Essential Features to Consider in Travel Credit Cards

Travel Credit cards are good for overseas spending.

Travel Credit cards are not the same, the fact that they bear the same name notwithstanding. The only common denominator among them is that they are specifically designed to cater for overseas spending. If you are the type that travels a lot and buys things overseas, holding a regular credit card may not be suitable for you. Otherwise, you will be paying much in term of fees and interests which you can ordinarily avoid or reduce if you hold any of the travel credit cards available for overseas travellers.

Why Travel Credit Cards?

Someone once said that when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable. To be candid, travel credit cards are not for everybody. Firstly, just as the name implies, travel credit cards are for travellers. I am not talking about casual travellers this time around but people that travel very often. If you are just going on holiday which you only observe once and you don’t intend to stay for a long time, there may not be any need to apply for a travel credit card. The reason is that, you may not be able to take full advantage of the benefits that come with travel credit cards thereby making it not cost effective for you. Some of the benefits that come with travel credit cards include airline fee credits, travel and emergency assistance, protection against unauthorised charges, trip cancellation insurance, travel accident insurance, in-flight purchase discounts and car rental assistance. If you are a regular traveller, you can actually get free air tickets, vacations, hotel rooms and cash back. These benefits largely depend on the class of travel credit card you are holding. Besides, there are other attractive features which I shall discuss later. So, if you want to travel overseas and it seems you don’t qualify for travel credit card or you discover that it is not suitable for you, your best option may be a debit card. You will just need to ensure that you have enough fund in your account.

Read Also: Credit Cards Application and How to Choose the Right One

Essential Features of Travel Credit Cards

If you want to travel and you feel you need an overseas spending credit card, there are actually many travel credit cards out there from which you can select the one that best suits you. Below are the essential features you can watch out for.

Annual fees

Unlike regular credit cards, you can hardly find any card issuer that will not charge annual fees on their travel credit cards. What you can do in this area is to shop round for card companies that charge competitive annual fees on their cards. However, you may not focus on the annual fees alone as there may be some payoff somewhere by the way of bonuses and benefits the card provides. What you need to do is to compare the annual fees with these bonuses and benefits. If you find out that you may not be able to take advantage of these benefits, there is no point paying for what you will not enjoy. On this note, it may be better to opt for the card that doesn’t attract high annual fees.


This is very critical. You need to ascertain that the travel credit card you want to apply for is acceptable in the country where you are going. Not all cards are acceptable worldwide. As far as I know, Visa, MasterCard and possibly American Express are accepted in all parts of the world. Nothing can be more disappointing than holding a credit card and realise that the card is not accepted at the point of payment or cash withdrawal. If you don’t want to be stranded, your best travel credit card should be the one that you are sure will be accepted wherever you go.

Sign up Bonus

One of the ways card companies use to attract customers is to offer high sign up points as a bonus. What does this mean? Accumulation of points to a specified level can earn you discounts or free ticket. So, if the sign up bonus is very high, you may not have difficulty in meeting the threshold that will qualify you for the discounts or bonuses. However, you should look beyond the sign up bonus. Endeavour to read through the other terms and conditions that may apply to the bonus that will entitle you to enjoy them. For example, you may be required to accumulate a particular number of points within a certain period of time. Even though you start with high bonus, you may not be able to meet the minimum threshold if you are not a regular traveller. Another important factor to consider is that, there may be restriction on how to utilise your points. Some card issuers may want you to utilize the points within a specified time frame. If that period elapses, the points will be lost. The best travel credit card should be the one that suit your travelling frequency which will allow you to accumulate points up to the required level.

Cash back

Cash back is a bonus the card issuer gives you in form of rebate on every dollar you spend using your travel credit card. To be sure you are selecting the best travel credit card, you may need to consider the number of points you can earn on every dollar you spend. While some card companies will offer you one point, if you take time to compare, you will find travel credit cards that offer more points. Just like the sign up bonus, it may require a minimum spending threshold to qualify. You may even be required to make purchase with particular retailers before you can earn points. If you use your travel credit card to buy things where your card issuer is not having relationship, you will earn no points. Your best travel credit card in this regard will be the one that offers low minimum spending threshold and possibly with no restriction as to where to make purchase or redeem your points.

Foreign Transaction fees

When you use your card to make purchase abroad, there is likelihood that you will need to pay in the currency different from your home currency. The beauty of paying with credit cards is that, you don’t need to bother yourself on how to get your currency converted into the local currency of the country where you are making the purchase. With your credit card, you can get the currency converted at a very good rate. However, certain costs are usually incurred in the process of making the conversion. That is why some card companies will charge you foreign transaction fees. The average transaction fee is 3 per cent. The three per cent transaction fees seem very little but by the time it adds up on all purchases you make, it can become very substantial. If you are looking for the best travel credit card, it should be the one that will not charge you foreign transaction fees. A best travel credit card will not charge you interest either on your foreign transaction in as much you pay off your card balance at the end of the month. But if you carry balance on the card, you will definitely be required to pay interest.

ATM Withdrawal fees

If you want to minimize your costs while abroad, don’t make ATM cash withdrawal with your card. Credit card companies will charge your fee on the amount of cash withdrawn via ATM. Also, you will have to pay interest on the amount withdrawn. The interest becomes effective from the date you make the withdrawal and continues until you make full payment of the amount. If you know that you are going to make much cash purchase or most of your spending will be in cash, you may need to carry cash or load your debit card with enough cash. Though you will still need to pay withdrawal fee, you will be able to avoid the interest payment. On the other hand, you can shop for travel credit cards that don’t charge ATM withdrawal fees. If you pay off the amount withdrawn immediately, you will also succeed in avoiding the interest payment.  With this new era of internet banking, you can easily make payment online. You don’t need to wait till you return home before you pay off the balance.

Credit limit

What is the credit limit you are being offered on your travel credit card? Is it sufficient to pay for your purchases while abroad? If the credit limit is low, you may need to make additional arrangement to be sure that you will not be stranded. You can go with additional cash or debit card. On the other hand, excessive credit limit may tempt you to make purchases you will not be able to pay off at the end of the month. This can happen if you are trying to make enough purchase that will qualify you for a bonus.

Read Also: A Guide on How to Increase Your Credit Limit

In conclusion, it may be difficult to find a perfect travel credit card. Your best travel credit card will be the one that meets your own specific needs. Therefore, you need to compare the features among the travel credit cards before you can arrive at a suitable one. I should not forget to let you know that your credit score will play a key role in ensuring that you are able to secure a good travel credit card.

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