One of the best ways to pad your point balances is through category bonuses. That is a great way to generate up to 5X more points over the basic 1 point per dollar that you might earn otherwise.
Getting Category Bonuses Overseas – Use Chase Or Amex Cards?
Of course, when we travel overseas, we may not always know what might charge the way necessary to trigger those category bonuses (such as with office supply stores). But, there are general categories that we can feel pretty confident about – supermarkets, gas stations, travel, hotels, etc.
American Express – No Category Bonuses Overseas
The problem is that American Express is pretty clear with their category bonuses that they are for U.S. businesses. It has been my experience in several categories/cards that it actually happens that way in reality as well.
For people with Amex cards that give bonuses in the restaurant, hotel, and gas categories it is a huge blow. When most Americans are traveling overseas, those are most likely the popular categories for spending with their credit card. To lose out on the bonus points for those categories is really a bummer, especially when some of that spending in those categories may be higher during international travel than any other time of the year in the U.S. (depending on your travel habits).
The American Express SPG Good For Everyday Foreign Purchases – Soon
The one card that many would consider using anyway is the American Express SPG card. That is not because of category bonuses (which it does not have except for SPG spending) but because the points are so valuable. Also, travel overseas may include SPG hotels and it is nice to get the extra boost from using the SPG card for the bonus points at SPG properties. But, with a foreign transaction fee on the card, it has been a non-starter for most and it stays at home during international travel. Fortunately, we will see that transaction fee waived next month so it should find its way into people’s travel wallet for generating points during overseas trips.
Chase Cards Are International Category Bonus Winners
When it comes to Chase cards, they do not have that exclusion for U.S. locations and that has proved true in all of my experiences with those cards. I always use my Chase Ink card for gas stations as it does kick the 2x points for gas – and since gas in Europe is much higher than the US, at least the bonus points help to soften that blow! 🙂
Another thing I have discovered that sometimes you may receive a bit of a surprise over how some foreign businesses are coded for credit card transactions! I have had some purchases at stores get credited as 2x category bonuses on my Chase Sapphire Preferred so that is always a pleasant surprise as well.
If you are traveling overseas and you plan on dining, getting gas, or paying to stay at hotels, bringing your Chase card(s) along for the ride is the best avenue for getting bonus points. Unfortunately, American Express chooses to not help international travelers with the bonus categories so most of the time, those cards can be left at home. In the end, it is not a huge loss since there are more merchants that accept Visa and Mastercard than American Express. Still, it is never nice to leave preferred points on the table because the issuer will not award category bonuses.