Travelling 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
The most important is that 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 and PIN’ technology (also known as EMV) is more secure overseas. Long since the 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. So far, only a few U.S. credit cards offer this, and you can use cards without the technology just fine overseas, but you can expect to see Chip and PIN begin to become more common on American cards.
No foreign currency transaction fee
Anytime you spend money in another country you’re going to pay something for converting U.S. 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 $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
So say you’re traveling internationally and you lose your card. How easy it will 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 guaranteeing live operators and concierges that can help you figure out local travel or make dinner reservations.
Our picks: Best credit cards for international travel
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® Review
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® Review has been named a best travel rewards credit card by numerous travel bloggers and “Best for Travel Rewards” by MONEY Magazine for a simple reason: The rewards go further. This card features no foreign transaction fees and pays 2x points every purchase. Better yet, you get 10 percent of your miles back when redeemed for travel, making these miles go further than average.
Great For: Rewards for spending on gas and groceries
Credit Needed: Fair
Average Approved Score: 662*
Lowest Approved Score: 589*
- No annual fee
- Earn 2 points per $1 on gas, grocery, and utility purchases and 1 point per $1 everywhere else
- Use the points you earn like cash to pay for almost any purchases you've made.
- No blackout date, no redemption fees, no limit on the points you can earn and no complicated set up.
- Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly providing you the opportunity to rebuild your credit score
- Complimentary FICO® Scores as a benefit to active cardmembers. Opt-in to have instant and convenient access to FICO® Scores from your Barclaycard online account.
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Capital One Venture Card and VentureOne cards
The Venture Cards also have no foreign transaction fees and come coupled with better-than-average rewards like 2 miles per dollar on the $59-annual fee Venture Card and 1.25 miles per dollar on the VentureOne.
To learn more about how these two cards differ, read our full review of the Capital One Venture cards here.
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 just 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!)
Disclaimer: One way I’m able to support my blogging is to link to products that pay a referral commission. I only link to products I trust. That said, you should know that apply for and are approved for any of these cards, I may be paid for that. If you choose to support Money Under 30 in that way, thanks!
*Credit Karma users have received approvals with these TransUnion New Account credit scores. These approval metrics are only guidelines and approval is not guaranteed.