One of the greatest challenges to planning a trip abroad is balancing cost, reward and convenience. If you want your getaway to be both affordable and enjoyable, you may need some help. Guidebooks and deals sites are great resources, but a credit card has value as well. And it continues to pay rewards long after your trip is over. The right card for you ultimately depends on your needs and travel plans.
For now, to help you start to cut through the clutter of what the best credits cards for international travel in 2019 are, the Credit.com team has compiled some options for you.
Cut to Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for International Travel in 2019
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a travel rewards credit card that offers a phenomenal intro offer, solid rewards and added perks for globe-trotting
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a solid intro offer and slightly better-than-average rewards points, but a slightly higher annual fee after your first year.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card has an intro offer comparable to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and good rewards earning opportunities.
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has no annual fee ever, making it the only one of these cards to fill that niche if that’s a key criterion for you.
Benefits: This travel rewards card earns our top pick for its sign up offer of 70,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days of opening your account. And $5,000 isn’t really that much to spend when you’re talking about international travel. What’s more, you also earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase you make, including travel purchases. And when you redeem, you get 5% of your miles back to use for your next redemption. You can redeem your miles on any airline or hotel without restrictions too. Not too bad. The card’s annual fee is waived the first year as well.
There are some extra perks that make this card stand out for globetrotters too, including no foreign transaction fee and an international chip and PIN. With a card with an international chip and PIN, you can buy public transport tickets and other items from a self-serve kiosk overseas.
Drawbacks: The APR on this card is 18.24%, 22.24% or 25.24% variable based on your creditworthiness. The starting rate makes it a bit higher than other cards, but the upper APRs are pretty standard. Also, the annual fee is a somewhat steep at $89 after your first year. But, if international travel with rock-solid travel rewards is key for your card choice, this is still an attractive credit card for traveling abroad.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
- Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
- Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
- No foreign transaction fees
- International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
- Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
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Benefits: This card has a pretty awesome welcome offer too—50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 in your first three months as a cardholder. That’s equal to $500 worth of travel. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture. The annual fee is $0 the first year. The APR is 17.99% - 25.24% (Variable) depending on your credit rating.
You can redeem your miles on any airline and at any hotel with no restrictions. And you can transfer your miles to 12 different leading travel loyalty programs.
This card also has no foreign transaction fees and offers up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, both of which makes this card a good choice for international travelers.
Drawbacks: While CNBC named this card “The Best Travel Card” in 2018, after your first year, the annual fee is a somewhat steep $95. That’s the only real drawback and why this card is our second choice and not first. Really, either the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or this card is solid cards if you don’t mind paying an annual fee after your first year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- 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 blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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Benefits: The Chase Sapphire Preferred also a sweet welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. According to Chase, that worth $750 when you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. And you earn 2X points on travel at dining worldwide and 1X points on every dollar you spend elsewhere.
If you choose to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get 25% more for your points. There are no blackout dates or restrictions when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards either. And there are no foreign transaction fees.
This card’s APR falls into a standard range of 18.24% - 25.24% Variable.
This card’s perks earned it the “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” rating from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance in June 2018.
Drawbacks: $95 annual fee. And its rewards are a bit lighter than our other two picks with 2X points only on travel and dining.
Benefits: Rounding out our picks is the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. This card may be your top pick if an annual fee is out of the question because it has no annual fee—ever! Plus, it still has a nice intro offer of 20,000 miles with your first $1,000 spent in your first three months. That’s a $200 value. On top of the intro offer, you earn 1.25X miles on all your purchases and 10X miles for hotel booking done thru hotels.com/venture.
Just like the Capital One Venture Card, this card has no foreign transaction fees. And you can redeem your miles on any airline and at any hotel with no restrictions. You can also transfer your miles to 12 different leading travel loyalty programs.
The low end of this card’s APR beats all our other picks at just 14.24% - 24.24% (Variable). And all cardholders get 0% APR on purchases for a full year!
Drawbacks: The only drawback to this card compared to the others is that overall the rewards aren’t quite as rich.
But, if an annual fee is out the question for you and a lower APR is a bonus, this may be your top pick.
Note that these cards all reward cardholders with points and not cash back. If none of these cards is quite right for you, check out some other travel cards. If you want a cash reward card, look at some cash-back cards options.
Benefits of a Credit Card for International Travel
Because credit cards have fraud protection, credit cards can be a better choice than cash when traveling overseas. Using a debit card abroad can carry hefty exchange and ATM fees. And debit cards have fewer fraud protections compared to credit cards.
Key Criteria for Credit Cards for International Travel
Dozens of credit cards have travel perks, but there are a few particular benefits you want to look for in a credit card for international travel, including:
- No foreign transaction fees
- A low—or no—annual fee, unless you’re willing to pay the fee for added benefits
- Acceptance worldwide, which includes cards from Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Note that Visa and Mastercard tend to have more global reach than American Express and Discover.
Even if your card is accepted in the country you’re visiting, it’s up to individual merchants as to which cards they accept. So it’s always a good idea to have multiple forms of payment on hand.
How to Qualify for a Credit Card for International Travel
Many credit cards with travel benefits require applicants to have good or excellent credit, so take the time to see what the credit card you’re applying for requires, because each credit application will ding your credit score a bit. You can search for credit cards for travel by credit level on Credit.com. You also can check your credit score for free on Credit.com, so you know what your creditworthiness is before you apply. Check out tips on how to get the best terms on a new credit card too.
A Final Note
Remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products change frequently. As such, the rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in this article may have changed since the article was published. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with each credit card’s issuer, bank or other financial institution directly.
Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.
Some offers mentioned below may have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.
This article was previously published February 15, 2017, and has since been updated by another author.