Traveling Abroad? 5 Considerations for Which Credit Cards to Pack

Traveling abroad this summer?  Contemplating which credit card(s) to pack prior to heading out?   Consider these card features to rack up the best rewards and cost you the least amount in fees.

Using our Citi PremierSM Card to buy this delicious gelato at SuSo in Venice, Italy meant we weren’t charged any extra fees and earned 2x miles on the purchase. This was great because we ate A LOT of SuSo gelato.
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Start with knowing the travel abroad features offered by the cards you already have in your wallet.

Need a refresher? Check the respective bank’s credit card section of its website for its perks offered when traveling abroad.

Do merchants accept the card?

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Since AMEX and Discover cards are not widely accepted outside North America, you’ll need to carry a Visa or MasterCard as your primary card. AMEX cards are fine (actually, best) to use in certain scenarios (e.g., bonus categories like airfare), but you’ll need a Visa or MasterCard as your primary card since many merchants won’t accept AMEX

Does your bank waive the foreign transaction fee?

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Most banks offer credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees, but many of those same banks offer cards that charge fees up to 3% on every purchase.  Avoid using these cards. Don’t pay for credit card rewards that you can otherwise earn fee-free.

How do you value the rewards provided by the card?

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Earning rewards is awesome- but only when they align with your travel goals.  Heading abroad with a cash back card might get you to Vegas on a free economy ticket but is virtually useless for heading overseas in a premium cabin.

Invest your credit card spending in programs that offer the rewards that match your travel goals and avoid those that do not.

Does the card offer bonus categories?

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Eat, sleep, Uber/Grab… All things we do when we travel abroad. Many cards offer extra points for dining, hotels and transportation.

Some cards even offer bonus points for entertainment. zoos, museums, art galleries and live sporting events fall under the “entertainment” category, so be sure to use this card at these attractions.

Recently, some banks (looking at you, AMEX) limit bonus categories to U.S. merchants, so be careful to look at the fine print on the respective banks’ credit card home page.

Using credit cards that offer these features will maximize your rewards earning while minimizing fees.

Should you apply for a new credit card before you’re traveling abroad?

While signing up for a credit card specifically for an upcoming international trip can make sense in certain scenarios, credit card sign-ups should follow a process to maximize your points earning based on your family’s travel goals and your specific 24-month credit history.

Applying for that perfect travel card without considering your broader rewards earning goals can severely limit your points-earning potential.

Unless applying for a travel rewards credit card is part of your broader points earning strategy, it’s usually best to pull from cards already in your wallet.

I can help you.

How about some help with specific credit card recommendations? I can check out what you have, what are your travel goals and recommend some cards that will make your travel dreams come true sooner.

I can also book your award travel for you.

Which credit card(s) are you taking abroad with you this summer? Please share in the Comments section below. Or let me know if you have any questions.