Europe and other countries outside the U.S. generally require your credit card to have a type of technology called a smart chip. A smart chip card varies from the type of credit card we're familiar with – the signature card – because a smart chip card stores your user information on a smart chip embedded in the the card, while a signature card stores that information on a magnetic strip. The smart chip is considered to be a more secure method of storing your information, and a smart chip card is usually required when you travel internationally.
You should also beware of credit cards that charge a foreign transaction fee on any purchases you make internationally. This fee usually ranges between 2% and 3%, and can really add up. For example, if you spend $1,000 on your card you'll be charged about $30 in fees.
To help avoid these pitfalls, we've put together a list of excellent credit cards that have smart chip technology, no foreign transaction fees, and offer great rewards.
Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: Our top-rated travel card will earn you 40,000 bonus miles – equal to $400 in travel – after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You'll also earn a generous 2 miles for every dollar you spend. To use your miles, just book your travel however you'd like (by phone, online, through an agent, etc) and then redeem them for a statement credit against the travel expense. The best part is that if you're redeeming miles toward travel you'll get a 10% bonus. This means if you redeeming 10,000 miles for travel you'll get an extra 1,000 bonus deposited into your account. Overall this is a terrific card with great bonuses, no foreign transaction fees and the smart chip technology you'll need overseas.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card: The only card on this list that features no annual fee, users will earn 1.5 points for every dollar they spend, and enjoy an online-exclusive 10,000 point bonus ($100 in travel rewards!) after spending $500 in purchases in the first 90 days. Redeeming your points is easy, just book your travel and then redeem your points as a statement credit against the travel expense. Plus, users with another qualifying Bank of America account will automatically receive a 10% annual bonus on their total yearly purchases. So if you spend $10,000 a year on your card you'll earn 10,000 points…plus the 100 point bonus. Not too shabby! Incorporate these great features with no foreign transaction fees and smart chip technology and you've got a real winner.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: With a terrific intro bonus of $100 after spending $100 on your first Hilton hotel stay in the first 3 months AND 2 free weekend nights after spending $2,500 in purchases in the first 4 months, this card is a winner. The card also features no foreign transaction fees and smart chip technology. Users will earn 10 points per $1 spent at hotels within the Hilton HHonors portfolio, 5 points per $1 spent on airline tickets and car rentals and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, you'll have HHonors Gold status as long as you're a cardmember.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Combining reward earnings with no foreign transaction fees and a smart chip, this card is a terrific choice. You'll earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Additionally you'll receive 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months – equal to $500 in travel if you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal. You can also take advantage of the 1:1 point transfer to popular travel reward programs (airline, hotel, etc) without paying a fee. So if you transfer 1,000 points they still be worth 1,000 points when they show up in your partner program's account, and it won't cost you a dime.
Marriot Rewards Premier Credit Card: This card starts you off right with a 50,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, and a free 1 night stay after account approval (in a category 1-4 hotel). If you combine those 2 reward packages you can spend 7 nights free at a category 1 hotel, which is a pretty great deal. Plus you'll earn 5 points for every $1 spent at a Marriott location, and 2 points on airline tickets, car rentals and restaurants. Everything else will earn 1 point per $1 spent. And of course, no foreign transaction fees and chip and signature technology.
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