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Best credit cards for overseas travel
A credit card that offers 0% foreign transaction fees, rewards and other travel perks can help you get more bang for your buck when you travel.
Some credit cards offer travel benefits – letting you enjoy credit card travel insurance, Airpoints, and airline lounge passes with more premium cards. With others, you can benefit from low or no foreign transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal fees.
The type of credit card you should use depends on your travel destination, spending plans and financial situation. This guide will help you to compare your options and find the best credit card for international travel.
Compare credit cards for overseas travel
The travel credit cards in the table below offer low or no foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees are typically between 2% and 3% on each purchase which can really eat into your travel budget.
How to compare credit cards for international travel
Look for credit cards with no or low fees when you make an overseas transaction and those that offer travel perks you want to use. Some of the factors to consider include:
Credit card fees
To understand how much your card could cost you (and how much you could save), consider the following fees when comparing which cards to use outside New Zealand:
Foreign transaction fees. When you make a purchase using your card (both overseas and online with international merchants), your Kiwi dollars are converted to the local currency. When this happens, you’re usually charged a fee between 2% and 3%. If you want to avoid this fee each time you make a transaction overseas, consider a credit card with a low or 0% foreign currency conversion fee.
Credit cards with no or low foreign transaction fees are:
Annual fees. While some travel credit cards offer a $0 annual fee, others with more benefits and features may charge a higher annual fee. Make sure that you use these perks to maximise the value of your annual fee.
Examples of credit cards with a $0 annual fee are:
ATM withdrawal fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw cash overseas, you are charged the cash advance interest rate and fee. Your card may also charge a separate ATM withdrawal fee. To avoid these charges, use a debit card or prepaid travel card to withdraw cash instead.
Using a credit card offering complimentary international travel insurance can help you save the time and money you’d otherwise spend on standalone cover. Complimentary travel insurance usually covers overseas medical insurance, transit accidents and travel delays.
The cover usually extends to your spouse or any dependent children travelling with you. As well as travel insurance, some credit cards offer purchase security insurance and extended warranty so you can shop with peace of mind.
The following are examples of cards offering complimentary insurance:
Using an Airpoints credit card is an easy way to pick up reward points as you spend overseas. You can redeem these points for flights, accommodation with partner hotels, travel vouchers, cashback on your account or products from a rewards store. If your card is designed for overseas use, you could earn more points per dollar spent on foreign purchases.
Some examples of Airpoints credit cards are:
- American Express Airpoints Platinum Card
- Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Low Fee Visa
- ANZ Airpoints Visa
Credit cards with affiliation to Visa or Mastercard are accepted in most countries worldwide, at ATMs and EFTPOS terminals alike. Acceptance of American Express cards is not as widespread, so take a back-up card if this is your preferred option.
Airport lounge passes and other travel perks
You can escape the chaos of the airport and relax before your flight with a credit card that offers complimentary lounge passes. The perks vary between lounges, but you can usually expect complimentary food, beverages, access to high-speed Wi-Fi, comfortable seats and workstations.
Some credit cards also offer cardholders complimentary flights. You may need to meet a spend requirement to access the perk, but it’s an easy way to save on travel costs and offset any card fees.
The following cards include free airport lounge access:
- Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard
- American Express Platinum Card
- Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Standard Visa
What should I be aware of when using a credit card overseas?
- Take a few travel money options. Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, you should take at least two travel money options with you. This may include a credit card or prepaid travel card, your debit card and some cash. That way, you have a backup if your card is lost or stolen and can avoid being charged credit card fees withdrawing cash from an ATM.
- Track your debt. Create a travel budget and use your credit card to spend responsibly. You have to repay everything you put on the card – plus interest if you don’t pay your balance in full.
- Making repayments. If you are sent a credit card statement while you are travelling, you need to make a payment by the due date as usual. If you have access to a secure Internet connection, you can do this through online or mobile banking. Alternatively, you could call your bank to pay by phone.
- Adding extra funds to your credit card. Some travellers add money to their credit card accounts before they go overseas. Then they use their card as a type of debit card to pay with their own cash rather than credit, helping them avoid interest charges. Not all credit card accounts let you do this, and transaction limits may apply. You should talk to your credit card provider or check your credit card product disclosure statement (PDS) for details on how this type of balance is treated – it’s usually referred to as a “positive balance”.
What are the pros and cons of using a credit card for foreign travel?
- Global acceptance. You can use most New Zealand credit cards in hotels, restaurants, stores, travel agencies and entertainment venues worldwide.
- Travel perks. Credit cards designed for overseas use often come with travel-related benefits such as Airpoints, complimentary insurance and airline lounge passes.
- Security. A credit card can come in handy when you need to cover unexpected or emergency costs while you’re travelling overseas. If your card is lost or stolen, you can report it at any time of the day and have the account locked. Credit card zero-liability policies also mean any fraudulent transactions are refunded.
- Fees. Depending on the card you choose, you may be charged a foreign transaction fee or surcharge for using a credit card overseas.
- Limitations. To be approved for a credit card, you need to meet eligibility requirements (such as a minimum annual income and credit score criteria).
- Risk of debt. While a line of credit can provide you with peace of mind, you may be tempted to overspend. Use your credit card responsibly and stick to a budget that you can repay in full by the end of the statement period to make the most of your card.
There are many types of credit cards to suit Kiwis travelling overseas. Whether you want to earn points as you spend, avoid foreign transaction fees or take advantage of complimentary travel insurance, make sure to compare your options before you choose the right card for your international trip.
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