Have you ever handed a cashier in a foreign country your Visa card and been met with disgusted stares? Although Americans don’t think twice about using Visa, MasterCard and Discover for everyday purchases, merchants in foreign countries often frown on credit cards without the American Express logo. Many restaurants and retailers will accept other types of credit cards, but you might experience poor service or rude comments from the employees.
For international travel, American Express is the preferred credit card, regardless of what you use most frequently in the States. You’ll experience better service, better products and friendlier greetings if you hand over the AmEx before you eat or purchase items at the store. Even rental car companies, hotels and service establishments are known to prefer American Express, largely because there are AmEx financial centers in most foreign countries.
Why is it the best foreign travel? The biggest reason is that American Express does not tag on the extra 1% fee when Visa and MasterCard do. AMEX has a 2% on point-of-sale purchases after conversion to U.S. dollars compared to 3% using other credit cards.
TIP: Check your credit card statements carefully because fees raise every few years.
Hotels, Stores & Restaurants
In many cases, paying with your American Express card while traveling internationally is a sign of respect for the establishment at which you are sleeping, dining or shopping. Business owners respect the AmEx name and feel more comfortable accepting payment, but it can also be beneficial for you, the traveler.
Credit cards like JetBlue and Hilton HHonors Platinum offer rewards points for free hotel stays and flights, which can save you money on your next trip.
No one enjoys cashing checks while traveling internationally, but sometimes it can’t be helped. You have to somehow communicate in another language what you want to do, then find a banking center that will allow you to cash the check. If you travel with American Express, however, your banking needs become easier.
When in a foreign country, you can look up the closest AmEx financial center in your area and go there for your banking needs. They will cash checks of up to one thousand dollars for cardholders, and up to five thousand if you have a gold card. It is also easier to exchange currency, check your balance and wire funds through American Express centers.
It is also possible to handle your finances with American Express when you lose your wallet while traveling internationally. Funds can be wired directly to your card from your bank account at home, or you can cancel a stolen card.
How many times have you tried to prepare an expense report only to discover that you have piles of paperwork through which to sort? If you use different credit cards for different purchases on international business trips, it can take weeks to get your paperwork together, but it’s made easier if you simply use American Express for everything.
Not only will it be easier to add up your expenses, but American Express cards also make cancelled flights less of a hassle. If you use your credit card for the ticket purchase, the airline can simply refund your money to the credit card rather than sending you payment in the mail. Many AmEx cards also come with perks such as no-blackout dates.
Furthermore, using your American Express credit card for travel expenses allows you to accrue points for future flights. The Gold Delta Skymiles card, for example, you get double miles when you book flights with the card, and you can earn bonus miles when you spend $15,000 or more in a calendar year.
The Bottom Line
Using one credit card for international travel makes the entire trip less stressful, and American Express can earn you some credibility with locals and business owners.