Best Credit Cards for Globetrotters

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Unlike navigating the ever-more-complex fees and restrictions imposed by airlines and the Transportation Safety Administration, world travelers can follow a few straightforward criteria to pick the right credit card.

First, “they’ll want to choose one that has a good rewards program,” Amber Stubbs, managing editor for CardRatings.com, tells MainStreet. She explains that globetrotters should pursue a card that carries a rewards program where they can earn points on all of their travel purchases, and that also lets them redeem these points on airfare or at hotels and their favorite restaurants.

Secondly, Stubbs suggests looking for a card that also offers an ample sign-on bonus for its reward program, since “it can help get you to your next vacation.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, travelers will want a card that charges little to no foreign transaction fee, which many issuers charge for making purchases overseas.

“There are not a lot of cards that don’t have them,” Stubbs says, adding that these fees can cost consumers up to 3% of each transaction, depending on the issuer.

Based on these criteria, MainStreet asked some credit experts to provide recommendations for the cards that creditworthy globe trotters should be carrying around in their wallets as they journey around the world.

Capital One Venture Rewards

According to Ken Lin, CEO of CreditKarma.com, Capital One’s Venture Rewards card stands out as the “best product” for travelers since Capital One (Stock Quote: COF) does not charge a foreign transaction fee and the rewards program associated with it is pretty substantial.

For instance, cardholders earn two miles per dollar on every purchase, which can be redeemed on any travel expense and airfare purchases and are not subject to blackout dates. To sweeten the deal, Capital One is also currently offering 25,000 bonus miles (equal to $250 in travel) if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Lin points out that the card also offers 24-hour travel assistance services that help customers get an emergency replacement card and a cash advance should their card become lost or stolen.

The card carries a $59 annual fee, waived for the first year, but Stubbs agrees that for those who travel frequently, the fee is well worth it.

She does suggest, however, that people who are wary of annual fees check out Capital One’s VentureOne Rewards card. The rewards are not as robust, with customers earning 1.25 miles to every dollar spent, but both the annual fee and the foreign transaction fee are non-existent, making it a suitable alternative. The card currently carries a 10,000-mile sign-on bonus, if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The VentureOne card is also available to those with a very good (as opposed to excellent) credit score of 700 or higher.

Both Capital One cards carry a 11.99% to 19.99% annual percentage rate, depending on your credit score.

Chase Sapphire Preferred


Stubbs suggests Chase’s (Stock Quote: JPM) preferred version of its popular Sapphire card since it also does not charge consumers a foreign transaction fee on international purchases. The rewards program attached to the card is pretty enticing as well, with consumers earning two points for each dollar of eligible airfare booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site. They also earn one point for each dollar of other purchases.

“Cardholders can also call up a 24/7 concierge service to get help with making travel plans and find out about other benefits or specials,” Stubbs says.

Chase is currently offering 50,000 bonus points, estimated to be worth about $625 in airfare or travel expenses, but you have to spend $3,000 in the first three months to qualify. As such, Stubbs points out the card, which carries a $95 annual fee (also waived the first year) and a 13.94% APR, is geared to those with excellent credit and higher incomes.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card

Beverly Harzog, credit expert with Credit.com, recommends joining PenFed’s credit union to get its Premium Travel Rewards American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) Card, which earns cardholders five points for every dollar spent on airfare purchases and one point for every dollar spent on other purchases.

The card doesn’t carry a foreign transaction fee and also offers complimentary 24-hour concierge service that helps consumers find additional travel discounts. PenFed is currently offering a 20,000-point bonus if you spend $650 in the first three months. Moreover, there is no annual fee and the APR is around 13.99%.

“The benefits are really outstanding,” Harzog says, adding that almost everyone is eligible to join the credit union after they make a $15 to $20 donation to one of the nonprofit organizations associated with it.

American Express Platinum Rewards

Stubbs says consumers should also consider the American Express Platinum Rewards card, which also waives the foreign transaction fee for a price.

“Cardholders pay $450 in annual fees,” Stubbs says. However, she adds, people who travel constantly say it’s worth every penny since the card entitles them to exclusive hotel and resort upgrades and grants them VIP access to airport clubs. The card also carries travel insurance, a $200 airline fee credit to cover incidentals with the airline of your choice, access to a 24-hour concierge service and enrollment in the Hertz #1 Gold Club, Avis Preferred and Emerald Club from National Car Rental, which provide varying discounts on car rentals while traveling.

As for the rewards program, cardholders earn one point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases (terms will vary), but also get one bonus point for every five points redeemed. Current bonus programs allow cardholders to earn 5,000 bonus points every month they spend at least $10,000. Additionally, those who spend $3,000 on a qualifying vacation will receive a $100 statement credit. Since the card is a charge card, with no spending limit, and not a credit card, no APR applies.

“It’s a very elite card,” Stubbs says.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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