Being overseas for an extended time changed my approach to which credit cards I use the most, and which I get the most value from. Most of the travel credit cards are focused on the US market, so some cards are more useful than others while outside of the United States. This does not take into account any sign up bonuses for these cards – it was simply an assessment of the cards I already had and which ones I chose to travel with.
Read on to discover which cards I used the most.
Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR)
This has long been my favorite card, and I used it even more while I was abroad. The CSR earns 3 points per dollar spent on a wide variety of categories: dining and travel (hotels, flights, Uber, and even my Remote Year monthly fees coded as travel) are the two largest ones, and captured the majority of my spending, especially abroad. The card also comes with access to Priority Pass lounges and, importantly, travel insurance. I had to utilize this for the first time when Iberia lost my luggage for a few days, so it was a valuable benefit that I got just for booking with the credit card.
Chase Ink Business Preferred
This card offers no foreign transaction fees and it has been a lifesaver for cell phone coverage. While I didn’t have a lot of business expenses while abroad, I did continue to charge my cell phone service to this card because it offers great cell phone insurance just by paying your monthly cell phone bill with this card. It includes up to $600 of protection against damage or theft (yes, even accidental damage that is your fault). You can use this coverage up to 3 times per year, after paying a $100 deductible. I have replaced several cell phone screens with this insurance, and even had to replace my phone entirely when it fell into a fountain in Thailand!
American Express Platinum
I brought this card with me but rarely charged anything to it. I have found that Amex is still not widely accepted outside of the US. It did, however, offer me some key benefits, despite not putting much spending on it. This card offers access to Centurion lounges (often a nicer lounge than the Priority Pass lounge that you have access to with many credit cards). Another perk of this card is its Fine Hotels and Resorts benefit. When you book a participating hotel through AmexTravel (they have over 1000 participating hotels worldwide), you automatically receive the following benefits: daily breakfast, free wifi, room upgrades (if available), early check-in (when available), guaranteed late checkout, and an additional amenity valued at $100 USD (unique to each property). I’ve used this several times and found it to be a great value. These are higher-end properties, but the rates are typically similar priced to where you can book them elsewhere and the additional perks make them more valuable.
Charles Schwab Debit card
While I do not put purchases on this card, it was one of the hardest working cards in my wallet last year. This card is tied to their High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account is free to open, has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, no foreign transaction fees, and unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide. The last part is key. I was able to use any ATM in the world, and Charles Schwab would reimburse whatever fee the ATM was charging, no matter how ridiculous it was or how often I pulled money out. While I tried to use cash minimally (opting instead to earn points and miles with credit card spend), I estimate this saved me hundreds of dollars last year.