The best credit cards for travel abroad without annual fees usually offer between 1.5 and 2% back on your spending, for cards with an annual fee you can get much higher reward rates.

When you’re looking at a card, you don’t want to consider the rate alone, but instead, you should look at how rewards are earned and how you can redeem them. You’ll find some cards out there that offer low base rates on everyday purchases, but high rewards on travel purchases. That can be a good or a bad thing.

If you’re consistently in the air or on the road, or if you only plan to use a card for travel and not as your primary card, higher rewards on travel purchases might be a good fit for you. If you’re looking to earn rewards toward travel for everyday purchases, however, you’ll want a card at a consistent rate.

When it comes to sign-on bonuses, you’ll want to check it out, but not commit because of it. You should let a sign-on bonus sway you only if you’re down to two or three fairly equal options. If one card has a sign-on bonus, great! Go for that one. Just don’t let the bonus push you to a co-branded card when a general one is what you need.

Protections and Travel Perks 

graphic illustration symbolizing travel insurance

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Traveling can seem like a dangerous game between lost luggage, stolen cards, emergencies, and delays. Fortunately, many travel cards offer protections against these unpleasant moments to ease your mind as you travel internationally or at home.

The best thing to do when considering these perks and protections is to look at what you think you’ll need the most. If you travel for work, protection against airline delays might be what you’re looking for. If you happen to be accident-prone or are an adrenaline junky, consider accident insurance and emergency assistance.

Some cards also offer free or discounted concierge services, lost luggage insurance, and rental car coverage, so it’s important to look for a card that has the maximum number of perks and protections, with a low annual fee.

10 Best Credit Cards for Travel Abroad 


Now that we’ve given you some things to think about let’s look at our picks for the ten best credit cards for travel abroad. We used all of the information above to come up with a clear and concise list of the best cards, but we know that credit cards aren’t one size fits all, so these are not in a particular order.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

sapphire preferred credit card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

By far the most flexible travel rewards card on the market, and definitely the most recommended by major sites like Forbes, NerdWallet, US News, and Credit Karma, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card couldn’t avoid making our list. This card offers a generous bonus just for signing up and has an excellent rewards program.

This card is best for frequent flyers that aren’t loyal to a specific airline. Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them on airfare, hotels, cruises, or car rentals with this card through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The key is not to forget to log in to the portal before doing your online travel shopping.

Capital One VentureOne 

ventureone credit card from Capital One

Image Source: capitalone.com

With no annual fee and flexible rewards redemption options, the Capital One VentureOne card is a hit with many travelers. It is a card for individuals who have excellent credit, so we apologize to those of you with fair to poor credit, you’ll have to look elsewhere. It is great for those who want no annual fee, however.

The sign-on bonus is a major perk here since you can earn up to 20,000 miles for spending only $1000 in your first three months. You can also be eligible for bonus perks like earning 1.25 points for every dollar spent. A credit line of $5000 or more on this card will also get you complimentary concierge service and room upgrades.

Chase Sapphire Reserve 

sapphire reserve credit card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

For premium travel perks look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It was created with serious travelers in mind and offers an excellent sign-on bonus of 50,000 points if you spend $4000 or more during your first three months as an account holder.

On your account anniversary each year, you could enjoy up to $300 towards travel as a thank you for your loyalty, and you earn three points for every dollar you spend on dining and one point for every dollar on other purchases You also get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to add 50% more value to your points!

Wells Fargo Propel by American Express 

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Image Source: wellsfargo.com

With American Express, it’s a rarity not to have an annual fee, so the fact that the Wells Fargo Propel doesn’t have one is wonderful. They also cut out foreign transaction fees, so more of your money stays in your pocket. You can earn up to three points per dollar on purchases every day as well.

Your points are redeemable for cash or travel with this card, so it offers some flexibility. You can also choose to redeem for gift cards or charitable donations. There is also a welcome bonus of 30,000 points if you spend $3000 in the first three months of owning the card.

Bank of America Travel Rewards 

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

Image Source: bankofamerica.com

The simplicity of this card, along with its lack of annual fee, makes it a great option for beginners in the travel game. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees either, so it’s easy to see why it’s a traveler’s dream. Another bonus: Bank of America checking or savings account holders get a 10% bonus on their points for every purchase.

This card is great for people who travel fairly frequently, but aren’t constantly on the go. It’s also good for those who are new to rewards programs and need something simple to get the hang of things. The sign-on bonus isn’t as good as some other cards on our list, though, so be careful to ensure this one stacks up.

Hilton Honors Ascend by American Express 

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Credit Card

Image Source: americanexpress.com

The first co-branded card to make our list, the Hilton Honors Ascend card is the best in the business for hotel rewards if you’re loyal to their brand. It combines air travel rewards with Hilton hotel rewards in a way that makes traveling easier for you, while not limiting your redemption options too much.

You can earn 12 points for every dollar on Hilton purchases, six points for US restaurant, supermarket, and gas station purchases, and single points for other purchases every day. You also get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status and ten free Priority Pass Select passes per year. Bonus: no foreign transaction fees!

IHG Rewards Club Premier 

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

Another hotel chain co-branded card is the IHG Rewards Club Premier card by Chase. This MasterCard earns you ten points for every dollar you spend on IHG hotel purchases, two points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.

You can earn 80,000 bonus points for spending just $2000 within your first three months of opening an account, which is much better than most other cards on our list. You also get free nights at IHG hotels, trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance, and protection against damage or theft.

The Platinum Card by American Express 

The Platinum Card by American Express

Image Source: americanexpress.com

This card has the highest annual fee on our list, but many would argue that it’s worth the extra expense for the many benefits the card provides. First, you can earn five points per dollar on flights when you book directly with the airline or using American Express Travel. You earn the same on prepaid hotels.

The sign-on offer is 60,000 points when you spend $5000 within your first three months. You also get perks like $200 in savings on uber, a $200 airline fee credit, and a $100 fee credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Plus you get to take advantage of over 1000 airport lounges around the world, room upgrades, and more.

United Explorer 

United Explorer Credit Card

Image Source: creditcards.chase.com

The last co-branded card on our list is the United Explorer card. This is our choice for best airline co-branded card in the business. Your annual fee is waived for the first year with this card, and you get a sign on bonus of up to 65,000 miles, although we will admit the way to earn those miles is more complicated with this card.

The perks with this card are really what sells it. You get priority boarding on United flights; two one-time United Club passes per year and $100 toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck to make travel a little bit less stressful. This card is best for those with excellent credit and who are loyal to United as a brand.

Capital One Quicksilver 

Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card

Image Source: capitalone.com

You’ve probably seen a commercial or two for this card. It’s a great general credit card with no annual fees and a decent APR, but we love it for the cash back. Although this isn’t the most rewarding specifically regarding travel, it does have a lot to offer. You earn the same points on every purchase at home and abroad.

This card makes rewards just as easy to redeem as to earn. You get a flat 1.5% back on every purchase with no minimums, and the introductory offer includes 0% APR and a one-time bonus of $150 when you spend just $500 in your first three months. It also waives foreign transaction fees and is accepted widely overseas and at home. 

Featured Image Source: Pexels.com

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