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Choosing the Best Credit Card for International Travel for You

Published February 7, 2024
3 min read

Key points about: international travel credit cards

  1. A travel credit card may help you earn rewards on travel purchases or use your rewards to cover travel expenses.

  2. Ideally, a travel credit card won’t charge a fee for transactions outside the United States.

  3. Some credit cards offer travel perks like airport lounge access, Global Entry or TSA Precheck discounts, and travel insurance. However, credit cards with these perks may charge a high annual fee.

International travel empowers you to explore exciting new places, cultures, and foods. Travel credit cards could enhance your international trips. You may be able to earn rewards on your card as you book your trip or use statement credits to cover flights, hotel rooms, and more. The best credit card for your international travel needs depends on your spending habits, travel goals, and budget. Understanding popular travel rewards and features could help you find the best fit.

What to look for in an international travel credit card

As you shop for an international travel credit card, you may want to keep a few factors in mind. You might want to research the credit card networks that your favorite destinations accept. Each travel credit card also has unique rewards, fees, and perks that should guide your decision.

Travel rewards

To get the most from your credit card, try to find the best travel rewards program for your needs. While travel credit cards may offer many different types of rewards, they typically fall under one of two categories.

Some credit cards offer bonus rewards for travel-related purchases, like flights, rental cars, and hotels. Frequent travelers could quickly earn rewards with this type of card. Other travel credit cards instead offer rewards across all types of eligible purchases. You could redeem them to cover travel costs like flights or hotels. This type of card can make international travel more affordable, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

If you want to earn flexible travel rewards on your regular purchases, consider the Discover it® Miles Card. With the Discover it® Miles Card, you could earn 1.5x Miles automatically on travel purchases and all your everyday purchases. You may also have several options for redeeming your rewards. Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants, and more.1 The right travel rewards card could help you pay for many travel costs, leaving you free to enjoy a stress-free international journey.

Some travel credit cards may offer introductory bonuses that could boost their value. The Discover it® Miles Card offers an unlimited Mile-for-Mile match of all the Miles you earn at the end of your first year, automatically. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.2 By taking advantage of introductory bonuses, you could maximize your travel rewards.

Credit card fees

Certain fees may affect your credit card’s value. As you choose a card for traveling abroad, be mindful of foreign transaction fees. These fees are additional costs for purchases made outside the United States. Ideally, a travel credit card wouldn’t charge foreign transaction fees. But if the card you want does, make sure the fee isn't high enough to cancel out the rewards you earn.

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only additional charges to consider. Some credit cards also have annual fees and fees for other types of transactions. You could calculate your expected rewards to determine whether a travel credit card is the right fit. If your fees are more than the value of your rewards, you might want to consider a different card.

Did you know?

Generous benefits and rewards on a credit card don’t have to come with an annual fee. At Discover, every credit card has no annual fee. You can check to see if you're pre-approved with no harm to your credit.

Other benefits of an international travel credit card

Some credit cards offer perks that make international travel more convenient. Potential features include:

  • Airport lounge access
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Complimentary travel insurance

Extra features may improve your international travel experience. However, travel credit cards with these types of perks may also charge a higher annual fee. Before choosing a card, you may want to consider whether the added benefits make the cost worthwhile.

Whether you plan to relax on tropical beaches or explore historic castles, a credit card could make your international travel adventures easier. Each travel credit card has unique advantages and disadvantages. The best international travel credit card for you should offer travel rewards that match your spending habits.

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  1. Redeem Miles: Starting at 1 Mile, you can redeem your Miles as a credit to your account to pay for all or part of your bill, for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account, or for a credit for Travel Purchases made on your statement within the last 180 days. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation, restaurants and gas stations. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Even if a travel purchase on your statement appears to fit in a Travel Purchase category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in a Travel Purchase category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not be eligible for credit redemption if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. See Terms and Conditions for more information.
  2. Miles Match®: We'll match all the Miles rewards you've earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You've earned Miles rewards only when they're processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.