Thanks to the recent implementation of EMV technology in US credit cards, our cards finally find much greater acceptance at foreign credit card terminals. Though we are currently still mostly limited to Chip and Signature, that shouldn’t pose a significant issue for most of our transactions overseas. Still, only a fraction of credit cards that are currently on the market do not charge a foreign transaction fee, and even fewer allow us to earn bonus points outside of the US. The following are ThePointSoldier’s recommendation of credit cards to use abroad.
Best Credit Cards to use abroad
In addition to foreign transaction fees and bonus points, I’ve also taken benefits and money saving perks into consideration.
The only Membership Rewards credits cards worth taking with you internationally are the American Express Platinum card and the Premier Rewards Gold card. Membership Rewards cards are notorious for only earning bonus points within the United States, but these two gems come with additional travel benefits that should earn them a spot inside your wallet. The Amex Platinum not only grants access to Delta SkyClubs (with a Delta boarding pass), but also comes with a $200 travel credit, which can be seamlessly complimented with the $100 travel credit offered by the Premier Rewards Gold card. Access to SkyClubs mainly benefits you at domestic airports, but the travel credit can surely come in handy for any potential overweight baggage fees. Additionally, both cards offer complimentary Boingo Wifi access at numerous airports worldwide. International airports are known for their lack of free Wifi, so this little feature can really come in handy.
As far as earning points with American Express, I highly recommend the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. This card may only yield 1x points on all purchases except at SPG and Marriott properties, where it earns 2 points per dollar, but the incredible value of these points makes this card perfect for non-bonus category spending. The SPG Amex card also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee and grants Boingo Wifi access as well.
If you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, that should always be your go-to credit card for anything travel related. These cards offer 2x point or 3x points, respectively, on travel and dining related charges, even abroad. Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee and the Chase Sapphire Reserve even comes with a $300 annual travel credit. In addition, both card offer primary rental car insurance, which is especially valuable overseas. In Europe for instance, it’s against the law to drive without liability coverage, so rental cars there automatically have it. But liability doesn’t cover the rental car, which is where these two cards come in to save the day.
Another benefit that’s often overlooked is that Visa cards enjoy much greater acceptance than American Express cards. This is true not only at home, but also overseas.
The Citi Prestige or ThankYou Premier are also excellent cards to bring with you on a trip across the border. Both cards earn 2x points on dining and entertainment and 3x points on travel. The ThankYou Premier is a little more generous in the latter category and offers 3x points on most travel related charges, including gasoline. The Citi Prestige limits that category to air travel and hotel expenses. But the Citi Prestige also offers a $250 travel credit and the 4th night for free at hotels booked through the Citi Prestige Concierge service. Similar to Chase’s Visa cards, these MasterCard credit cards will ensure you a generous acceptance rate at merchants overseas.
Alternatively to the cards listed above, I can recommend airline credit cards, provided they do not charge a foreign transaction fee. I would use these cards mainly for non-bonus category spending, for similar reasons as for the Amex SPG card. If you’re going to only earn 1x points on a purchase, you might as well use a card you wouldn’t have earned more with domestically. This is just my personal philosophy on this subject. Another great alternative is the Barclay Arrival+ credit card. Not only will you earn double miles on all purchases, but this card is one of the few Chip and PIN credit cards currently offered on the US market. This will all but guarantee acceptance at foreign merchants and/or self serve machines.
I generally advise against the use of any USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union, Bank of America, or similar credit cards abroad. Security is one of the most important factors when away from home and any card that identifies you as a current or former service member, or even just a card displaying the American flag, could result in some unwanted attention. Again, this is just my personal advice.
Which one is the best?
There is no simple answer to this question. I value Chase’s free Primary Rental Car coverage highly, but Citi’s 3x points on gas compliments that perfectly. It is always a good idea to travel with at least one or two back up credit cards anyway, just in case one gets lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised. So why not travel with two or three cards that offer maximum benefits and point earning potential?
What are your most valued credit cards to use abroad? Any cards I should’ve added? Please comment below and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.