The best credit cards for international travellers

The best credit cards for international travellers

When it comes to spending abroad, not all credit cards are created equal.

It’s easy to be stung by international transaction fees upwards of 3.4%, but a few cards charm and delight travellers with either no forex fees or bonus frequent flyer points on their foreign spend.

Depending on how much coin you drop and how many points you’d like to pocket, chances are the perfect credit card is just waiting for you to pop in and say hello.

Assuming you always pay off the closing balance and avoid those hefty interest charges, here are four of the best Aussie credit cards that are just vying for a place in your passport wallet…

Earn no points but pay no fees: GE Money’s 28 Degrees MasterCard

Whether you travel oversees but once a year or even once a week, GE Money’s 28 Degrees MasterCard packs a real punch.

There aren’t any fees levied on your foreign spend, so although you won’t reel in any frequent flyer points, you’ll instead be rewarded with a smaller bill on your return home.

You’ll also pay no annual fee, which makes the card perfect for occasional travellers to whip out for their annual holiday, or for business travellers to use every time they have their passport stamped.

Read more: 28 Degrees MasterCard review

Earn points without forex fees: Bankwest’s Qantas Platinum MasterCard

A sure contender for the wallets of frequent travellers, the Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard serves up 0.75 Qantas Points per Aussie dollar spent, and like the 28 Degrees MasterCard, there aren’t any overseas transaction fees to be found here either.

While not ideal for earning points on home soil, a reasonable $160 annual fee sees the card paying for itself after shelling out A$10,667 each year – which gets you 8,000 Qantas Points, enough for a one-way Sydney-Melbourne flight.

As an added bonus, hold a return ticket and charge at least A$500 of your “prepaid (international) travel costs” to the card – that’s anything from your flights and hotels through to guided tours, transfers and theatre tickets – and you’ll enjoy free travel insurance.

Read more: Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard review

Cards that work both at home and away: Westpac’s Earth and Altitude Black cards

If you’d rather not flood your wallet with plastic from different banks, Westpac’s Earth and Altitude Black cards fill the middle ground quite nicely for earning points with either Qantas Frequent Flyer (Earth Black) or Velocity, Asia Miles, KrisFlyer, Airpoints or Enrich (Altitude Black).

With only one bill every month, both accounts come with an American Express and a MasterCard. On the AMEX, you’ll earn a high 1.5 points per A$1 spent with either Qantas or Velocity, while the MasterCard plates up 0.625 points per A$1 spent on home soil.

What we like most about these cards is that the MasterCard earning rates are boosted to 1.5 points per A$1 spent overseas, along with a forex fee of just 3% as opposed to 3.5% on the AMEX.

That’s particularly handy in places where American Express isn’t as widely accepted, and when combined with other perks such as free lounge access, free travel insurance and Gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) after staying for just one night, the $395 annual fee could easily be worth it.

Read our reviews: Westpac Earth Black and Westpac Altitude Black

Enjoy some of Australia’s best earning rates: HSBC’s Qantas Platinum Visa

Dishing out a staggering two Qantas Points for every A$1 spent on your travels is the HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa.

NOTE: Since publication this card now awards one Qantas Point per A$1 spent overseas.

Like Westpac’s Black MasterCards, there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee – but with Qantas Points worth up to 5.4 cents each when upgrading to business class from Sydney to London, a 10.8% return on your 3% ‘investment’ isn’t anything to be sniffed at.

Also solid enough to double as your everyday credit card at home, you’ll earn one Qantas Point per $1 spent, which is quite good for a Visa card.

If that's not enough, you'll score two Qantas lounge passes each year, valid in any domestic Qantas Club or international business class lounge – including the Red Roo’s standout lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Read more: HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa review

Do you agree with our top picks, or do you have a favourite credit card of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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11 Comments

  • sagidec

    sagidec

    30 Jul, 2014 04:15 pm

    I believe all Bankwest's platinum credit cards waive the foreign transaction fee.

    You might need to verify that like Bankwest More, Bankwest No Annual Fee.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    30 Jul, 2014 04:23 pm

    Hi sagidec,

    That's indeed correct – international transaction fees are waived on Bankwest's four Platinum credit cards, but with the GE Money card already providing a no forex fee + no points option, I went with Bankwest's no forex fee + Qantas Points card as the next step up. :)

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  • sagidec

    sagidec

    30 Jul, 2014 08:53 pm

    I found another card which waives the foreign transaction fee.

    Aussie Platinum Low Rate Card

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  • sagidec

    sagidec

    10 Aug, 2014 10:53 am

    Compare between 28 Degrees Mastercard (Platinum) now and Bankwest No Annual Fee (Platinum), the Bankwest comes out superior with Travel Insurance.

    No member give thanks

  • Bob Glover

    Bobfromwa

    30 Jul, 2014 05:48 pm

    I have the 28 degrees.It is great for CC purchase overseas. The main thing is that theirexchange rate is very good. I have compared with other cards with goods purchased on same day in same country and about. 3% saving.

    As well as fees, I think the exchange rate as adopted by a card contributes to the overall amount we pay.

    Unfortunately the 28 degrees recently introduced fees for using ATMs overseas. So I now have a Citibank debit card for ATMs while overseas. The conversion is pretty much the same as the 28 degrees CC purchase.

    No member give thanks

  • Demonoid

    Demonoid

    31 Jul, 2014 03:00 pm

    I have the Citibank Select Credit Card. Yes it charges a whopping $700 annual fee (only got it for the bonus points). But you get the equivalent of 3.33 points per dollar spent, which I believe tops the list. I am with Velocity so I just wait till Velocity have the bonus promotion (where they give you an extra 15-20% to send you bank points across), and I'm getting close to 4 points a dollar!

    With the unlimited Priority Pass, it''s defintely a good card to have if you are a serious international traveller, (and if you can negotiate that high annual fee)..

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  • williamsusanto

    williamsusanto

    3 Aug, 2014 08:21 pm

    There is a good Ctibank Platinum VISA Rewards which gives you no forex transac fee & with reasonable annual fee will give you option where you want the points to transfer ranging from SQ to CX asiamiles.

    This is one of the best CC for aussie travelers.

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  • sagidec

    sagidec

    8 Aug, 2014 01:33 pm

    What card is this? What is the website link? Australian card?

    No member give thanks

  • BOB BOB

    BOBD

    26 Mar, 2015 05:08 pm

    BEWARE THE CONDITIONS WITH ANZ/QBE CARD INSURANCE

     I have Black Cards with ANZ where travel insurance is covered by QBE.  We paid $14,000 for a cruise and more for Premium Economy seats to HKG with Cathay.  Both had to be paid months ahead to secure a place.  We were leaving the return flight from SIN to PER for a later date as there was plenty of choice.   My wife became ill and we had to cancell - shortfall in cancellation fees was $5,500.  A claim to QBE was rejected because we were not holding a return ticket to Australia at the time of cancellation.

    If your purchase travel isurance directly with QBE there is no requirement to hold a return ticket to AUS or indeed to hold any tickets.

    This is a crazy condition since any ticket between an overseas port and any Austrlaian city would satisfy the condition.  For example a ticket for a Virgin flight from Bali to Darwin at $155 would be acceptable (even if you dont intend to go there).

    For folk relying on the Bank/QBE insurance and having to pay for some part of your trip well ahead of departure it is important to purchase the cheapest possible return ticket to Australia at the same time so that your cover is activated.

    Personally, there are too many exclusion clauses in the 77 page document and I will purchase my travel insurance direct in future and save the $375 annual fee for the Black Card.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    26 Mar, 2015 06:11 pm

    Hi Bob, I'm sorry to hear that your claim was rejected. The requirement to hold a return ticket to Australia is rather standard of credit card insurance policies, as many of them have a cap on the duration of your journey (e.g. coverage for trips lasting up to three months).

    Without a return ticket in-hand before leaving Australia, your trip doesn't have a defined 'end date', even if you intend to later purchase a ticket.

    While ANZ credit cards didn't feature in this article, our review of the ANZ Rewards Black cards – published one month before this particular piece – highlights the clause you've discussed under the Insurance heading as a service to our readers:

    "The card’s insurance coverage is reasonably generous – comprehensive travel and medical cover kicks in when holding a return air ticket before leaving the country."

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  • BOB BOB

    BOBD

    27 Mar, 2015 01:00 pm

    Hi Chris.  Thanks for the response.   I have now discovered that Citibank cards use Zurich for their travel insurance.  There is no requirement to hold a return ticket to Australia and, in addition, there are no age limits. Bye Bye ANZ.

    Reference the 'end date", there is a defined limiting date of 6 months in the QBE policy document.  Also, as I pointed out, the return ticket can be associated with an entirely differnent travel itinerary - even an imaginary one ie., Bali to Darwin

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21 Jul, 2017 06:49 pm

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