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Compare travel credit cards to use overseas
Spend with ease using a travel credit card on your next overseas trip.
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Travelling overseas requires a lot of planning, and there’s almost nothing more essential than sorting your finances before the trip. You don’t want to be caught out paying excessive conversion fees when travelling, so it’s best to find a credit card that suits your needs and will help you avoid financial hassles on your next holiday. Travel credit cards are suitable for those who frequently travel overseas or for those who want the option of using credit abroad.
Although there is no such thing as one “best” card, providers design travel credit cards specifically for travelling and come with features and benefits to help you save money and make your trip more comfortable.
Some of the benefits included in a travel credit card include:
- No currency conversion fees
- Complimentary travel insurance
- Access to a frequent flyer program
- Special travel perks such as lounge access and a 24/7 concierge
What's in this guide?
Comparison of credit cards for overseas travel
How do travel credit cards work?
Travel credit cards can help you avoid charges when overseas, such as currency conversion and ATM fees. They can also provide additional value beyond a standard credit card, through complimentary travel insurance, concierge services and reward programs. However, these features usually come at the cost of a higher annual fee than your standard credit card.
What types of travel credit cards are available?
- Frequent Flyer credit cards – Frequent Flyer (Airpoints) credit cards are linked to frequent flyer programs such as Air New Zealand’s Airpoints and Qantas Frequent Flyer. When you use your card overseas, you accumulate points that you can use on flights, upgrades and gifts. Great for those who are regularly travelling.
- Rewards credit cards – Reward credit cards are just what the name implies; they reward you for your use. Using your card, especially overseas, will gain points that you can use in various reward programs. Foreign transactions tend to be worth more points than domestic ones.
- Business credit cards – Credit card providers design business cards for business use rather than personal. If you travel overseas for business or have employees that go abroad on business, using a business credit card for all transactions overseas is a great way to track spending and separate personal and business travel costs.
- Platinum credit cards – Platinum credit cards also include Black and Gold cards. They have more features and services than a standard credit card. For this reason, the annual fee is much higher. Platinum cards reward you for travelling overseas and often provide complimentary travel insurance and support while abroad.
What to look for in a travel credit card?
Not all travel credit cards are created equal, but these are some features that you should look out for:
- No currency conversion fees. Converting funds to your desired currency typically attracts a fee. The most effective credit cards for overseas travel don’t involve a currency conversion fee and can help you save in additional costs. You can’t avoid converting money overseas, so it’s crucial you compare this feature.
- No overseas ATM withdrawal fees. Withdrawing money overseas from an ATM can also involve costs, which may end up being quite expensive. The ideal credit card offers low or no ATM withdrawal fees, which is another essential feature to consider, as it can help you save money while travelling. Depending on the card, you may only be subject to no withdrawal fees if you use specified machines.
- Complimentary travel insurance. When you’re travelling overseas, travel insurance is a crucial thing to have. Complimentary travel insurance can help you save significantly in insurance coverage and protect you against unexpected setbacks and emergencies. You could base the right travel card for you on complimentary travel insurance and whether this service meets your needs.
- Linked to a frequent flyer program. With some overseas travel credit cards, using your card can help you gain frequent flyer points. You can earn these points while travelling and then use these points for flights, upgrades and gifts. Each credit card may be linked to different reward program (although Airpoints is the principal one in New Zealand), so compare and find one that suits you.
- Earn more points for overseas purchases. Some credit cards may also offer you the opportunity to earn more points when making foreign purchases, which is a great way to increase your points total and reap rewards. Each credit card will have different conditions around earning points for overseas purchases, so it’s essential to compare your options.
What should I be aware of when using a credit card overseas?
- Consider other options. Using your credit card is not the only way you can spend money overseas. You can turn to foreign currency and prepaid travel money cards. In fact, it’s wise to organise more than one travel money option before travelling to ensure you’re not stranded without cash in case your card is lost or stolen.
- Excessive debt. A credit card may tempt you to overspend while on holiday. It’s important to remember that you have to repay everything you charge (plus interest in most cases), so make sure that you’re spending with a budget in mind so that your balance doesn’t get out of control.
- Credit card scams or fraud. In some countries that you travel to, there may be a higher risk of scams or fraudulent use of your card. Keep an eye out for skimming devices on ATMs or make a point to only use ATMs that are inside banks if available. You should also make sure you know where your card is at all times and do not physically hand it over when making a purchase or paying a bill. When travelling to a new destination, do some research before you arrive to find out what common money or credit card scams may exist.
Travel credit card pros and cons
- Be rewarded for travelling. Credit cards for overseas travel benefit you just for travelling. You can be rewarded for making purchases overseas and earn points for loyalty or reward programs. Just using your credit card abroad will give you more from your credit card.
- Travel perks. Many travel credit cards come with great perks to make your journey more comfortable such as free lounge access at the airport, seat upgrades when available, and free courtesy car or hire car for travelling in between the airport and your destination.
- Save money. Credit cards can also help you save money. You can save by avoiding conversion and ATM withdrawals fees, along with complimentary travel insurance. All of these things may help you save hundreds over the course of a year if you travel often.
- Acceptance. Credit cards are also widely accepted in most locations so you can use your card wherever you travel.
- Additional benefits. Depending on which card you choose, you may be entitled to a free concierge service, purchase protection insurance and exclusive cardholder offers.
- Fees. Depending on what type of credit card you have, your provider may charge fees and surcharges in specific locations for using your card.
- Higher annual fees. If your card comes with premium features, such as complimentary travel insurance or concierge services, they likely come at the cost of higher annual fees.
- High-interest rates. Overseas travel credit cards tend to attract much higher interest rates than standard credit cards.
- Excess interest. If you don’t pay off your balance each statement period, you can incur excessive interest charges.
Frequently asked questions
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