What Cards Did I Bring to Brazil?


I landed in Brazil a few minutes ago to see the World Cup in person. It’s a short trip, so I packed lightly including when it came to which cards to bring.

I only brought four cards:

  • Two credit cards
  • One debit card
  • One membership card

The cards are going to earn me miles, get me lounge access, and save me ATM fees in order to make my trip cheaper and more comfortable.

  • Which cards do I carry for international travel?
  • Why did I bring each one?

The four cards I brought were:

Arrival Plus

I brought the Arrival Plus to put all my spending on the card. Of my no-foreign-transaction fee cards, the Arrival Plus has the highest return at 2.28% back toward travel on all purchases.

This is a must-have card for more reasons than just the 40,000 mile sign up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.

Learn more about the card in “Why I Got the Arrival Plus.”

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® 

Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard

I brought the Executive AA card because I am meeting its minimum spending requirement, and it gives me free lounge access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs.

The card has foreign transaction fees The card does NOT have foreign transaction fees (thanks, commenters), so I will not be using it in Brazil, and I used it on my all-day layover in Washington DC.

I also used the card to get into the Admirals Club in Honolulu on the day of my departure. Flying United Global First gave me free access to United lounges, but I needed to hang out in an area of the airport nearer to the Admirals Club, so free access there was nice.

I wrote about this card in “100,000 Mile Sign Up Bonus.”

Charles Schwab Debit Card

I opened a Charles Schwab bank account to get free ATM withdrawals worldwide. Not only does Schwab not charge a fee, but it refunds me the ATM owner’s fee.

I wrote about how and why to open the account in How to Pay Zero ATM Fees Worldwide.

Priority Pass Select Membership Card

Priority Pass Select membership comes free with all Platinum cards–I have the Business Platinum Card.

Priority Pass Select gives me free access to airport lounges worldwide. There are three affiliated lounges at Sao Paulo (GRU), and possibly more at the domestic Sao Paulo (CGH) and Rio de Janeiro (SDU) airports I’ll be using. I always carry this card when I travel.

Learn more from “Get the Most Out of Your American Express Platinum Card.”

What cards do you carry internationally?

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  1. The 100k miles Citi Exec card does not have foreign transaction fees. I took my first card to Japan and Europe in April, so I am 100% sure of this.

    • Excellent. Thanks to everyone who pointed out my error. This is great news, since I can use it in Brazil and work on my $10k requirement.

  2. No matter from which bank, I always try to travel with a Visa card. I’ve found that in some places, Mastercard isn’t as accepted everywhere. This is the case of Brazil, by the way. However, if you stay in big cities I think you’ll be fine with just Mastercard.
    Good luck!
    PS: will you be supporting USA or Messi?? 😉

    • USA of course!

      But when we aren’t playing, Argentina is my #2 favorite. And when Brazil is playing, I will be wearing green and yellow because it is way more fun to root for the home team.

  3. No priority pass lounges at CGH, sorry. There is an AmEx members lounge at CGH that foreigners can get into with their AmEx platinum cards.

  4. Headed to Paris in a week.
    1) Schwab Debit – there can be only one!
    2) Arrival+ for real Chip and PIN – gotta have it in Europe, they don’t like that Chip/Sig. Don’t try and buy a subway ticket in Amsterdam with a credit card. But, I will avoid using in favor of…
    3) Sapphire for everything I can.
    4) Amex in case I rent a car, (you can always pay at return with a fee free card).

  5. I almost spit out my coffee when I read this as I probably spent $3000 on my Citi Executive Card in Paris a few months ago. I just checked and there is no foreign transaction fees. By the way. I would never only bring one debit card, especially in Brazil. Last time I was in Rio my main debit card would not work in any ATMs, no matter what. If I didn’t have a backup I would have been in dire straits.

  6. I recently got the Barclay arrival card. Met the spend and got the bonus . Would like the arrival Plus for upcoming foreign trips. Can I get the bonus on the plus if I recently got it on the Arrival?

      • Got the annual fee waived, so I guess the old name and without the chip. Dies that mean I already have the Plus card?

        • Yes. They will send you the new card art/chip soon. I don’t know whether you can get the no-annual-fee version. I probably wouldn’t waste a Barclaycard app trying since they have several other better bonuses at the moment like Lufthansa 50k, US Airways 40k, Hawaiian 35k. I would just downgrade to no-annual-fee card as the annual fee came due while confirming that the points were safe that way.


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