Holiday Tips 2 – the best ways of earning miles with your credit card abroad

In Part 1 of Holiday Tips on Wednesday, I looked at ways to earn points when booking airport car parking.  Today I want to provide an updated look at the best ways to earn points when using your credit card abroad.

Something I stress on Head for Points whenever I can is the need to keep a clear mind when earning miles or points. If you are buying a product or service primarily because it offers you miles, you should have a view of how much those miles are worth to you to avoid over-paying.

This is especially true when earning miles from credit cards. Credit card miles are not free miles because you always have the alternative of using a cashback card instead. The ASDA Money card gives you 0.5% of your spending back in cash. Does your non-Amex payment card match that?

Credit cards

Historically, it was almost always a bad idea to use a mileage card for overseas spend. This is because all other miles and points cards – and indeed almost all other UK credit and debit cards – charged a foreign exchange fee of 2.99% which is itemised on your statement.  You can clearly see how much money is going out on avoidable FX fees.

Supercard is the way forward

A few weeks, Travelex launched Supercard after a long beta trial.  This is a revolutionary way of making payments abroad without incurring any fees.  I explained it in detail here.

Your Supercard acts like a traditional MasterCard card.  You link, via a Smartphone app, another Visa or MasterCard (not Amex) credit card to it.  You pay with Supercard and it immediately recharges your other Visa or MasterCard credit card in Sterling.

There are NO FX fees involved – the conversion is done at the MasterCard interchange rate.  More importantly, you earn full miles or points on the credit card which you link to your Supercard.

Note that there is a foreign exchange fee of 2.99% if you use your Supercard in an ATM abroad.

Supercard has some teething problems over additional ’rounding’ charges it is adding.  However, it works perfectly well.   Mine is linked to my IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa so I am also earning 2 IHG Rewards Club points (worth 1p) for every £1 recharged to it as well as earning towards my free night voucher for spending £10,000.

Curve is another option

Curve operates in a similar way to Supercard – you can visit their website here.  Curve is, however, not as competitive as Supercard for foreign spending due its £35 card fee and the 1% foreign exchange fee it adds to all purchases.

Curve allows you make ATM withdrawals abroad for a flat £2 + 1% rather than a 2.99% fee.  One £200 withdrawal per month can be recharged to a credit card – earning miles – but further withdrawals must be recharged to a linked debit card.

Some HFP readers are also very positive about Revolut.  To be honest, I find the concept fiddly and struggle to see the value if your credit rating is good enough to get a credit card.  Others disagree.

Earning Avios AND avoiding FX fees

In any event, none of the options above may actually be your best option.

In late 2013, Lloyds Bank broke the mould by introducing a credit card – the Lloyds Avios Rewards card – which gave you miles AND no foreign exchange fees.  It was the first UK credit card to do this.

No-one else has yet followed suit and, now that interchange rates are capped, I doubt anyone will.  After all, FX fees are one of the few ways that a card issuer can now make a profit from anyone who pays their bill promptly.

Lloyds Avios Rewards 2

The Lloyds card has a £24 fee, albeit (as my review explains) you can receive 4,500 Avios for signing up if you are referred.

There are also a number of FREE credit cards in the UK which do not charge any fees on overseas purchases.  These include The Post Office Money Platinum Credit and Halifax Clarity.  Clarity also offers totally free overseas ATM transactions.

How does the Lloyd Avios Rewards card compare?

The Lloyds Avios Rewards card comes with a £24 annual fee, which makes it worse than the Post Office and Halifax Clarity cards. There is also a 3% fee on cash withdrawals abroad.

You will, however, receive 1.25 Avios per £1 spent abroad on the Amex card and 0.25 Avios per £1 spent abroad on the MasterCard. The Post Office and Halifax Clarity cards have no rewards programme.

If you value an Avios at 1p, and assuming your foreign spend is 75% Amex (your hotel will take it) and 25% MasterCard, then the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is a better deal than the Post Office or Halifax cards if you spend over £2,400 abroad each year.

(Why? Because your £24 annual fee will be offset by the 2,400+ Avios earned back)

Is it ever worth using another credit card abroad and swallowing the 3% fee?

You may not want to go to the trouble of applying for another credit card just for overseas transactions.  There are some miles and points cards which are a decent choice for using abroad if you don’t want to go to the trouble of applying for a ‘no FX fees’ card.

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card (click for review) gives you double points when you use it abroad. This means you get 2 Membership Rewards points per £1, which converts to 2 Avios per £1. This does not fully offset the 2.99% FX fee, but comes close.

The free TSB Avios card (click for review) earns double Avios points when used abroad. This means that Amex card (on the free version) earns 2 Avios per £1 which offsets much of the FX charge.

The IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa card (click for review) gives you 4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 spent abroad. These can be redeemed for free nights at Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, InterContinental etc hotels. I value these at roughly 0.5p per point, so 2p of value per £1.

Spending abroad also helps you to achieve spending targets.

The IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa card mentioned above also gives you a free night voucher when you spend £10,000 per year.

The Virgin Atlantic cards offer upgrade vouchers when you hit specific spend thresholds.

And of course the BA Premium Plus Amex gives you a 2-4-1 voucher for Avios redemptions valid in any class when you spend £10,000 per year.

You may find it worthwhile paying the FX fee on your credit card in order to achieve some of your spending target. After all, for most of us our holiday is one of the main expenditures of the year.


Supercard is, I think, the best free option for foreign spending at places which only accept Visa or MasterCard, especially if you recharge transactions to a points-earning card.

If you will spend over £2,400 abroad and are happy to pay the £24 fee, the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is an excellent choice.

A later article in this series will look at the best ways to obtain cash whilst earning miles.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.

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  1. Frenske says:

    What about an article about using credit cards abroad when your employer is reimbursing you?
    I have been mainly using Amex Gold Reward for this but I’m cancelling soon due to anniversary fees.

    • Genghis says:

      Does anyone know for the IHG Creation card whether the 3% FX charge is included within the relevant line item or whether it is split out as a separate charge?

      • I’ve not used mine recently, thanks to Supercard and the Aqua Rewards card, but a few months ago, transactions were shown on two lines: 1 for the gross amount, 2 a credit for the saving.

      • Genghis says:

        Are you sure you meant the IHG Creation card? It’s only been out a few weeks.

    • Matthew says:

      Agree, I’m doing the same and would like an article.
      Currently I use Gold amex for work trips and a free card for my own (Santander Zero or Supercard). This also helps separate business and personal spending making claims a bit easier.

    • Can’t you just refer your wife every time you cancel and vice versa? (Apologies if you’re single)

    • Raffles says:

      Good question! I might do an article on that.

  2. Isn’t the IHG a Mastercard now, rather than Visa?

    • Yes, the new one from Creation i a MC.

      AIUI the old Barclays Visa cards are still valid and I’m pretty sure Rob has both. 😀

  3. OT – my Avios from Iberia Groupon have posted

  4. Stephen says:

    Supercard is proving to be a total nightmare. Wrong charges at insane rates which far from wanting to sort out they are actually trying to defend! Now they refuse to discuss the issues. Apparently on July 11th $278 was worth £261!!!!!. Three charges to a hotel I stayed in, only one of which is correct as confirmed by email from the hotel. Do they want to fix it? No. I took part in the original trail and never had any problems but this new version is a joke. Not to be trusted in my experience, customer service appalling so far.

    • Supercard should not be used for authorisations at hotels, only when you have a final bill to pay.

      If you have an Amex charge card you should always use this for hotel and car hire authorisations and pay with another card if you want to. This is because charge cards have no credit limit, and Amex is good at chargebacks if hotels or car rentals try to scam you later.

    • James Frost says:

      Id agree about the rates. Just come back from 3 weeks in the US and used the card intermittently. The fluctuation in rates have been alarming, I’ve noticed that for smaller purchases especially it’s been converting at stupidly high totals.

      Had no problems with purchases or admin though, but don’t like what I’m hearing from you about the customer service. Hopefully it’s not a long term sign.

    • Jason Cousins says:

      SUPERCARD for me has been an utter nightmare. Used 15 times, all 15 incurred an additional ‘ IC CASH’ charge which I’m awaiting back from the financial ombudsman on whether this is even legal in it’s application. It’s also impossible to work out which additional charges applies to which original transaction. I’ve disputed this with my credit card who are being helpful. Also, and more worryingly, if you’e used the SUPERCARD for a hotel authorisation, SUPERCARD charges this as final straight away. When the hotel doesn’t claim this (as with me as I didn’t have any incidental spend), the transaction disappears from the app, but no money is returned. Despite repeated reassurances from them and lengthy emails promising the return of £180, (it’s not insignificant), nothing from them. It’s simply unacceptable.

      With other issues (app not working, locked cards etc) which I haven’t experienced, this is definitely a product that needs careful consideration before applying for/using.

    • Raffles says:

      You should have been told not to use it for hotel pre authorisations, only for final bills when you swap it for whatever card you gave at check in.

      • Jason Cousins says:

        I’ve never been told not to use it for this purpose, though on the FAQ’s now on the app it states that these types of transaction would be declined. (It certainly didn’t originally). I would suggest that myself and many others have also fallen in this trap and SUPERCARD have applied this new rule as they are finding it very difficult to deal with it.

  5. I had an email from Amex recently saying foreign transactions on the BA amex earn an extra avios per 4 pounds equivalent until 31st August. Nothing to get excited about but saves having to apply for a new card.

    • Raffles says:

      Still a weak deal, given the 3% fee, compared to an FX free card though – unless you need the spend to hit your £10k target.

  6. Concerto says:

    For the Groupon Iberia promo, I paid with my German M&M , and therefore Euro based, credit card. Even though the transaction was in Euros, there was a 1.77% fee. I paid through PayPal Germany, so it could have been that.

    For UK cards, I have the two MBNA Diamond Club ones and the Nationwide one. With the latter you can earn FX free foreign spend by achieving a certain volume of spend within the UK.

    • That Nationwide card sounds like the basic one and is far too complicated for me. There are several Nationwide cards with different options.

      I have the Nationwide Select Visa which has 0% f/x on purchases and the Nationwide FlexPlus debit card which has 0% f/x and no handing charges. The FlexPlus current account is a package with credit earnings and a monthly fee.

    • Instead of messing about with interbank interchange fees, which only theoretically and indirectly benefit the consumer, the EU should have made a cap on forex fees on consumer cards which would directly benefit everyone except banks.

      Paypal in all countries does not charge anything for paying, but it tries to DCC for foreign transactions. This should not happen for EUR transactions with an EUR card.

  7. I always have a spare (Curve or Supercard) with the Lloyds card. Lloyds is frustratingly sensitive to out-of-the-ordinary transactions and transactions sometimes get declined. It’s fab when it works but I can’t be assured that it will. Maybe giving travel notification might help, but I travel so often that it’s a pain to have to keep doing it.

    • I guess you don’t advise them and transactions sometimes get declined? I agree it’s time-wasting to call them but it seems to smooth operations.

      I have a Santander Zero 0% f/x MasterCard (no longer available for new applications). When I rang to tell them I was travelling, they told me it was no longer necessary for Europe travel. Hooray!

      Useful info from MSE:
      See especially the debit cards from hell. 😀

    • I provide Lloyds travel notifications all the time, but my card still get declined abroad occasionally…

    • They usually send a sms to confirm the transaction is genuine and then allow the next attempt through if you confirm it is genuine.

  8. BigDave says:

    been very happy with curve so far – shame about the lack of amex support, we hope it comes back – but still better forex rate than using my regular cards

    Their customer service has been brilliant so far.

    • nate1309 says:

      I have to agree. I have also stuck with my curve card, the timing was right when it first came out and I was able to make a few big purchases which for me offset the £35 already. Every survey they have sent me since I have stressed how much getting AMEX back on board would mean.

    • The_Real_A says:

      Since the bulk of this crowd and the Flyertalk brigade have noisily left the building, curve has worked flawlessly and support is not back to 24hours. I also had my limits increased significantly which makes much more sense for using for business purposes.

    • Are you saying the Curve forex rate even with the 1% fee is better than other cards?

    • Curve seems expensive to save a little bit of space in your wallet over using the cards direct.

      • When they get their rewards scheme going it could be very interesting, because you would earn TWICE – once via Curve Rewards and once via the recharge to the underlying card. This is the only way, in my view, it can survive long term assuming that Supercard succeeds.

        • If a Curve rewards program starts then it might be worth looking at depending on the % return and how much you will have to spend to get your signup fee back.

  9. Longshot says:

    A colleague claimed that the Lloyds Amex FX rate was about 1% worse than the Lloyds MasterCard FX rate which would negate most of the extra points – does anyone know whether this is correct?

    • The rates are independently set by Amex and Mastercard, and yes, the Mastercard rate is usually better by a bit, it can be up to 1% better, but occasionally will be worse.

      There is no way of knowing in advance unlike with Visa (but you may still get “tomorrow’s rate” with visa) so there’s no point worrying about it, unless you obsess over FX rates like I do, and have a way to trade currencies back after spending on your card.

    • “AMEX rate from the Amex site”
      If you make a transaction in a foreign currency, we will convert it into Pound Sterling on the date we process it. Unless a particular rate is required by law, we will use conversion rates based on interbank rates we select from customary industry sources on the business day prior to the processing date (called the “American Express Exchange Rate”). This rate may differ from rates that are in effect on the date of your transaction. Fluctuations may be significant. If the transaction is in U.S. Dollars, it will be converted directly into Pound Sterling. In all other cases, it will first be converted into U.S. Dollars and then into Pound Sterling.

    • Today I seem to have been charged 1.195 for a euro purchase on the amex when the apparent rate was 1.189 whether this will change before its posted I am not sure.

  10. Sussex Bantam says:

    I have a Clarity card and remember seeing comments from people saying they also use this to withdraw cash from ATM. I’ve been waiting for this article to ask – how do you do this without incurring cash advance fees ?

    • Use it like any card in an ATM. There are no Clarity fees but some ATM operators add a fee, typically $3 in the USA for example.

      Clarity’s interest starts quickly (same day or next day). It’s only a few pence per £100 if you leave it until your next statement, or you can make an interim payment online. If you leave it, there’s the risk of interest on interest – Clarity once collected 1p from me as my direct debit total. 😀

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        Thanks ! I had no idea it would be such a small amount…

        • Everyone should really think about this before taking out a credit card :)

          Clarity interest rates are 18.9%, 21.9% or 25.9% (but some people have older rates of 12.9% or 17.9%).

          If you have the worst rate of 25.9%, then if you withdraw £100 and don’t pay it back for a year (notwithstanding that your credit would be ruined if you didn’t pay), you’d be charged £25.90 interest, which is £2.16 per month, or 7p per day.

          In practice I have never been charged interest if I pay on the day the cash withdrawal shows up – but I usually have a few purchases on there at the same time.

          Note that if you are going to spend on the card as well as withdraw cash, it’s best just to pay off everything as soon as possible without waiting for a statement, though the interest would only be a few pounds.

    • Genghis says:

      Once I make an ATM withdrawal on the Clarity, the same day I look at the app to see the pending charge and then make a payment of this amount into the Clarity account.

    • Raffles says:

      You pay any fee charged by the ATM owner. No other fees are added though and there is no FX margin.

    • The_Real_A says:

      Just be aware that cash advances appear in your credit report, and will negatively effect your credit score. Its marginal as long as your finances are in good order.

      • Didn’t know that, I would rather use a debit card for withdrawals abroad where possible, nationwide/metrobank

  11. Genghis says:


    11.1 – If you meet the requirements set out in condition 11.2, then for any statement period in which you:-

    (a) make at least £300 of Purchases (once any Purchases refunded in that period have been deducted);
    (b) stay within your credit limit; and
    (c) make your minimum monthly payment;

    you will qualify for a £5 credit to your account in the following month. The credit will not be treated as a payment to your account under these conditions.

    11.2 – To be eligible for the reward set out in condition 11.1, you must, at the time you enter into this agreement:-

    (a) hold a Halifax current account and pay in £1,000 or more each month;
    (b) use our switching service to move your current account to a Halifax Current Account and agree to pay in £1,000 or more each month;
    (c) open or hold a Halifax Ultimate Reward Current Account.

  12. Surpised Supercard is recommended without knowing the cost of these additional charges for FX changes? Isn’t it correct that if the rate changes in their favour they charge a fee but not if it goes against them?

    • Raffles says:

      In theory you get it both ways, but rate moves have generally been in one direction recently ….

      • Genghis says:

        I got a refund to a cancelled Curve which went back to a cancelled Amex. The same amount in GBP was refund as was initially charged.

        I questioned this with Curve as GBP has weakened post Brexit referendum.

        If spot rates were used, I would have got an extra tenner or so. Curve responded saying that the exchange rate doesn’t come into it as you’re refunded the same amount regardless and if the exchange rate had moved the other way, I’d have still got the original payment amount.

        Hard to believe IMHO.

  13. The_Real_A says:

    No this is not correct. its a statement credit and you can send it anywhere.

  14. Raffles says:

    Thanks Roger. Will look at this and may well rephrase the article.

  15. You need a Halifax current account to get the £5 though.

    • The_Real_A says:

      And the halifax current account needs to meet funding/usage conditions too. It cannot be a dormant account (based on a conversation i had with customer service late last year)

      • The T&Cs (copied in above by someone else) say clearly that the conditions on the current account only apply “at the time that you enter into the agreement”.

        Anyway everyone should be doing it, it takes 20 seconds on the 7th of every month to moving £1000 into and out of a Halifax account to earn a fiver (this is different from the credit card) – although it’s £3.75 for higher rate taxpayers…. and you need to do it for Lloyds/BOS/TSB/Santander to earn interest anyway

        • Genghis says:

          Depends how much interest a HRT earns as from 16/17 tax year there’s a £500pa tax free allowance on interest income.

  16. rams1981 says:

    Supercard claimed to me that it’s the merchant who delayed receiving the funds hence why all my transactions recently went through when the £/Euro rates were at it’s lowest on 10th July. They’ve also used different FX rates throughout and not the end of day rates.

  17. Natalia S says:

    Creation has very limited ATM withdrawals: my friends got stuck with it this month abroad. They were allowed £300 a day (which is fine), but there’s also a cash withdrawal limit of £500 a week. So on their 3rd day they were wondering why they can’t get cash from any cash machine until they called Creation customer service and were told to wait for 5 days (!) to make their next cash withdrawal.

  18. rams1981 says:

    to add to above, 10 July is a Sunday when the markets are closed mostly so not sure how they managed to have different rates on a Sunday… incredibly dodgy

  19. All this OT stuff about the £5 reward if you had the right Halifax current account is about to go off the boil.

    I had a snailmail letter from Halifax today about a change to Clarity cards. In essence, the £5 reward will be no more as from 1 September.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      was good while it lasted but was always unlikely on £300 spend after the cap

      0% FX and free withdrawals still worth keeping in your pocket on holiday

      • Genghis says:

        It’s still the only card, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong), that would offer free cash withdrawals from ATMs globally. Great for more cash based countries.

        • The Creation Everyday credit card offers fee-free ATM withdrawals.

          There are several debit cards that offer fee-free ATM withdrawals. I use Nationwide FlexPlus Visa debit.

          See also

          • Genghis says:

            Though Nationwide FlexPlus Visa is £10pcm. I use Metro Bank within Europe for ATM but then again, that’s only free within Europe.

            • Yes, those are both debit cards attached to bank current accounts. Opening Metro accounts is restricted to London and some other SE towns. Nationwide is, er, nationwide.

              AFAIK the only free UK credit cards offering 0% f/x on ATM withdrawals are Halifax Clarity and Creation Everyday.

            • Also, NW FlexPlus is £10 per month minus the credit earned on the balance. I pay £6 something net for the bundle which includes worldwide travel insurance, UK and European car breakdown cover, etc. Bargain!

  20. The comparison is accurate as its about the best way to earn Avios from spend not what card offers you a reward otherwise I could start comparing rewards from other bank and credit cards that are not relevant to the actual spend.

    You can have your £5 credit every month from Halifax every month without having to put all your spending abroad on to it, there is no reason you can’t have both unless your spending less than £300 to meet the minimum spend.

    The halifax cc doesn’t have a rewards program so you would be earning nothing by using it vs the Lloyds card bring in some Avios.

  21. Don’t forget that if you pay for things on your Amex card you get insurance especially for travel related items.

  22. I have not seen this discussed on here. Am I the only one to receive an email from Supercard about a (very underwhelming) travel insurance scheme?

    • Yes though it was odd that they are giving away some free insurance with a free card

    • Genghis says:

      It was discussed a bit yesterday, Mark. I agree, very underwhelming and not very good if you look at the amounts and read some of the fine print.

  23. Phil Layton says:

    I am now in dispute with Supercard over duplicate transactions. The Sale was to a Villa company in the US for a stay this coming October. Two Transactions appeared in the linked Tesco Clubcard two days later. I queried with Customer Service who said one was a preauthorisation and the other was the settlement. Wait 9 days and one will ‘drop off’ (I couldn’t see how this was going to happen without a refund going onto the credit card account.) Two days later I got a supercard credit of 2p two times (suggesting that both had been currency adjusted) and one transaction changed to ‘purchase’ but the other remained ‘pending’ on the app. Seven days later the pending transaction disappeared from the app. Two transactions remained on Tesco. 11 days later Im now ringing around filling in dispute forms (for a significant amount of money) I really cannot recommend this card atm.

    • Genghis says:

      Sounds like an awful experience. My Supercard is currently blocked due to my name being not fully accurate on the card. An ‘I’ instead of a ‘U’ which was probably my fault when I filled out the application which you have to do on a small smartphone. I passed their ‘checks’ though so it questions how thorough they are. They said on the phone they’d want £3 for a replacement card but I refused and asked them to waive it. Followed up with an email saying that their Ts and Cs only have a fee for lost and stolen cards. Waiting to hear back (been 3 days now) but not impressed so far.

    • Same situation when I used Curve and it wasn’t for a hotel or car hire company which is why I stopped using them

  24. I would not limit the £2400 to only holiday spend.
    Lots of places in the UK dont take Amex B&Q/Screwfix (Both part of Kingfishers) dont for example, so if you have the Amex issued BA card & the retailer do not take Amex, you are kind of stuck to use another card – which may end up being your debit card or another non-reward card.

    • Genghis says:

      If a retailer does not take Amex, then there are better options out there than using a Lloyds MasterCard (IHG platinum for example) notwithstanding Lloyds MC spend counts towards the £7k upgrade voucher target.

      For B&Q, buy gift cards in Tesco thereby paying with Amex and getting 150cc points = 360 avios / £50 spend.

  25. Graham Walsh says:

    I had a nightmare in Toronto last week with Supercard. The beta was ok, the full production product is frankly crap. Wouldn’t work in a taxi, a bar and in duty free. Supercard just come back with a list of things why it wouldn’t work, none which apply. When on the beta, transactions took 6 weeks to hit my Virgin Visa at times I cancelled Curve due to no Amex, but I’m actually thinking of digging out my Santander Zero for foreign travel. Edinburgh next week :)

  26. lucinda says:

    Halifax clarity rewards card also has a decent offers programme, a bit like the amex offers which you have to register on the card.

    Not gonna make u a millionaire but things like 5pc cash back at waitrose come up regularly and arehandy as obv you just buy gift vouchers.

  27. Supercard worked ok, apart from the dodgy additional amounts. Only one failure in the USA.

    Well it did until the pin suddenly failed.

    You can’t alter the pin or use it on PayPal so no good if you use PayPal to buy anything such as services abroad.

    So seems that I will ditch supercard and probably swallow the 1% charge on curve. Just trust them a bit more.

  28. Used clarity to withdraw cash. Great.

    Instantly paid off the figure and a little bit more from my bank account.

    The credit actually beat the withdrawal.

    Was amused to be charged 2p interest.

    Would love to know how that was derived.

    Can’t be from another purchase as that is free of any interest charges if paid off in full.

    Might write and find out lol