10 things to look for in a credit card for international travel

In today's travel environment, you need to choose the best credit cards for your international adventures. It's not as simple as calling your bank and signing up for credit cards immediately. The rates, features and member benefits vary greatly and deserve some research and consideration. Bank of Montreal, CIBC, President's Choice, HSBC Bank Canada, National Bank of Canada and Scotiabank each offer their own credit cards. Use this checklist to identify the card that is best for you :

  • Interest rate. Decide what interest rate you can afford and only consider credit cards that offer an equal or lower rate.
  • Exchange rate. Find a card with an exchange rate you agree with. If you do not think one card's rate is fair, look into other options.
  • Annual fee or free. Some "free" credit cards come with the highest interest rates, so beware.
  • Rewards club points. Some credit cards allow you to collect points for every purchase you make with that card. Points can then be traded for merchandise, such as groceries. If this is an important feature to you, narrow your search to cards that offer points.
  • Credit limit. Some cards may automatically start you at a low credit limit, while others will conduct a full credit check to determine how much of a limit to grant you. Most people opt for the cards with the highest limits, but this is not always necessary or wise. Find a card that will give you the limit you truly need.
  • Passwords for account access on foreign ABMs/ATMS. Before you travel, do your research to find out where and how your credit card will work abroad.
  • Emergency card replacement or emergency cash. Find a card that guarantees to replace your card within 24 hours if it is lost or stolen.
  • Insurance replacement on merchandise. Items lost, stolen or broken may be covered under a special credit card insurance plan. If you are planning to make a high-end purchase in a foreign country, you should find a card that offers this insurance.
  • Air Miles or Aeroplan miles. These are points you can collect from purchases you make with certain credit cards that can be traded in for free flights. Aeroplan is a bit more inclusive and can be used for any flight on any plane, while Air Miles limits you to a few seats on certain planes on certain dates.
  • Credit cards that are widely used in your travel destination. If you will be travelling to only one destination, do some research to determine if there are specific cards that are used frequently in that area.

After going through this checklist, you will have a good starting point in hunting down the best credit cards for your needs.

Published May 6, 2009

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