Best credit cards for international travel 2023

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When traveling abroad, the right credit card can be as crucial as your passport. The best credit card can help you not only earn more rewards, but it can also provide valuable protections and benefits. A credit card can save you money on foreign transaction fees and protect your purchases from fraudulent activity and theft.

Some credit cards can make your travels more comfortable with valuable perks like lounge access, elite status benefits and travel insurance. 

For international travel, you’ll want a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees and offers bonus points on travel along with travel insurance. We’ve taken the guesswork out of this task for you by rounding up the best credit cards for international travel:

The best credit cards for international travel:

The Chase Sapphire Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card © Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guys

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best Overall

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an excellent card for international travel because it checks all the boxes regarding benefits you’ll need when traveling abroad. The card provides vital travel protections and earns valuable rewards at a reasonable $95 annual fee. Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and 2 on all other travel purchases. The card also comes with valuable travel insurance, which is vital when traveling abroad. 

Cardholders pay no foreign transaction fees, which hover around 3% for purchases abroad on standard credit cards. Whether paying your hotel bill or doing extra shopping, the waived fee can add substantial savings.

Sapphire Preferred cardholders get up to $10,000 per person in trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary rental car coverage (in the US and abroad), up to $100 per day in baggage delay insurance (maximum of five days) and up to $500 in trip delay reimbursement per ticket. These protections can be beneficial in case of travel delays or emergencies. While you may consider buying supplemental travel insurance for certain trips, these credit card protections provide excellent baseline coverage.

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4000 in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit);  3X points on dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out; 3X points on online grocery purchases; 3X points on select streaming services; 2X points on all other travel; 1X on other purchases.

Travel benefits: Annual $50 Ultimate Rewards hotel credit, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, travel and emergency assistance services.

Credit score required: Good to Excellent.

Annual fee: $95. 

Pros

  • Generous category bonuses.
  • Excellent rewards program with a great selection of airline and hotel transfer partners.
  • $50 annual travel credit.
  • Extensive travel protections, including primary rental car insurance abroad. 

Cons

  • The card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule (meaning you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards at any bank in the last 24 months).
  • The $50 annual hotel credit is limited to Chase Ultimate Rewards bookings (and does not earn bonus points).
The American Express Platinum Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express © Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for travel perks

No other credit card can compete with The Platinum Card regarding travel perks. The card offers over $1500 in annual statement credits for airline fees, hotel bookings and trusted-traveler programs like CLEAR® Plus and Global Entry. Global Entry is particularly useful for international trips, as it expedites the passport control process.

Cardholders can upgrade to Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status without ever stepping foot in a hotel lobby. These higher status levels can provide added perks like room upgrades and complimentary breakfast, enhancing your hotel experience. 

The Platinum Card’s travel protections can provide added peace of mind with trip delay coverage and cancellation/interruption insurance.*

Welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 points after $6000 spent within six months of account opening. 

Rewards: Earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year); 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel; 1X point on everything else.

Travel benefits: Annual airline fee credit up to $200; annual hotel booking credit up to $200; annual Uber Cash up to $200; $20 monthly digital entertainment credit for select streaming services; $155 Walmart+ Credit; $300 annual Equinox statement credit; $50 Saks credit issued semi-annually; $189 CLEAR Plus credit; Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status; elite status with Avis, Hertz and National rental car; trip delay insurance; trip cancellation & interruption insurance.

Credit score required: Good to Excellent.

Annual fee: $695. See rates and fees.

Pros

  • Wide range of travel credits that offset the annual fee (if you use them).
  • Earns valuable Membership Rewards points.
  • Exceptional travel protections.

Cons

  • High annual fee.
  • Category bonuses are limited to Amex Travel and direct bookings.
  • The current welcome bonus isn’t the highest to date, and the card is subject to the Amex once-per-lifetime rule.
Earn 10x rewards on hotel stays with Chase Sapphire Reserve
Earn 10x rewards on hotel stays with Chase Sapphire Reserve® © Hispanolistic / .

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for travel insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is essential when traveling abroad – things always go wrong, and you don’t want to incur added expenses on top of your trip. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® provides exceptional travel insurance. Depending on your travel habits, you may not even need to buy a policy. Simply charge your travel expenses to the card, and you’ll be covered in case of trip delays, lost luggage and rental car accidents. The card provides emergency medical services and transportation up to $100,000 and trip cancellation/interruption coverage up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. In case of trip delays of six hours or longer, each passenger will be reimbursed up to $500 per ticket for meals and lodging. 

If you arrive at your destination and discover your luggage is missing, you’ll get up to $3000 per passenger to buy essentials. This policy also applies to damaged luggage, including carry-ons.

The Sapphire Reserve’s auto rental collision damage waiver is one of the best in class. It applies to rentals made abroad and covers up to $75,000 in case of theft or collision damage.

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4000 in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on flights purchased travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel; 3X points on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out); 1X point on all other purchases. Note: Travel reward points accrue after using the $300 travel credit.

Travel benefits: Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, including airfare, hotels and rental cars; get 50% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards; Priority Pass Select membership; application fee credit towards Global Entry, TSA Precheck or NEXUS every four years; travel protections including cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, primary rental car insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and emergency evacuation and transportation.

Credit score: Excellent.

Annual fee: $550 (plus $75 per authorized user). 

Pros

  • Comprehensive travel insurance when you use the Sapphire Card for booking.
  • Application fee credits for Global Entry, TSA Precheck and NEXUS.
  • Priority Pass Select membership for access to over 1300 airline lounges worldwide.
  • The $300 annual travel credit partially offsets the high annual fee. 

Cons

  • High annual fee.
  • Approval is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule (ie, you might not qualify for the card if you’ve signed up for 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months).
  • $75 authorized user fee.
The overwater bungalows at Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
The overwater bungalows at Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa © Kyle Olsen / The Points Guy

Capital One Venture Card: Best for tours and activities 

The Capital One Venture Card is the best card for tours and activities because it offers unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, making it easy to earn rewards quickly. Plus, the miles can be redeemed for any travel-related expense, so you can use them to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more. 

Additionally, cardholders get six months of complimentary membership to The Cultivist. This subscription platform typically costs $40 per month and provides free admission to over 60 museums, including the New York Met, Paris Louvre and The Art Institute of Chicago. You can bring up to three guests for free, making the Venture Card a terrific credit card for tours and activities.

With its simple reward structure and no-hassle redemption process, the Capital One Venture Card is an ideal choice for travelers looking to save money on their next tour or activity.

Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4000 in the first three months of account opening.

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

Travel benefits: Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, Hertz Five Star status, rental car insurance and travel accident insurance, Capital One Dining access; complimentary six-month membership to The Cultivist.

Credit score: Excellent.

Annual fee: $95. 

Pros

  • $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fees every four years.
  • Generous lounge benefit for a $95 annual fee card.
  • Simple rewards structure with multiple international airline transfer partners.

Cons

  • Limited lounge network compared to other credit cards.
The American Express Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card © Summer Hull / The Points Guy

American Express Gold Card: Best for dining abroad

Dining is one of the most significant expenses when you’re traveling abroad. The American Express Gold Card is the best card to pack in your wallet, earning 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants. The card also earns 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel so that you can maximize every dollar spent on vacation. 

The Amex Gold Card also offers up to $10 in monthly Uber Cash and another $10 towards Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Granted, you may not find many Cheesecake Factories abroad, but it’s a nice bonus that could come in handy during domestic travels. The card qualifies for Amex Offers, a rotating list of discounts at popular retailers, restaurants and hotels. You can save hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of dining deals through this portal.

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4000 within the first six months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 4X points at restaurants; 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases and then 1x after); 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; 1X points on all other purchases. 

Travel benefits: Receive up to $10 in monthly Uber Cash (valid for rides or Uber Eats orders); up to $10 in monthly dining credit at Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations; secondary rental car coverage*; baggage insurance plan; Global Assist hotline; access to experience credits and travel perks through The Hotel Collection.

Credit score: Good to Excellent.

Annual fee: $250. See rates and fees.

Pros

  • High earnings on popular travel spending categories.
  • Up to $240 in annual dining credits.
  • Amex Offers provides additional savings on travel.
  • Includes valuable travel protections.

Cons

  • High annual fee.
  • The current welcome bonus isn’t the highest to date. 
  • The card is subject to American Express’s once-per-lifetime rule.
Wells Fargo Autograph Card
Wells Fargo Autograph Card © The Points Guy

Wells Fargo Autograph Card: Best for no annual fee

The Wells Fargo Autograph Card is a great option for international travel if you want a card that earns generous rewards and minimal fees. The card waives foreign transaction fees, which is unusual for a card with no annual fee. It also offers generous bonuses on popular travel spending categories like dining, gas, transit, airfare, hotels, rental cars and cruises. With a 0% intro APR for 12 months, this is an excellent choice if you need to finance some purchases in the short term.

Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1000 in purchases in the first three months.

Rewards: Earn 3X points on travel, gas, restaurant, transit and popular streaming services; 1X points on all other purchases. 

Travel benefits: Secondary rental car insurance in the US, primary rental car coverage abroad, travel and emergency services assistance, emergency cash disbursement and card replacement, cell phone protection (up to $600 per year). 

Credit score: Good to Excellent.

Annual fee: $0. 

Pros

  • High earning potential in board travel spending categories.
  • One of the few credit cards offering cell phone protection.
  • Primary rental car coverage abroad and secondary in the US.

Cons

  • Low welcome bonus.
  • Points are not transferable to airline or hotel loyalty programs.
  • No travel protections outside of rental car insurance. 
Consider upgrading your travel experience with the right credit card
If you find yourself frequently traveling internationally, you should consider upgrading your experience with the right credit card © filadendron / .

Who should get a credit card for international travel?

Anyone who frequently travels internationally should consider getting a credit card for international travel. There are added costs and hassles associated with traveling abroad that these credit cards can eliminate. With the right credit card, you’ll earn bonus points in popular spending categories restricted abroad. 

You don’t have to be a frequent traveler to benefit from these cards either. They can provide peace of mind by serving as a backup form of payment if your debit or cash is lost or stolen while abroad. In fact, the right credit card can serve you well even when you’re just going about your daily routine. Below are some of the features and benefits you should look for when choosing a credit card for international travel:

How to choose the best credit card for international travel

When it comes to international travel, selecting the right credit card is essential. The right credit card can save you money on fees and travel expenses and provide you with a range of benefits to make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Here are some tips for choosing the best credit card for international travel: 

No foreign transaction fees

Many credit cards charge a fee of up to 3% when you use them abroad. Look for a card that doesn’t charge these fees so you can save money when making purchases in other countries. 

Bonus points on travel

Many cards offer rewards in popular spending categories like travel, dining, groceries and gas. These points can then be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays or other travel perks. Some credit cards limit bonus points on dining and grocery spending to US supermarkets and restaurants only. You’ll want a card in your wallet that offers bonus points in the US and abroad since these expenses add up during travels. 

Trusted traveler programs

Navigating airports can be a stressful experience both in the US and abroad. Trusted traveler programs like TSA Precheck, Global Entry and NEXUS can eliminate the hassle (and long lines). When choosing a credit card for international travel, consider one that offers an application fee credit for trusted traveler programs. These credits can offset high annual fees and make your next trip abroad much more pleasant.

Unlock benefits like seat upgrades with the best international travel cards
Unlock benefits like seat upgrades with the best international travel cards © Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy

International credit cards FAQ

Which cards are best for international travel?

The best international travel cards are those with no foreign transaction fees, offer travel protections and earn bonus rewards on travel purchases. Some of the top cards for international travel include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

What’s the advantage of using a credit card when traveling abroad?

The main advantage of using a credit card when traveling abroad is its convenience and security. Credit cards offer a secure way to make purchases without carrying large amounts of cash. Some credit cards also earn rewards on travel purchases, offer travel insurance and waive foreign exchange fees.

Is American Express or Visa better for international travel?

It depends on the country you are traveling to and which cards are accepted in that country. Generally, Visa is accepted more widely than American Express, so it may be the better option for international travel.

* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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