The best option instead of carrying a large amount of money while traveling is to bring your credit card since most credit cards come with zero liability. Basically what this means is if the card is stolen or lost that you won’t have to pay for any charges that you didn’t authorize or were otherwise fraudulent. It’s also handy since it’s easy to get a replacement quickly and a stack of greenbacks doesn’t have that same replacement policy. Also, if there’s any charge dispute with a less than reputable merchant, you can solve it easier if you use a credit card.
The best credit cards should have low or no currency exchange fees but still offer the possibility to earn reward points and even discounts on purchases, especially at hotels and restaurants. Some cards also offer creative ways to separate corporate expenses from your personal ones.
General Card Benefits
Before choosing what the best alternative for you is, try to figure out what benefits you need. Car rental insurance is common for the majority (if not all) credit cards, but companies also add other benefits.
- Discover includes an air travel accident insurance for airfare booked using your Discover Card, which covers the holder for injury, accident and even a payment to your estate in case of death.
- Chase offers the possibility to get up to US$300 reimbursement if your baggage is delayed so you can pay for the essential replacement items.
- American Express has a very good world-wide assistance which can help with everything from lost wallet to a medical insurance.
- Capital One and Discover are major card issuers who don’t charge any fee for foreign transactions. Visa and Mastercard charge 1% but individual issuers would add to that sum. American Express charges 2%.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we think are the Best Credit Cards for Travelers:
Blue Cash from American Express: The Cash Rebate King
American Express offers so many great perks for travelers that it’s not surprising their cards are ranked so highly especially by people who travel frequently. This particular card has no annual fee, which is always welcome, but it’s the Blue Cash card’s rating as the “Best Cash Rebate Card” by Kiplinger’s that will make it even more appealing for travelers who plan to use the card on everyday purchases and want more than just travel-related rewards.
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Discover® Open Road(SM) Card: The Road Warrior
Discover is one of the major issuers who don’t charge any fees for foreign transactions. The card is also not called “open road” for nothing: you can earn 5% cash back bonus on gas and auto maintenance purchases, including repair, car washes and parts. This makes the card very attractive for those driving in the US. The card doesn’t have any annual fee and the APR for purchases is 0% for the first six months and as low as 9.99% variable after that. You can also earn 5% to 20% cash back at top online retailers.
Visa Black Card: The Luxury Traveler
The Visa Black Card isn’t for everyone (the $495 annual fee should tell you that), although it’s certainly something everyone aspires to. The card is quite exclusive, and with good reason – the perks available to cardholders are much more extensive than typical credit cards offer. Visa has 24-hour concierge service for its Black Card clients, which any traveler knows is like having a “get out of jail free” card should you get caught in a jam away from home. Cardholders can choose from cash back or points rewards for their purchases.
Capital One® Business Platinum with Double No Hassle: The International Jet-Set
The card is ideal for business owners who have above-average credit, make either large purchases or frequent purchases and want to earn rewards twice as fast. The card doesn’t have any fee for foreign transactions, which makes it ideal for international jet-setter type of travelers. Each dollar earns two miles and you can redeem the miles earned for flights – domestic or international – at any airlines with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. The $39 annual fee is waived during the first year. The purchase APR is 18.67%.
Miles by Discover® Card: The Balanced Traveler
The Miles by Discover Card doesn’t have a fee for foreign transactions and is ideal if you travel by plane, train or car. You can book flights on any airline and any flight without any restrictions. For the first $3,000 spent on restaurant or travel purchases you earn double miles for each dollar spent. All other purchases earn 1 mile for one dollar spent. The APR is 0% for the first six months and 10.99% fixed after that period.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card: The Travel Connoisseur
Although this card can get a bit expensive starting the second year (the $125 annual fee during the first year is waived), it offers the possibility for the cardholder to redeem the points for travel rewards on 21 airlines. When the cardholder uses the card to book a getaway with American Express® Travel, they qualify to receive a credit to the account of up to $100 once a year. The card comes with Baggage Insurance Plan, Emergency Check-In, Assured Reservations (guaranteed hotel room even if you arrive late), Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance (coverage for theft and damage) and Travel Accident Insurance. Make sure to ask the issuer about the foreign transactions fee though.
The Gold Card from American Express OPEN: The Business Owner’s Best Friend
For business owners whose companies reap the rewards of the credit cards they use, the American Express OPEN Gold Card is an excellent option. The $125 annual fee might be more than an individual would want to pay, but the benefits for business owners are considerable. Points can be redeemed for an extensive array of travel-related rewards, but they can also be reinvested back into the business itself, making your credit card work for you in a different way.
Platinum BusinessCard with Unlimited Rewards: The Business Owner’s Non-AmEx Option
The card is ideal for business owners who want to benefit from the rewards system. The cardholders can either earn cash back rewards on fuel, telecommunications and all other purchases (in different percentages) or can earn points, which can be redeemed for travel services, certificates and merchandise, as well as pre-paid bonus cards. The Foreign Transaction Fee is 3%, hence the card can get a bit expensive if used abroad but has no annual fee and 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months.
photo by Andres Rueda