Update on earning Avios from Amex Currency Exchange

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote this piece on Avios dropping their relationship with Travelex and jumping into a metaphorical bed with American Express Currency Exchange.

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his experience with ACE at Heathrow.  As I recommend, he had pre-booked his currency online beforehand to get the best rate.

The two interesting things to note, which I didn’t mention in my original piece, are:

  • He was allowed to give his BAA WorldPoints card for swiping, so he double-dipped with both Avios and WorldPoints on the same transaction
  • He was told by ACE staff that if he paid with his Amex card he would earn 1 bonus Membership Rewards point per £1 spent.  At the time, our reader thought that this was some special bonus promotion deal Amex was running.  However, now that the transaction has posted, it seems that he has earned the 1 point per £1 because Amex treated the transaction as a purchase, not as a cash advance.

Now, I would want to see some more people try this before making any firm statements.  However, if Amex Currency Exchange at Heathrow is treating paying for pre-booked currency as a purchase and not a cash advance, this opens up a lot of interesting options – including a quick way for people to hit their £2,000 spend target to trigger the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum sign-up bonuses.

(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

The updated guide to collecting Avios points from car rentals
Two reader tips for earning more miles via Amex

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  1. I assume you can’t buy sterling?

    • You can indeed! Avios are excluded, but sounds like you could earn MR, hit min spend and get worldpoints.

      • Sterling Travellers Cheques would be your friend here. But I wouldn’t jump on this until we have more evidence. I am at LHR on Monday so I may take one for the team and order currency for my flight to, erm, Manchester.

  2. Wonder if this would apply to non-Amex issued Amex’s i.e. the mbna M&M Card. MR wouldn’t obviously be included (although the miles might), but I’d be keen to know whether a currency transaction would be treated as a purchase on that too.

  3. Very surprised at this – I picked some currency up in Edinburgh (so no Worldpoints now available), she took my Avios number OK but said if I’d paid with Amex (rather than my current account debit card) then it would be treated as a cash advance. This certainly seems a very unusual move by Amex based on how this sort of transaction is usually treated and I’d be very wary of spending large sums this way!

  4. It could be collected with every AmEx, couldn’t it? I know, there would be foreign currency transaction fee, but it does not neccessarily have to be a UK card? Or am I wrong?

    • If they are processing it as a purchase, then any Amex would be OK. If it is going through as cash advances and the points are actually from some sort of Amex promo, then it will only work on UK Amex-issued Amex cards. I will know more early next week when I’ve tried it myself.

  5. David F says:

    Will look forward to hearing the experience of Raffles next week. Thanks for the post

  6. pazza2000 says:

    Look forward to hearing the answer to this also. I do not hold a MR card, although would much prefer to stick this on my BA Amex over a debit card.

  7. Percy Pig says:

    Any update on this? Very interested to know. I just checked my AMEX plat T&Cs and there is no mention of how foreign currency purchases are treated.

    • I picked up some currency yesterday. It hit my Amex last night and LOOKS like a purchase, not a cash advance. Won’t be sure until tonight or tomorrow night, when the MR points (if its a purchase) will hit. However, there is one interesting thing. When you order, it says you can only use your Amex if you have ‘Express Cash’ activated, which I don’t think I do, but it still let me use my Plat Amex anyway. Perhaps if you have Express Cash activated (which allows you to use your Amex in an ATM) then it is charged as a cash withdrawal, and if you don’t, it is forced to put it through as a purchase.

      • Percy Pig says:

        How very interesting. Thanks for doing the experiment! Look forward to hearing how many MR you get 😀

        If it goes through as a purchase that could also be very useful for hitting the £2k spend on my wife’s card…

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