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.


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 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!


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 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.

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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. 
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 World Elite MasterCard

Link:   Discover it Miles 

The information for the Discover it Miles card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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