Save 2-3% on international transactions
Finding the best credit card for overseas travel
Credit cards that offer 0% foreign transaction fees, rewards and travel perks can give you more value when you’re overseas – here’s how to pick one.
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Credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fees
If you're trying to save money the best credit card to use overseas is likely one with 0% foreign transaction fees. If you want a card that can help you earn points and get you there for free, compare frequent flyer credit cards.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Types of travel credit cards
You can use any credit card when you travel overseas. But credit cards with features especially for travel will help you save on overseas costs or get value from perks such as rewards points, airport lounge passes and international travel insurance.
Earn frequent flyer points per $1 spent
Is Visa or Mastercard better for international travel? What about American Express?
There isn't much difference with Visa and Mastercard credit cards when you're overseas: both operate in over 200 countries and offer fraud protection.
American Express is accepted in over 130 countries and also offers fraud protection that's similar to Visa and Mastercard.
Bottom line? Depending on where you're travelling, you'll be able to use any of these types of cards. If you're not sure the places your going will accept your card, contact your provider or Visa, Mastercard or Amex to find out.
Pros and cons of using a credit card overseas
- Global acceptance. Australian credit cards can be used in most hotels, restaurants, stores around, travel agencies and entertainment venues around the world.
- Travel perks. Credit cards designed for overseas use often come with travel-related benefits such as frequent flyer rewards programs, complimentary insurance and airline lounge passes.
- Security or emergencies. A credit card can come in handy when you need to cover unexpected or emergency costs while you're travelling overseas. If your card is lost or stolen, you can report it at any time of the day and get the account locked. Credit card zero liability policies also mean fraudulent transactions will be refunded.
- Fees. Depending on the card you choose, you may be charged a foreign transaction fee or surcharge for using a credit card overseas. This typically adds 2-3% to the transaction cost.
- Limitations. You'll need to meet eligibility requirements (such as a minimum annual income and credit score criteria) to be approved for a credit card.
- Risk of debt. While a line of credit is handy and offers some peace of mind, it can also lead to overspending, interest charges and ongoing debt
How to compare credit cards for overseas travel
With any credit card, it's important to look for features that you know you'll use and costs that are affordable for you. For travel credit cards specifically, here are some of the key features to consider:
Credit card fees
When you're travelling overseas, there are two main credit card fees to watch out for:
- Foreign transaction fees. When you pay for something in another currency, your Australian dollars are converted to the local currency. This typically attracts a fee between 2% and 3% of the transaction (both when you're overseas and shopping online with international merchants). You can avoid this fee with a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign currency conversion fee.
- ATM withdrawal fees. Even if your credit card doesn't have ATM fees, using it to withdraw cash will attract a cash advance fee and interest charges. The only way to avoid these charges is to use a debit card or prepaid travel card when you want to withdraw cash.
Tip: Don't forget about annual fees
When you're comparing credit cards for travel, remember to check the annual fee costs. Some cards with rewards and travel perks can have annual fees worth $400 or more.
For some people, the value from perks will justify the cost of the annual fee but for others a card that offers a $0 annual fee will make more sense.
Using a frequent flyer credit card is an easy way to earn points for reward flights or other travel perks. If you're collecting points through a few frequent flyer programs, you could also look at a rewards credit card that lets you transfer points to partnered airline or hotel loyalty programs.
Bonus point offers
You can often get thousands of bonus points when you sign up for a new frequent flyer or rewards credit card. Usually, you'll need to meet a spend requirement to get them, such as spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Sometimes, you'll even earn enough bonus points to fly overseas – so keep an eye out for these introductory offers.
Using a credit card that offers complimentary international travel insurance can help you save money on buying cover.
The complimentary travel insurance usually covers overseas medical insurance, transit accidents and travel delay. The cover usually extends to your spouse or any dependent children travelling with you. As well as travel insurance, some credit cards offer purchase security insurance and extended warranty so you can shop with peace of mind.
Does credit card travel insurance cover coronavirus?
Usually, no. This is because coronavirus is a pandemic and most travel insurance policies don't offer cover for pandemics or epidemics.
But it can depend on the policy and the type of claim, so it's worth checking the insurance policy booklet or contacting the insurance provider to check. If you definitely want cover that's specific to coronavirus, Finder's guide details on your options.
Airport lounge passes and other travel perks
You can escape the chaos of the airport and relax before your flight with a credit card that offers complimentary lounge passes.
Some credit cards in Australia offer invitations to Qantas Club, Virgin Australia, American Express and Priority Pass lounges in Australia and around the world. The perks will vary between lounges but you can usually expect complimentary food, beverages and access to high-speed Wi-Fi, comfortable seats and workstations.
Tip: Look for other travel perks too
Some credit cards also offer flights or yearly travel credit, concierge services to help with travel bookings, entertainment and restaurant reservations while your away or more points per $1 spent overseas and on bookings with an airline partner.
These perks can add even more value and help justify the typically higher annual fees that some more premium cards charge.
What to think about when you're travelling with a credit card
- Take a few travel money options
Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, you should take at least two travel money options with you. This may include a credit card or prepaid travel card, your debit card and some cash. That way you'll have a backup if your card is lost or stolen and can avoid being charged credit card fees withdrawing cash from an ATM.
- Track your debt
Create a travel budget and use your credit card to spend responsibly. You have to repay everything you put on the card – plus interest if you don't pay your balance in full.
- Making repayments
If you are sent a credit card statement while you are travelling, you will need to make a payment by the due date as usual. If you have access to a secure Internet connection, you can do this through online or mobile banking.
Alternatively, you could call your bank to pay by phone. If you're earning money overseas, this Finder guide looks at ways to make foreign currency repayments.
- Adding extra funds to your credit card
Some travellers add money to their credit cards accounts before they go overseas. Then they use their card like a type of debit card to pay with their own cash rather than credit, helping them avoid interest charges.
Not all credit card accounts let you do this and transaction limits may apply. You should talk to your credit card provider or check your credit card product disclosure statement (PDS) for details on how this type of balance is treated – it's usually referred to as a "positive balance".
Planning your next trip? Check out our selection of frequent flyer credit cards and see if you can get a few thousand bonus Qantas or Velocity Points when you book your trip.
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