Credit Cards for Travel and Study Abroad

Below are some of the foreign transaction fees charged onto my “Everyday” Amex.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.18.38 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.18.52 PM

^ disgusting.

Credit cards for studying abroad should have zero foreign transaction fees and embedded EMV chips. EMV technology is globally standard in credit card processing. You will be better with than without the chip.

EMV cards with No Annual Fee and No Foreign Transaction Fee

The following are absolutely free to keep. If you are studying abroad for a college term, you’re probably around my age (20) and with a nascent credit history. Maintain your account after your trip by intermittently using the card in order to nourish and preserve your credit score.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.41.57 PM

The Capital One VentureOne earns 1.25 miles for every dollar and offers a 20,000 mile bonus (worth $200) after spending $1000 on the card within 3 months of account opening. Accrued miles can be redeemed as statement credit towards travel related expenses such as flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals. You can also claim miles by booking through the Capital One Rewards center.

The $1000 is easily met by flight or living arrangement costs. If you spent $8000 over the course of your semester abroad, you will have earned $300 in cash rewards (with the bonus), or saved 3.75%.


The Bank Americard Travel Rewards earns 1.5 points per dollar. Apply online for an exclusive 10,000 points sign up offer (worth $100) after spending $500 within 90 days of account opening. Similar to the VentureOne, you would redeem points in the form of statement credit towards travel purchases like flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars and baggage fees. Additionally, having a checking or savings account through Bank of America boosts your earning rate to 1.65%.*

Using the same $8000 example spend, you earn $232 in cash rewards (with the bonus and BoA checking) or 2.9% savings. If you decide against pairing the card with the checking account, the potential is as follows: $220 earnings (with the bonus) or 2.75% savings.

The best card to take with you is the VentureOne, hands down. You will continue to come out ahead in cash earnings with the VentureOne because of its sign-up offering until you theoretically charge an exorbitant $30,000-ish sum on the Bank Americard with a BoA checking account. Without a BoA checking account, the Bank Americard will only beat the VentureOne at $40,001 spend.

Both cards are enshrined by Visa Signature Benefits. Having one of these in your pocket gives you 24/7 access to concierge and assistance. If you need help, the number on the back of your credit card is your 911. Visa Signature offers roadside and emergency assistance and insures your travel, rental car and luggage. There is an extensive hotel programme, discounted movie tickets and you may receive complimentary upgrades. They offer extended purchase protection and security–essentially a back-up warranty.

Bank of America has unique safeguarding technologies against fraud and identity theft. SafePass is a 6 digit passcode and ShopSafe generates temporary card numbers to keep your real numbers private.

I like Capital One because they provide a credit tracker on their account summary page. Checking one’s credit rating is a rather noble splurgist quality. It also demonstrates to credit scoring agencies that you are a responsible borrower.

Personally, I feel that either card listed above should be gracefully placed on the backburner (as in, that hidden wallet pocket you shove gum wrappers into) after you get home. A flat 1.25 or 1.5% cash back isn’t deplorable but there are higher cash back earnings cards for everyday splurging.

EMV cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee and a Reasonable Annual Fee

Annual fee cards bait subscribers with higher sign up bonuses and an introductory fee-waived year. However, the fees will cut into your rewards earning over the course of card membership. Marc’s Amex costs $500 annually with an earnings pittance of 1% which is some inexcusable anti-splurgist bs if you ask me. He is tremendously placated by the fact that his go-to card is unfailing… for his sake, I hope so too.

Credit scores are maimed during account closing because it lowers the total amount of credit available to you and raises the portion of credit utilized. For that godly 850, you ideally want your oldest line of credit to be alive and breathing for 25+ years. Being 20, my credit history is pitiably 2 to 3 years long and still volatile.

Anyway, if you have a more resilient credit score and savor the crisp snap of cutting plastic, the following may better serve your needs. I’ll provide comparisons on the estimate cash back potentials when having the cards open for 1 year vs. for 10 years.


The Chase Sapphire earns 2 points per dollar spent on Travel and Dining with a 40,000 pts bonus (worth $500) after spending $4000 within 3 months of opening. When redeeming towards travel, values are boost to 2.5 points per dollar. Waived annual fee the first year.

Say the trip costs $5000. You will be reimbursed $625 or effectively save 12.5%. Owed to subsequent upkeep fees at $95 each year, the initially impressive 2.5x earnings rate is realistically 1.8% if the bulk of card usage is during that one big trip each year. However, if you dine out a lot and travel frequently, earnings hover in the 2.3% range.

Even though the Chase Sapphire is widely lauded as an everyday card and offers one of the most generous sign-up bonuses, I am only mildly enamored with it. And even then, only for its aesthetics–the metallic blue facets are ceaselessly admirable in person. The double cash back categories (travel and dining), though prudent and relevant, exclude my splurge affairs with shopping and supermarkets. I imagine that jetsetters still visit pharmacies, buy souveniers and shop for groceries occasionally, non?

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.53.52 PM

The Barclaycard Arrival plus earns 2 miles per dollar with a 40,000 miles bonus (worth $440) after spending $3000 within 3 months. Free for the first year but $89 each year thereafter. Redeeming towards travel expenses ups the earning rate to 2.2 miles per dollar.

Closing the card within the first year after a $5000 trip earns you $550 (with the bonus) or 11% savings. After the first year, the returns are significantly diminished by the $89 annual fee. Keeping the card open for 10 years and limiting its use to travel would only reimburse you at a 1.48% rate. Adopting the Arrival+ as your everyday card would power its cash back to a respectable 2%.


The Capital One Venture earns 2 miles per dollar with a 40,000 miles bonus (worth $400) after spending $3000 within 3 months of account opening. Free for the first year, $59 per year thereafter.

Closing the card within the first year after a $5000 trip earns you $500 (with the bonus) or 10% savings. Keeping the card open for 10 years and using it exclusively for travel ($50k spend) would reimburse you at a 1.74% rate after annual fees. When used more extensively as your go-to everyday card, earnings are a slightly sweeter 1.93%.

The Venture and Sapphire are Visa Signature products while the Arrival Plus is a Platinum MasterCard. MasterCard provides comparable service although from a quick browse I don’t see any purchase protection. Tsk.

After fastidious deliberation, I would personally rather have either the Venture or Arrival+ in my arsenal because they transition seamlessly off the plane–they’re true lifestyle cards. Once the blinding euphoria from the sign-up bonus dissipates, the Sapphire is, at the end of the day, an expensive wanna-be Diners Club card.

In an upcoming post, I will rave about a solid 2.36% cash back credit card, even after averaging in annual fees.


*Higher redemption possibilities are available to Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards clients with net assets over $20,000 in BoA holdings. The rewards earnings would be 1.875% at $20k, 2.25% at $50k and 2.625% at $100k.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s