But not all cards deliver. There’s new evidence that some travel cards are more globe-trotting than others. One study from CardRatings.com earlier this week found that more cards are waiving the 3% fee on foreign transactions, while another from CardHub.com assessed the variances in cards’ car-rental insurance benefits that could leave some drivers uncovered.
On the plus side, experts say there are plenty of travel-worth cards out there. Consumers may even find new reason to use a card already in their wallets, says Gerri Detweiler, a consumer credit expert for Credit.com. Plus, there’s no need to focus on having just one perfect card for travel, she says — it’s a smart idea to bring at least two on a trip in case there’s a problem. Here’s what experts suggest travelers look for, and which cards fit the bill:
Fee-free foreign transactions
Credit card brands often tack on a fee of roughly 3% for processing transactions made in a foreign country. But a growing number of cards waive that fee, a benefit that amounts to $90 saved on $3,000 in spending, says Arnold. “It used to be just Capital One, and maybe one or two others, that waived foreign transaction fees,” he says. Now, it’s available on three dozen cards. Consumers are more likely to find fee-waivers on elite cards that carry an annual fee, like the Citi Thank You Premier ($125) or American Express Platinum ($450), but a number of free cards also do so — including the entire lineups at Capital One, Discover and PenFed Credit Union.
Detweiler says in most cases, consumers needn’t worry whether their credit cards will be accepted when traveling abroad. But some brands have smaller networks of participating countries or businesses, which is why consumers should make sure to have at least two brands in their wallet. It’s also a good idea to check acceptance before traveling. Discover, for example, is only accepted in two African countries, and isn’t usable in a few European countries including France and Ireland. American Express is another brand that occasionally isn’t accepted at particular businesses, says John Ulzheimer, the president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.