Special contributor Shirley Huang describes a few essential credit cards to bring when travelling abroad to maximize her travel rewards without paying any additional fees.
As I love travelling around the world, there seems to be a never-ending path for new things to see and learn about while I’m in these foreign countries. For one, I always feel there’s a need to experience the culture’s own cuisine, do a bit of sight-seeing (and ending it off with a bit of shopping of course). One of the biggest troubles we all have while being overseas is whether we should use our credit cards or not for our purchases.
Credit cards are actually great for travelling. For one, you don’t have to worry about exchanging currency all the time. As well, if you choose to use your debit card while abroad, you may risk the chance of account theft which happens quite often when travelling to less developed countries.
A lot of the times, we choose not to use credit cards because of two reasons: the amount of foreign transactions fees we need to pay for each purchase and the dynamic currency conversion fees from using local currency versus home currency. For Canadians, we don’t have too many credit cards which account for no foreign transaction fees, but they do exist. Here’s my personal portfolio, in no particular order:
This is probably one of the few credit cards Canadians have access to which offer no foreign transaction fees; also the reason why this would be included in my credit card portfolio for travelling abroad. On average, we are charged a 3% foreign transaction fee on every purchase. If we start piling in the receipts, then this amount can add up.
The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Card is extremely good for hotel bookings; having the card entitles you to redeeming rewards over 3,500 affiliated hotels across the world with no foreign transaction charges. With the card, you earn 5 points per 1$ spent at Marriott locations and 2 points per 1$ spent on booking flights, car rentals and restaurants. Chase is also offering 30,000 bonus points if you sign-up for the card now, which is enough for up to 4 nights free hotel stay.
Although there’s a $120 annual fee to sign-up for the card, this can easily be earned back as you can receive a generous 2 Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on the card. Now if you’re a frequent Delta flyer, you can earn even more gaining 3 SkyMiles per dollar spent. The Delta SkyMiles MasterCard also has an excellent Travel Emergency Medical Insurance and Trip Cancellation Insurance. The advantage of having this card is that Delta miles can be used for various items, including booking flights, hotel stays, car rentals and even for watching Broadway shows, depending on your needs for that specific trip.
Another supplementary card I would recommend having in your wallet when travelling abroad is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card. The reason why this card didn’t make the cut into my main portfolio is its benefits are amazing once the points have been collected prior to your travels. What this means essentially is that 1 SPG point can be earned through every dollar spent on every purchase; the points can then be redeemed at 1100 hotels in over 100 countries or SPG affiliated flights. Consequently, this makes your world tour one step easier having the flexibility in deciding hotels and flights.
Finally, when making international purchases I would recommend having them made in local currency rather than converted into home currency. Sure, having your purchases made in your home currency sounds great, but this can entail other fees to follow when receiving your statement at the end of the month. This is called a dynamic currency conversion fee. Most often, companies will charge a fee for converting currency for you (we were way too naïve to believe they would do this out of their good will); as well, they will also charge a fee for giving you that convenience of paying in your home currency. So, there’s no brainer to this one. The next time someone asks if you would like to pay in your home currency, the answer should be no. Travelling can get expensive, so preparing yourself can help eliminate paying premiums on our purchases.