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Best Airline Credit Cards for International Travel

Best Airline Credit Cards for International Travel

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Apr 01, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Traveling abroad can be an exciting experience, but a costly one at the same time. With tickets costing hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars, simply getting there and back can be a dealbreaker. However, when leveraging an airline credit card for international travel, you can potentially eliminate the entire cost of your flight by earning and using airline miles.

Regardless of where your wanderlust lies, here are some of the best airline credit cards for international travel to the five other major continents. (We decided to omit Antarctica as no major airlines currently host flights.)

We’ve based on our research of cards available through CompareCards, as well as top cards offered by major issuers. Plus, the cards listed do not incur foreign transaction fees, which can save you anywhere from 3% to 5% on purchases made abroad.

Best credit card for flying to Europe: British Airways Visa Signature® Card

If Europe is on your bucket list, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a great choice to help you make the jump over the pond. British Airways uses Avios as its currency, and what you earn can be redeemed on multiple airlines, including Aer Lingus, Iberia and other British Airways partners.

Earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios. Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.

In addition to its lucrative sign-up bonus, you will Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL. Earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations, plus 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.

The card also comes with these unique benefits:

  • Up to $600 reward flight statement credits: You will receive the following credits three times per year, up to $600, when you travel on British Airways and pay any incurred taxes and fees with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card:
    • Economy and Premium Economy: $100
    • Business and first class: $200
  • Travel Together Ticket: Spending $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa Signature Card will earn you a Travel Together Ticket, which is good for two years. Simply pay any taxes, fees or carrier charges.
  • Travel protections: You will have access to the following benefits: Rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, purchase protection, lost luggage reimbursement and extended warranty protection

If you’re able to earn the signup bonus, you’ll be in a great position to fly to Europe. To fly from New York City (JFK) to London (LHR), it’s 40,000 in economy round-trip on either British Airways or a partner airline. So your Avios earnings from the British Airways signup bonus could be enough miles for two round-trip flights with some miles left over.

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card has a modest $95 annual fee, making it a very competitive card choice for traveling to Europe.

Best credit card for flying to Australia: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express's secure site

Terms and Conditions apply

Rates & Fees

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.*

  • Up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees & more at one qualifying airline*

  • No foreign transaction fees & exclusive airport lounge access*

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for The Platinum Card® from American Express

More Info

From the United States, it can take almost an entire day to get to Australia. That long journey is only hosted by a select number of airlines that are Amex travel partners, including Qantas, Delta, Hawaiian and Air Canada. Each of these airlines operate routes to and from North America to Australia, and are all transfer partners of American Express.

Each of the airlines mentioned above fly the following direct routes to Australia from North America:

QuantasDeltaHawaiianAir Canada
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Sydney (SYD)

Honolulu (HNL) – Sydney (SYD)

Los Angeles (LAX) – Brisbane (BNE)

Los Angeles (LAX) – Melbourne (MEL)

Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD)

San Francisco (SFO) – Brisbane (BNE)

San Francisco (SFO) – Sydney (SYD)
Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD)Honolulu (HNL) – Brisbane (BNE)

Honolulu (HNL) – Sydney (SYD)
Vancouver (YVR) – Brisbane (BNE)

Vancouver (YVR) – Melbourne (MEL)

Vancouver (YVR) – Sydney (SYD)

Calgary (YYC) – Brisbane (BNE)

Calgary (YYC) – Melbourne (MEL)

Calgary (YYC) – Sydney (SYD)

Earning American Express Membership Rewards points with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express allow you to transfer points to several different airlines programs. By doing this, you can find the route, times and type of seat that best suit your needs for the long flight ahead.

In addition to flexible points options, the benefits The Platinum Card® from American Express offer could make your travel experience even better. Those benefits include:

  • $200 yearly Uber credit
  • The best airport lounge access, including the American Express Centurion Lounge collection and Priority Pass
  • $200 airline fee credit to the airline of your choice
  • Fine Hotels and Resorts® complimentary benefits including: room upgrades when available, late checkout, early check-in and more
  • Automatic Gold status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors
  • Access to the American Express Global Dining Collection
  • Premium Global Assist hotline access which helps you find medical and legal referrals while traveling
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Baggage insurance policy
  • Terms Apply

On top of this, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. To put these points in context, this will nearly earn you a round-trip flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) in economy on Qantas, as you would need 83,300 Qantas points according to their award calculator.

The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a hefty $550 annual fee, but the benefits and earning potential from this card can quickly make up for the annual fee.

To see rates & fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express please click here.

Best credit card for flying to South America: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • First checked bag free on domestic itineraries & preferred boarding

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

More Info

With 12 different countries within South America, there is an abundance of travel opportunities. American Airlines has routes to nearly all of them with multiple airports in each, which makes the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® a great option.

In addition, American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance with 12 other airlines. Of these partners, Iberia, LATAM and British Airways have flight routes within South America. So as you earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles, note that you can use these miles to book flights on those aforementioned airlines. To see where you can use American Airlines miles, check out our American AAdvantage cheat sheet.

With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases.

The signup bonus can very easily get you to South America. If you are flying Main Cabin, flights from the contiguous 48 U.S. states to South America start at 17,500 American Airlines miles one-way. If you are interested in flying business class or first class, you will need at least 30,000 American Airlines miles one-way. So with strategic planning and flexible dates, you may be able to maximize your sign-up bonus with some spending to earn yourself a luxury round-trip flight.

On top of the earning opportunities, the card comes with the following benefits:

  • First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines flights for you and 4 travel companions
  • Preferred boarding
  • 25% savings on in-flight food and beverages on American Airlines flights when you use your Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard to pay
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 or more during your card membership year and renew the card

The card has an annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months.

Best credit card for flying to Asia: United Club℠ Infinite Card

The largest continent of all, Asia, encompasses 48 different countries. And with a long list of destinations and airports, it’s difficult to select one credit card as the best credit card for flying to Asia. However, the new United Club℠ Infinite Card could be your best option because of United’s membership in Star Alliance.

Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance with 26 active members, including United. Of the Star Alliance members, the following airlines fly into various parts of Asia:

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • Austrian Airlines
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways)
  • Asiana Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines

With a long list of options to get to Asia, the United Club℠ Infinite Card will earn you miles to use on United or its partners. In addition, the card comes with great benefits to make your long flight across the Pacific more comfortable.

To start, you can earn a hefty sign-up bonus as a new cardmember. Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Both the sign-up bonus and spending categories give ample opportunities to earn United miles.

With United miles, you can fly between the contiguous 48 states and Southeast Asia countries like Singapore, Malaysia or the Philippines (designated as “South Asia” by United) for 40,000 United miles in economy when you book with Star Alliance partners. So with the 100,000 sign-up bonus, you will be able to fly there and back and still have miles left over.

The card comes with an outstanding list of travel benefits including lounge access and travel insurance. By having and using the card, you will have:

  • Access to United Club lounges and Star Alliance lounges for you and eligible travel companions
  • $100 statement credit for TSA Precheck/Global Entry
  • 25% back on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on United flights when you use your card
  • First and second checked bag free for you and one traveling companion
  • Premier Access which includes priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges
  • Automatic Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle status
  • Premier upgrades when you book flights using United MileagePlus miles
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection benefits, including complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in, late checkout and other benefits at over 900 properties worldwide
  • Travel coverages including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement and rental car insurance
  • Consumer protection policies, including purchase protection, return protection and extended warranty protection

The card comes with a hefty $525 annual fee, however, the large sign-up bonus and outstanding benefits can outweigh the annual fee.

Best credit card for flying to Africa: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 60,000 bonus points

  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

More Info

It can get expensive to fly from the United States to Africa, so utilizing airline miles could save you thousands on your journey. And similar to our suggestion above, flying with airlines within Star Alliance will be your best bet. Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has multiple options to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Star Alliance members, accumulating Chase Ultimate Rewards points for an upcoming trip to Africa is a great option.

Of the 26 Star Alliance members, the following airlines fly to Africa:

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Egypt Air
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss Air Lines
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

If you transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to United and book with one of the above Star Alliance partners, you would need at least 80,000 points to fly round-trip in economy.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is widely regarded as one of the best travel credit cards available. It has a great sign-up bonus, useful benefits and a modest annual fee. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® As you spend on the card, you will earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. In addition, you can earn 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022.

The points you earn can be used in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or transferred to one of the following travel partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Emirates
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

The benefits don’t stop at earning points and booking travel. With the card, you’ll have access to:

  • Travel insurance, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • Consumer protection, including purchase protection and extended warranty protection
  • Unlimited DoorDash deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced fees on orders more than $12 on qualifying purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service (activate by Dec. 31, 2021).

All of these benefits come with a $95 annual fee.

Airline credit card FAQs for international travel

Before deciding which airline credit card is the right fit for you, you should consider the following:

Is an airline credit card worth it?

An airline credit card is an excellent choice if you fly even as little as twice per year. You can earn frequent flyer miles on your daily purchases that can significantly reduce the cost of your flights. In addition, benefits like free checked bags and preferred boarding can save you money and make your flying experience more enjoyable.

What is the best credit card for airline miles?

The best credit card for airline miles is the card that best adheres to your spending patterns. For example, if a significant portion of your expenses is on restaurants, you should get a credit card that rewards you for that category of spending.

In addition, a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better option than an airline credit card. An airline credit card can tie you to one airline, where a travel credit card is more flexible.

How should I compare travel credit cards?

If you compare travel credit cards, there are a few factors to compare. Those factors are: sign-up bonus, spending rewards, benefits and annual fee.

These four parts determine the value of a card in correlation to your spending habits and consumer needs. Some consumers may be against paying an annual fee, whereas others may not be opposed to that idea. So when you compare travel credit cards, be sure to list these in order of importance to you.

Once you’ve listed the facets, compare the value between each of the cards. Once you do this, you’ll have an idea of the best travel credit card for you.

How does credit card travel insurance work?

Credit card travel insurance is one of the best benefits of having a travel credit card. Each card has different benefits, and each benefit has different payouts for qualifying events. Typical policies will include the following:

  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance: If your trip is canceled or cut short by illness, your expenses that are pre-paid and non-refundable can be covered by this policy.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: This policy is great if you plan on renting a car. As long as you turn down the insurance offered by the rental car agency, your car will be covered. Be sure to research if the rental car insurance policy is primary or secondary coverage. If the policy is primary coverage, your personal car insurance will not be affected. If the policy is secondary coverage, it will cover additional costs not covered by your personal car insurance policy.
  • Baggage delay insurance: If your bag is delayed by an airline or other passenger carrier, you can be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing.
  • Trip delay insurance: If your flight is delayed for more than the designated time in the policy, you can be reimbursed for costs such as hotels and meals.

Each credit card offers different policies and levels of coverage, so be sure to read into each policy to see what events it covers and the amount of each policy.

Top card issuers’ international customer service information

If you run into difficulties with any of your travel credit cards while outside the United States, you can contact the issuer directly. Here is information on how you can contact the larger card issuers while traveling internationally.

 American ExpressBank of AmericaBarclaysCapital OneChase
24/7 International Customer service via phoneYesNoYesNoYes
International Phone Contact1-715-343-79771-315-724-40221-302-255-88881-804-934-20011-30-594-8200
Live ChatYesYesNoNoNo
EmailNoYesYesNoYes
Twitter@AskAmex@BofA_Help@AskBarclaysUS@AskCapitalOne@ChaseSupport

The information related to the British Airways Visa Signature® Card has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.


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