If you’re going to use a credit card to make purchases abroad or on foreign websites, avoid paying more than you need to. You can do this by using an international credit card, which usually comes with no foreign transaction fees and a bevy of travel-centric perks.
What is the best international credit card?
There are many excellent credit cards for overseas travel. And truth be told, there is no “best” card — only the one that fits your needs most effectively.
Nevertheless, some cards are consistently ranked among the top travel credit cards, which we’ll cover below.
We compared credit cards for different travel niches, adding standout products to our list. We gave heavier weight to cards with best-in-market travel rewards rates. Also, we highlighted each international credit card that delivered excellent value through their travel benefits, such as credits and airport lounge access.
The flatrate earnings, no annual fee and solid signup bonus was enough to move the Bank of America Travel Rewards card into our listing this year. While still a quality card, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card is more limited in who can obtain the card.
Starting from January 12, 2020, Chase Sapphire Reserve® gets a boost to its perks — 10x points on Lyft rides until March 2022, and a one year complimentary Lyft Pink membership. Plus you get DoorDash benefits like unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more for a minimum of one year with DashPass. But you also get to pay a higher annual fee of $550.
Also, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card got a boost to its signup bonus.
This hotel credit card is loaded with benefits, including strong rewards, an annual Free Night Award and complimentary Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. You'll also receive credits that can offset a large portion of your annual fee, as well as airport lounge access through Priority Pass Select.
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. You'll also earn 25,000 points after the first anniversary of card membership. This welcome offer ends on January 13, 2021.
6x Marriott Bonvoy points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. 3x points at US restaurants and on direct-book flights. 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
Annual Free Night Award and complimentary Elite status.
The Amex Platinum Card offers a market-leading rewards rate on flights. And if you transfer your Membership Rewards points to certain travel partners, they could be worth twice as much. It's a lucrative combination. Add invaluable travel credits and complimentary airport lounge access, and you have one of the best travel cards, bar none.
60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
5x points on eligible flights and hotels. Starting January 1, 2021, however, your 5x points on flights will be capped on up to $500,000 annually, reverting to 1x points after that.
Complimentary airport lounge access - including the Centurion Lounges.
Foreign transaction fee
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases. Starting January 1, 2021, your 5x points on flights will be capped on up to $500,000 annually (then 1x points).
Best for flat-rate rewards Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
If you don't want to worry about bonus categories, consider this reliable international credit card from Capital One. You'll earn a consistent 2x miles on every purchase. Call Capital One and a representative can assign you a PIN — perfect if you'll travel to a chip-and-PIN destination. Plus, enjoy more flexibility with your miles by transferring them to Capital One's 15 travel partners.
50,000 miles after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn an additional 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $20,000 in your first 12 months.
2x miles on every purchase.
$100 Credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
$95 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
17.24%, 21.99% or 24.49% variable
Foreign transaction fee
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Earn an additional 50,000 miles after spending $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months
5x miles on Uber Eats and 2x miles on all purchases
Best for travel perks with no annual fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and offers solid rewards and a nice signup bonus.
Signup bonus. You'll get 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days of card membership.
Earn points. Earn a flat 1.5x points on all eligible purchases.
Intro APR on purchases. Enjoy a 0% intro APR period on purchases for the first 12 statement closing dates, reverting to 14.99% to 22.99% after.
0% intro for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 22.99% variable)
Foreign transaction fee
25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
1.5x points on all purchases
What is an international credit card?
This is a credit card that’s ideal for use abroad and on international websites.
You’ll typically find no foreign transaction fees and bonus rewards on travel purchases. You may also find benefits such as travel insurance, travel credits, airport lounge access and chip-and-PIN capability.
How to choose the best international credit cards
The hallmark of an international credit card is its no-foreign-transaction fee benefit and travel perks, making it a great choice for spending on international trips and on foreign websites. Here are a few factors to consider while looking for your next card:
Most cards in the US are chip-and-signature cards. You’ll use your card, and if necessary, you’ll provide a signature. In many international destinations — Europe, for example — chip-and-PIN cards are common. After using your card, you’ll be asked to input a PIN to verify your transaction.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted far more widely than Discover and American Express. If you’ll use cards from the latter two providers, consider having another credit card as a backup.
Decide whether a card will deliver enough value to justify paying for it yearly. Consider whether the bonus rewards will offset the price. And take into account travel credits and extra benefits.
Look for an international credit card that offers bonus rewards for your preferred spending categories. If you’re a loyal Marriott customer, for example, a cobranded hotel card from the chain might be a great pick. If you’re not particular about the hotel you stay in, however, you might like a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Extra benefits can add tremendous value to your card. Look for travel credits, which reimburse you for eligible spending. You might also find perks such as airport lounge access, elite upgrades, priority boarding and free checked baggage.
For peace of mind on your next trip, you might want protections like travel insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, and emergency evacuation and transportation. You’ll find more of these protections with premium travel cards. However, mid-tier travel cards may also offer these benefits to some degree.
What are the pros and cons of using an international credit card?
Global acceptance. If you’re using a Mastercard or Visa credit card, you’ll be able to use your credit card in millions of locations around the world. American Express and Discover cards are also accepted worldwide, though in fewer places than Visa or Mastercard.
Travel perks. An international credit card usually offers travel-related benefits such as frequent-flyer rewards programs, complimentary insurance and airline lounge access.
Security of credit. When you’re traveling overseas, it’s wise to have more than one way to access your cash. Even if you have a prepaid card or debit card for everyday spending, you can use a credit card as a backup.
Fees. Depending on the card, using your credit card overseas can come with many costs. Understand exactly what you’ll pay when using your card for foreign transactions before you apply.
Temptation to spend. While a credit card can provide you with peace of mind, it might also tempt you to spend money you don’t really have. Remember that you’ll have to pay back everything you charge, plus interest if you plan on carrying a balance.
Do I really need an international credit card with 0% foreign transaction fees?
This largely depends on how often you travel abroad and how much you spend. For example, spending $5,000 annually abroad will cost you $150 in foreign transaction fees. Getting a no-annual-fee card with no foreign transaction fees can save you that money.
That said, spending $500 with your card abroad will only cost you $15. Sometimes, trying to avoid a $15 fee may not be worth the hassle of getting another card.
Should I use my international credit card to withdraw cash from international ATMs?
Not only should you avoid withdrawing cash with your credit card from international ATMs, you should avoid doing so at any ATM, period. This is because you’ll be hit with a cash advance fee, and your transaction will immediately start accruing interest. The local ATM provider may even charge you a withdrawal fee.
International credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fees
Save on unnecessary costs abroad with one of these international credit cards. Select your credit range below and click “Show cards” to start comparing card features side-by-side.
The ideal international credit card is one that meets your individual needs. Given the wide variety of options, take your time and compare several cards you like. For help narrowing your options, check out our guide to travel cards, as well as our airline cards and hotel card guides.
One easy way to find out if the card you want will be accepted in the country you’re traveling to is to visit the website of the payment system that supports the card, which can be Visa or Mastercard.
While foreign transaction fees can be relatively small — typically 3% of each transaction — they can add up over many purchases. To avoid surprises after your international trip, strongly consider a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
No. You’ll find plenty of great no-annual-fee travel cards. If you’re willing to pay, you’ll find strong cards around the $95, $200, $450, and even $1,000 price point.
Sally McMullen is Finder's credit cards and frequent flyer editor by day and a music maven by night. She's also one half of the Pocket Money podcast. Her byline can be spotted on Yahoo Finance, Dynamic Business, Financy and Mamamia as well as Music Feeds and Rolling Stone. Sally has a first-class Honours degree in Communications and Media Studies (majoring in Journalism and Professional Writing) from the University of Wollongong.
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