Savvy traveler Eric Rosen advises on choosing the right credit card for international travel, as seen in the Spring 2014 issue of Quest Magazine. Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo.
Visas, vaccinations, passport pages—there are plenty of things to consider when planning a trip abroad, but one of the most important is deciding which credit cards to take with you. This decision can save you time, money and a lot of aggravation. Here are five factors you should consider when making your decision.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
These annoying fees on transactions processed abroad can add up to about 3 percent of your total purchase price—racking up charges on hotels, restaurants and gifts. Luckily, many banks have done away with these fees on their top travel credit cards, including Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and Capital One’s Venture Rewards card.
That gorgeous piece of porcelain or those new silk dresses you bought won’t do you much good if they arrive shattered in a million pieces or disappear from your luggage. Use a credit card with good purchase protection in place to insure your purchases abroad. For instance, the American Express Platinum card provides coverage of loss or theft for 90 days from the date of purchase when you charge any portion of the price to your card, up to $10,000 for any one incident and up to $50,000 during a calendar year, meaning you’re not on the hook if any thing goes awry.
Travelers might notice many mer- chants abroad only accept two or even just one kind of card—usually Visa or Mastercard. It’s optimal to have at least two different issuers in your wallet as a back up when traveling.
Bonus Spending Categories
In a competitive credit card market- place, many premium cards offer bo- nus points when you make purchases in certain categories such as airfare, dining or entertainment. Before travel- ing, map out the types of purchases you will be making and which card will give you the most points per dollar based on your spending. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example, offers two points per dollar on all dining and travel (including things like train tick- ets, mass transit and taxis in addition to airfare and hotels).
EMV Smart Chips
Though relatively few cards in the U.S. carry these embedded chips, they are far more common abroad. While hotels usually let you use your swipe cards, many merchants (especially in Europe) do not, including some restaurants, stores and public transport systems like the London Tube or Paris Metro. Having a card with a chip can mean the difference between having to pay cash or earning points or miles on your everyday purchases while traveling.
Eric Rosen is an LA-based travel expert and writer who specializes in food and wine travel. Eric is constantly on assignment exploring the world in search of the best new travel experiences.