Here are the best debit cards for international travel, plus the best credit cards for foreign travel, too.
Planning a vacation abroad or having or attending an overseas wedding anytime soon?
These tips on the best debit cards for international travel, plus the top credit cards for foreign travel, will help you save money on foreign currency transaction fees and minimize any money headaches while traveling.
While I’m knee deep into planning the destination wedding of my dreams, our nearest and dearest family and friends are planning to travel abroad with my fiance and I for our wedding.
And now that I’m in my wedding year (how crazy is it that I’m so close to my big day?!), I’m getting lots of logistical questions about the wedding, including how to not spend extra money on foreign currency transaction fees.
Enter the best credit and debit cards for international travel.
I love to travel, and I spend so much time in other countries that I ordered my newest passport with extra pages!
Whether you’re planning a destination wedding like me or are simply planning a trip to Europe, I’m certain these tips will help you save money!
Now, read on for the best international debit card (yes, there are debit cards with no foreign transaction fees!) and the best overseas credit card options.
The best international debit cards
After years of spending insane amounts on international ATM-withdrawal fees and encountering really bad exchange rates, I found a gem: a no-international-transaction-fee debit card.
Yup, such a thing as a no foreign transaction fee debit card exists, and the first step to obtaining this unicorn of a travel cash card is to open up a travel bank account.
The best part about obtaining the account and the foreign travel card? There are no fees! At all.
Best all around: Charles Schwab International Debit Card
Your first step for obtaining the best travel debit card will be opening up a Charles Schwab high-yield checking account, and here’s a referral code to get a $100 credit.
Once you have the account set up, you’ll be able to request travel debit cards. These cards will allow you to use any ATM machine pretty much anywhere in the world, and you’ll get a credit for any ATM fees that you incur.
You can also use the debit card with no foreign transaction fee. I’ve been using this debit card overseas for quite awhile now. The customer service is great, too. I once lost my ATM card, and Charles Schwab mailed me a replacement to my hotel in Europe!
Best for wire transfers: Wise Debit Card
Here’s another great option. You can use the Wise debit card to spend in 150 currencies and withdraw from ATMs anywhere.
You get a certain number of free ATM withdrawals each month. For instance, if your card was issued in the United States, you get two free withdrawals a month for $100 or less.
You can also use Wise’s money transfer option, which allows you to transfer money internationally between banks.
You have to pay a small fee per transfer, but the amounts are small compared to other bank and transfer options, including PayPal. This is also the easiest way to send money that I’ve seen, as the recipient receives the money in just a few days.
The best international credit cards
When it comes to the best travel card for Europe, there’s more than one option.
Which best currency card you choose will depend on how often you travel and if you want to get a free credit card or if you want to invest a little bit to get better rewards and perks. I’m going to go over several options for a credit card for international travelers.
The best part about having options? If your credit report isn’t what you want it to be, you can work on building credit so you can get the card that you want.
No annual fee: CapitalOne Venture One Visa
I’ve had a CapitalOne credit card for years, and this was the first credit card I used overseas. So in my early days of travel, it really was the best credit card for international travel.
It has no foreign transaction fees, which is great. I like the CapitalOne Venture One Visa, but you can also get a Mastercard through CapitalOne.
The rewards are pretty barebones for the no-annual-fee card that I have, but when they accumulate I use the points to get reimbursed for travel-related purchases. If you’re not a big traveler, I’d opt for this pick.
Annual fee: American Express Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
The version that I have provides free checked bags for you and a companion, as well as a domestic companion ticket each year.
You also get a fee credit toward Global Entry, which is a pretty sweet deal, as well as priority boarding.
The card has no Amex international fees and offers nice rewards, which you can use toward more travel. And as the card issuer, you can order an extra card for your significant other.
Annual fee: United Explorer MileagePlus Visa
In addition to offering no foreign transaction fees, this credit card also provides a free checked bag for yourself and a companion, a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, priority boarding, and two United Club passes a year.
Tips to not waste money abroad
Now that you’ve decided which of these best credit and debit cards for international travel is right for you, here are a few more tips to make your trip seamless.
Check in with your bank and credit cards before you leave home
These days, not all credit cards require you putting in a travel notice. And many that do make it easy by allowing you to do this online.
Check in with your card and bank before you leave, because the worst thing would be having your card freeze up when you reach your destination!
Don’t rely on only using Amex abroad
When it comes to American Express international fees, many of the credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees. However, Amex isn’t always accepted abroad, especially at smaller businesses.
I was trying to pay for a massage in Hungary recently, and the spa only took Visa and Mastercard. The same often goes for boutique hotels and small restaurants. If you’re traveling with an Amex, I’d recommend also bring a Visa or Mastercard along, too.
Don’t exchange your money
It might seem like a good idea to trade American dollars at the airport, but I guarantee you that the exchange rate you get there (or even at your hotel) is going to be worse than the one you get from an ATM machine.
Get money from the airport ATM machine
These ATM machines often have smaller limits of what you can withdraw, but if you have a debit card with no ATM fees, this is no problem.
Get a small amount of local currency before you leave the airport so that you can pay your taxi driver. A lot of cab drivers abroad don’t accept credit cards.
Of course, if you have one of the no foreign transaction fee debit cards I mentioned above, this doesn’t really matter.
Don’t order money from your bank
I used to order money from my bank ahead of time. But once I discovered the ATM trick, I stopped doing this because the exchange rates abroad are going to be better.
For this reason, I also don’t exchange leftover money at my bank when I get home. I usually go on a $20 or so shopping spree the last day of a trip.
Or if I’m going to be traveling again soon to the same country, I keep the currency so that I have it for next time.
Make a purchase in the local currency
Save on conversion fees by following this tip!
You’ll get the best exchange rate by choosing the local currency (versus American dollars), when using a credit or debit card. Even if you have a no international fee debit card and choose to pay in USD, you’ll end up paying more.
More savvy travel advice
For more travel-related content, I think you’ll enjoy these posts:
- Traveling to Europe for the first time
- A nutritionist’s tips for healthy travel
- Best places to eat in Florence
Whatever your travel plans are, there are many options for the best credit and debit cards for international travel. There are options with and without annual fees, each offering different perks such as no foreign transaction fees.
I’d love to hear from you! What do you about these ideas for the best credit and debit cards for international travel?
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