The Best Credit Cards for Worldwide Use
Learn about the best cards for international travel. If you travel a lot or are planning on doing a lot of traveling soon you'll want to check out the best credit cards for world travel.
A lot can go wrong when you're using a credit card for international travel.
Your card might not be accepted worldwide. Getting declined when you're abroad isn't just embarrassing – it can put your travel plans at risk.
You might not realize your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee until you get your bill and discover that 3% was added to every purchase you made when you were away.
The credit card frequent flyers choose for international use needs to have some travel-friendly features or it could ruin your trip.
When you remember your vacation the first thing that comes to your mind shouldn't be the credit card headaches.
Fortunately, there is a selection of travel credit cards that are ideal for worldwide use.
These cards charge no fees for foreign transactions, are widely accepted and Smart chip-enabled, and have great international customer service.
The best credit cards for world travel also let you earn points or miles, so you can keep on traveling.
Visa and Mastercard are the Best Bet
Choose a Visa or Mastercard to make sure your card will be accepted everywhere
Travelers need a card they can depend on. You don't want to be stranded at the airport or train station because your credit card isn't accepted.
Unfortunately, Discover cards and American Express credit cards are not accepted everywhere worldwide.
Stick with Visa or Mastercard to avoid inconvenience when you're traveling abroad.
How we picked the best credit cards for worldwide use
Our picks for the best credit cards for use around the world were selected based on five criteria.
Foreign exchange fees need not apply. Any card that charges a foreign transaction fee is disqualified from the list of best credit cards for worldwide use.
Some cards routinely charge 2% or 3% on every transaction you make that's not in U.S. dollars.
If you spent $4,000 while traveling that could cost you an extra $120 with a 3% transaction fee.
It must have a chip. It's now fairly standard for most new credit cards to come equipped with a Smart Chip (also known as EMV).
The cards we've picked are all enabled with a chip that can be read at terminals around the world.
Worldwide acceptance is a must. Visa and Mastercards are accepted everywhere. That's not the case with American Express and Discover cards.
All our picks are either Visa or Mastercards.
International customer service when you're away from home and need help. If a card offers customer service available anywhere in the world, it scored high marks with us.
Earning points for more travel. We also recognize that a card for people who travel should offer travel rewards. The cards we've picked let you earn miles while abroad and at home, so you can get back traveling sooner.
Take Advantage of Chase Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred tops up your points when you redeem for travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Earn with travel, redeem for travel. The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives cardholders the chance to earn double reward points when paying for dining or travel purchases.
If you choose to redeem your points by booking travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards they're worth an extra 25%.
Cardholders rave about the 24/7 customer service. Chase offers an award-winning dedicated customer service line that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, 24/7.
When you're having problems and you're far from home, it's comforting to know help from your credit card issuer is just a phone call away.
Cardmembers don't love the annual fee. Although the annual fee is waived for the first year, after that it's $95 a year.
If you are a frequent flyer, the annual fee is more than worthwhile. But you're going to have to earn thousands of points just to cover the fee every year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred gives new cardmembers 50,000 points for signing up
Big bonus for a big price. There is a hefty 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
That's a pretty expensive requirement. But considering the bonus miles, it's worth making sure you spend that much on purchases.
Redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards boosts your points' value by a quarter
1 point = 1.25 points if you redeem with Chase. The best way to redeem the points you earn for travel purchases is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
That's because your points are worth 25% more when you use that portal to purchase car rentals, hotels, cruises, vacations, and airline flights.
The intro bonus could get you a flight. If you redeem the 50,000 points you receive as a sign-up bonus through Chase Ultimate Rewards, that's worth $625 after the 25% boost is calculated.
That's enough to cover an airline flight!
What are the other travel-friendly features?
It's got a chip on its shoulder. Like all the cards we're reviewing here, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is chip-enabled.
That means it has strong security and is widely accepted by chip card readers. Which makes it a perfect travel credit card.
No charge for charging abroad. This travel reward credit card also doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.
That's an absolutely vital feature when you're picking a travel reward credit card.
Apply right before you're booking a trip
A little sign-up strategy is a good idea. The requirement to spend $4,000 in the first three months after your account opens is a high price to have to pay to earn 50,000 points.
But if you time it so you book a vacation as soon as you get approved, you'll be well on your way to claiming those bonus miles.
And you'll be earning 2X points on your travel purchases.
Capital One Venture Rewards earns high points on all purchases
2X rewards rate rules. If we were just picking the travel reward credit card with the best rewards rates, the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card would be a top contender.
You earn two points per dollar spent on all purchases, travel, or otherwise. There are no caps, so the amount of points you can earn is unlimited.
Good news and bad news for fees. Unfortunately, there is a $95 annual fee (waived in year one). But at the high rate of points earning it shouldn't be hard to make the annual fee worthwhile, especially if you travel a lot.
Although cardmembers don't love the annual fee, travelers love that there are no foreign transaction fees with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.
Spend a little less to earn just as many points
Another big sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is 50,000 points.
That's identical to the Chase Sapphire Preferred (although Chase's points are worth 25% more when redeemed through Ultimate Rewards).
The spending requirement to claim your 50,000 bonus points is $1,000 less with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.
You only need to spend $3,000 in the first three months to qualify.
Redeem for travel on any airline, at any hotel, and no fee dates
No limits on travel. When you redeem your points for travel, you are reimbursed for travel costs as a statement credit.
That means there are no limitations on eligible airlines or hotel chains for redeeming points with this reward card.
You also don't have any blackout dates limiting when you travel.
Capital One Venture Rewards
What interest rate does the credit card charge?
Not the lowest APR. Travel reward credit cards are not generally known for their low APR interest rates.
The purchase APR rate for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is between 13.99-23.99%.
So, you're not going to want to carry an unpaid balance on this travel rewards credit card.
If you are looking for a low-interest credit card there are several good options on the market right now.
Time a big purchase for right after you apply
Have you been considering a big purchase? The requirement to spend $3,000 in the first three months after your account opens to claim the 50,000 points sign-up bonus might be less than Chase Sapphire Preferred.
But it's still a significant amount of spending.
Since this travel reward credit card lets you earn two points per dollar spent on everything, you don't necessarily have to time your sign-up right before you book a vacation.
You could coordinate your signing up with a big purchase of just about anything.
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
This card gives BoA customers a 10% points bonus
It pays to be a loyal customer of Bank of America. The points you earn with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card are worth 10% more if you also have a checking or savings account with the credit card issuer.
More assets = more points. Points get increased even more if you participate in Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program.
If you have investments and savings totaling $20,000 or more, your points are worth an additional 25%.
If you have $50,000 or more, your points are increased by 50%. And if your assets are worth $100,000 or more, your rewards get a 75% bonus.
Cardmembers love earning unlimited points on anything. Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire make you spend in specific categories – like travel expenses – to earn more than one point per dollar.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card lets you earn unlimited points at 1.5% on all purchases whether they are travel or not.
It's straightforward and simple, and your points don't expire.
People don't love the 3% balance transfer fee. With no annual fee and no fees for foreign transactions, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is solid for saving money on fees.
Except, that is, for the 3% balance transfer fee.
If it wasn't for the balance transfer fee, the card's 12-month 0% APR introductory period would be perfect for balance transfers.
There are some other credit cards out there that are more fitting for balance transfers.
The 20,000-point sign-up bonus is slim compared to others
The bonus is less than half the competition. The bonus for signing up for the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is 20,000 points.
That's less than half of the sign-up bonus points offered by our first two picks for best credit cards for world travel.
But at least you only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months to claim the bonus points.
And you must admit a $200 statement credit towards any kind of travel is not a bad thing.
Redeem for whatever travel you want, whenever you want it
Free to book whatever travel purchases you like. There are no specific online travel portals you need to use to book your travel purchase when you use Bank of America Travel Rewards points.
There are no blackout dates or restrictions.
Like the Capital One Venture card, you redeem your points in the form of a statement credit reimbursing you for travel purchase expenses.
Options for redeeming travel rewards are flexible, and points can be used for airline tickets, hotel stays, package vacations, car rentals or even if you want to check bags on a flight.
How are the bonus points calculated?
There are five tiers of earning. If you don't have any other accounts with Bank of America and you spent $1,000 a month on the card, you would earn 18,000 reward points a year at 1.5%.
That's worth $180 in travel purchases paid as a statement credit.
If you qualified for the 10% customer bonus, the number of points you would get for spending $12,000 in a year would be 19,800, worth $198 in travel purchases paid as a statement credit.
If you are a Gold Member of Bank of America's Preferred Rewards (which requires $20,000 in investments and savings) you would earn 25% more points for a total of 22,500.
That's worth $225 in travel purchases paid as a statement credit.
Platinum Preferred Rewards Members ($50,000+ with BoA) earn 50% bonus points for a total of 27,000 points.
That's more than a 2X earning rate.
If you're fortunate enough to be a Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards member (with $100,000 in assets and investments with the credit card issuer), your bonus calculated at 75% would total 31,500 points or $315 in travel purchases paid as a statement credit.
Open up a checking account when you apply for the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
Everyone needs a checking account, right? Since you need to have a checking account to qualify for the 10% bonus points with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, it would make sense to open one up before you apply.
You'll have a Bank of America credit card and debit card.
Go all-in. Or you could take that logic even further and try and maximize the investments and assets you have with Bank of America so you can qualify for Preferred Rewards.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Storytelling is rewarded. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is a travel reward credit card that offers extra reward miles for cardmembers who post stories in the online Barclaycard Travel Community.
Participation miles are earned for activity such as posting stories about destinations, restaurants, hotels, and events.
There are discussion boards for travel-related conversations among the 160,000+ members. And the community's travel blog highlights great destinations and events from around the world.
Cardholders appreciate the opportunity to earn 2% reward points for absolutely everything. Like the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard earns two rewards points for every dollar spent on the card.
They also like to get 5% of their points back when they redeem. Whenever you redeem your rewards points, you get 5% of them put back. So if you redeemed 10,000 points you'd only end up spending 9,500.
People aren't loving the annual fee. Although it's waived in year one, the $89 annual fee is a tough pill to swallow every year.
Middle of the road sign-up bonus
It's just so-so. Compared to the other best credit cards for world travel we've reviewed here, the 40,000-point sign-up bonus offered by the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is neither the lowest nor the highest out there.
You need to spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to claim it, which is also fairly average.
Redeem for miles rather than cash rewards for double the value
Points can be used for travel or cash rewards…at different rates. When you redeem 10,000 points for travel rewards, it is worth a $100 statement credit.
If you choose to redeem 10,000 points for a cashback statement credit, it is only worth $50.
It's not hard to do the math on this one. Travel purchases are paid at double what you'd get if you redeemed for cash rewards.
Is this a good card for a balance transfer?
High APRs and balance transfers don't mix. The purchase APR for this card is fairly high, between 16.99-23.99%.
Temporary 0% APR is helpful. For the first 12 months, there is 0% interest charged on balance transfers conducted in the first 45 days after the account opens.
So, if you think you could pay down a high-interest balance from another card in a year at 0% APR, a balance transfer could be worth it.
The balance transfer fee might be a deal-breaker. But there is also a 3% balance transfer fee that you need to take into consideration.
Get a response instantly to your application
No need to wait around for approval. You can access the secure application for the Arrival Plus World Elite on their website. You are promised that you will "get an instant response."
If you want to do a balance transfer right off the bat you can actually include it in your application.
The best credit cards for world travel have everything a traveler could ask for
The best credit cards for world travel we've compared here have it all.
None of these cards charge a foreign transaction fee. No foreign transaction fees could save you hundreds of dollars per trip.
The cards are all chip-enabled and widely accepted. You won't have to worry much about any of these cards getting declined because they all come equipped with smart chip technology.
And since the credit card issuers for all of these travel reward credit cards are either Visa or Mastercard, they are accepted far and wide.
Earning and redeeming rewards for travel. All of these travel reward credit cards also give you the chance to earn points towards future travel purchases.
Earn rewards points on travel, then spend them on more travel. It doesn't get any better.
Is there a killer global credit card that you use that didn't make our list?
A perk of one of the cards above that you can't get enough of?
Don't keep it to yourself!
Let us know in the comments below.