Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Does the switch from Travelex to Amex Currency Exchange for Avios matter?

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On 31st August, the very long-term relationship between Travelex and BA / Avios came to an end.

This partnership has been going for years, and was deep enough for Travelex to have occasional built-in FX booths inside BA lounges, including Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

Travelex

(Very long term miles collectors will remember a crazy promo that Travelex ran in 2005. They offered 3 BA Miles for every £1 you spent on Travellers Cheques. Foolishly, they forgot to exclude Sterling Travellers Cheques. They also forgot that Gatwick offered Travellers Cheques for a flat fee of £3 rather than the usual 1.5% commission.

This is what you did. You withdrew £3,000 in cash from the bank. You popped down to Gatwick. You bought £3,000 of Sterling Travellers Cheques for £3,003. You pocketed 9,000 BA Miles. You paid the travellers cheques into your bank account the next day. You repeated as many times as you wanted. Fun times!)

Anyway, back to the point! Travelex has now been replaced by American Express Currency Exchange, and this is now the only way to earn Avios points on foreign currency.

(OK. Technically that is not true. You can still collect 1 BAA WorldPoint for every £10 you exchange at Travelex at Heathrow and other BAA airports. However, that only earns you 10% of the Avios you would get for changing the same sum at Amex.)

Clearly, as anyone who has ever checked the exchange rates will know, buying currency as the airport is almost always a bad deal unless you pre-order.  Only buy currency at the airport without pre-ordering if you are using someone elses money!

Earnings rate

With American Express Currency Exchange, you earn 1 Avios point per £1 exchanged. This is the same rate that Travelex offered. (Amex also offers 1 Virgin Flying Club mile per £1 as an alternative.)

Location choice

The downside to the Amex switch is location. According to this website, Amex Currency Exchange offices can only be found at Heathrow, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham. Virgin Flying Club gets around this by also partnering with Moneycorp, which fills the gap at Gatwick. The Avios deal is just with Amex, however. Tough luck for BA flyers out of Gatwick!

Exchange rates

Travelex was infamous for offering poorer exhange rates on its micro-site for BA customers than it was for the general public.

Let’s take a quick look at the cost of buying $1,000 pre-ordered. Please note that I did these sums a couple of weeks ago so do not try to compare them with any rate you see today.

At the time of doing my research, pre-ordering online for airport collection via the BA portal cost £631. Interestingly, using the Amex / Virgin website (processed by Moneycorp), it came to £638.

The main Travelex consumer website was charging £631, so (at least for pre-ordering) there is no difference. However, if the old batravelmoney.com website was still going, it would have come out higher than £631!

For comparison with other options for buying currency, the moneysavingexpert.com tool showed the cheapest delivered cost to be £626. Ironically, this is via Moneycorp who charged £638 via the Virgin Atlantic portal.

This small experiment shows that, actually, as long as you pre-order the Amex Currency Exchange offer is not a bad deal.  For $1,000, you would be earning 631 Avios and only paying £5 more than the cheapest alternative, with the added advantage of not having to wait around at home or work for a currency delivery – you collect at the airport instead.

Meanwhile, a final word on why you shouldn’t buy at the airport with no pre-order.  The day after I did the calculations above, I was at Heathrow T5. Travelex was selling US$ at a shocking rate of 1.458, meaning that your $1,000 would cost you a scary £686 … £48 more than you would have paid for pre-ordering! If you are spending your own money, avoid buying at the airport (without pre-ordering) at all costs.


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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

Comments (4)

  • Simon85 says:

    You can collect avios at Gatwick with moneycorp too. Walk up transactions only, not available with online orders. It’s in section 4 of the t&c’s.

  • Geoggy says:

    I was going to pre order and collect some current from Travelex at Heathrow this Friday – it is still showing the BA Lounge as a collection point on their website so this article has me confused somewhat!

    • Raffles says:

      Travelex is still in the T5 lounges, you just can’t get Avios when you buy from them!

  • Alan says:

    Totally agree re pre ordering and using the MSE tool. Of course for those of us flying from Edinburgh this is a good change as we no longer have a Travelex collection point, just a landside and airside one from Amex 😉

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