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Meet your Amex sign-up bonus spend with a home delivery of £ travellers cheques

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Last year I ran a number of articles about American Express Currency Exchange, the new bureau de change partner of British Airways Executive Club. See here, here and here.

What we discovered was that Amex Currency Exchange treats pre-ordered foreign currency purchases on an Amex Platinum or Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card as a purchase.

I tested this myself, with a test purchase of Euro 200 generating:

  • 166 Avios via Amex Currency Exchange (you get Avios for using them)
  • 166 Membership Rewards points on my Amex Platinum charge card
  • 16 BAA WorldPoints (as I collected the currency at Heathrow and you earn 1 per £10 spent)

As well as being a profitable way to get your foreign currency (especially as the Amex Currency Rates are competitive if you pre-order), the fact that it goes through as a ‘purchase’ on your card means that it counts towards the minimum spend for a sign-up bonus.

Over at Flyertalk (see this thread, eg post 18 and post 48), some posters have been taking this further, with interesting results.

Here were the questions they set out to answer:

Does a transaction on a British Airways American Express card (and therefore also a Starwood Amex) work the same way, counting as a purchase?

Does this work if you order Sterling Travellers Cheques?

Does it work if you arrange for home delivery rather than airport collection?

The answer to all these questions is Yes.

Why Sterling Travellers Cheques?

On the face of it, you may wonder why you would want to buy Sterling Travellers Cheques. After all, Amex Currency Exchange charges a 1.5% fee for buying them, and you do not earn Avios on such purchases.

The reason is simple – they can be paid into your bank account like a normal cheque. I have done this in the past with no difficulties.

Let’s assume you need to meet the £2,000 minimum spend on the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card. For a fee of £30 (1.5% of £2000) you can, in theory, order £2,000 of Sterling Travellers Cheques from Amex Currency Exchange. It will go through your card as a purchase, triggering the 20,000 point bonus, and you can immediately pay them into your bank account to pay your credit card bill.

The BA link for ordering currency from Amex Currency Exchange is here.

Now, is it that simple?

Well, yes and no. All credit card companies are security conscious. Any large order of travellers cheques (which, until signed, can be cashed by anyone and so are equivalent to cash) will arouse suspicion. If it is the first payment on a new credit card, your chance of getting a large order away is very slim!

If, however, you have already spent £1,000 on your new card and place a £400 order for Sterling Travellers Cheques, then I would imagine you would be OK.

All Amex cards have a ‘daily cash advance’ limit on them. Even though Amex Currency Exchange transactions are treated as purchases, you are still limited by the size of the ‘daily cash advance’ limit on your card. This seems to be £400-£500 but the Flyertalk thread reports figures as high as £1,300.

Please note that this is still an ‘idea in progress’. If it sounds interesting, read the Flyertalk thread and give it a go. Start small, though, and be prepared for potential bumps along the way.

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Comments (34)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Chris says:

    So Raffles – once again – thank you!

    I took a delivery of £550 of sterling travellers cheques as a test purchase. They have been treated as a purchase on my BA PP with no problems. As expected – you can pay these in as cheques.

    Hoping to put a couple of other slightly larger transactions through to help me trigger my companion voucher & happy to forefeit the 1.5% for this.

    Couple of Questions:

    1) Is this cash limit people are talking about the ‘available cash limit’ you see on your statement? If so, mine is £4,300 – which seems inconsitent with what other people mention.

    2) These are treated as cheques. I stood at the counter and signed all of them as I was paying in, however, the teller seemed uninterested in that & never asked for anything else other than my card to credit my account. If I just sign a batch of these (top and bottom) – can I pay in using the quick pay/deposit envolopes? Would save a bit of time. Has anyone done that & at which bank.


    • tangey says:

      The 2nd signature on the TC is supposed to be done at the time of lodgement/exchange.

    • Raffles says:

      Not sure what BAPP treats as ‘available cash’. As this is a credit card, it operates differently from the charge cards when it comes to cash. In theory, you can’t even get cash on your charge card until it is specifically activated.

      Years ago, I’m sure I did pay some into my account using the quick-pay machine. After all, they are going into a bank account so not exactly a fraud risk. Not sure I’d bother taking the risk of a problem, though.

    • 21h21j says:

      The “Available Cash Limit” shown on your statement is 20% of your credit limit and is the most you can withdraw in cash during a billing period.

      Your “Daily cash limit” is a value that Amex will share with you if you ask, but is not shown anywhere.

  • inflationbusting says:

    There seems to be a lot of confusion with the call centre staff. Anecdotal evidence so far indicated that these will track as purchases – the opposite of what they have told me.

    You may be right. I couldn’t get a £1,000 order accepted, but I could get one for just over £500 accepted. They enabled the cash advance for me but told me that it was up to 20% of your credit limit. This would explain the variance in people’s experiences.

  • Dev says:

    Be aware of Santander accounts….the cashier’s can not take travellers cheques because of the smaller size of Amex t/c’s…..I found this out the hard way last year when I had excess t/c’s left over……ended up going down the post office route to cash them in so lost another 1.5%

  • George the Travel Monkey says:

    Read this of BA’s website, “Purchases of Sterling are eligible for Avios by non UK residents. Sterling Travellers cheques are not eligible for an Avios award.”

    • Raffles says:

      Correct. But if all you want is to speed up spend on your new Amex card then they are very useful. And you still earn points or miles via your credit card.

  • KimJ says:

    Raffles … can i presume that these “Sterling Travellers Cheques” can be paid into ANY banks ??

    One of your reader commented that Santander DO NOT accept smaller denominations of Amex T/C. Any idea how small is the denominations mentioned, so we can avoid getting one when ordering in future ??

    • Raffles says:

      Theoretically, a travellers cheque can be paid into any bank account. Even Santander, at a different branch, would have given a different answer I imagine. It is likely, of course, that the branch you visit will never have seen anyone try this before so there may be hiccups. A bank should also be willing, with a passport, to cash them over the counter for you.

    • Dev says:

      Not smaller denominations…….apparently the physical size of the t/c’s are incompatible with santander printers….at least that is what they told me.

      • KimJ says:

        Thanks Raffles / Dev for the info and advice … i seriously thought that all Amex T/C are the same physical size.

  • Thunderbirds says:

    Note that AMEX Platimum sign up offer ends…

    Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in your first three months. Offer ends 3rd March 2013

    • Raffles says:

      Wow. Perhaps they are going back to 40,000 points, which is what is was before the fee went up last year?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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