What should you do now Travelex is closing Supercard?

Travelex announced yesterday that it is closing Supercard, its 0% foreign exchange fee payment card.  Your card will cease to work on 24th July.

Supercard was an innovative payment product which has, I think, been ruined by poor implementation – primarily the high failure rate of transactions when you tried to use the card.

In theory, it was great.  You link any other Visa or MasterCard to your Supercard.  When abroad, you swipe your Supercard and Travelex automatically converts your purchase into £ without any FX fees.  It then recharges the transaction to your underlying Visa or MasterCard in £.

This meant that you could earn rewards on your underlying Visa or MasterCard without paying the 3% foreign exchange fees which are attached to almost all loyalty Visa and MasterCard products.

No more.

If you have a Travelex Supercard – or if you don’t have one but are looking for ways of not paying a 3% foreign exchange fee on all your holiday spending this Summer – you have three options today:

Switch to a credit or debit card with no foreign exchange fees

Using a credit card with a 3% foreign exchange fee but which earns rewards

Switch to the Curve Card, which comes with £5 for trying it out and has the same (better, actually) functionality as Supercard but with a 1% FX fee

I will look at each of these options in turn.

Option 1:  Switching to a credit or debit card with no foreign exchange fees

Historically, it was almost always a bad idea to use a mileage card for overseas spend. This is because all 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.

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.

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.

Lloyds Avios Rewards 2

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.

For the first six months you receive double points, so 2.5 Avios per £1 on the Amex.

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)

Option 2:  Using a credit card with a 3% foreign exchange fee but which earns rewards

With the Travelex Supercard closing, 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 IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard (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.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including the £99 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

If you are a high earner and qualify for HSBC Premier, their cards are also worth a look.  The free HSBC Premier Mastercard (click for review) earns double points abroad, so 1 Avios or other airline mile.  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.

Spending abroad also helps you to achieve spending targets.

The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard 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.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including the £195 fee based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.

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.

Option 3:  Switch to the Curve Card, which has the same functionality as Supercard but with a 1% FX fee

The Curve Card is a similar product to Supercard, although it can be used in the UK and abroad.  Foreign currency transactions come with a 1% fee, which is cheaper than using your usual Visa or MasterCard.

The idea behind Curve is that you can link all of your Visa and MasterCard cards to Curve, allowing you to just carry one card with you. Using the Curve app, you can switch the card which is recharged with your purchase. For businesses, there are additional features such as the ability to scan a receipt with your phone and have it stored alongside the transaction data.

The basic version of Curve is free – in fact, Curve will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use my referral code below.  It is now available for Android users as well as iPhone and works with any other Visa or MasterCard you hold.

Curve is currently targeting the small business market.  You will be asked to confirm that you run your own business, are a partner in a partnership or have some form of self employed income on top of your regular job during the application process.  If you do not feel able to make this declaration, you should wait for the consumer version of the card which will be launched later this year.

If you use Curve in the UK, you can also benefit from Curve Rewards.  This pays you cashback, usually 1.5%, at various retailers including Argos, Marks & Spencer, B&Q, Boots, Debenhams, House of Fraser etc.  You earn the cashback immediately – it is literally added to your Curve account as soon as your card is swiped in a participating store.  (I use this in M&S on a regular basis and can confirm it works fine.)

It is important to remember that you earn Curve Rewards on top of any rewards you earn from your underlying Visa or MasterCard.  When I make a purchase in M&S, I get my 1.5% cashback from Curve plus 2 IHG Rewards Club cards per £1 from the IHG MasterCard which is linked to my Curve card.

Curve has one other perk. You can withdraw £200 per month from a cash machine, fee free, and it will be treated as a purchase – earning points on your linked credit card!

How to apply

Curve is a bit fiddly to explain, so the easiest thing to do is to sign up and try it for yoruself.  The basic Curve Card is free and you are paid £5 for trying it out.

The Android version of Curve can be downloaded here.  The iOS version for Apple devices is here.  Enter referral code OQB4J into the app on the first page when prompted. This is my refer-a-friend code and is required in order to trigger the £5 free credit. (For clarity, I will receive a £5 credit for referring you.)

This is the screen of the app where you enter the OQB4J code – click ‘Add A Referral Code’:

Supercard curve Sign Up page

 

This code will get you a £5 credit added to your Curve Rewards account.  You can choose between the Blue card (no fee) or the Black card (£50 fee, higher rewards as outlined above).  To be honest, I don’t recommend you take the latter option unless you are certain that you spend enough money at partipating Curve Rewards merchants to justify the additional cashback you will receive.

The £0 fee may not show during the application process but will appear on your confirmation email.

Conclusion

It is shame that Travelex Supercard failed.  Those of us who were involved in the beta trial, when it was operated by a different payment processor, will confirm that the card worked better then.

I don’t think that I ever got a payment of over £100 to work on the relaunched version.  Curve may have a 1% fee but it is more reliable – I got a £1,500 hotel bill in Hong Kong to go through first time over Easter.  That said, don’t ever leave home with just the Curve Card in your pocket, irrespective of what their marketing says!

For many people, switching to the £24 Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card may be the best option.  This is especially true if you know that you will be using it abroad in places which take Amex, as the earning rate on the Lloyds MasterCard is weak at 0.25 Avios per £1.

If the Lloyds Avios Rewards card doesn’t work for you – and you may not want to pay the £24 annual fee – then it is worth giving Curve a try, linking it to a high earning rewards Visa or MasterCard.

In the worse case scenario, go for a fee-free Post Office or Halifax Clarity credit card.  It means adding another card to your wallet but you will still save 3% on every purchase compared to your usual loyalty credit card when travelling.

(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.)

Bits: last day for 50% 'buy Avios' bonus, £99 / €99 Norwegian sale to the USA
Bits: free in-flight books and magazines with Amazon Prime, Hilton Asia-Pacific flash sale
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Comments

  1. I’m not surprised they’re closing. The pilot was so much better and the full launch was more expensive, less reliable and had huge problems with online payments and pre-auths. Revolut, Curve is a much better product.

    • Totally agree

      Worked like a charm during the beta phase, but then launched with limited functionality and multiple issues. Have used Revolut and while it seems functional really don’t like having to add money before use.

      For that reason, Curve gets my vote. Love the fact that it shows the amount spent in local currency and the actual amount from your account. Makes expense claims a doddle.

      Hoping they add Xero compatibility to allow direct processing of expenses.

  2. Guys are there any pre paid credit cards that work abroad where there are no fees to pay?

    • A credit card can’t be pre-paid ….? Or it wouldn’t be offering you credit ….

      Revolut / WeSwap / Monzo will work fine as prepaid cards, Lloyds / Halifax Clarity / Post Office and a few more are fine as FX free credit cards.

      What you CAN’T have is a rewards credit card with no fees. You either pay £24 for Lloyds and get Avios or pay nothing and go the Post Office etc route.

      • Roger 1 says:

        … or use the Aqua Reward MC offering 0.5% worldwide up to £100 p.a.. High APR. Initially low limit, but persevere and it grows. Mine’s just short of £5,000 but some have higher. I used it online last week to buy airline tickets for £2,400 ‘saving’ me £72 against a 3%-charging card and earning £6.

        Oh, and mine’s been upgraded to Gold. Benefits? Er, redesigned card. :)

  3. If you load revolut with a credit card, does it track as cash or purchase?

  4. OK thank you.

  5. I also use Revolut whilst I’m overseas and it works great. I agree the extra fees on a weekend are annoying – I usually overcome that by withdrawing cash from an ATM during the week (at no charge) and just use this for purchases over the weekend. I do hope they do something about this part soon.

    Other than that though, it’s worked like a charm and has been a well functioning and good value option as far as I’ve been concerned.

    Note you can also charge it up with a credit card and it is listed as a purchase rather than a cash advance.

    It also seems pretty popular with flight crew, as an aside.

  6. Graeme says:

    Is there any way to compare the fx rate that the different cards apply to foreign transactions? I.e., can I be sure that the zero fx cards are not converting to sterling at a poorer rate than the 3% ones?

    • They all use the same rates, ie the MasterCard / Visa / Amex published rates. These sometimes differ between each other, but every Visa card will convert at the same rate on the same day.

      • Graeme says:

        Thank-you Rob – that’s good to know, if somewhat surprising – it seems like it would be an easy way for the banks to surreptitiously rip customers off!

      • RIcatti says:

        Revolut uses interbank rates, and one may top up and convert if the particular FX is fortunate.

      • Rob, you’re mistaken that they all use the same rates.

        In Brazil on Friday 20th January 2017, I paid BRL 50 to a hotel 4 times using 4 different no-fee MasterCards, including Revolut, as a test to see which cards give the best rate. I then used the card with the best rate to pay the rest of the hotel bill.

        The GBP amounts were as follows:
        £12.76 Revolut using contactless
        £12.77 Santander Zero credit card using Apple Pay
        £12.77 Halifax Clarity credit card using Apple Pay
        £12.68 Supercard using chip & PIN, recharged to an airmiles-earning Visa card

        It is important to note that while Revolut and Supercard used live rates, both Santander and Halifax used MasterCard’s daily rate probably on the following Monday or Tuesday when the transaction was processed.

        I work in the FX industry and I can confirm that the market wasn’t moving in the few seconds between the transactions. In any case, 0.63% would be a significant move in a few seconds.

        • Genghis says:

          Interesting analysis

        • There is a difference between using the same rate and taking the same rate at a different point in time. Logically, over the long run it would average out – if a certain card took a day longer to process your transaction than another card, you may be better or worse off on any single purchase but over time it would net out.

          • Rob, I agree with you, but my point is that they don’t all use the MasterCard rate. Revolut and Supercard use live rates of their own.

        • Mr Dee says:

          I don’t know if with contactless payments that the rate is locked in straight away as often the transaction doesn’t show up straight away, be interested to know the details with anyone that actually knows.

        • How did u use the Santander zero card with Apple Pay??? It’s not a contactless card!!!

          • Apple Pay itself is contactless. It doesn’t require the equivalent physical card to be contactless, because you use an iPhone or Apple Watch instead of the physical card.

    • the_real_a says:

      Just be aware that some of the prepaid cards (STA, Caxton etc) add between 2% and 3% onto the mastercard rate and dont show it as a seperate line on the statement.

  7. Sprout7 says:

    Curve doesn’t work for me ….
    Lloyds avios cards for purchases abroad (fee covered many times over by co op everyday offers ;-))
    Currency requirements easily met by Revolut and Monzo.
    Churn / Lloyds cards for domestic spend.
    No need for curve I’m afraid particularly as it’s hit or miss if it will be accepted as they seem to randomly block it.

    • what co-op everday offers ? I don’t think I have ever seen/heard about these on my Lloyds Avios

      • Genghis says:

        I get them on my Halifax Clarity. Had 10% back and 5% back recently (paid off bit of council tax). I now have another 5% on there now but I’d rather use that spend for SPG Amex / Amex Plat spend targets (and accidentally overpay – these things happen).

      • sprout7 says:

        Every 2 months or so I get an offer of a 10% statement credit at the co-op (to a max value of £30)

        • Is that with Lloyds or Halifax please?

          • sprout7 says:

            Lloyds (I have a current account with as well if that makes a difference)

          • Genghis says:

            I believe you can only see the offers if you have the respective current account.

          • Wow, I make frequent large purchases at Coop (PayPoint not Council Tax) and have started using Lloyds whereas I previously used SPG. Perhaps I will get the offers now!

    • Can you churn Lloyds card?

      • Alex W says:

        Yes if you cancel and apply again in 6momths then you will get double Avios for the 1st six months again. Plus what ever interest free period they are offering. Currently about 26 months i think on purchases. Other than that, there is no signup bonus to churn for.
        You can’t get the 4500 referral bonus twice. I will be keeping mine permanently now because rumours are it is going to be withdrawn or replaced with something less generous.

  8. I’m currently using Monzo in Japan and I would thoroughly recommend it. I have previously used Revolut on a couple of trips earlier in the year – but would now stick with Monzo as I prefer the interface.

    I am not surprised Supercard has failed. It had some very odd fees such as high ATM fees which made it uncompetitive compared to Monzo/Revolut.

    Finally on Curve – I am not sure how Curve can survive with its business model long term. Right now Curve is only offering to Business owners as this allows them to position the card as a business card and charge merchants a higher interchange rate of 1.5-1.7%, this in turn allows the company to provide additional benefits. As consumer cards are capped at 0.30% interchange they will not be able to offer extra benefits on the consumer side the same way they do now…

    • Genghis says:

      How do Monzo and Revolut make money?

      • idrive says:

        Monzo is now becoming a real bank (recently got a full license) so they will introduce more services and connected fees. Revolut, can not comment

      • the_real_a says:

        Genghis – they dont you are benefiting from the “customer building” phase using investors cash :)

        Thats why you have to watch the T&C`s of these startups like a hawk as they introduce charges regulary:

        Revolut – “illiquid” currency fees (Thai baht, Russian Rubble)
        Revolut – Weekend “fees”
        Revolut – Max ATM withdrawal down to £200 a month (useless in ASIA)

    • Curve charges us 2.1% on our card machine in my shop. Amex charges 1.99%.

      Im surprised Curve is getting away with this, but it’s just a matter of time before the loophole is closed when they get audited.

      • the_real_a says:

        Commercial cards are allowed a higher interchange rate. Same for all commercial/business cards.

        • Yes, but my contract with PaymentSense says a max of 1.85% on Mastercard, so I’m not sure how Curve are pushing this limit

          • the_real_a says:

            Obviously i dont know your contract, but commercial cards are set out in another section on ours. All charges are more than 2% so curve is inline with this. Are you sure you are not looking at the consumer cards?

      • Genghis says:

        Audited by who? No external audit requirement last year as didn’t meet CA thresholds but perhaps this year might need one. External auditors wouldn’t give a monkeys.

  9. Dwadda says:

    Pity. Recently Supercard has been working for me flawlessly including a £1.5k (equivalent) airfare and numerous hotel stays (both prepay and at check-out) and at restaurants. No recent failed transactions.

  10. I don’t see why anyone should use curve when there are free alternatives? £2+1% for overseas spend is unacceptable for me as the points I earn on the linked card don’t cover it.

    For me I use lloyds for purchases and Santander zero for cash withdrawals.

    From comments on here loads of options for free ATM withdrawals so why curve?
    I don’t think there’s too much faff with any of the options that would justify curve charges

    • The £2 fee is only on cash withdrawals, and how much paper cash do you really use abroad? I think we used about £200 over Easter and that was across three countries in 2 weeks.

  11. Singing Dwarf says:

    Curve is not a direct alternative to Supercard.

    Curve is intended solely for business use – its terms and conditions explicitly state “its use by you must be limited to business expenses.”

    Supercard was intended for consumers.

    • the real harry1 says:

      not sure I have noticed my life not being improved by ignoring both of them! :)

      sure – some early adopters flogged the Amex points, I know that

  12. Interesting to see such mixed success/failure with both Supercard and Curve. I’m now using Curve and probably had 1-2 failures where Supercard was 1-2 working.

    What’s funny is that the Supercard IOS app was updated yesterday. Seems a bit pointless.

  13. Andrew says:

    What about the Natwest Black credit card – this has zero FX fees, and the annual fee is waived for black account holders.

    ps – has curve always had the 1% FX fee ??

    • yes for Curve 1% forex, however my recollection was that their initial literature was a little vaguer about the fee – it’s still not that obvious to the user as it is swept into the exchange rate, but it is explained in their T&Cs