Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside the US?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Adam commented:

Hey Daraius!

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.

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Earn Bonus Points When You Use Your Credit Cards Abroad!

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

  • Dining
  • Gas
  • Hotels
  • Transportation

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.

Dining

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!

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Dining Is a Great Bonus Category for Bonus Points!

And the Citi ThankYou Prestige and the Citi ThankYou Premier offer 2X Citi ThankYou points at restaurants without foreign transaction fees.  So both of these are great cards to take overseas!

Gas

Link:   Citi ThankYou Premier

Link:   Chase Ink Plus Business Credit Card

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.

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Earn More Points at the Pump at Home and Overseas!

And if you are traveling for business, the Chase Ink Plus awards 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at gas stations.

Hotels

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.

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Hotel Stays Are a Huge Bonus Points Opportunity

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 CardBonus Points EarnedForeign Transaction Fee?
Flexible Points Cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points at any hotelNo
Citi Prestige3X Citi ThankYou points at hotelsNo
Citi ThankYou Premier3X Citi ThankYou Points at hotelsNo
Discover it Miles1.5 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 yearNo
Hotel Cards
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card10X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotelsNo
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card6X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels3%
Chase Fairmont Visa Signature 5X Fairmont points at Fairmont hotelsNo
Chase Hyatt3X Hyatt points at Hyatt hotelsNo
Chase IHG Rewards5X IHG points at IHG hotelsNo
Chase Marriott Rewards5X Marriott points at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotelsNo
Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards5X Ritz-Carlton points at participating Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotelsNo
Hilton HHonors Card from American Express7X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels2.7%
Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express12X Hilton points on stays at Hilton hotels2.7%
Starwood Preferred Guest American ExpressUp to 5X Starwood points (depending on status) at participating Starwood hotels 2.7%
US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature10X Club Carlson points at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels2% to 3%
Business Cards
American Express Simply Cash3% back on rooms purchased directly from hotels if you choose hotels as your 3% category2.7%
Chase Ink Plus2X 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.

Transportation

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. 

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Transportation Includes Car Rentals, Taxis, and Even Buses and Subways

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:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

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!

The best use of Arrival Plus points is to get 2.2% back on $100+ travel purchases.  Be sure to read my review of this card.

Note:   The Arrival Plus is changing!

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Folks Who Don’t Like Tracking Bonus Categories Can Earn Miles on All Purchases Overseas Without Foreign Transaction Fees With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Discover it Miles Cards

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!

Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside The US

Decide Whether Paying Foreign Transaction Fees Are Worth the Extra Points

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

The Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a great card for international travel.  That’s because you’ll earn extra points and won’t pay foreign transaction fees.

And you’ll get:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card to use for car rentals because you’ll get 2 points per $1 you spend on travel AND primary car rental insurance!

Bottom Line

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.

And certain cards have extra perks that help if you experience a delay or have a mishap with your luggage.

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!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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6 responses to “Will You Earn Category Bonuses Outside the US?

  1. Adam specifically mentioned that some cards specify “US supermarkets”. Though most don’t use their cards overseas for groceries, there are those who do, and that is definitely something to look out for. I live overseas, and have found the US Bank Flexperks card to be great for groceries, since it earns 2X points on the category you spend the most in out of the following: Gas, Groceries, and Airfare. Since it is easy to earn 2X or 3X on airfare and gas (CSP, Ink Plus, or Citi Premier), but much harder to get grocery rewards, that has been my go to card for groceries, since you can earn 2X overseas without foreign transaction fees. Outside of that, I don’t know of a card with bonus grocery points internationally and no foreign exchange fee.

  2. Dear Daraius,
    Just some minor point. I think Starwood Perferred Guest American Express start elimination the foreign transaction fee from August 2015.

  3. Also beware of “dynamic currency conversion” (DCC) overseas. Always tell the merchant you want to pay in the local currency. (DCC is a scam that earns merchants and card issuers extra revenue if you allow your bill to be paid in US dollars. You will usually pay 3-7% extra for this “privilege”.)

  4. Daraius,
    How do you transfer AVIOS POINTS to any HÔTEL PARTNERS ?

  5. What about the Alaska Airlines card? Can I still apply for 5 of them at the same time?

  6. How do you transfer AVIOS POINTS to Hôtel PARTNERS ?