The Best Credit Cards for Worldwide Use

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

It's entirely possible thaht certain credit cards you may have won't be accepted worldwide. Getting declined when you're abroad isn't just embarrassing—it can put your travel plans at risk. Additionally, you might not realize your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee until you get your bill and discover that 3% was added to every purchase you made when you were away. The credit card frequent flyers choose for international use needs to have some travel friendly features or it could ruin your trip.

When you remember your vacation the first thing that comes to your mind shouldn't be the credit card headaches. Fortunately, there is a selection of travel credit cards that are ideal for worldwide use. These cards charge no fees for foreign transactions, are widely accepted and Smart chip-enabled, and have great international customer service. The best credit cards for world travel also let you earn points or miles, so you can keep on traveling.

Visa and Mastercard: Your Best Bet

Choose a Visa or Mastercard to make sure your card will be accepted everywhere you want to go!

Travelers need a card they can depend on.You don't want to be stranded at the airport or train station because your credit card isn't accepted. Unfortunately, while they have great perks, Discover and American Express credit cards are not accepted everywhere worldwide. For that reason, it's recommended you stick with Visa or Mastercard to avoid inconvenience when you're traveling abroad.

How we picked these cards

Our picks for the best credit cards for worldwide use were selected based on these five criteria:

Foreign exchange fees need not apply.Any card that charges a foreign transaction fee is disqualified from the list of best credit cards for worldwide use. Some cards routinely charge 2% or 3% on every transaction you make that's not in U.S. dollars. If you spent $4,000 while traveling that could cost you an extra $120 with a 3% transaction fee.

It must have a chip.It's now fairly standard for most new credit cards to come equipped with a Smart Chip (also known as EMV). The cards we've picked are all enabled with a chip that can be read at terminals around the world.

Worldwide acceptance is a must.Visa and Mastercards are accepted everywhere. That's not the case with American Express and Discover cards. All our picks are either Visa or Mastercards.

International customer service when you're away from home and need help.If a card offers customer service available anywhere in the world, it scored high marks with us.

Earning points for more travel.We also recognize that a card for people who travel should offer travel rewards. The cards we've picked let you earn miles while abroad and at home, so you can get back traveling sooner.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Your Chase Sapphire Preferred points top out when you redeem for travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Earn with travel, redeem for travel.The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives cardholders the chance to earn 2X points per $1 on dining at restaurants and travel, as well as some points for all other purchases. If you choose to redeem your points by booking travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards they're worth more.

Cardholders rave about the 24/7 customer service.Chase offers an award winning dedicated customer service line that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, 24/7. When you're having problems and you're far from home, it's comforting to know help from your credit card issuer is just a phone call away.

Cardmembers don't love the annual fee. Although the annual fee is waived for the first year, after that it's $95 a year. That's a mild fee for a travel card, but not the lowest on the market. If you are a frequent flyer, the annual fee is more than worthwhile.

Chase Sapphire Preferred gives new cardmembers a wicked welcome bonus

Big bonus for a big price.There is a hefty 60000 point signup bonus if you spend $4000 in the first 3 months. That's a pretty expensive requirement, but considering the bonus miles, it makes sense for the right traveler.

Redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards boosts your points' value by a quarter

1 point = more if you redeem with Chase.The best way to redeem the points you earn for travel purchases is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. That's because your points are worth the most when you use that portal to purchase car rentals, hotels, cruises, vacations, and airline flights.

The intro bonus could get you a flight.If you redeem the 60000 points you receive as a signup bonus through Chase Ultimate Rewards, that's hundreds of dollars in travel, right in your pocket, no matter how you choose to redeem the points.

What are the other travel friendly features?

It's got a chip on its shoulder.Like all the cards we're reviewing here, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is chip enabled. That means it has strong security and is widely accepted by chip card readers. Which makes it a perfect travel credit card.

No charge for charging abroad.This travel reward credit card also doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. That's an absolutely vital feature when you're picking a travel reward credit card.

Pro Tip: Apply right before you're booking a trip.

A little signup strategy is a good idea.The requirement to spend $4000 in the first three months after your account opens is a high price to have to pay to earn 3 points. If you time it so you book a vacation as soon as you get approved, you'll be well on your way to claiming those bonus miles, and you'll be earning points at an accelerated rate on your travel purchases.

Capital One Venture Rewards

The Venture Card offers a big bonus for a low spending threshold. With a moderate annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees, Capital One makes it rewarding to spend money wherever you happen to travel.

2X rewards rate rules.If we were just picking the travel reward credit card with the best rewards rates, the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card would be a top contender. You earn 2 points per dollar spent on all purchases, travel, or otherwise. There are no caps, so the amount of points you can earn is unlimited.

Good news and bad news for fees.Unfortunately, there is a $95 annual fee (waived in year one). However, at the high rate of points earning it shouldn't be hard to make the annual fee worthwhile, especially if you travel a lot. Although cardmembers don't love the annual fee, travelers love that there are no foreign transaction fees with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.

Spend a little less to earn just as many points

Another big signup bonus.The signup bonus for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is 50000 points. That's identical to the Chase Sapphire Preferred (although Chase's points can be redeemed at a higher rate through Ultimate Rewards).

The spending requirement to claim your 50000 bonus points is $3000 with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card. You have 3 months from opening the card to meet that minimum spend threshold and get the points bonus.

Redeem for travel on any airline, at any hotel, and no fee dates

No limits on travel.When you redeem your points for travel, you are reimbursed for travel costs as a statement credit. That means there are no limitations on eligible airlines or hotel chains for redeeming points with this reward card. You also don't have any blackout dates limiting when you travel.

Not the lowest APR.Travel reward credit cards are not generally known for their low APR interest rates. The purchase APR rate for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is between 17.99-25.24%. So, you're not going to want to carry an unpaid balance on this travel rewards credit card.

Pro Tip: Time a big purchase for right after you apply.

Have you been considering a big purchase?The requirement to spend $3000 in the first 3 months after your account opens to claim the 50000 points signup bonus might be less than Chase Sapphire Preferred. However, it's still a significant amount of spending. Since this travel reward credit card lets you earn two points per dollar spent on everything, you don't necessarily have to time your signup right before you book a vacation. You could coordinate your signing up with a big purchase of just about anything.

Bank of America Travel Rewards

This card gives BoA customers a sweet points bonus that's sure to bring delight to the savvy traveler.

It pays to be a loyal customer of Bank of America. The points you earn with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card are worth more if they can be redeemed through a checking or savings account with the credit card issuer.

More assets = more points.Points get increased even more if you participate in Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program.

Cardmembers love earning unlimited points on anything.Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire make you spend in specific categories—like travel expenses—to earn more than one point per dollar.

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card lets you earn unlimited points at 1.5% on all purchases whether they are travel or not. It's straightforward and simple, and your points don't expire.

People don't love the 3% balance transfer fee.With no annual fee and no fees for foreign transactions, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is solid for saving money on fees when you travel, but we would not recommend it if you want to transfer a balance. If not for this fee, the card's 12 month 0% APR introductory period would be perfect for balance transfers. But alas, other cards are better for that.

The 25000 point signup bonus pales in comparison

The bonus is less than half the competition.The bonus for signing up for the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is 25000 points. While that's half what the competition is selling, at least you only have to spend $1000 in the first 3 months to claim the bonus points. That could make this card more valuable to people who only intend to use it lightly, or who don't qualify for a higher credit limit.

Redeem for whatever travel you want, whenever you want it

Free to book whatever travel purchases you like.There are no specific online travel portals you need to use to book your travel purchase when you use Bank of America Travel Rewards points. There are no blackout dates or restrictions. Like the Capital One Venture card, you redeem your points in the form of a statement credit reimbursing you for travel purchase expenses. Options for redeeming travel rewards are flexible, and points can be used for airline tickets, hotel stays, package vacations, car rentals or even if you want to check bags on a flight.

Pro Tip: Open a checking account when you apply for the BoA Travel Rewards credit card.

Everyone needs a checking account, right?Since you need to have a checking account to qualify for a special loyalty bonus with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, it would make sense to open one up before you apply. You'll have a Bank of America credit card and debit card, if you do.

Go all in.Or you could take that logic even further and try and maximize the investments and assets you have with Bank of America so you can qualify for Preferred Rewards.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Barclaycard's exclusive travel rewards card will waive the annual fee in the first year. This reduced cost of ownership in year one, plus premium rewards on all purchases, gives this card an edge on the competition.

Storytelling is rewarded.The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is a travel reward credit card that offers extra reward miles for cardmembers who post stories in the online Barclaycard Travel Community. Participation miles are earned for activity such as posting stories about destinations, restaurants, hotels, and events. There are discussion boards for travel related conversations among the 160,000+ members. And the community's travel blog highlights great destinations and events from around the world.

Cardholders appreciate the opportunity to earn 2% reward points for absolutely everything.Like the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard earns two rewards points for every dollar spent on the card.

Get more just for redeeming.Whenever you redeem your rewards points, you get a little boost of points put back into your account as an added bonus.

People aren't loving the annual fee.Although it's waived in year one, the $89 (waived first year) annual fee is a tough pill to swallow every year for some. However, if you use the card correctly you can make it back in points.

Great signup bonus

It's just so many points!When we first set out to review this card, we were underwhelmed with a 40,000 point signup bonus, however, in the time from starting this post to publishing it Barclaycard has brought it's A game with—wait for it—70000 points when you spend $5000 in 3 months. The minimum spend is among the highest reviewed, though, so signup for this card if you want to make a big purchase for big rewards.

Redeem for miles rather than cash rewards for double the value

Points can be used for travel or cash rewards—at different rates. Spoiler alert: Redeeming for travel rewards gives your points the highest redemption value.

Is this a good card for a balance transfer?

High APRs and balance transfers don't mix.The purchase APR for this card is fairly high, between 18.24% - 25.24% (Variable).

Temporary 0% APR is helpful.For the first 12 months, there is 0% interest charged on balance transfers. So, if you think you could pay down a high interest balance from another card in a year at 0% APR, a balance transfer could be worth it.

The balance transfer fee might be a deal breaker. We wouldn't recommend this card for balance transfers because there are better 0% APR options with longer intro periods and/or no fees.

Pro Tip: Get a response instantly when you apply online

No need to wait around for approval.You can access the secure application for the Arrival Plus World Elite on their website. You are promised that you will "get an instant response."

If you want to do a balance transfer right off the bat you can actually include it in your application.

The best credit cards for world travel have everything a traveler could ask for

The best credit cards for world travel we've compared here have it all.

None of these cards charge a foreign transaction fee. No foreign transaction fees could save you hundreds of dollars per trip.

The cards are all chip-enabled and widely accepted.You won't have to worry much about any of these cards getting declined because they all come equipped with smart chip technology. Since the credit card issuers for all of these travel reward credit cards are either Visa or Mastercard, they are accepted far and wide.

Earning and redeeming rewards for travel.All of these travel reward credit cards also give you the chance to earn points towards future travel purchases. Earn rewards points on travel, then spend them on more travel. It doesn't get any better.

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