After one too many expensive mistakes, I've realised the most basic perk can make or break a travel credit card

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During a trip to Paris last summer, I extended a river cruise and enjoyed three nights post-cruise in Paris. I thought I was well-prepared with my credit card plan, but I was caught by surprise, even as a personal finance writer.

I had been Ubering around Paris due to the unusually hot weather in last summer; We would walk in the morning hours as far as we could and in the 95-degree heat of the afternoon would opt to Uber back, as well as Ubering to museums and to an amazing performance of Moulin Rouge.

Upon returning home, when I opened my credit card statement, I gasped at the Euro fees on my credit card.

It turns out, my Uber account was linked to a credit card I’d had since college – one that charged foreign transaction fees.

I called up customer service and asked if they could waive $US50 worth of transaction fees. Luckily, they did.

Take it from me: When booking international travel, one expense you may not expect is the foreign transaction fees your standby credit card may charge you.

These fees can be high and can unexpectedly add up.

If you’re cruising in Europe, for example, the airfare, pre-cruise hotel, or tours must be booked months in advance – especially in high-demand destinations and summer. Often, these fees can be as high as 3% per transaction. It may not seem like a lot, but think about a hotel, day tours, or all your dining expenses while travelling. You can return home from a lovely holiday to hundreds of dollars in fees.

An international travel credit card can be safer: You’re not toting around cash, and it can also reduce the worry of exchanging currencies.

Next time I use Uber internationally, I’ll be sure to use my Bank of America Travel Rewards Card, which has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

This card has been a star in my book, not only because of its lack of foreign transaction fees, but also for its level of service. When my daughter’s card was damaged while she was studying abroad, Bank of America expressed a Travel Rewards card to my daughter for no charge. Plus, the Travel Rewards card boasts a reliable rewards program – earn 1.5 points per $US1 spent on all purchases.

Another card I like is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This front-runner offers cardholders a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $US3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, equal to $US500 in travel. You can earn 2x miles on every purchase and earn 10x miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020.

Plus, with the Venture Rewards, you receive up to $US100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, you can fly any airline, and you can stay at any hotel. Since I’m not loyal to airlines or hotel chains, I stay where I want based on price and location and I book air travel based on price, hubs, and times of flights. The Venture Rewards offers a $US0 intro annual fee for the first year; $US95 after.

I also lean on the Venture Rewards after learning another lesson of using cards without foreign transaction fees the hard way. I booked a boutique hotel in Barcelona and although it was a great experience, I booked the hotel online with a retail credit card that offered points at the time – but since it was the default card when I checked out, I got burned by fees. It was just $US36, but it was still more than I should have paid.

I finally learned my lesson, though – now, I never travel internationally using a card that charges foreign transaction fees.

Learn more about the Bank of America Travel Rewards card with Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards card with Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy »

See Business Insider’s picks for the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees »

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