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Six Top Credit Cards For International Travel

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International travel often involves extra planning to make sure your trip goes smoothly. TPG Contributor Eric Rosen recently wrote about how to prepare for international travel, and among his considerations was the importance of bringing the right credit card. There are some obvious factors to consider, like whether a card levies foreign transaction fees, and some less obvious ones, like whether it offers purchase protection, trip cancellation insurance, and more. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the top current travel credit cards to carry with you when you go abroad, outlining the specific benefits of each one and why it might come in handy on your next trip. This is by no means a final list of cards that are good for international travel, but these are 6 solid cards that offer valuable earning, redeeming and perks. I also included a range of fees- from $59-$450 per year to give a wide cross-section of the different levels of cards available. As always, feel free to comment with the top card you use when criss-crossing the globe.

Picking a credit card for international travel goes beyond waived forex fees.
Picking a credit card for international travel goes beyond waived forex fees.

None of my picks charges foreign transaction fees, and all have decent coverage for things like trip delays and lost luggage, as well as little-used perks like concierge service. Some even offer primary car rental insurance. The table below summarizes the benefits of each card for a quick comparison of how my choices stack up. Read on for more details.

  Annual Fee Trip Cancellation Trip Delay Lost Baggage Delayed Baggage Car Rental Insurance Purchase Protection
Sapphire Preferred $95 $10,000 $500 $3,000 $500 Primary $500/$50,000
Arrival Plus $89 $1,500 $500 $300 $300 Secondary $1,000/$25,000
Amex Platinum $450 None None $3,000 $1,000 Primary* $10,000/$50,000
ThankYou Premier $125 $1,500 $500 $3,000 $500 Secondary $1,000/$50,000
Ink Bold Ink Plus $95 $5,000 $300 $3,000 $500 Primary** $500/$50,000
Venture Rewards $59 None None $3,000 $500 Secondary $500/$50,000

* An additional $24.95 fee is charged for primary insurance per rental ($17.95 in California)
** Primary insurance is only for work-related rentals

Top Credit Cards For International Travel

The Sapphire Preferred recently announced new travel benefits.
The Sapphire Preferred recently announced new travel benefits.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Sign-up Bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. You will earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add an additional cardholder and make a purchase within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $95 waived the first year

Why take it with you?
This card has been one of my top all-round travel credit card picks practically since it launched, thanks to great benefits like 2x points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, 11 travel transfer partners (including United, British Airways, Southwest and Hyatt), and no foreign transaction fees. There have also been more recent developments like including EMV Smart Chip technology and primary rental car insurance.

However, the card also carries a host of other benefits that make it a smart choice for international travel. As an all-round card for traveling abroad, this one is hard to beat:

Trip cancellation and interruption: Chase recently increased these two benefits from $5,000 to $10,000 for Sapphire Preferred cardholders.
Travel accident insurance: When you pay for your trip using this card, you are covered in the event of accidental death or dismemberment up to $500,000.
Lost/delayed luggage: Each passenger on an itinerary paid for with this card is covered up to $3,000 in the event that carry-on or checked bags are lost or damaged. Passengers can also be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries or clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours. Reimbursement is offered up to $100 per day for 5 days, up to a total of $500.
Trip delay insurance: If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, travelers and family members are covered for non-reimbursed expenses (meals and lodging) up to $500 per ticket.
Travel emergency assistance: Visa Signature offers cardholders (as well as spouses and children under 23) a variety of emergency services including medical and legal referral assistance, emergency transportation assistance, translation service and ticket replacement, among others.
Rental car insurance: Chase also recently improved this benefit from secondary to primary coverage on rentals paid for using the Sapphire Preferred, and coverage now includes physical damage, theft of the rental vehicle, loss-of-use charges claimed by the rental company, and towing expenses.
Purchase protection: New purchases are covered up to 120 days out against damage, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Return protection: In the event that a store won’t refund an item within 90 days of purchase, your card will refund you up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
Visa Signature Hotels benefits: Booking through the Visa Signature Hotels portal can score you value-added freebies like daily breakfast and complimentary internet, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per stay.

Arrival Plus offers added benefits, including Chip and PIN technology.
The Arrival Plus offers tons of great features for international travel.

2. Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Current Sign-up Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: $89 waived the first year

Why take it with you?
The Arrival Plus is packed with great benefits like earning 2x miles per $1 on all purchases and the ability to redeem those miles for travel at a rate of 1 cent apiece (with a 10% mileage refund) – even on expenses that you cannot usually pay for with miles, such as limos and tourist attractions. Add to that a TripIt Pro subscription and enhanced capabilities like ultra-secure Chip + PIN technology (one of the few US cards that has it), and you have a great all around travel credit card.

Here are some of the other benefits to keep in mind that come as part of the World Elite MasterCard benefits package.

As a World Elite Mastercard, the Arrival Plus comes with a host of added benefits.
As a World Elite MasterCard, the Arrival Plus comes with a host of added benefits.

Trip cancellation and interruption: World Elite MasterCards offer Mastertrip protection, which includes travel assistance, replacement of lost tickets, documents and luggage when you are traveling 50 miles or more from home. It can transfer up to $5,000 to you to cover travel emergencies. The service also helps to locate luggage (though it is not baggage insurance). They also provide assistance to people in emergencies, including referrals for doctors or lawyers, ATM locators and more. Trip interruption or cancellation insurance provided by the card includes a maximum benefit of $1,500 per trip to reimburse the cardholder for non-refundable expenses incurred while traveling.
Travel accident insurance: When you pay for your trip using this card, you are covered in the event of accidental death or dismemberment up to $1 million.
Lost/delayed luggage: Each passenger on an itinerary paid for with this card is covered up to $100 per day for up to 3 days for amenities if your bags are delayed more than four hours, with an annual maximum of $3,000.
Trip delay insurance: If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, travelers and family members are covered for non-reimbursed expenses (meals and lodging) up to $500 per ticket.
Rental car insurance: Master Rental insurance is secondary insurance, and pays for physical damage and theft of most rental vehicles with a value of $50,000 or less when the World Elite MasterCard is used to pay for the entire rental. There are some excluded countries such as Israel and Ireland. This kind of coverage kicks in when any other coverage is exhausted, such as that provided by your personal car insurance or a policy you buy from the rental agency.
Purchase protection: This includes coverage of lost or damaged items within 90 days of purchase up to $1,000 per purchase and $25,000 annually per card.
World Elite MasterCard luxury travel benefits: The program has a number of luxury travel partners, including hotel groups like Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La, where members can score extra perks like complimentary breakfast and room upgrades, and includes discounts with car rental partners including National, Avis and Sixt.

3. American Express Platinum Card
Current Sign-up Bonus:Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $450

Why take it with you?
With a $450 annual fee, the American Express Platinum card is one of the most expensive credit cards out there. There have been some pretty significant changes to the card over the last couple of years, most notably in April, when it stopped providing access to US Airways and American Airlines lounges. However, the card does still give you access to Delta lounges and Priority Pass Select, and American Express occasionally adds new features, like unlimited Boingo Wifi and a statement credit for TSA Pre-Check, in addition to the existing $100 free Global Entry credit and $200 in airline rebates.

This card has made #3 on my list not because of its travel protections – it does not offer automatic trip cancellation/interruption or travel delay benefits. You can get these benefits by paying an add-on fee when booking through Amex travel, but there are other cards with adequate coverage out there, so you might want to use those to book your travel separately. Where this card really shines, though, is in its purchase protections and rental car insurance, which is how I would primarily use it abroad.

Trip cancellation and interruption: No automatic coverage, but additional coverage is available for a fee when booking through Amex Travel.
Travel accident insurance: Up to $500,000 per cardholder and family member for necessary medical, surgical and hospital costs if you  are injured or lose your life during your trip.
Lost/delayed luggage: Platinum cardholders get up to $850 per article and $3,500 per person in lost, damaged or stolen luggage benefits. For baggage delayed  more than four hours, cardholders can be redeemed up to $500 per person on their card, and an additional $500 if the bag still hasn’t shown up after 48 hours.
Trip delay insurance: No automatic coverage, but additional coverage is available for a fee when booking through Amex Travel.
Rental car insurance: Amex offers premium coverage policies for a flat fee of $24.95 ($17.95 for California residents) per rental period (not per rental day), offering primary coverage (meaning you won’t have to file a claim with your insurance company) of up to $75,000 for damage or theft and up to $750,000 for medical and legal fees.
Purchase protection: New purchases are covered up to $10,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 total per card member account per calendar year within 90 days of purchase.
Return protection: In the event that a store won’t take back an item within 90 days of purchase, your card will refund you up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year.
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits: Booking through the FHR Hotels portal can confer valuable benefits like daily breakfast and resort spa or restaurant credits, worth potentially hundreds of dollars per stay.
The Global Assist Program: This is an extra Amex feature that offers a helping hand when you are over 100 miles from home. The program provides assistance for all US Amex cardmembers. Services include emergency services (such as arranging medical transportation, travel and legal assistance), and destination information such as weather reports, currency exchange rates, etc.

4. Citi ThankYou Premier Card
Sign-up Bonus: Earn 50,000 points, 20,000 after $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, and an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of the second year.
Annual Fee: $125 waived the first year

Why take it with you?
Not only does this Citi card waive forex fees and offer the suite of Visa Signature benefits, it also earns 3x points on dining and entertainment, 2x on airfare, hotels and travel agencies, and 1x on all other purchases. Plus, the ThankYou Rewards program has just added a slew of new transfer partners, including Flying Blue, Singapore Krisflyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, making them more useful than ever – which is why I’m giving ThankYou cards another look.

Trip cancellation and interruption: Up to $1,500.
Travel accident insurance: When you pay for your trip using this card, you’re covered in the event of accidental death or dismemberment up to $250,000.
Lost/delayed luggage: Each passenger on an itinerary paid for with this card is covered up to $3,000 in the event that carry-on or checked bags are lost or damaged. Passengers can also be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries or clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours (up to $100 per day for 5 days).
Trip delay insurance: If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, travelers and family members are covered for non-reimbursed expenses (meals and lodging) up to $500 per ticket.
Travel Emergency Assistance: Visa Signature offers cardholders (as well as spouses and children under 23) a variety of emergency services including medical and legal referral assistance, emergency transportation assistance, translation service and ticket replacement, among others.
Rental car insurance: Secondary insurance up to $50,000 for damage to the car or theft.
Purchase protection: New purchases are covered up to 90 days out against damage, up to $1,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Return protection: In the event that a store won’t take back an item within 90 days of purchase, your card will refund you up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
Visa Signature Hotels benefits: Booking through the Visa Signature Hotels portal can score you value-added freebies like daily breakfast and complimentary parking or internet, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per stay.

I always carry my Ink cards with me when I travel for business.
I always carry my Ink cards with me when I travel for business.

5. Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold
Current Sign-up Bonus:Earn 50,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $95 waived the first year

Why take them with you?
These two business cards are also part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, with 11 travel transfer partners (including United, British Airways, Southwest and Hyatt). Like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and Ink Plus waive foreign transaction fees, and they offer category spending bonuses like 5x points per dollar on office supplies and telecommunications, and 2x points per dollar on hotels and gas.

These are also Visa Signature cards with all the attendant travel benefits, and have other cool individual perks like Lounge Club membership and two free annual passes to member lounges. I’m sure to carry my Ink cards with me when I know I’ll be traveling for work.

Trip cancellation and interruption: Up to $5,000 per person.
Travel accident insurance: When you pay for your trip using this card, you are covered in the event of accidental death or dismemberment up to $500,000.
Lost/delayed luggage: Each passenger on an itinerary paid for with this card is covered up to $3,000 in the event that carry-on or checked bags are lost or damaged. Passengers can also be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries or clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours (up to $100 per day for 5 days).
Trip delay insurance: If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, travelers and family members are covered for non-reimbursed expenses (meals and lodging) up to $300 per ticket.
Travel Emergency Assistance: Visa Signature offers cardholders (as well as spouses and children under 23) a variety of emergency services including medical and legal referral assistance, emergency transportation assistance, translation service and ticket replacement, among others.
Rental car insurance: Provided you have used the card to pay for the rental and are driving it for work purposes, these cards offer primary rental insurance up to $50,000.
Purchase protection: New purchases are covered up to 90 days out against damage up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Return protection: In the event that a store won’t take back an item within 90 days of purchase, your card will refund you up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
Visa Signature Hotels benefits: Booking through the Visa Signature Hotels portal can score you value-added freebies like daily breakfast and complimentary internet, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per stay.

6. Capital One Venture Rewards
Sign-up Bonus: Earn a one-time bonus 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $59 waived the first year

Why take it with you?
This card earns easy-to-track, fixed-value miles. You earn 2x miles per dollar on all purchases, and can redeem them at a rate of 1 cent apiece for travel, giving you a solid 2% return on spending. Venture Rewards waives foreign transaction fees and is a Visa Signature card with the attendant benefits, though this is the last card on my list because it lacks certain benefits like trip cancellation and travel delay coverage.

Trip cancellation and interruption: None.
Travel accident insurance: When you pay for your trip using this card, you are covered in the event of accidental death or dismemberment up to $250,000.
Lost/delayed luggage: Each passenger on an itinerary paid for with this card is covered up to $3,000 in the event that carry-on or checked bags are lost or damaged. Passengers can also be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries or clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours (up to $100 per day for 5 days).
Trip delay insurance: None.
Rental car insurance: Secondary insurance with coverage up to $50,000 on the value of the car.
Purchase protection: New purchases are covered up to 90 days out against damage up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Return protection: In the event that a store won’t take back an item within 90 days of purchase, your card will refund you up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
Visa Signature Hotels benefits: Booking through the Visa Signature Hotels portal can score you value-added freebies like daily breakfast and complimentary internet, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per stay.

With additional reporting by Eric Rosen.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now
  • Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations worldwide. Terms Apply.
  • Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status with your Platinum Card.®
  • No interest charges because you pay your balance in full each month.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A N/A $450 0% Excellent Credit