best travel rewards credit card

11 Best Travel Credit Cards for Globe-Trotting Digital Nomads

If you’re a digital nomad moving from place to place — or just someone who loves to travel — you know the costs of transportation, accommodation, and dining out can add up. So it helps to find the best travel rewards card that will give you points back on money you’re already spending.

I’ve received thousands of dollars in travel rewards over the past few years, and I’m set to get a cash back bonus of $600 on one of my travel credit cards in the next few months (score!). My travel cards were especially helpful this past month as I worked from Madrid, since I racked up points and paid no transaction fees for my international purchases (which, if I’m being honest, were mainly jamón ibérico and Spanish wine).

Along with cash back, some of the best travel rewards credit cards also offer extra perks, such as access to airport lounges, trip cancellation reimbursement, and car rental insurance. And of course, they don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, so you don’t have to worry about losing money when you shop in another country.

Ready to start earning money back on your travel spending? Here are the best travel rewards credit cards for international travel, starting with those that don’t charge an annual fee.

(Credit card terms and conditions can change, so note that the details below are accurate as of late August, 2018.)

Find the best travel credit card for your wallet

There’s no single best travel credit card, since the right one for you all depends on your spending habits and travel style. For instance, the Chase cards mentioned below give you perks if you book through the Chase travel portal, which mainly features big airlines and hotels.

But if you’re more of a budget traveler who flies Wow Air or Primera and stays in hostels or Airbnbs, this feature might not be so useful for you. I’ve provided details on each card below so you can determine which one, if any, belongs in your wallet.

1. Barclays Uber Visa Card

The Barclays Uber Visa Card is one of my new favorite cards, because it gives up to 4% cash back on purchases I commonly make (dining, travel, online shopping; yes, this is pretty much where all my money goes), and it’s easy to redeem those points..

Even though this card doesn’t technically accrue travel points, you can redeem them as cash back straight to your bank account or use them as Uber credits. And the card has no annual fee.

It doesn’t come with a ton of extra perks, but it’s a decent point-earner (4%!) with no foreign transaction fees. Here are the card’s key features:

  • 4% back on restaurants, takeout, and bars
  • 3% back on airfare, hotels, and vacation home rentals
  • 2% back on online purchases, including Uber and online shopping
  • 1% back on everything else
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transactions fees
  • Earn $100 after spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Up to $600 in cell phone protection if you pay your phone bill with your Barclays Uber Credit Card

best travel rewards credit card

2. Capital One VentureOne Card

The no-fee Capital One VentureOne Card offers 1.25x miles on every dollar you spend, as well as 10x miles when you spend money at certain hotels. Although it doesn’t have as many benefits as its fee-based counterpart, the Capital One Venture Card, it is a decent option for those looking to earn rewards while avoiding an annual fee. Here’s what you need to know:

  • 1.25x miles back on every dollar
  • 10x miles on certain hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Upgrades at certain hotels and discounts at certain retailers
  • Car rental collision damage waiver
  • 24-hour complimentary concierge service

3. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card

The no-fee Bank of America Travel Rewards Card earns you 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, as well as bonus points for Bank of America customers. It doesn’t charge any fees for transactions in another country, and you can redeem your points for statement credits to pay for flights, hotels, rental cars, baggage fees, or other travel expenses. Here are the rest of this card’s features.

  • 1.5 points for every dollar you spend
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • 25,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Potential for 10% customer points bonus on every purchase if you have a Bank of America checking or savings account (and more if you’re a Preferred Rewards client)

4. Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card charges no annual fee and gives you 1.5x points on every purchase. If you don’t want to think about which card will give you the most points for your purchase type, you might appreciate this flat points structure.

Check out the other benefits that come with this travel rewards credit card.

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Complimentary concierge service
  • Waiver for car rental collision damage
  • Shopping discounts and upgrades at certain hotels

best travel rewards credit card

5. Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

I have mixed feelings about the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, but chose to include it because it does have some sweet perks, including 2x miles on every purchase and 60,000 bonus miles if you spend a certain amount in the first month and a half.

But what I don’t love about the card is you can only redeem points toward a travel purchase if that purchase is $100 or more. Last year, I took a totally overpriced boat ride in Venice for $99. Not realizing the $100 minimum rule for redemption, I only realized later that I couldn’t use my Barclays points toward it. I guess I should’ve read the fine print, but it was still annoying.

Plus, if you redeem for cash, your points are only worth half the amount — i.e., 50,000 points are worth $500 toward a travel credit but only $250 if you get them as cash back in your bank account. And the third potential drawback is the bonus offer; to get the 60,000 points, you must spend $5,000 in only 90 days, which might be out of your budget.

Regardless, I wanted to include this card for its other travel perks so you can determine whether it might be the right card for you.

  • 2x miles back on every purchase
  • 5% miles back every time you redeem your points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 24/7 concierge service
  • 60,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days
  • $89 annual fee

6. Capital One Venture Card

Not to be confused with Capital One’s VentureOne Card, the Capital One Venture Card comes with an annual fee after the first year and offers 2x miles back on all your purchases, as well as 10x back at certain hotels. Here are the extra perks you get on this card in exchange for the annual fee.

  • 2x miles back on all purchases
  • 10x miles back at certain hotels
  • 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary concierge services
  • Upgrades at certain hotels and discounts at certain stores
  • Waiver for auto rental collision damage
  • No fee for the first year and $95 fee after that

7. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is another top travel credit card with excellent perks. Not only can you earn 2% back on travel and dining, but your card also comes with insurance for car rentals, trip cancellation, baggage delays, and other circumstances you could run into when you travel.

In exchange for these perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred does come with an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year). Here’s the full breakdown.

  • 2% back on travel and dining, and 1% back on everything else
  • Can redeem points as cash back or with the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you redeem through Chase, your points are worth 25% more — e.g., 50,000 points become $625. Although it’s a cool perk, you might not find the Chase portal too helpful if you’re a budget traveler or prefer Airbnbs to hotel chains.
  • 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 the first year and $95 annual fee after that
  • Insurance for car rentals, trip cancellation or interruption, baggage delay, or trip delay
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

best travel rewards credit card

8. Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

Whether or not you’re a Bank of America customer, you might enjoy the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card. It offers 2x miles back on travel and dining, and 1.5x miles back on everything else. It also comes with a 50,000 points bonus offer, as well as travel insurance and benefits at certain hotels.

These travel perks do come with an annual fee of $95. Here’s what else you need to know about the card.

  • 2x points back on travel and dining
  • 1.5x points back on every other purchase
  • 50,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • Up to $200 in travel statement credit rewards
  • Travel insurance for trip delays or cancellations, lost luggage, evacuation, or other events
  • Access to benefits at certain hotels and a concierge service
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 25% to 75% rewards bonuses for Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients
  • $95 annual

9. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

The Citi ThankYou Premier Card, like the Chase Sapphire Card, lets you redeem your points for 25% more when you book through its online travel portal — in this case, the ThankYou Travel Center. It also offers travel and car rental insurance benefits, which can take the stress out of travel.

One drawback, though, is you can’t redeem your points as cash back. You either have to spend them on travel or redeem them for gift cards or merchandise, which might not be your preferred method. Here are the rest of the card’s details.

  • 3x points back on travel and gas stations
  • 2x points on dining out and entertainment
  • 1x points back on all other purchases
  • Redeem points on travel or to purchase gift cards, event tickets, or merchandise
  • Points are worth 25% more when you book through the ThankYou Travel Center
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel and car rental insurance
  • 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • $0 for the first year and $95 annual fee after that

10. Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium credit card that comes with some amazing perks, like access to airport lounges and complimentary upgrades at top hotels and resorts. It will also reimburse you for Global Entry or TSA pre-check.

It comes with a hefty annual fee of $450, but you’ll get $300 back as a travel credit. Assuming you spend at least that much on travel every year, you can think of this card as having a $150 fee. If you make back at least that much in points, as well as enjoy its other perks, it could be worth the expense.

That said, this card is probably most useful for people traveling on well-established airlines and staying at top hotels. If you’re more of a budget traveler, you might not have much use for the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or the room upgrades that could come with the card.

The complimentary access to VIP airport lounges (and the free drinks as you wait for your flight) could be pretty sweet, though. Here are the details of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

  • 3% back on travel and dining, and 1% back on everything else
  • 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, where your points are worth 50% more — e.g., 50,000 points are worth $750.
  • $450 annual fee, but…
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit of $100 every four years
  • Access to more than 1,000 VIP airport lounges
  • Purchase and travel coverage, including insurance for car rentals, trip cancellation, lost luggage, and emergency evacuation or transportation

best travel rewards credit card

11. American Express Platinum Card

So the American Express Platinum Card comes with a $550 annual fee (gasp!), but it also has some excellent benefits (I mean, it would have to for that cost). For one, you’ll get a $200 airline fee credit, which you can use on in-flight meals, checked bags, or other incidentals (not the flight itself, unfortunately).

You’ll also get a $200 Uber credit, as well as 5x points on flights and hotels. Here’s what you need to know about this pricey travel rewards credit card.

  • 5x points on flights booked directly or with AmexTravel.com and on eligible hotels booked with AmexTravel.com
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • $200 Uber credit
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check
  • Access to more than 1,000 airline lounges
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel planning services with a “travel counselor”
  • Starwood Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Membership to car rental services
  • Car rental insurance
  • Shopping and entertainment benefits
  • $550 annual fee

Be mindful about your credit score as you choose a travel credit card

Although you might be tempted to “churn” credit cards, be careful about signing up for too many at once. Opening lots of new accounts could ding your credit score, making it harder to qualify for lines of credit, loans, or mortgages.

That said, opening lines of credit can sometimes actually improve your score, particularly if it lowers your credit utilization ratio to 30% or lower. If you only have one credit card, for instance, your ratio might be too high (i.e., above 30%).

Opening up a new line of credit, while keeping your spending the same or even reducing it, could lower your credit utilization ratio. As a result, you could see your credit score increase.

Make sure you don’t overspend

Although travel rewards credit cards can be a great way to get cash back on your travel purchases, make sure you’re not spending more than you can afford to pay off each month. Otherwise, your travel credit card will go from being a benefit to a burden, as they come with high interest rates that make debt hard to pay off.

But if you pay off your balance every month, you won’t have to pay a cent in interest — and can just keep enjoying rewards points and no foreign transaction fees as you move from place to place. And if you’re looking to further boost your finances in your globe-trotting lifestyle, consider these seven great cities for digital nomads with a low cost of living.

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