Traveling Abroad? Check Out These 7 Credit Cards First

These cards could save you money on your next incredible international trip.
6 minute read | 10/3/19Oct. 3, 2019
Couple overlooking Machu Picchu in Peru

Exploring the world we live in is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being, but traveling abroad can be cost-prohibitive for many Americans. Fortunately, there’s a way to get the cultural experiences you’re looking for without a hefty price tag.

The best credit cards for international travel offer rewards and perks that can not only save you money but also provide you with a better travel experience. With the right card (or cards), you can start working toward the international trip you’ve always wanted to take but could never afford.

7 top credit cards for international travel

The best credit cards for international travel offer a combination of standout rewards programs and valuable perks. Many, for instance, offer excellent trip protections that can save you money if something goes wrong. Others provide credits for various types of expenses, such as airline fees, the Global Entry application fee, Uber rides, and even general travel costs.

Based on these criteria, here are our top picks of credit cards for international travel.

Card Annual fee Best for...
Amex Platinum Card $550 Premium perks
Amex Gold $250 Dining rewards
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® $89 (waived first year) Chip-and-PIN capability
Capital One® Venture® Rewards $95 (waived first year) Flexible rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred $95 International flights
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 International flights and premium perks
Citi Prestige $495 Hotel stays

As you compare our top choices, think about what type of experience you’re looking for, features you want in a card, and how much you’re willing to pay in annual fees.

Don’t let that yearly cost scare you, though. Depending on how you use these cards, you could easily get enough value to make up for the annual fee and more.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

You can redeem your rewards with a value of up to one cent per point through Amex or potentially get more value by transferring them to one of Amex’s travel partners.

Travel perks: The Platinum Card from American Express is a luxury charge card that provides cardholders with a slew of travel benefits, including an annual $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 annually in Uber credits, complimentary access to several airport lounge networks, elite status with select hotel and car-rental programs, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, special benefits at Fine Resorts & Hotels and The Hotel Collection, and more. There are no foreign transaction fees.

You’ll also get access to valuable travel insurance protections, including rental car insurance (secondary coverage), travel accident insurance, lost luggage protection, emergency medical and dental coverage, and emergency evacuation and transportation.

Additional benefits: The card also offers up to $100 annually in Saks Fifth Avenue shopping credits, preferred seating at top events, access to invitation-only events, and a valuable concierge service.

American Express Gold Card

Annual fee: $250

Welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants worldwide, 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases), 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Points are worth up to one cent apiece when you redeem them directly with Amex or potentially more if you transfer them to one of the card issuer’s airline or hotel partners.

Travel perks: The American Express Gold Card — a charge card like the Amex Platinum — offers an annual $100 airline fee credit, which you can use for bag fees, inflight meals, and other incidental expenses with one airline of your choice. It also charges no foreign transaction fees and provides insurance for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage; rental car insurance (secondary coverage); roadside assistance; and special benefits with The Hotel Collection.

Additional benefits: The American Express Gold offers up to $120 in annual dining credits that you can use at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. You’ll also get purchase and return protection, extended warranty protection, and a ShopRunner membership, which offers free two-day shipping at more than 100 online stores.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Annual fee: $89 (waived first year)

Welcome offer: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Rewards rate: 2X miles on every purchase. The only drawback is that the minimum redemption amount is 10,000 miles or $100.

Travel perks: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has chip-and-PIN capability, which can come in handy when you’re abroad. Many European train stations, for instance, have unmanned kiosks that require this feature.

You’ll also be covered by trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, rental car insurance (secondary coverage), and travel accident insurance. The card also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Additional benefits: The card offers purchase and price protection, extended warranty coverage, and other minor perks.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 10X miles on bookings with Hotels.com through January 2020 and 2X miles on every purchase, every day. There is no minimum redemption amount, and you can redeem your miles for just about any type of travel or transfer them to one of the bank’s airline partners.

Travel perks: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Other perks include rental car insurance (secondary coverage), travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, and travel assistance services. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Additional benefits: The card doesn’t come with a lot of ancillary benefits, but it does provide extended warranty protection and access to premier dining experiences and tickets, as well as VIP experiences to sports and music events.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual fee: $95

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

You can use your rewards to get cash back or gift cards at one cent per point, book travel through Chase at 1.25 cents per point, or transfer them to one of Chase’s travel partners, including many international airlines, to potentially get even more value.

Travel perks: The Chase Sapphire Preferred provides a suite of trip protections, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, primary rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, roadside dispatch, and travel and emergency assistance services. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Additional perks: In addition to the card’s valuable rewards program and travel benefits, you’ll also get exclusive access to events in music, sports, entertainment, and dining. Purchase and extended warranty protection are also included.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $450

Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points at restaurants and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else. As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get a lot of flexibility with redemption, especially through point transfers.

The primary difference is that if you use rewards to book travel through Chase and have the Sapphire Reserve, each point is worth 1.5 cents apiece rather than 1.25 cents.

Travel perks: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit that kicks in on just about any type of travel purchase. You’ll also get complimentary airport lounge access with the Priority Pass network; an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; special upgrades and discounts on rental cars through Avis, National, and Silvercar; and special benefits through The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and at Relais & Chateaux.

Trip protections include primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, emergency medical and dental coverage, and emergency evacuation and transportation insurance. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Additional perks: The card is primarily geared toward travel benefits, but cardholders will also get exclusive access to various events, purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty coverage.

Citi Prestige

Annual fee: $495

Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.

Rewards rate: 5X points on airline purchases, travel agencies, and restaurants; 3X points on hotels and cruise lines; and 1X points on all other purchases. You can redeem points for travel or transfer them to airline partners to potentially get more value.

Travel perks: The Citi Prestige offers the fourth night free on every hotel stay of four or more consecutive nights. (Starting Sept. 1, 2019, that perk will be capped at two stays per year.) The card also offers a $250 annual travel credit, an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

Trip protections include rental car insurance (secondary coverage), trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and emergency evacuation and transportation insurance.

Additional perks: The card also offers purchase and price protection, return protection, and extended warranty coverage.

Bottom line

The best credit cards for international travel offer varying rewards and benefits, but they’re all solid choices if you’re hoping to save money on a trip abroad. If you’re having a hard time picking one, think about your actual travel plans and find a card that can best make those happen.

For example, if you’re looking at expensive hotels, the Citi Prestige could potentially save you a lot on your stay. If, however, you’re focused more on the flight, one of the Chase Sapphire cards may be a better option.

Also be sure to compare these with other top travel cards, including starter travel credit cards, credit cards for first-class travel, and more.

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