The Best Credit Cards for International Travel in 2021

These cards could save you money on your next incredible international trip and also provide you with plenty of travel perks.
Last updated Sep 21, 2021 | By Ben Luthi
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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.

The best credit cards for international travel:

In this article

The best credit cards for international travel

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

Based on these criteria, here are our top picks of the best travel rewards credit cards for international travel from a variety of credit card issuers:

Card Welcome bonus Rewards rate Annual fee Best for...
The Platinum Card® from American Express Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months) 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 $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply) Premium perks
American Express® Gold Card Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases $250 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply) Dining rewards
Capital One Venture Rewards Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases $95 Flexible rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases $95 International flights
Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else $550  International flights and premium perks
Citi Premier Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases $95 Low fee and hotel perks

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.

Best for premium perks: The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $695

Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months)

Rewards rate: 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

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. These partners include hotel loyalty programs like such as Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.

Travel perks: The Platinum Card from American Express is a luxury rewards card that provides cardholders with a slew of travel benefits, including 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. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

You’ll also get access to valuable travel insurance protections, including rental car insurance (secondary coverage), 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. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Intro Offer

100,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$695

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 10X points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months)
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $200 hotel credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months)
  • 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
  • Terms apply

Best for dining rewards: American Express Gold Card

Annual fee: $250

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months

Rewards rate: 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases

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 charges no foreign transaction fees and provides insurance for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage; rental car insurance (secondary coverage); 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. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

Big Rewards for Dining Out

Intro Offer

60,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$250

Rewards Rate

up to 4X points per dollar

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 6 months
  • Rose gold is back! Choose your color.
  • $120 in dining credits
  • $120 in Uber Cash
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • $250 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • No lounge access benefit
  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months
  • 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Best for flexible rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases. 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.

Note: If you like the Capital One rewards program, but you'd prefer a no-annual-fee card, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card might be of interest to you. Unlike more premium rewards cards, the VentureOne also has a 0% intro APR offer on purchases for the first 15 months months of account opening. After that your balance will be subject to the regular variable APR.

Incredibly Flexible Rewards

Intro Offer

60,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases

Best for international flights: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual fee: $95

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

Rewards rate: 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on 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 the many Chase travel partners, including many international airlines, to potentially get even more value. Each year on your card anniversary, you will also earn bonus points equal to 10% of the total purchases you made in the previous year.

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. You also get a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Additional perks: In addition to the card’s valuable rewards program and travel benefits, you’ll get exclusive access to events in music, sports, entertainment, and dining. You'll be able to activate complimentary DashPass benefits that will save you money on eligible food deliveries. And purchase and extended warranty protection are also included.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Best for international flights and premium perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $550

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

Rewards rate: 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else. As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get a lot of flexibility with redemption options, especially through point transfers.

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

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; special benefits through The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and at Relais & Chateaux; and a complimentary year of Lyft Pink (a value of $19.99 per month).

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. You'll also receive $60 in annual DoorDash statement credits in 2020 and 2021, and enjoy the same free DashPass delivery benefits as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Intro Offer

50,000 points

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

up to 10X points per dollar

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Excellent credit required
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else

Best for low fee and hotel perks: Citi Premier

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases. When you use your Citi ThankYou Points to book travel through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center, each point has 25% more value. That means 20,000 points will be worth $250 toward travel, as opposed to the $200 they would be worth when redeemed for cash.

You can also transfer your points from your Citi Premier Card to participating airline loyalty programs, such as TrueBlue and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. 

Travel perks:  This credit card offers a hotel credit perk once per calendar year. You can get $100 off a single hotel stay that's $500 or more when you book through thankyou.com. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Earn Valuable Travel Points Even Faster

Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

Intro Offer

80,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 3X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 80,000 bonus point sign-up offer
  • 3X points in several popular categories
  • No foreign transaction fee

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases

FAQs

Is using a credit card while traveling internationally a good idea?

Yes, using a credit card while traveling internationally is typically a good idea. Many travel credit cards offer helpful benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees, travel insurance, and airport lounge access. In addition, credit cards are often more convenient and safer than carrying around large amounts of cash. If your credit card is stolen, you can cancel it, and you likely won’t be liable for any fraudulent charges.

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

The best credit card for European travelers depends on what you’re looking for. Many travel credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees and can be used worldwide if they’re on the Visa or Mastercard networks. American Express cards and Discover cards are generally less accepted worldwide, so these networks might not be your best options for travels to Europe.

What's the best international credit card for students?

The best international credit card for students depends on your situation and financial goals. If you already have established credit, you might qualify for some of the best travel credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This type of card is ideal for earning valuable rewards.

But if you’re building credit and want a card to use while traveling, consider a credit card that doesn’t have strict qualification requirements and can be used abroad, such as the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One. For more options, check out our list of the best credit cards for students.

Is Visa or Mastercard better for international travel?

Both Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted worldwide, and one network isn’t generally better than the other. However, it’s worth it to compare individual travel card options from both credit card companies. Check out our lists of the best Visa credit cards and Mastercard credit cards to see which options most align with your travel preferences.

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 focused more on the flight, one of the Chase Sapphire cards may be a better option. But if all you really want is free checked bags and airline miles, and you're a frequent flyer of a particular airline like United or Delta, then one of the best airline credit cards might be a smarter option for you.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Luthi Ben is a personal finance and travel writer who loves helping people achieve their money goals. Along with FinanceBuzz, his writing has also been featured on U.S. News, NerdWallet, Experian, Credit Karma, and more.