What is the best credit card for foreign spend when someone else is paying?

This article was updated in July 2017 and all the information below remains accurate

I ran an article last week on the best credit card options when travelling abroad this Summer with a focus on those which minimise the 2.99% foreign exchange fee added to most credit and debit card transactions.

One reader raised a fair point, though – when she is travelling for work, her credit card bills are reimbursed by her employer.  There is no incentive for her to use a 0% fee card.  Her only goal is on maximising her rewards.

I won’t focus on credit card spend bonuses here because those don’t change whether you are spending in the UK or abroad.  I just want to look at cards which increase your earning rate for FX transactions.

IHG Rewards Club credit card free

Here are your options:

American Express Gold – double points abroad, so 2 per £1.  That translates into 2 Avios or other airline miles, 4 Hilton points, 1 Starwood point or 6 Club Carlson points amongst other things.  The card is free for the first year.

IHG Rewards Club MasterCard – double points abroad, so 2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 which I value at 0.8p – 1p.  The card is free.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard – double points abroad, so 4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 which I value at 1.6p – 2p.  £99 annual fee.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

HSBC Premier Mastercarddouble points abroad, so 1 Avios or other airline mile.  The card is free but you must have a HSBC Premier current account which has strict eligibility criteria.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.  The World Elite version of this card, with a £195 fee, also earns double points abroad and is worth 2 Avios per £1.

As you can see there are some good options here that can get you a return of around 2% on your spending.  That is less than the 2.99% foreign fee you are incurring, of course, which is why these are not attractive deals for personal use, just for business expenditure.

(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.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. I thought the HSBC Premier Mastercard was also doubling points abroad?

  2. Don’t mean to be a spoilsport here but I just think making someone else spend 2.99% transaction fee on top of a rather poor exchange rate is a bit unfair even if they are your employer or a business client. All just for the sake of double points? However, I have been with employers who are very strict about using company issued corporate credit cards and the fees on those are atrocious too. In general, if my employer lets me use a personal card on foreign trips, I use the Lloyds Avios Amex & Mastercard combo.

    • Are you really “making” someone else pay 2.99%? That rate is the industry norm.. why should employees be expected to take out a 0% credit card just for the sake of saving their employers 2.99%?

      As for the “rather poor exchange rate” – good luck trying to match Visa/Mastercard rates on the high street, or even online (assuming we’re talking cash, not Transferwise etc.)

    • Genghis says:

      Most credit cards including corporate cards have the 2.99% fee. If your employer allows you to use your own card, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to use one of your own 2.99% fee incurring cards. It’s what they would spend anyway.

    • Frenske says:

      It is a fair comment. But at our company we don’t get anything extra when travelling abroad. Is it fair that the employee need to travel often in their own time (outside normal working hours), being away from family, missing sports training or a paid course, etc and gets nothing in return. Miles and hotel points are the only incentives we get out of travelling abroad.

      • Another job might resolve that disparity ?

      • I am on the same opinion as Frenske

        Most of my long haul business trips involve traveling on a Sunday and returning on a Saturday, two weekend days that are not returned to me, plus the time spent away from family, missed events etc…….. the list goes on.

        Why should I even worry about a credit card fee that earns me some hotel or airline points. The company is getting a lot of my time and benefits from me being available Monday through Friday as I have traveled to the venue on my time.

        Even my expense reports have a dedicated line for currency loss due to foreign exchange and credit card fees, so the company is ok with it too.

    • Sussex bantam says:

      If my employer wants to give me a fee free credi card I will use that. If they don’t then I don’t see the issue with using a card which incurs the same cost they would have had but also happens to earn me points…

    • The_Real_A says:

      Its a good deal for the employer, they effectively get a huge part of working capital back into the business by allowing/forcing a credit line to employees. Most business cards also have the 3% fee so there is no actual loss.

  3. It’s not true that 3% fee on corporate cards is universal. I’ve had our accounts people check that previously, as it would have been a good opportunity to save money by moving card issuer. I don’t think anyone would suggest an obligation to take on a new personal card not already carried, but it’s disappointing to see people not do the right thing by their employer when faced with a choice of paying with a fee free card or one with a 3% charge.

    • Why is it the “right thing” to pay with a fee free card? It’s not the employee’s responsibility to save their employer money at every available opportunity. By that logic, it would be the right thing to avoid buying a coffee at the airport, or to eat in the lowest cost restaurant and select the cheapest item available. I’d rather my employees were comfortable at reasonable cost during business travel, which includes making fair use of the associated perks.

      • Genghis says:

        Damn right. Spend your employer’s money as you would your own – frivolously. “Did you really need that whole bottle of expensive wine again for dinner, Genghis?” “I need it boss. You’re making me travel and I need it so I don’t miss my family and cry myself to sleep.”

    • Frenske says:

      Well I will consider paying with my personal commission-free credit card when top mangers stop flying business class by default, stop having dinners in expensive restaurants.

  4. Nathan says:

    OT but did anyone else get an email that their AMEX card was removed from Apple Pay? I didn’t remove it and it still shows in wallet.

  5. Can anyone with the TSB cards please tell me if any UK spend is treated as ‘foreign’ spend, like Amazon, Apple, PayPal etc. Thank you.

  6. Anything but supercard,

    Was overcharged by them around £70 on a one night hotel stay on my credit card.

    Will do a charge back unless they refund it quickly.

    Not happy as always get additional fees and never refunded fees for rate changes. I suspect that they are not playing ball.

    • Stuart_f says:

      Did you use the Supercard at check-in to provide the security deposit?

      If so then that’s the problem as there’s no way to place a ‘hold’ on Supercard that can drop off later – it gets turned into a charge and billed to your linked card. Use any other card for the check-in process and pay with Supercard at the end.

      • Fraser says:

        I always use Amex Platinum for reservations or “hold” for incidentals to ensure the room is “booked” using it for travel insurance, then switch to Lloyd’s Avios on checkout.

        Virgin Black also pays 2 Flying Club Miles per £1 but that’s the same at home or abroad.

      • Yes – although did the same with Curve and no issues there.

        The extra amounts were simply refunded.

    • Frenske says:

      Not the (credit) card, you mean current account.

      If they remove the interest, there is no way I will be paying the £5pm fee; meaning I will change bank.

      • Genghis says:

        Putting up the fee from £2 to £5pcm I could cope with as the interest far outweighed the cost. If the max interest earned then goes to 2%, max £400p.a. (with a £60 fee), I’ll certainly consider moving and diversifying bank accounts further.

    • Still better than no interest. But it may make me think about paying off more of my mortgage when my endowment matures in a couple of months.

    • Mr Dee says:

      At a rough guess this effectively takes the earning rate from 2.7% to 1.7% after the fee if the rate decreases to 2% and the fee stays the same, if you have maxed out all over higher paying saving/current account options then it is worth it.

    • Grr very annoying if it comes to pass :(

  7. William says:

    I have Hilton platinum Visa and Amex Gold cards. Do I understand that using Amex to settle a Hilton bill abroad would give me more Hilton points than using Hilton’s Visa card?

    • What is the bonus for Hilton spend? If 50% then yes, if 100% no difference.

    • Alex W says:

      Hilton spend on hilton card is 3 HH per £.

      Foreign spend on Amex Gold is 2 MR per £ which would convert to 4 HH per £.