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These are the most powerful passports in the world this year

Jan. 09, 2020
3 min read
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These are the most powerful passports in the world this year
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What's in a passport?

Shakespeare famously said that a rose, by any other name, would still smell just as sweet. But the same cannot be said for passports: When it comes to travel, not all passports are created equal — not by a long shot.

When it comes to international travel, a strong passport allows you to enter and depart various foreign countries without going through the hassle of applying for visas, entry permits and other such red tape.

And depending on what you know about international relations, it might surprise you to realize that a U.S. passport isn't even amongst the top 10 countries with foreign access.

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The Henley & Partners Passport Index ranks the world’s 199 passports on their “value of citizenship,” based on a weighted approach. Amongst other criteria, one factor evaluates the number of countries a passport holder can access without having to apply for a visa.

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You can read all about the methodology here, or we can cut straight to the chase: Japan takes the gold — again — for 2020. Passport holders from the Land of the Rising Sun can access a whopping 191 visa-free countries, while Singapore takes second place with visa-free access to 190 countries. Germany and South Korea tie for third place, as passport holders from both nations can easily travel to 189 countries.

Image courtesy of Henley & Partners.

The U.S. ranks in eighth place, tied with Belgium, Greece, Norway and the United Kingdom for 184 passport-accessible countries.

It's surprising that none of the three East Asian nations — Japan, Singapore and South Korea — even made the top 10 list before 2017. In 2018, Japan shot to the top of the leaderboard, boasting 190 countries compared to its former 172 in 2017; Singapore had 189 visa-free countries to its previous 173 in 2017; and South Korea passports saw the most progress, with 188 accessible countries in 2018 against its 170 in 2017. (You can play around with the rankings yourself on the Henley & Partners site.)

The lowest-ranking passports in the world come from Yemen, with just 33 countries accessible without a visa; Pakistan and Somalia at 32; Syria at 29; Iraq at 28 and Afghanistan bringing up the rear with 26 visa-free countries.

Graphic courtesy of Henley & Partners.
Featured image by Getty Images

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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.