Traveling abroad? Make sure you have the right plastic. The best credit cards for international travel don’t charge excessive foreign currency credit-card fees, are accepted worldwide, and offer concierge-level service to help with your travels.
Credit cards accepted internationally
Most importantly, you want any credit card for international travel to be accepted everywhere you go. That means a Visa or MasterCard. Although American Express has fairly widespread acceptance these days, they’re not everywhere. And while Discover Cards offer some of the lowest foreign currency exchange rates, they are not widely accepted outside the United States.
Using a card with “chip” technology (also known as EMV) is more secure overseas. Standard in Europe and elsewhere, these credit cards feature an embedded microchip and require you to use a PIN each time you pay — much like debit cards here in the United States. This became a standard in the United States in October 2015, so nearly all new credit cards will feature this chip (even if many merchants don’t yet require them).
No foreign currency transaction fee
Any time you spend money in another country you’re going to pay something for converting US dollars into the local currency. This is true whether you exchange cash at a money changer, withdraw local currency at an ATM, or make purchases with your credit card. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it because the bank simply gives you a less favorable exchange rate and pockets the difference. Other times, they charge you a percentage of the money changed in addition to the hidden profit they earn on the exchange rate.
Many credit cards do this with foreign currency transaction fees of two or three percent. So let’s say you live abroad for a while and charge a total of $5,000. On a card with a three percent transaction fee, that’s an extra $150. The best cards for international travel do not charge this fee.
International credit-card customer service
Say you’re traveling internationally and you lose your card. How easy will it be to get help from your credit card company? All cards have customer service numbers you can call from abroad, but some cater to international travelers with a slightly higher level of service—offering things like guaranteed live operators and concierges that can help you figure out local travel or make dinner reservations.
Our picks: Best credit cards for international travel
Capital One Venture & VentureOne
For years, the Capital One VentureOne credit card has been our go-to recommendation for young travelers looking for a credit card to take abroad.
Capital One was among the first card issuers to eliminate foreign currency transaction fees on certain cards. In addition to no foreign currency transaction fee, the VentureOne card has a straightforward rewards program in which you earn 1.25 miles for every eligible dollar spent on purchases. There are no caps to how many miles you can earn and you can redeem them for travel at any time, on any airline, as well as on hotels and other travel expenses. Read our comparison of the Capital One Venture and VentureOne credit cards here.
Learn more–get card details or apply online:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a must-have card for any serious traveler. It has an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year) that’s well worth it if you’ll do a bit of spending on the card. It has no foreign currency transaction fee and a points-based travel rewards program that can quickly add up. You’ll earn two points on travel and dining at restaurants plus one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. When redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, these points can be traded on a 1:1 basis for most major airline and hotel frequent-flier programs. This card also has an award-winning 24/7 dedicated customer service line that can come in handy while you’re traveling.
There’s also a generous bonus for new cardmembers: Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Read more in our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Learn more—get card details or apply online:
Barclaycard Arrival & Arrival Plus
The Arrival and Arrival Plus credit cards are also excellent picks. Both offer no foreign currency transaction fee and generous miles rewards programs. The Arrival card has no annual fee and pays 2x miles on travel and dining purchases and 1x miles on everything else. The Arrival Plus card has an annual fee but pays 2x miles on all purchases.
Learn more–get card details or apply online:
Before you go…
Even if you don’t get a new credit card before you leave the country, do check with your existing credit card companies and bank to learn their fees on foreign transactions before you go, and try to stick with the cheapest method. Typically, withdrawing cash at an ATM or using your credit card will be less costly than using money changers.
It can also be helpful to call your credit card companies before you travel to let them know you’ll be out of the country; this way it’s less likely they’ll put a hold on your card after you use it in Bangkok. (For this reason, it’s also a good idea to have more than one credit card with you in case this happens … or at least some cash as backup!)
Look for rewards to put toward an upcoming trip? Here are some more great choices:
Credit Needed: Excellent
- Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 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
- $0 foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance when used at a chip card reader
- 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
- Travel and shop with confidence with premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
- Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
- See additional Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card details
|Regular APR||Annual Fee|
|N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||16.24%-23.24% Variable||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95|