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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.

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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.

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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • 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

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees