Credit card for USA travel

Hotel bookings, shopping, rental cars: in the United States, you can use your credit card for just about everything. We explain what you need to look out for in a credit card for the USA and introduce some suitable offers.


The official entry permit for the USA!

What types of credit cards are there?

Along with an ESTA travel authorization, you should also have a credit card for the USA in your hand luggage. Not all credit cards are the same: there are different types of cards available on the market, each with different features, advantages, and disadvantages. These are the four most common types of credit cards:

Charging credit cards

Among the most commonly used types of cards are charge or charging credit cards. The requirement for issuing a charging card is sufficient creditworthiness. Depending on their individual situation, credit card holders are given a credit limit within which they can dispose freely. As a rule, the credit card is billed on a monthly basis. The credit card account must always be fully balanced.

Revolving credit cards

Revolving credit cards are often referred to as "real" credit cards. They are widely used, especially in the United States, and offer maximum flexibility. Just like charging credit cards, they require sufficient solvency and grant the holder an individual credit limit.

The big difference lies in the method of settlement: the credit card account does not have to be balanced with the monthly statement, but smaller partial payments can also be made. However, you should keep in mind that you will have to pay additional fees for interest as long as your credit card account is in the red.

Prepaid credit cards

Prepaid credit cards do not grant a credit limit and therefore do not require a good credit score. The cardholder transfers a deposit to the credit card account. Then, the prepaid card can be used as a means of payment as long as there is credit on it. Once it is used up, it is no longer possible to pay with the card. Prepaid cards are, therefore, particularly suitable for students, unemployed persons, and persons with a poor credit history.

Debit cards

At first glance, debit cards resemble credit cards: they are issued by banks in cooperation with credit card companies such as Visa, Mastercard, or Maestro and can be used to pay in stores or for online shopping. However, a debit card is not really a credit card in the strict sense because it does not have a separate credit card account that is settled as part of a billing process. Instead, the payment is debited directly from a connected bank account.

For what purposes do I need a credit card in the USA?

When you are on vacation, there are numerous occasions when you can or even must use a credit card.

Rental cars

If you want to travel the USA individually and flexibly with a rental car, you will definitely need a credit card. This should be a charging or revolving credit card, prepaid or debit cards are usually not accepted by car rental companies. Also, check that your credit card limit is high enough because a rental deposit will be blocked on the credit card when you pick up the rental car. This amount is not otherwise available to you until you return the vehicle.

Tip: It is recommended that you get a second credit card for your journey to the USA so that you do not run into any bottlenecks despite the blocked amounts.

Booking hotels

You don't always need a credit card to stay at a hotel, but in many cases, hotels require a credit or debit card when you want to reserve a room or check-in. Hotels rely on your card information as security, allowing them to contact you, charge a cancellation fee, or collect fees for any damage to the hotel room.

Booking flights

Whether you need a credit card to book your flights to the USA depends on the payment options offered by your airline. While credit or debit card payment is possible across the board, other payment providers like PayPal, however, will only be available to you at certain airlines for ticket booking.

So, without a credit card, you may not be able to book the best or cheapest flight for your trip, as the airline may not offer any other payment option. In addition, more and more airlines only accept credit or bank cards for in-flight payments, e.g., for drinks, snacks, or purchases in duty-free stores.

Credit card for the USA: what are the costs?

Credit card holders may incur additional costs at various points. Therefore, compare exactly which services cost what to find the credit card that best suits your habits and travel plans.

These costs may apply to your credit card for the USA:

Withdrawal fee

Cash withdrawals from ATMs or at counters are, in many cases, subject to fees, which vary depending on the credit card provider. Usually, the fee is between 2 % and 5 % of the transaction amount, in some cases even more.

Foreign transaction fee

Many credit cards charge fees for the conversion of American dollars into your own currency. Depending on the credit card provider, the fees usually range from 1 % to 2 % of the transaction amount.

Credit card interest

Providers of revolving credit cards, which allow you to balance your account with several partial payments, charge credit interest as long as the credit account shows a negative balance. Since the interest is very expensive at about 7 % to 20 % of the amount, you should use partial payment only in exceptional cases if possible.

Annual fee

While more and more credit card providers are offering free cards, there are some that require you to pay an annual fee, which varies depending on the provider. Cards with annual fees, however, do not necessarily have to be the more expensive package, as they may include other exclusive services and benefits (e.g., insurance, rewards programs).

Withdraw cash with your credit card in the USA

When traveling, it is recommended to always have some cash in your wallet for small expenses. With a credit card, you can withdraw cash from any ATM that displays the logo of your card brand.

Whether there are fees for withdrawing cash with the credit card and their amount varies depending on the provider. Some credit cards allow free cash withdrawals only up to a certain amount or for a limited number of transactions. In other cases, however, there may be a minimum sum for cash withdrawals.


Many ATMs allow you to convert the amount directly into your domestic currency when withdrawing cash. But since this generally leads to additional fees, we recommend that you refrain from doing so and always choose the currency of the country you are visiting.

Discounts, points, and other benefits

Credit cards are not only useful for paying or withdrawing cash on your trip to the USA. Additional services such as travel insurance, rewards, or discounts can sometimes offer you a great opportunity to save money during your vacation.

These additional benefits may be offered to you with a credit card for the USA:

  • Starting balance
  • Cashback and bonus programs
  • Credit for travel bookings or restaurants
  • Discounts on hotel or car rental bookings
  • Discounts on fuel
  • Travel insurance (e.g., international health insurance, travel cancellation insurance, luggage insurance)
  • Access to airport lounges
  • Upgrades when traveling
  • Additional credit cards for family members

If you travel often and all over the world, these offers can be very worthwhile. So take the time to carefully check what deal best suits your lifestyle and travel habits before you decide on a credit card for the USA!

More tips for the USA

If you are planning a trip to America, good preparation is the key. Once you have found the perfect credit card for the USA, we recommend you take a look at our other travel tips, and you will be well prepared for your vacation.

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