What credit card to sign up for when traveling to Europe

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In this week’s Reader Question, a friend recently asked about how to reduce her cost of vacationing in London next summer (2017).


Want to visit this place?

First, I applauded her for having a clear destination and time frame. And then I replied that the best card to get is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, especially since that one card meets all the needs of her upcoming trip to Europe.


Get this card.

Enough Points For a Round Trip Ticket with One Card

First, she gets 55-60k points/miles just for meeting the minimum spend requirements on the sign-up bonus. Spending $4,000 in 3 months is like spending $1,333 every month, which is very reasonable. In the case your monthly spend is less than that, you can prepay your insurance or property tax, or save significant expenses (like a TV) to use on this card.

60k points are enough for a roundtrip ticket to London (or anywhere in Europe)!

The Ultimate Rewards flexible currency earned by that card can be transferred on a 1:1 ratio to United (for Star Alliance), British Airways (for Oneworld), and Korean Air (for Skyteam). This gives her many options to get to London. She can also transfer her points to Hyatt for hotel stays there, in the case she finds a great cash airfare. I wrote about my recent transfer to United here.

Furthermore, she is planning with enough lead time to earn enough miles and book her awards with the maximum window of opportunity. As an educator, she has fixed and consistent vacation periods which allow her to plan far in advance, which gives her the highest probability of securing award availability, especially during peak travel seasons. If she signs up for the card today and meets the spending requirements in three months or less, she’ll be able to book her flight right when the maximum booking window opens in July 2016, for travel June 2017.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Once she is in London, the card has no foreign transaction fees, which are pesky charges many cards have just for using them outside the US. These fees are often 3% and can add up. A hotel stay here, a splurge meal there. Furthermore, sometimes airfare can count as a foreign transaction (in the case she buys a British Airways ticket). In total, on a $3,000 vacation to London, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will save you at least $90!

Cut Fruit and Impress People

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a metal card. Everywhere I’ve shopped, I’ve received compliments time and time again on the uniqueness of the card. The ‘feature’ is also helpful when you need to cut fruit, open a door, or protect yourself!

The Ritz Carlton card shares the same material as the Sapphire Preferred

The Ritz Carlton card shares the same material as the Sapphire Preferred

Annual Fee Waived the First Year

This card has the annual fee waived the first year. Even if the fee was not waived, the $95 annual fee is reasonable, considering that the ticket you earned is worth more than $1,000. I always recommend to my clients to evaluate the benefits of the card after the first year to optimize spend (you want to focus your spending on a couple of cards at a time). Many people may find the card to be worth keeping after the first year, but for now, just focus on the fact that you’ve earned a round trip ticket to London just by choosing the right card and making your everyday purchases on it!

Enjoy your trip to Europe!