Imagine working poolside in Bali, by the beach in Thailand or from a mountain resort in Switzerland. These settings are popular for people who combine travel with work that you can do anywhere (aka "digital nomads").
If you're planning a digital nomad adventure, taking a credit card with you could help you pay for transport, accommodation or any unexpected costs that arise. It may also come in handy when you're waiting to get paid for work you've done as a freelancer, contractor or remote employee.
Not sure where to start? You can use this guide to compare different credit cards and learn about the key features to consider when you're setting yourself up for an international life as a digital nomad.
What should I look for in a credit card when working and travelling overseas?
Frequent travel and reliance on the gig economy mean that most digital nomads focus on credit cards that can help keep costs down. As most credit cards (and many debit cards) charge a fee worth 2-3% when you make payments overseas or online in a foreign currency, credit cards that offer 0% foreign transaction fees are particularly popular when you're living overseas.
Compare credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fees
Rates last updated September 17th, 2019
What are the best credit cards for digital nomads?
As well as cards offering 0% foreign transaction fees, you could get value from those that offer low interest rates, no annual fees or even travel perks such as lounge passes, rewards or free global Wi-Fi. Since it's hard to get all of these features on one card, finding the best option for your digital nomad plans will come down to which features you want the most.
With that in mind, here's a look at five credit cards that can give digital nomads bang for their buck through lower fees and/or complimentary extras.
1. Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard
This card offers 0% foreign transaction fees and a $0 p.a. annual fee for life as well as no fees for foreign ATM transactions (although you will pay cash advance rates and fees for withdrawals). It also offers a concierge service and free global Wi-Fi through Boingo, which could come in handy if you're travelling through major cities and need a fast, secure connection.
As well as these features, the Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard offers compatibility with Samsung Pay and airport lounge passes if your registered flights are delayed for more than two hours. It also has an interest rate of 21.99% p.a. and up to 55 days interest-free when you pay the full balance by the due date on each statement.
2. Bankwest Zero Platinum
Along with the Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard, the Bankwest Zero Platinum is one of the only Australian credit cards to offer 0% foreign transaction fees and a $0 annual fee for life. It also includes a concierge service and complimentary overseas travel insurance for up to 6 months if you've paid for at least $500 of travel costs before leaving Australia – although you do need to have a return ticket booked. It also has an interest rate of 17.99% p.a. and offers compatibility with Google Pay.
3. Bankwest Breeze Platinum
If you want to keep interest costs down while you're overseas, the Bankwest Breeze Platinum offers both 0% foreign transaction fees and a competitive standard purchase rate of 9.9% p.a. – although it does have an annual fee of $99. Similar to the Bankwest Zero Platinum, this card offers a concierge service, complimentary travel insurance (when you meet the eligibility requirements) and can be used with Google Pay.
4. American Express Explorer
The American Express Explorer allows you to earn Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to eight different frequent flyer programs. It also offers a yearly $400 travel credit that you can use through American Express Travel, which offsets the card's $395 annual fee.
Other features include a US$100 credit when you book at least two nights at a hotel in The Hotel Collection and compatibility with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. However, this card has a foreign transaction fee of 3% and a purchase rate of 20.74% p.a., so costs could quickly add up when you're overseas.
5. ING Orange One
The ING Orange One has no annual fee and a competitive interest rate of 11.99% p.a. It has a 2.5% foreign transaction fee but offers a rebate on this when you deposit at least $1,000 into an ING Orange Everyday account and use your credit or debit card to make at least 5 processed (not pending) transactions a month. You can also get a rebate on Global ATM fees if you meet these requirements (though cash advance fees and rates will apply for the credit card).
If you're getting paid through a platform like PayPal or Upwork, this could be as simple as depositing money to your everyday ING account. Otherwise, it might be better to look at a card that doesn't come with these requirements.
Other key credit card features for digital nomads
While it can be tempting to skim over life admin when you're being a digital nomad, using an Australian credit card means you'll need to think about how you want to make payments and manage the account. So, here's a list of important features to consider before choosing a credit card for your overseas life.
Annual fees. Credit card annual fees can range from $30 to $300 or more, so you'll need to consider this cost in relation to your income and other travel expenses. If you're an entrepreneur who's running your own business or if you have varied income, choosing a card with a $0 annual fee would mean you have one less cost to worry about.
Interest rates. Unless you pay off your credit card balance in full by the due date on each statement, you'll be charged interest on the debt. If you want more flexibility in paying off your spending over time, choosing a card that offers a low standard rate for purchases could help you keep interest charges down.
Mobile wallet support. If you want to manage all your banking through an app such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet or Samsung Pay, most cards now offer mobile payments through at least one of these services – it's just a matter of checking which ones an individual card offers.
Travel perks. If you're jetting all over the world, a rewards credit card could help you collect points towards flights or upgrades. You could also look at cards that offer lounge access for a bit of extra luxury at the airport (or to meet work deadlines away from the bustle of the terminal).
Security features. All Australian credit cards offer zero liability policies to help protect you against fraudulent transactions and most also offer 24/7 emergency support services you can use when you're in Australia or overseas. Beyond this, you may want to look for cards that offer free, worldwide emergency replacement (as it can cost a lot if it's not free).
Card acceptance. While American Express, Mastercard and Visa credit cards all offer worldwide acceptance, your ability to make credit card payments can vary depending on the country, merchant or even your bank. For example, you can't use Westpac cards in Cuba, and most ATMs in Japan don't accept international cards.
What else do I need to think about before getting a credit card as a digital nomad?
Here are a few other important details to keep in mind when you're looking for a credit card that fits with your digital nomad goals.
Application requirements and your location. If you're applying for an Australian credit card, you'll need to include an Australian residential address on the application as well as details of how long you have lived there. This means it's usually better to apply for a card before you go overseas.
Income requirements. If you're applying for a credit card before you leave Australia, make sure you include details of all relevant income. You may need to provide details of your latest tax statement or include your accountant's contact details to help the credit card provider assess your eligibility. If you're already working as a digital nomad and earning income from overseas sources, it could be difficult to get approved for an Australian credit card. But you may still be able to show evidence of your income by providing your tax return and accountant's details.
Cash withdrawals. If you think you'll use your credit card to withdraw cash, you could look at getting a credit card that doesn't charge fees for overseas ATM withdrawals. But, regardless of the credit card, this type of transaction will still attract cash advance rates and fees. While there is a small selection of credit cards that offer low cash advance rates, most cards charge more for these transactions. This means it's generally more affordable to withdraw cash from a debit card or prepaid travel card.
Mobile alerts. Many credit card providers in Australia send text messages or call you to verify transactions. If you're not planning to set up international roaming or will be travelling in areas without mobile phone service, check that there are other ways for you to verify your transactions. This will help you avoid being locked out of your account if your provider can't contact you by phone.
A credit card can be a convenient option when you’re travelling and working overseas. If you think you’ll be globetrotting for a while, make sure you consider which features are the most important for you and plan ahead so that you can apply for a card that works for you.
What if I'm based in one place overseas?
If you're on a working holiday or just want to stay in one place for a while, a lot of the information here still applies when you're looking for a credit card.
But keep in mind that if you're getting paid in a foreign currency, you may also need to consider how you'll make payments on an Australian credit card. While services such as PayPal and Upwork allow you to deposit money into Australian bank accounts (where you could then make a payment), if your pay is going into an overseas bank, you may need to look at money transfers or rely on savings you already have in Australia.
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Rates last updated September 17th, 2019
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