Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
Million Mile Secrets reader Adam commented:
I am curious about points earned when overseas. Do the 3X and 2X bonus categories still count? Also like the Chase Freedom 5X categories as well? I know certain ones like AMEX specifically say US gas or US supermarkets but was wondering about the other ones.
Great question, Adam! Some cards will earn bonus points in certain categories overseas. But you shouldn’t always use them.
I’ll explain the best bonus categories for when you travel. And what to look out for!
Earn More Points in These Categories When You Travel
When you’re on vacation, your expenses will most likely be going out to eat and getting around with taxis, public transportation, and car rentals.
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Citi Prestige
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 you spend on dining, even when you use it abroad!
Link: Citi ThankYou Premier
You can earn extra points at gas stations. Remember, gas stations sell other items, like groceries and gift cards.
For example, the Citi ThankYou Premier earns 3X Citi ThankYou points on travel expenses, including gas. And you’ll collect 2X IHG points at gas stations when you swipe your Chase IHG Card.
If you like Hilton hotels, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card gives 5X Hilton HHonors points for gas purchases, even internationally.
And if you are traveling for business, the Chase Ink Plus awards 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at gas stations.
Hotels are a huge category where you can earn extra points. But look out for foreign transaction fees! You should decide whether it’s worth it to pay an extra fee for earning more points for your hotel stays.
You’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all hotels with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, no matter which country.
Major chains offer hotel credit cards that reward you when you stay and then pay with the card.
Many hotel cards have generous bonus categories, but also have foreign transaction fees. They are ~3% extra in addition to the hotel cost. It’s up to you whether you value the bonus points enough to justify paying the fee.
|Credit Card||Bonus Points Earned||Foreign Transaction Fee?|
|Flexible Points Cards|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points at any hotel||No|
|Citi Prestige® Card||3X Citi ThankYou points at hotels||No|
|Citi ThankYou® Premier Card||3X Citi ThankYou Points at hotels||No|
|Discover it Miles||1.5 Discover it miles per $1 (1.5% cash back) on all purchases and 2X miles you’ve earned at the end of the 1st card anniversary year||No|
|Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card||10X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels||No|
|Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card||6X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels||3%|
|Chase Fairmont Visa Signature||5X Fairmont points at Fairmont hotels||No|
|Chase Hyatt||3X Hyatt points at Hyatt hotels||No|
|Chase IHG Rewards||5X IHG points at IHG hotels||No|
|Chase Marriott Rewards||5X Marriott points at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels||No|
|Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards||5X Ritz-Carlton points at participating Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels||No|
|Hilton HHonors Card from American Express||7X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels||2.7%|
|Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express||12X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels||2.7%|
|Starwood Preferred Guest American Express||Up to 5X Starwood points (depending on status) at participating Starwood hotels||2.7%|
|US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature||10X Club Carlson points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels||2% to 3%|
|American Express Simply Cash||3% back on rooms purchased directly from hotels if you choose hotels as your 3% category||2.7%|
|Chase Ink Plus||2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on 1st $50,000 spent when you book directly with hotels||No|
As always, be sure to read the terms and conditions of your cards so you know what to expect when you take them to other countries.
This can include lots of things like taxis to and from airports, public transportation when visiting a new city, and the cars you rent to go sight-seeing.
When you pay for transportation at home or overseas with your Chase Sapphire Preferred you’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The Citi Prestige card also has a broad travel category, and will award you 3X Citi ThankYou points per dollar spent.
Costs in these categories can add up faster than you think. So it’s good to have a card that will reward you along the way!
Two Cards for Folks Who Don’t Want to Fuss With Categories
Link: Discover it Miles
1. Barclaycard Arrival Plus
If you don’t want to worry about categories but still want to earn points abroad, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus earns 2X points per dollar on ALL purchases.
And it has chip-and-PIN technology, which is useful when you’re buying items from machines such as bus or train tickets. Or getting gas from pumps without attendants.
Other things folks tend to buy while traveling are souvenirs to bring home, forgotten items, and tours or tickets to museums. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus will earn you 2X points on all of these!
Note: The Arrival Plus is changing!
2. Discover it Miles
With the Discover it Miles card, you earn 1.5% back on ALL purchases. And your bonus is doubled at the end of your 1st 12 billing cycles! So you’re earning a total of 3% back on everything you buy during the 1st year.
And Discover does NOT charge foreign transaction fees.
However, Discover isn’t accepted in nearly as many places as Visa and MasterCard.
Beware Foreign Transaction Fees
Don’t forget that many cards add foreign transaction fees. These fees are 1% to 3% extra and really add up. I don’t like paying them!
For example, the American Express EveryDay Preferred earns 2X American Express Membership Rewards points at US gas stations and 3X at US grocery stores.
The terms and conditions read:
3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases.
You’ll only earn bonus points if you use it within the US.
But this card has a ~3% foreign transaction fee. So it is NOT a card to take overseas!
The Chase Freedom card also offers category bonuses of up to 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. And it will give you extra points if you use it overseas.
It also has a 3% foreign transaction fee. It is up to you to decide if it’s worth using to earn extra points.
Other Credit Card Benefits
And you’ll get:
- Trip Cancellation Insurance
- Trip Delay Insurance
- Lost and Delayed Baggage Reimbursement
- Extended Purchase Protection
Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred earn bonus points for overseas purchases like dining or travel.
But some cards charge foreign transaction fees! Check the terms and conditions of your card to know what to expect.
Thanks for the question, Adam. And remember to tell your credit card issuers you’ll be traveling!
Be sure to maximize all your purchases when you travel internationally by earning some extra rewards points along the way!