Gabe Douek

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If you’re planning a trip to Australia, you’re in for the trip of a lifetime! During your trip, you could go scuba diving down to the Great Barrier Reef, or you could visit the breathtaking Uluru rock formation. There is always a world-class show playing at the Sydney Opera House. There are plenty of better things to do on your trip than to worry about exchanging American dollars for Australian dollars. It’s much easier to bring a travel credit card to use during the trip, but which one should you choose? Here are a few cards that may work for you.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

This card has does not charge any foreign transaction fees, so it can be used in any country. Avios are the rewards points recognized by British Airways, American Airlines, and the other ten international airlines that are under the OneWorld family. If you plan things correctly, this card can be used to get discounts on your flight. There is a $95 annual fee for owning the card, but you can rack up Avios quickly. If you spend $3,000 within 90 days of owning the card, you get 50,000 Avios. For spending $10,000 within a year of owning the card, you earn 25,000 Avios. For each year that you spend at least $30,000 on your card, you earn a free ticket for a guest. Even if you don’t reach those large numbers, you earn 3 Avios for every dollar you spend with British Airways and 1 Avios for every dollar you spend outside of the airline. This card carries an APR from 17.99%-24.99% depending on your credit score.

By spending as much as possible on this card before and during your trip to Australia, you can save on your flights and hotels. As of the time this article was written, the cost of flying roundtrip from either JFK to Sydney or from LAX to Sydney was 100,000 Avios. If you hit the spending both spending goals on this card within the first year of owning it, you will already have racked up 75,000 Avios in bonuses alone. Spending the $10,000 it would take to reach the spending targets would bump your total up to 85,000 Avios in the first year. The remaining 15,000 Avios necessary for a flight to Australia count be earned by spending $15,000 more on everyday purchases or by spending $5,000 more with British Airways. Most people spend more than $25,000 ($10,000 to earn the bonus Avios + an additional $15,000 to reach 100,000 Avios) a year in everyday expenses. If you have a rent or mortgage of $2,1000, you could use your card to pay for that each month, and you would be ready to fly to Australia for free in one year. Of course, you would want to promptly pay off the balance of the card each month. 

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United Explorer Card

This card is free for the first year, but it has a $95 annual fee for each year after that. Each time you use this card to book a United Airways flight, you and one person get a bag checked for free. Each year, cardholders get two free tickets to the United Club. The United Club is a fancy waiting lounge with free Wi-Fi, printers, snacks, and drinks. This is a great place to spend a long layover, but that might not even be an issue if you fly United because United offers a non-stop flight from the West Coast of America all the way to Sydney or Melbourne. Cardholders also get the perk of priority boarding anytime they fly United. With this card, you are awarded a mile for every dollar spent. You get two miles per dollar on United Airways purchases and any purchases made in hotels and restaurants. If you spend $2,000 within 90 days of having the card, you earn 40,000 miles. By spending an additional $8,000 in the next 90 days (a total of $10,000 in six months or less,) you unlock an extra 25,000 MileagePlus rewards miles. According to the most recent estimates, roundtrip flights to Australia cost around 80,000 of United’s MileagePlus miles. When you hit both of this card’s spending targets within the first six months of earning it, you will already have 65,000 MileagePlus miles. By spending an additional $15,000 in everyday expenses or $7,500 in hotels and restaurants, you will have quickly racked up enough MileagePlus miles for a rewards flight to Australia. Check out this card.

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Capital One Venture rewards card

This card offers much more flexibility in the way you spend your rewards miles. Since Capital One is not affiliated with any airlines, you purchase your tickets from the airline of your choice outright, and Capital One reimburses you for the worth of your miles. This little factoid could make or break a trip to Australia. With airline-affiliated cards, rewards miles can only be used on seats that are deemed rewards eligible. That means there might be available seats on a plane, but you’re still not able to use your hard-earned rewards miles on them. With Capital One, you book the seat of your choice on the plane of your choice and then apply your miles using the Purchase Eraser in your online account. Capital One Miles can be used for any travel-related purchases like cruises, rental cars, hotels, and travel agencies, so you are not limited to paying for flights.

The only rule is that you must pay for the travel expense with your Capital One card. If your travel plans fall through, you can also redeem your miles to get gift cards. On all purchases, you receive two rewards miles for every dollar spent. If you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of owning the card, you get a bonus of 50,000 miles. With 50,000 miles equating to $500 of Purchase Eraser power, each mile earned is worth one cent. Rather than following the awards charts of the airline, you’re flying with Capital One will reimburse you for your flight at a rate of one cent per rewards mile.

Hence, the number of miles you need to be fully reimbursed for your flight depends on the cost of your flight. At the time this article was written, non-stop oneway flights to Australia at five different airlines leaving from different parts of the country had an average cost of $900, which makes a roundtrip flight have an average cost of $1,800. For a roundtrip flight to Australia, you need roughly 180,000 Capital One rewards miles. If you spend $3,000 within 90 days of owning the card, you’ll have already racked up 6,000 miles from spending and a 50,000 mile bonus for a grand total of 56,000 miles. To get a free flight to Australia, you need 124,000 more miles, which equates to spend $62,000 more.

That is roughly the equivalent of spending $2,600 a month on the card for two years. If you already have at least that much in household expenses, you could set up all of your bills to be paid with your Capital One card. If you promptly pay off the card each month, you will be saving for your trip to Australia without creating any additional expenses.

Check out this card.

Why you should use a credit card abroad

Using a card is hassle free and gives you more protection. If your cash is stolen, you are just out of money. If your card is stolen, you can get the funds frozen and get the card replaced. All of the credit cards mentioned in this article allow you to spend internationally without any extra fees, and they all have rewards points that can earn you discounts on your trip. Exchanging currency and using a foreign ATM both charge a fee. In Australia, most businesses accept credit cards. According to the comments of local Australians on a TripAdvisor forum, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. American Express is usually accepted as well, but some small vendors charge an extra fee for paying with American Express. Many businesses require that you spend at least $10 Australian dollars if using a card. Small vendors in local markets often have Square and other phone attachments that allow them to accept cards.

What to look for in an international credit card

The best international credit cards do not charge a fee for spending internationally. Cards that come with rewards miles and travel perks (like free checked bags) make your trip cheaper. It is also important to make sure your card is readily accepted in the country you’re going to. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted in most countries, but the country you’re traveling to might be an outlier. American Express is hit or miss. Swiping practices vary from nation to nation, so make sure that your card has a chip, a signature, and a pin number attached to it. That way you can cover all bases. Even if your card is an international card, it is important to tell your card company ahead of time where you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, purchases in a foreign country might be flagged as fraud and your card could be declined.

Which travel card is right for your Australia trip?

The best card depends on your spending habits and the itinerary of your trip. If you are sure of the airline you’re going to use, it may be better to use a card that is associated with that airline. The Capital One card offers maximum flexibility, but you do have to pay for everything up front. If you can’t afford to pay for everything up front, you should make sure that you’re using a card associated with an airline. Before racking up big bills on an airline associated card, be sure that you understand how many rewards points are needed for your flight to Australia. Will you be able to spend enough money to get those points before your trip? More importantly, will you be able to pay that much money back? The double-digit interest rates on these cards can send you into a financial crisis if you are not able to pay on time. Rewards aren’t worth decades of debt. Also, check to see if rewards seats are readily available during the time of year you want to fly. The holiday season is a terrible time to try to fly to Australia using rewards (unless you’re using Capital One.) Make sure that you can hit the spending goals on your card because that will give you the maximum points. If a card requires making $30,000 a year, but you only make $20,000 a year, it will likely take you a long time to rack up points on that card.

G’Day Mates! Enjoy the outback!

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Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the listings that appear on this website are from companies which we receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

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