Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
I’m currently packing to head on a pretty big trip, in fact our “biggest” trip ever, and naturally one of the things we are packing are rewards credit cards. I have a fairly complex system of credit cards we maximize for various category bonuses at home, but that system isn’t practical or necessary when we travel. When we travel, I am most concerned about having cards that are accepted where we are going, that won’t cost me an extra fee to use, and that can offer me protections or perks if I need them.
Here are the cards that I pack in my travel wallet, as well as why they make the cut:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:
This card has the most secure spot in my travel wallet for several reasons. First, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, so we can use it around the world without extra fees. Second, it is available with a chip so that it is easier to use outside the US – even at many unmanned kiosks that don’t accept traditional non-chip US credit cards.
Our Platinum card also has a firm spot in our travel wallet, but for different reasons that the Sapphire Preferred. The Amex Platinum gets us into Centurion Lounges for free, but it is also a card I trust in the event we had some sort of unforeseen emergency on the road. If you need assistance and are more than 100 miles from home, you can the use the Premium Global Assist Hotline and have 24/7 medical, legal, financial or other select emergency coordination and assistance services, including medical and legal referrals, passport replacement, cash wires and more. The hotline and coordination are free, but other charges from third parties they set-up are not necessarily free. The Amex Platinum also does not charge foreign transaction fees, so while it isn’t my favorite card to put spending on since there aren’t really any bonus categories, it won’t cost you extra if you do use it out of the United States.
Ink Bold® Business Card or Ink Plus® Business Card:
Some of my travel is business travel, and I like to keep as much of that in one spot as I can for organizational reasons without missing out on too many points. I gotta admit having lots of cards in rotation makes my own accounting a bit more complex. These cards have lots of great bonus categories, but the ones most relevant to travel are 2x on hotels and gas, so we do use them for those categories and other expenses on the road. It’s also a good back-up to the Chase Sapphire Preferred in the event the retailer needs a imprint of the raised numbers (rare, but does still happen).
Hotel Specific Cards – especially for domestic travel:
If I have a hotel specific co-branded card for where we are staying, then I try to bring that card along so I can earn bonus points on hotel charges. For example, you could bring a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card to earn 10x on Club Carlson hotel expenses put on the card, or a Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card to earn 10x on Hilton HHonors expenses on that card. However, be aware that many of the hotel specific cards still charge foreign transaction fees, so that may wash out the value of the points you are earning outside the US. In this example, the Club Carlson card does charge foreign transaction fees while the HHonors Reserve Card does not.
Card Used to Purchase the Airfare:
It is also a good idea to bring the credit card that you used to purchase the airfare. I have heard many stories of various airlines around the world requesting that the credit card used to purchase the airfare be presented at check-in. I’ve still never hit this issue, but that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future. Additionally, if you are traveling with the card you used to purchase the airfare, then you can also have easy access to their assistance in the event of lost/delayed baggage or for other trip interruption issues that might be covered expenses on the credit card that you used to purchase the airfare.
Cards From at Least Two Banks:
I travel with far fewer credit cards than I run errands with in my normal life, but I still like to have at least three credit cards from at least two banks. I want to have a back-up option in the event something happens with one of my accounts due to a fraud alert or other issue that might temporarily freeze my ability to use a certain card or even accounts within a certain bank. I also make sure to have a debit card that I can use to easily pull cash out of an ATM if needed.
What cards make the cut in your travel wallet?
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for some, but not all, of the credit cards in this post. Your support is appreciated.