The 4 best credit cards to use in Europe

Woman in Bratislava after choosing the best credit cards to use in Europe.Image: Woman in Bratislava after choosing the best credit cards to use in Europe.

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If you’re traveling to Europe, you’ll want a travel rewards credit card that offers rewards that align with your traveling style, provides cardholder perks that will enhance your trip and doesn’t charge you a foreign transaction fee. There are a few travel credit cards that check all these boxes — here are our top-four picks.


Card Best for
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Travelers who want flexibility
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Wining and dining
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card Simple rewards seekers
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for students College students

Best for travelers who want flexibility: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Here’s why: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers three points per $1 spent on qualifying travel and dining purchases, and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases. You can also earn 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of account opening. And you can redeem the points to book travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point through Chase Ultimate Rewards® — or you can transfer the points to partner loyalty programs, which currently includes 10 airlines and three hotel programs.

The $550 annual fee can be scary at first glance, but the card does offer up to $300 in travel statement credits annually. The only drawback is that you won’t earn three points for each $1 spent on qualifying travel purchases until after you’ve earned the annual travel credit.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also gives you complimentary membership for Priority Pass Select airport lounges, with lounge access for you and up to two guests (be sure to sign up for the program, which you need to do separately). The card also offers a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership, as well as a variety of purchase and travel protections.

This card has a lot to offer — read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to learn more.

Best for wining and dining: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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Here’s why: If you’re planning on eating your way across Europe while visiting the big tourist attractions, earning cash back rewards on dining and entertainment purchases could be a higher priority than travel rewards.

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% cash back on grocery store purchases (for when you need a snack rather than a meal), and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The card also offers a $300 sign-up bonus if you make $3,000 worth of purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card does have an annual fee of $95. If you don’t think you’ll spend enough to justify the annual fee, there’s a sister card without one — the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. But it offers a lower 3% cash back on dining and entertainment and a smaller sign-up bonus.

Dive into the details to figure out if the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is right for you.

Best for simple rewards seekers: HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

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Here’s why: Simple and rewarding can be appealing, and there are a handful of credit cards that offer 1.5% or 2% cash back without charging you an annual fee. But if you’ve got a big trip coming up, you might want something extra in the beginning to help fund it.

With the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card, there’s a $0 annual fee and you earn 3% cash back on up to your first $10,000 in purchases during the first year of having the card. After you hit that cap or your first year is up — whichever comes first — you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases.

The card’s World Mastercard benefits may also come in handy, like the mobile phone protection that will reimburse you for up to $600 if your phone is stolen or damaged — just be sure to pay your phone bill with the card to qualify.

Learn more about the simple yet rewarding HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card in our full review.

Best for college students: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for students

Here’s why: If you’re a college student, you may be just starting your credit-building journey. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for students offers rewards along with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Using the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for students lets you earn an unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent, which you can redeem for statement credits toward travel expenses.

What’s more, there’s a welcome bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $1,000 within 90 days of opening your account.

Find out about the other pros (and a few cons) in our review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for students.


How we picked these cards

Our top picks share several features that we think are important if you’re traveling to Europe. We started with cards that met two benchmarks: no foreign transaction fees, and either a Visa or Mastercard (because they’re more widely accepted than American Express or Discover cards).

From there, we narrowed the list based on different types of travelers — luxury, budget and student — and looked for cards with benefits and annual fees to match. We also wanted to highlight travel rewards and cash back rewards programs.

While travel rewards programs may offer more flexible and potentially more rewarding redemptions, some people prefer the simplicity of knowing exactly how much cash back they earn with each purchase.

Best credit cards to use in Europe: How to make the most of them

Start your planning process early to get the most out of your card, particularly if you’re eyeing a card that offers a sign-up bonus. You may be able to use your card to book your travel and accommodations, earning bonus rewards and meeting part of the initial spend requirement for any sign-up offers available.

Also, read up on all the cardholder benefits and exclusions, such as baggage delay protection, trip interruption or delay reimbursements, and rental car coverage, as the rules may vary depending on the card you have and where you’re traveling. And before taking off, be sure to let your card issuer know when and where you’re going to avoid any hiccups during your trip.


About the author: Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express, Discover and Nova Credit. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, you can find his w… Read more.