NOTE: COVID-19 has heavily impacted everything travel-related. Make sure to read my Guide to Coronavirus Travel if you plan to travel at this time.

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

What to look for + the top free & no-foreign FX fee travel credit cards for residents of the US, UK, Canada, & Australia
The ultimate guide to the best travel credit cards by travel done simple
Share this guide
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

While you can still travel without a credit card, not having one means you miss out on being able to rent cars, reserve certain hotels, and have safer options for payment.  Most rental car agencies will not allow you to rent a car without a credit card since they use it for deposits in the form of holds and it’s the same story with some hotels.  

And when paying with a credit card, it’s safer since should something happen to it, it’s not your money that you lose which makes it easier to get it back compared to a debit card.

Also, just like the debit card, using the wrong credit card when you’re abroad can mean spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on extra fees that you don’t need to pay.  

You should try to get one with a chip & 4-digit number PIN, contactless payments, and low or no annual fees, foreign transaction fees, or foreign currency conversion fees. 

However, they are only the basic requirements for a good travel credit card.

The best credit cards for traveling also include rewards and perks such as travel points, free/discounted flights & hotels, access to airport lounges, free upgrades, Rental Car insurance coverage, and Travel Insurance coverage.  

Finding the best credit card for you depends on where you live, your personal spending habits, your annual income, and the types of rewards and perks you are most interested in.  

Luckily for you, I have put together a guide to the best credit cards for traveling that you can get if you live in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia!  

*Note that this guide will only cover Visas or Mastercards that don’t have any foreign transaction fees or annual fees because those are the easiest to get, the most widely accepted, and the best credit cards you can have in your wallet when you’re already abroad, but keep in mind that there could be other cards out there offering better rewards and features if you’re willing to pay those fees.  I will also not cover travel/points hacking or churning in this guide, which is a completely different way to use credit cards.

Important information about credit cards:

  • Always choose to pay in the local currency when paying by card because the exchange rate offered by Visa/Mastercard will always be better than the one offered by foreign merchants.
  • Never use your credit card to take out cash from an ATM as doing so will come with many extra fees.  Always use your debit card, ideally a good one for traveling.  Learn more in my Guide to the Best Debit Cards for Traveling.
  • Never spend more than you can afford with your credit card and always pay your credit card bills on time or else you risk damaging your credit score and paying extra fees and interest.
  • Do not sign up for too many credit cards as each one will lower your credit score each time.
  • If your credit card provider offers this feature, lock your card using the mobile app when you’re not using it to prevent fraud.
  • Keep a backup credit card hidden in your luggage in case something happens to your main one and know what to do if your card is lost, stolen, or copied.  See #6 in my Guide to Money Management for all the steps you should take.
 
Table of Contents
The US flag which represents all American travelers

Best Travel Credit Cards in the USA

Americans have the best choices when it comes to travel credit cards, you have 9 different cards to choose from!  Here are my suggestions:

Best card to have while abroad: Deserve Pro Mastercard
Best card to have if you only stay in hotels: Marriott Bonvoy Bold Visa
Best card to have for the insurance benefits: IHG Rewards Club Traveler Mastercard

If I had to pick one: Deserve Pro Mastercard

The three travel credit cards from Capital One available for American travelers titled Venture, Quicksilver, & Savor

Capital One seems to know how to capture the traveler market, offering three different options for credit cards without annual fees or foreign transaction fees.  Each one comes with its own unique benefit and sign-up bonus as well as free rental car insurance which is a nice bonus.  

In addition, they all have an app that sends you push notifications for every transaction and lets you lock and unlock your card in real-time which is great for preventing fraud while you’re abroad!

As for rewards, if you’re mainly interested in travel rewards and you often stay in hotels and rent cars, then the Venture card could be great for you, offering 5 miles per dollar on every hotel and car rental purchase made through Capital One Travel (equal to 5 cents per dollar in Travel Rewards or 2.5 cents in cashback) and 1.25 miles per dollar on every other purchase as well as a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles if you meet the spending requirements.

However, if you’re more interested in getting cashback for your purchases, you get to pick between the Quicksilver which offers 1.5% cashback per dollar on every purchase or the Savor which offers 3% cashback per dollar on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.  

If most of your spending is on dining, entertainment, and groceries, then the Savor could be more beneficial to you, but if you only plan to use the card abroad or your spending is more varied, then the Quicksilver has the better benefit. Both come with a sign-up bonus of $150 if you meet the spending requirements.

Features

  • No annual fee for all three
  • No foreign transaction fee for all three
  • No foreign currency conversion fee for all three
  • 1.5% cashback on every purchase (Quicksilver)
  • 3% cashback on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases (Savor)
  • 5 miles per dollar on hotel and car rental purchases made through Capital One Travel and 1.25 miles per dollar on every other purchase (1 mile is equal to 1 cent in Travel Rewards or 0.5 cents in cashback) (Venture)
  • Sign-up bonus of $150 once you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months (Quicksilver & Savor)
  • Sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (Venture)
  • Free rental car insurance for all three
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions for all three
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime in the app for all three

Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

Two other great options for travelers are the Deserve Edu and Deserve Pro Mastercards.  Both come with free rental car insurance as well as free loss, theft, and damage insurance for your smartphone which is a nice addition.  

And just like the Capital One cards, they also come with an app that sends you push notifications for every transaction and lets you freeze and unfreeze your card in real-time which is great for preventing fraud while you’re abroad!

As for the Edu card, while it offers less cashback than the similar Capital One Quicksilver card, what’s great about it is that you don’t need a Social Security Number to get it.  This means that even international students studying in the USA can get this card. It also comes with a sign-up bonus of 1 year of Amazon Prime Student so if you use Amazon a lot, it’s a nice touch.

When it comes to the Pro card, you get 3% cashback per dollar on travel purchases, 2% on restaurants, and 1% on everything else as well as a sign-up bonus of 1 year of Priority Pass lounge access, making it the better overall card to use while traveling than any of the other Capital One cards since most of the things you pay for while traveling are travel-related purchases and eating out at restaurants.  Highly recommended for all travelers.

Features

  • No annual fee for both
  • No foreign transaction fee for both
  • No foreign currency conversion fee for both
  • 1% cashback on all purchases you make with your card (Edu)
  • 3% cashback on travel purchases, 2% on restaurants, 1% on everything else (Pro)
  • Sign-up bonus of 1 year of Amazon Prime Student membership (Edu)
  • Sign-up bonus of 1 year of Priority Pass lounge access (Pro)
  • Free rental car insurance for both
  • Free loss, theft & damage insurance for your smartphone for both
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions for both
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime in the app for both


Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • International students without an SSN can still apply for the Edu card
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

If you only prefer staying in hotels when you travel, more specifically Marriott Bonvoy hotels (see full list of participating hotels here), then the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Visa might be the card for you.  

You get 3 points for every dollar spent at any of the 7,000 hotels participating in this program around the world as well as 2 points for every other travel purchase and 1 point for everything else (1 point being equal to about 0.8 cents in Travel Rewards).

In addition, you get 15 Silver Elite Night credits at any of those hotels every year.  Silver Elite status gives you 10% more points on stays, priority late checkout, member rates, free wifi, and mobile check-in (among other benefits).  

You can also get a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points (equal to $240 in Travel Rewards) if you meet the spending requirements.  Points can be used towards any travel-related purchase such as flights, hotel stays, and car rentals.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 3 points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 2 points for every $1 you spend on other travel purchases, & 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other purchases (1 point is equal to ~0.8 cents in Travel Rewards)
  • Sign-up bonus of 30,000 points if you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months
  • 15 Silver Elite Night Credits at Marriott Bonvoy hotels annually, qualifying you for Silver Elite status


Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The travel credit card available for American travelers titled the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Mastercard

Another option for hotel lovers is the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Mastercard.  With slightly less hotels in their network (only 5,500), a lower point value compared to the Marriott Bonvoy program, and no sign-up bonus, it may seem like this card can’t compete, but it makes up for it with free loss, theft, & damage insurance for your smartphone as well as rental car and trip cancellation insurance!

Using this card at IHG Hotels and Resorts gets you 5 points for every dollar spent and 10 extra points for every dollar (for a total of 15) if you are an IHG Rewards Club Member (which you should be if you get this card) as well as 2 points for every dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1 point for every dollar spent everywhere else (1 point being equal to about 0.5 cents in hotel rewards and less in other rewards).

You also get Gold Elite status at those hotels when you spend $10,000 on purchases with your card every year and your 4th night free if you use points to pay for any 4+ night stay.  

While the points you get with this program aren’t as valuable as Marriott Bonvoy’s, you earn them at a faster rate if you stay at IHG hotels often. The extra insurance benefits really make this card worth considering as well.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 5 points per $1 spent at over 5,500 IHG Hotels and Resorts worldwide (& 10 points extra per $1 spent if you are an IHG Rewards Club Member), 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases, (1 point is equal to about 0.5 cents in hotel rewards and less in other rewards)
  • Fourth Reward Night Free when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Gold Elite Status when you spend $10,000 on purchases with your card each calendar year
  • Free rental car insurance
  • Free trip cancellation insurance
  • Free loss, theft & damage insurance for your smartphone


Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

If you’re an Uber lover who not only uses Uber to get around, but also often orders food using Uber Eats and uses JUMP bikes and scooters around the city, then the Uber Visa might be the right card for you.  

You get 5% cashback in the form of Uber Cash on every Uber purchase you make as well as 3% back on hotels, airfare, and restaurant purchases and 1% back on everything else.

You also get free loss, theft, & damage insurance for your smartphone and a sign-up bonus of $100 in Uber Cash if you meet the spending requirements.  

Uber Cash can only be used on Uber purchases so this card is really only useful if you use Uber products and services a lot, otherwise I recommend one of the other cards in this guide.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 5% cashback (in the form of Uber Cash) on your Uber purchases, 3% back on hotels, airfare, and restaurant purchases, & 1% back on all other purchases
  • Sign-up bonus of $100 Uber Cash if you spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Free loss, theft & damage insurance for your smartphone


Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

If you’re a Costco member who shops there a lot and also drives often, then the Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi could be a useful one to have as well.  

It offers you 4% cashback on all eligible gas purchases for the first $7,000 per year (and then 1% thereafter), 3% on restaurants and travel purchases, 2% on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com, and 1% on every other purchase.

There aren’t any other benefits to this card and you need to be a Costco member to qualify for it so it only makes sense if you drive everywhere and do a lot of grocery shopping at Costco.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 4% cashback on eligible gas purchases (including Costco gas) for the first $7,000 per year (and then 1% thereafter), 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases worldwide, 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com, & 1% on all other purchases


Eligibility

  • You need to have a Costco membership.
  • You need to be a US resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The flag of Canada which represents all Canadian travelers

Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada

Canadians don’t have as many great options as Americans do, but there are still a few to choose from.

Best card to have while abroad: Brim Financial Mastercard
Best card to have if you drive often: Home Trust Preferred Visa
Best card to use for purchases in Canada: Rogers Platinum Mastercard

If I had to pick one card: Brim Financial Mastercard

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

The Brim Financial Mastercard is the best card for Canadians to have while abroad since it offers the highest cashback for foreign transactions at 1% (and even more if the points are used for other rewards) as well as free wifi worldwide at Boingo hotspots, free loss, theft, & damage insurance for your smartphone, and a mobile app that lets you get push notifications for any transactions in real-time and freeze/unfreeze your card anytime which is great for preventing fraud.

All in all, this is the best credit card a Canadian can have while traveling.  You do need a minimum annual income of $15,000 to qualify for it, however.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 1 point earned per dollar spent (1 point is equal to 1 cent in cashback and more in other rewards)
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app
  • Free wifi at any Boingo hotspot worldwide
  • Free loss, theft & damage insurance for your smartphone


Eligibility

  • You need to be a Canadian citizen or resident to apply for the card.
  • Minimum $15,000 annual income required.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

If you rent cars when you travel and drive across the border often, then the Home Trust Preferred Visa might be the perfect card for you.  

It only offers 1% cashback on purchases in Canada, but it includes free rental car insurance and emergency roadside assistance up to four times a year in North America.  If something goes wrong while driving, you can rest assured that this card has got your back.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 1% cash back on all eligible purchases in Canada
  • Free rental car insurance
  • Free emergency roadside assistance up to four times a year in North America


Eligibility

  • You need to be a Canadian resident to apply for the card.
  • It is not available in Quebec (yet).
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

If you’re a Rogers customer, then the Rogers Platinum Mastercard will prove to be the best option for you.  

You get 2% cashback on Rogers products & services, 1.25% on all other purchases in Canada, and 0.5% on purchases made in a foreign currency (after the foreign transaction fee).  

You also get a sign-up bonus of $25 in cash after you make your first purchase with the card so there are quite a few benefits offered.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • 2.5% foreign currency conversion fee* (See Eligibility)
  • 2% cashback on Rogers products & services, 1.25% on all others in Canada, and 0.5% on purchases made in a foreign currency (3% before the foreign currency conversion fee)
  • Sign-up bonus of $25 (after first purchase with card)


Eligibility

  • *Technically, this card does have a 2.5% foreign currency conversion fee, however the cashback rewards effectively cancel out the fee.
  • You need to be a Canadian resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The travel credit card from Amazon.ca available for Canadian travelers titled the Amazon.ca Rewards Mastercard

If you’re an Amazon Prime member and you do a lot of shopping on Amazon.ca, then the Amazon.ca Rewards Mastercard should be at the top of your list.  Any foreign transactions get the foreign currency conversion fee returned in the form of Amazon.ca gift cards.  

You also receive a sign-up bonus of 5% cashback (also in the form of Amazon.ca gift cards) for the first 6 months when you make purchases at Amazon.ca, Whole Foods Market stores, grocery stores, and restaurants in Canada on the first $3,000 spent.  

After that, it becomes 2.5% for purchases at Amazon.ca and Whole Foods Market stores in Canada while everywhere else in Canada, it’s 1%.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • 2.5% foreign currency conversion fee* (See Eligibility)
  • 2.5% cashback (in the form of Amazon.ca gift cards) on foreign transactions
  • Sign up bonus of 5% cashback (in the form of Amazon.ca gift cards) on eligible purchases made at Amazon.ca as well as Whole Foods Market stores, grocery stores, and restaurants in Canada for the first 6 months and the first $3,000 spent
  • After the first 6 months, the cashback becomes 2.5% (if you’re an Amazon Prime member) and only for eligible purchases at Amazon.ca and Whole Foods Market stores in Canada.  Everywhere else in Canada, the cashback is 1%


Eligibility

  • *Technically, this card does have a 2.5% foreign currency conversion fee, however you get that money back in the form of Amazon.ca gift cards if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
  • You need to be a Canadian resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

Best Travel Credit Cards in the UK

The credit cards available in the UK really pale in comparison to the ones available in the US and even Canada.  However, there are two which stand out above the rest:

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

There are quite a few different credit cards you can choose from in the UK that don’t have foreign transaction fees or annual fees, but none of them offer any rewards except for one: the Barclaycard Rewards Visa.  

With this card, you get 0.25% cashback on every purchase you make. It’s not much, but at least it’s something. In addition, you get discounts on live events such as concerts and festivals with Barclaycard Entertainment.  

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • 0.25% cash back on all purchases with the card
  • Exclusive savings on live events with Barclaycard Entertainment

Eligibility

  • You need to be a UK resident aged 21+ to apply for the card.
  • Minimum £20,000 annual income required.
The travel credit card from Tandem available for British travelers titled the Tandem Journey Mastercard

If you like having the ability to get notifications when your card is used and to freeze/unfreeze your card anytime you want (both great ways to prevent fraud), then you should consider the Tandem Journey Mastercard.  

While it doesn’t offer you any rewards like the Barclaycard Rewards Visa does, the ability to manage your card in that way from the mobile app is pretty enticing.  

You can also pick between 4 different colours and it’s also easier to get as it only requires an annual income of £15,000 and is available to those aged 18+.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app


Eligibility

  • You need to be a UK resident aged 18+ to apply for the card.
  • Minimum £15,000 annual income required.
The flag of Australia which represents all Australian travelers

Best Travel Credit Cards in Australia

Australians only have 2 options when it comes to credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees and no annual fees, both of which come with different rewards:

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards For Traveling

With the best travel insurance offering of any card on this list, the Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard is easily the best travel credit card you can get in Australia.  

It’s not very common that a credit card with no annual fee will give you free travel medical insurance, let alone personal liability insurance and trip cancellation insurance.  

You even get free loss, damage, & theft insurance for baggage & personal items throughout your travels which is a great bonus to an already spectacular offering from Bankwest. I highly recommend this card if you can get approved for it.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • Free travel medical insurance
  • Free personal liability insurance
  • Free loss, damage, & theft insurance for baggage & personal items
  • Free trip cancellation insurance


Eligibility

  • You need to be an Australian resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.
The travel credit card from Latitude available for Australian travelers titled the Latitude 28 Global Platinum Mastercard

Another option for Australians which isn’t as great of an offering, but still has some decent features, is the Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard

There are no insurance benefits to this card, but you do get free wifi worldwide at any Boingo hotspot as well as access to airport lounges, drinks, and wifi for you and four friends if your flight is delayed anywhere.  

This is also the only vertical card on this list which is pretty cool.  If you can’t get approved for the Bankwest card, then this is a good alternative which still offers some decent rewards.

Features

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • Free wifi at any Boingo hotspot worldwide
  • Access to airport lounges, drinks, and wifi for you and four friends if your flight is delayed with the Flight Delay Pass


Eligibility

  • You need to be an Australian resident to apply for the card.
  • No minimum income specified.

And that’s all there is to it!

Having the right credit card while traveling can make a world of difference when it comes to all those annoying fees that most banks charge.  Pick the card with the best benefits for you so you can also get even more out of it!

Let me know in the comments below if this guide helped you find the right credit card for your travels and if there are any better cards you know of, let me know so I can update the list!  

And if you want to know what other travel accessories you should get for your trip, check out my Guide to the Top Travel Accessories.

Share this guide
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Hi there, I’m Sebastian, founder and creator of Travel Done Simple. Since I turned 20, I have lived in 5 different countries and traveled to over 40 others! You can learn more about me on my About page and find me on social media.

Hi there, I’m Sebastian, founder and creator of Travel Done Simple. Since I turned 20, I have lived in 5 different countries and traveled to over 40 others! You can learn more about me on my About page and find me on social media.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x