Best Credit Cards for International Travel for January 2020

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If you’ve got the travel bug and are looking for the best credit card to use while you’re abroad, this guide will help you score travel-related benefits, all while maximizing your rewards and minimizing your fees. From big sign-up bonuses and luxury perks to trip insurance and worldwide acceptance, here’s how to pick the best credit card for your next international trip.

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Apply Now
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On Chase's Secure Website.

Why Apply

One of the most popular travel cards for many reasons. This offer is practically a must-have for travelers seeking a big sign-up bonus and one of the best points programs available on the market.

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Top Perks:
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus
  • 2 points per $1 for travel & dining
  • Flexible points transfer program
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 17.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 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.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No delivery fees for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash -over a $100 value. Activate with your Chase Sapphire card by December 31, 2021.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
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On Capital One's Secure Website.

Why Apply

Strikes a nice balance of high rewards and a big sign-up bonus with low fees. With a base travel rewards rate of 2 miles per $1 and TSA Pre✓® credits, this is a no-fuss travel rewards card that's hard to ignore

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Top Perks:
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus
  • 2 miles per $1
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Regular APR: 17.24% - 24.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
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Apply Now
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On Capital One's Secure Website.

Why Apply

Travel cards with no annual fee generally pull back on cardholder favorites, but this offer keeps those perks intact, making it a solid offer for cardholders not spending enough on credit to justify paying an annual fee.

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Top Perks:
  • 20,000 miles sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR offer
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.49% - 23.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, for 12 months Balance Transfers: N/A
Highlights
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.49% - 23.49% variable APR after that
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United Explorer Card
Why Apply

With a big sign up bonus and 2 miles per $1 spent on restaurants and hotel stays, the miles will accumulate quickly if you're a frequent traveler.

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Top Perks:
  • Big sign-up bonus
  • United, restaurant, and hotel rewards
  • $100 travel credit
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
  • Regular APR: 18.24% - 25.24% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: NA Balance Transfers: NA
Highlights
  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • New! Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays.
  • New! Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit.
  • New! 25% back on United inflight purchases.
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
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The United Explorer Card and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® credit card have not been reviewed by the issuer and card details may be out of date.

Which credit cards work internationally?

Even with the rise of credit cards as a form of payment around the globe, some credit cards are more widely accepted than others. This depends on the credit card network rather than the bank that issued the credit card. The four major credit card networks are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.

American Express and Discover fall behind the two biggest networks, Visa and Mastercard, in terms of acceptance -- especially outside of the United States. Visa and Mastercard are comparable in terms of acceptance, but Visa is still the most widely issued credit card.

How to avoid credit card fees when abroad

It’s easy to rack up credit card fees while you’re traveling abroad without even noticing it. The biggest one to avoid is the foreign transaction fee. Most credit cards with foreign transaction fees charge 3% of every purchase, which means that you rack up $30 in fees for every $1,000 you spend while abroad. Luckily, none of the credit cards on our list charge foreign transaction fees.

You’ll also want to watch out for dynamic currency conversion. This costly mistake catches most people off guard, and it has nothing to do with your credit card issuer. If a merchant in a foreign country asks you if you’d prefer to pay in the local currency or in dollars, always pay in local currency. Opting to pay in dollars means the merchant will have to convert the transaction total, and they’re not usually going to give you an ideal conversion rate.

Credit card travel benefits to look for

In addition to minimizing fees, the best travel credit cards help you stay in budget while traveling by offering comprehensive benefits and protections. Here are the best money-saving credit card benefits to look for when traveling internationally.

  • Sign-up bonus -- Aim for credit cards with generous sign-up bonuses, but make sure you can meet the minimum spend required to earn the bonus. This will give you a solid boost if you’re collecting rewards for an upcoming vacation, as many sign-up bonuses are big enough to cover one (sometimes two) round-trip flights.
  • Rewards rate -- You also want to pay attention to the rewards rate you’ll earn on your regular spending to determine whether or not the credit card brings value past earning the sign-up bonus. Choose credit cards that offer higher rewards rates (think 3 points per $1 spent on select categories), but also make sure that the bonus spending categories are in line with your spending habits.
  • Redemption options -- Some travel credit cards let you redeem your points through a travel portal, where you can make a wide variety of travel purchases using points. Sometimes, you can even transfer these points to a number of travel partners, which really increases the flexibility of your redemption options. Others offer statement credits that can be applied to travel-related purchases. Meanwhile, airline-specific credit cards allow you to redeem your miles for flights with that airline. Figure out what your goal in collecting rewards is first, and that will help you decide which redemption options to seek out.
  • Point value -- Not all rewards points are created equal. One credit card might offer a larger sign-up bonus than another, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it offers more value. Some rewards points are valued at $0.005 each while others are valued at $0.02 each. Do some research to figure out the true value of the rewards you’d be earning.
  • Rental car insurance -- All of the credit cards on this list offer some type of rental car insurance. Having collision damage and theft insurance covered by your card can save you a significant amount of money the next time you rent a car. Some credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance, which if you’re traveling in the U.S., only kicks in after your personal insurance is used. If you’re traveling internationally, secondary insurance usually becomes primary insurance as your personal insurance doesn’t apply at all. Still, primary insurance is ideal. You’ll need to pay for the rental car with your credit card in order to be covered.
  • Delayed and lost baggage insurance -- If your credit card offers delayed and lost baggage protection, this means that if your baggage is ever delayed or lost, you can submit a claim to have expenses you’ve incurred during the delay or lost items you had to replace reimbursed.
  • Trip cancellation insurance -- If your trip is canceled or interrupted due to eligible unforeseen circumstances, your credit card may reimburse you for any non-refundable reservations you’ve already made, such as flights and hotels. You have to have made the reservation on your credit card.

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