Traveling to Europe? You Need One of These Top Cards

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
These travel credit cards offer smart perks to help your European vacation live up to your dreams.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Woman traveling Europe with her credit card

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One of my favorite benefits of earning credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points is being able to book trips that I otherwise couldn't afford. Using travel rewards, I’ve been able to travel to Europe multiple times.

But when traveling internationally, you need to think about which credit cards will make the journey with you. Check out these picks for the best travel credit cards to use when traveling in Europe.

In this article

Key takeaways

The 5 best credit cards to use when traveling to Europe

Card Annual fee Why it's great
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card $0
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card $0
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases
Citi Premier® Card $95
  • Earn 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases
Chase Sapphire Reserve® $550
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Access to airport lounges
  • 10X on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Travel℠ (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
The Platinum Card® from American Express $695 (Terms apply)
  • 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Access to over 1,400 airport lounges (select benefits require enrollment)

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Annual fee: $0

Welcome offer: Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Rewards rate: 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.

This card has the advantage of a simple rewards rate that doesn’t require managing categories. And this card has a 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable), which could come in handy with your European travel expenses.

And you can earn significantly more if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member.

Find out more in our full Bank of America Travel Rewards Card review.

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Annual fee: $0

Welcome offer: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value).

Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases.

This card’s rewards rate with 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans will help you maximize the points you earn on your trip.

And if you’d like to pay for your trip over time, this plan’s 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable) could help.

And, of course, it has no foreign transaction fees.

Check out our Wells Fargo Autograph review to learn more.

Citi Premier® Card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening; Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.

Rewards rate: You can earn 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases.

In addition to the Citi Premier card’s rewards rate, this credit card offers other perks like the ability to transfer points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs like TrueBlue and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. And you can book travel through Citi’s travel portal and get $100 off a single hotel stay that’s $500 or more.

Take a look at our Citi Premier Card Review for more info.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual fee: $550

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been one of the most popular premium credit cards since its launch. Although the card is $550 annually, it’s jam-packed with credits and features that make the fee worth paying.

You'll receive a $300 credit each anniversary year that will automatically be applied toward travel category expenses. Cardholders also get a Priority Pass Select membership to access airport lounges, plus a credit to cover up to $100 every four years TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees.

Points can be transferred to 11 airlines and three hotel loyalty programs. When points are used to purchase travel through Chase Travel℠, they’re worth 1.5 cents each.

Learn more with our Chase Sapphire Reserve Review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee: $695

Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $8,000 on purchases on your new card in the first 6 months.

Rewards rate: You could earn 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

The Platinum Card from American Express — a luxury travel rewards card — offers benefits that seasoned travelers love. Cardholders have access to more than 1,400 lounges in 140 countries.

You’ll also get automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status, plus valuable benefits with The Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels & Resorts, which can make every hotel stay special.

The Amex Platinum also offers a statement credit every four years of up to $100 toward Global Entry or up to $85 toward TSA PreCheck.

Select benefits require enrollment.

Check out our full The Platinum Card from American Express Review.

What should you look for in an international credit card?

Not all credit cards are created equal, and your favorite credit cards to use within the U.S. may not have the same allure when traveling to a foreign country. Here are the features to consider when selecting the best credit card to use when traveling in Europe.

1. No foreign transaction fees

Many popular credit cards today don’t charge foreign transaction fees, but you may have some in your wallet that do. Foreign transaction fees are a tax on your purchases when traveling internationally. Usually, these fees add a 3% surcharge to your purchase amount.

Tip
When making a purchase, choose to pay in the local currency, such as euros. This may avoid the “convenience fee” that many hotels, restaurants, and other vendors charge for converting the foreign currency price into U.S. dollars, and you'll receive the official exchange rate of the card.

2. PIN technology

In the U.S., we’re used to chip-and-signature technology on our credit cards. We insert the card and then sign our receipt. Europe has taken the technology a step further to reduce fraudulent transactions. Instead of signing the receipt, you’re asked to enter your PIN instead to verify that it’s you.

Many U.S. credit cards offer chip-and-PIN technology, and I recommend bringing at least one that does with you on your European vacation. You may need to contact your card issuer to request a PIN. 

Here are some chip-and-PIN credit cards to consider.

3. Global Entry reimbursement

If you typically travel within the U.S., you’re likely familiar with the TSA PreCheck program, which allows you to skip the lines at airport security. Global Entry is a sister program that allows you to expedite your wait at U.S. Customs when returning from an international flight.

Many travel credit cards offer reimbursement for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, so before your trip, consider using one of them to apply for the security program that works best for you.

Some cards are also offering statement credits for CLEAR, an identity verification service. CLEAR offers two programs: CLEAR Plus and Reserve. 

4. Bonus rewards on international transactions

We love earning bonus miles and points when paying for travel, dining, gas, and other categories. However, if you look at the fine print, many credit cards limit these bonus points and miles to U.S.-based transactions.

If you’re looking to maximize your rewards to get closer to your next free vacation, make sure you have a credit card that offers benefits worldwide.

5. Travel insurance

Travel insurance can be a lifesaver when things go wrong. Some cards come with policies such as trip cancellation or interruption insurance, lost luggage insurance, and car rental insurance. Be sure to read the fine print of this insurance before you travel. For example, car rental insurance doesn't apply in every country. 

6. Travel perks

Some cards offer perks like hotel credits, fee credits, and airport lounge access. Cards with these perks can have higher annual fees, however, so consider your priorities before you apply. 

Do this before you leave for vacation

Before you depart for your European vacation, follow these tips to minimize any problems when using your credit cards in a new country.

1. Share travel plans with your bank

Banks are always on the lookout for fraudulent transactions. If your credit card is suddenly being used in a new country, the bank may block your account until it can verify the transactions are from you.

To avoid this scenario, let your bank know where you’ll be traveling. Be sure to include any countries you may have a layover in as well. Many banks now allow you to notify them via their app or website to expedite the process.

2. Download the bank’s app to track purchases

I like to track my money regularly, but you need to be even more vigilant with your accounts while traveling. One of the easiest ways to keep up to date with your accounts is to download your bank’s app to your mobile device. With the app, you can typically track transactions, make payments, or even notify the bank if you’ve lost your credit card.

3. Set up automatic payments

In a perfect world, we all pay our credit cards in full each month to avoid interest. However, that’s not always the case. This is especially true when you're focused on the fun while traveling in a foreign country.

This is why I suggest that everyone sign up for automatic payment of the minimum amount due. Doing so will keep your account in good standing, avoid late payment fees, and ensure you don’t have a late payment reported to the credit bureaus.

FAQ

Is Visa or Mastercard better for European travel?

Both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Europe. American Express cards are also accepted, but not quite as widely. Discover cards aren't as widely accepted as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. 

What is the best credit card to use when traveling to Europe?

There's no single best credit card to use when traveling to Europe. It all depends on your needs, preferences, and what you can qualify for based on your credit score and other factors. 


Which international travel credit card is right for you?

There are many international credit cards to choose from, but which one is right for you? Analyze the cards listed above and determine which of the benefits are most important to you. They’re all good choices, but their fees and perks may work best for different types of travelers. For more options, check out our list of the best travel credit cards

Methodology

To identify the best credit cards to use while traveling in Europe, we compared cards from multiple issuers that have travel-friendly perks. We assessed features like foreign transaction fees, PIN technology, Global Entry reimbursement, and bonus rewards to recommend the best credit cards for globetrotters in Europe. We did not include all cards available.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 18.24% - 28.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

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Why we like it

Author Details

Lee Huffman Lee Huffman is a former financial planner and corporate finance manager who now writes about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points toward his next vacation.

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