Holiday Tips 3 – earning Avios or other miles when ordering foreign currency

This is third part of our ‘Holiday Tips’ series, covering ways of earning miles and points from every aspect of your holiday planning.  Earlier articles covered earning Avios and other miles from car rentals and earning miles from airport car parking.

Even if you do decide to pay for the majority of your holiday costs by credit card, you will still need some foreign currency to tide you over. In general, I avoid getting foreign currency from a Bureau de Change and simply use a cash machine at my destination. The overall cost is unlikely to be worse than using a bureau and it is far easier.

That said, you are taking a gamble when you do this, especially if you need money for a taxi.  I remember spending ages in Berlin Tegel a couple of years ago trying to find a cash machine – it was especially galling as the taxi rank was directly outside passport control.

Remember that the Halifax Clarity credit card has no FX fees on cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad (most other ‘no FX fees’ cards still charge 2.99% on ATM transactions) although you will pay interest from the date of withdrawal.  You will also receive £20 cashback when you apply for the card before 3rd September and make your first overseas purchase.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

An interesting new development is the Barclays Platinum Travel credit card which launched a few weeks ago.  The card is free and, like Clarity, it also offers 0% FX fees on purchases and cash withdrawals abroad.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

The game has got a lot harder

When American Express Currency Exchange was still operating, it was the clear choice.  When you pre-ordered foreign currency with an American Express-issued Amex card it was treated as a Purchase and NOT as a Cash Advance.  You got a decent rate and you earned points from your Amex card.  This game is now over as Amex has closed down its foreign currency service in the UK.

Can I earn Avios from foreign currency?

Before last Monday, the answer was ‘No’.

However, since last Monday, the answer is ‘Yes’ again.  You can earn Avios points when you pre-order foreign currency via the Travelex website for collection at the airport or delivered.

The webpage you need is here.   This drops you straight into the currency calculator.   Don’t go via the Travelex homepage as there is no option there to add your Avios account details.

Travelex lets you pre-order over 40 currencies and collection is available with as little as four hours notice.  This is what you need to know:

You collect 1 Avios for every £1 when exchanging over £300

You collect 1 Avios for every £2 when exchanging below £300

You must pre-order via the Travelex website here, for airport collection, for Travelex store collection or delivery

Home delivery is free if you exchange over £500, chargeable if you exchange less

You can credit your Avios to BA, Iberia Plus or avios.com

Avios will be added within 14 days of collection or delivery

It is good to see that pre-ordering is required.  The walk-up exchange rates at Heathrow are, frankly, shocking and you should never exchange money without ordering in advance.  You will receive a substantially better rate this way.

The special Avios / Travelex ordering page is here.

If you order your currency from Travelex for collection at Heathrow, you should see if you can also earn Heathrow Rewards points on foreign currency transactions.  You will receive 1 point for every £10 you exchange and they convert 1:1 into Avios.  It isn’t clear if you should earn points on pre-ordered currency but they will accept your number much of the time.

Using an ATM abroad?  Earn Avios via Curve card

If you don’t have a card which allows 0% FX cash withdrawals, try Curve.  Curve is a MasterCard-branded product which recharges your spending or ATM withdrawals to any linked Visa or MasterCard product.

One benefit of Curve is that it only charges 1% on overseas transactions compared with 3% on most credit and debit cards.

You can therefore earn points on your underlying payment card, say the Hilton Honors Visa, as usual but you are saving 66% on the FX fee.

Curve can also be used for making ATM withdrawals in the UK and abroad, and the first £200 withdrawn per month attracts no handling fee.  All cash withdrawals are treated as a PURCHASE on the underlying credit card so £200 withdrawn from an ATM in Germany and recharged to a, say, a Lloyds Avios Reward MasterCard would earn you Avios.

Curve charges a 1% FX on cash withdrawals and, once you are beyond your £200 monthly free withdrawal limit, a £2 handling fee per ATM transaction.

Curve will pay you £5 for trying the card, which is free.  Full details are in this article.

Moneycorp

Earning miles buying currency at Gatwick and elsewhere

If you would prefer to earn Virgin Flying Club miles with your foreign currency purchases, there is an option for that too.

Moneycorp, which has a strong presence at Gatwick, gives Virgin Flying Club miles on pre-ordered currency.  This is a good option as you benefit from the convenience of collecting at the airport plus the substantially better rates available for pre-ordering plus 1 Virgin Flying Club mile per £1 exchanged.  Details can be found on the Flying Club website here.

You can also pre-order currency and earn Virgin Flying Club miles for collection at Moneycorp desks at Stansted, Southend, Bristol and Southampton or from their counters in Central London.  You don’t need to be flying from Gatwick.

If you have the Virgin Atlantic White or Black credit cards, you could also link the Visa card to a Curve card and earn miles on ATM withdrawals abroad.

Conclusion

Unless you are spending your employers money, you should always focus on price and / or convenience, whichever is more important to you, when buying foreign currency.  Treat the miles as an extra bonus but don’t be solely driven by them.

As I said above, we tend to use very modest amounts of cash when travelling.  It is a long time since I used an FX counter (except when changing money back afterwards) and I am happy to rely on ATMs at my arrival airport via my Curve card.  Convenience wins out.   If you do prefer to prebuy, however, the good news is that, since last Monday, Avios are now available again via Travelex.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Benefiting from Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts at Park Hyatt Hamburg
Bits: Aer Lingus Avios taxes fall, Mail Rail bookable!, Hilton Avios offer update
About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. Optimus Prime says:

    OT: I took out the new MBNA AAdvantage VISA credit card. I didn’t have a AAdvantage account and the application form said I could leave the membership number blank and a new one would be created for me.

    I received the credit card a couple of weeks ago but no news from the Advantage membership. Does anyone know if such membership is created once first statement is paid and points are posted?

    Have spoken with MBNA on their online chat and the agent couldn’t help.

    • Best bet is to create an account and ring MBNA with the number. If they create one, getting the password could be painful.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        I’ll do that. Even if MBNA do create a separate one, I have noticed AA have on their website a form to merge accounts (I found it when looking for something similar to BA Household accounts).

    • I guess worth escalating within MBNA and trying to tweet AA to see if they can help. In general though, never ever trust companies to set up and account for you and provide you with details – always safer to set it up yourself and provide them with the details, I’m afraid!

      • Optimus Prime says:

        I was too naive. Actually Creation did create a new IHG account for my wife when she got her own IHG Black credit card. I was expecting the same of MBNA…

        • That’s a rare occurrence for Creation to manage something better than MBNA! At least one less to sort out though 😛

  2. the_real_a says:

    Just be aware if you are in need of credit (mortgage etc) each cash advance is noted on your credit file…

  3. Sergeant Major says:

    Getting cash advance on your credit card is pretty bad for your credit file as far as I know. Wish they bring back Amex currency exchange!

    • I use Clarity to withdraw cash several times a year and it doesn’t seem to impact my credit rating.

      • the_real_a says:

        If you believe that then i would seriously take a look at your credit file in detail. Each cash advance is counted and displayed on your account detail. Of course its up to each lender to determine how they use it…

        • the_real_a says:

          @John – I misread your comment as a blanket statement in my response above. I see you were referring to your own circumstance.

      • Genghis says:

        Nor mine. Yes it appears on reports but doesn’t seem to have any effect. Never been rejected for any credit product

  4. Paul C says:

    Beware using the Virgin miles version of
    Moneycorp, you get a worse exchange than the main site…

  5. You can earn avios on Cash Passport via BAEC, and they post within a few days. I don’t buy masses of foreign currency though, so not sure how competitive it is.

  6. Ruth4325 says:

    Just tried to purchase £1k of euros via the link on my visa debit. Purchase didn’t go through
    …twice…odd. Though it may be because I’m purchasing from ex UK and potentially the bank thinks it’s fraudulent.

  7. HarryKUK says:

    I recently discovered the Tesco credit card could be used to purchase FX from Tesco money and is treated as a purchase. The online rate was also pretty good.

  8. I’ve used the Halifax Clarity card abroad for years and recommend it to all my family and friends. As pointed out no fees and because I do online banking the same day to pay it off the interest is literally pennies. I use the ATM at the airport usually and get the international exchange rates as well. Thailand is the only place I have had to pay a fee and that was from the ATM owner. There is no such thing as free withdrawals there. Citibank ATMs used to be free but no longer.

  9. Robbie says:

    Before trawling through the comments again. Can I just confirm I can buy dollars at the post office and pay using an amex with no charges??

  10. Sam Wardill says:

    Does Travelex price promise work when collecting Avios?

  11. Speaking of a devil (Curve) – does anyone know if it’s possible to get the £35 fee refunded somehow? Using arguments like the card is now free, ceased working with Amex, being an early customer etc? Or no-starter?

    • Genghis says:

      I think that ship sailed well over a year ago. Worth a try though…

      • Better late than never, as wise men say… Just asked to see what people’s experiences were if any