Nutmeg Avios

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

Last year I ran a number of posts 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.

£50 travellers cheque

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.

(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.)

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  1. I’ve now completed 3 Sterling T/C purchases from Amex by home delivery, on both platinum and gold rewards cards. For my newly received gold rewards card, my first transaction was for £550, and then, a second for £1450 about two weeks later. Both approved no problem – now have 24030 MR points showing on balance within three weeks of getting the card (22000 sign up, 2030 from T/C spend).

    • Very nice! I’m impressed they let you do that on a new card. Perhaps I am too cautious with my advice, although there are numerous reports on FT of people not being able to get transactions through.

  2. I purcahsed £1000 in Thai bart 2 weeks ago on plat probs

  3. As the one who was the guinea pig for this on flyertalk, I can also confirm that if using a gold card (and I assume plat card) via the amex site directly, you also get points for the value of the purchase. Note for the free dellivery you must order OVER £500, ordering £500 will incur a £5 delivery charge.

  4. Raffles, I think you might have unearthed the UK’s equivalent of vanilla reload cards. Let the deluge of points begin!

    • As per my other comment, you can buy 10,000 MR points a year for 1.5p each by ringing up Amex. No need to muck about with TC’s! And 1.5p per MR point is not a great deal by any stretch – I consider myself lucky if I get 1p per point when I redeem them – although as a source of ‘topping off’ an account, or transferring during a bonus period, you can clearly do better.

  5. Does it make sense simply as a method of gaining Membership Reward Points.

    E.g. Virgin UC reward LAX return = 100,000 points ~ equiv £3500 to purchase cash.

    1.5% of £100,000 sterling TC = £1,500 fee for 100,000 points

    Better than half price….

    Not sure I’d be able to get £100K of TC in one go though 🙂


  6. Just for information’s sake, (sadly I work in retail FX!) both Gatwick and Heathrow have recently announced new tender arrangements for their Foreign Exchange providers. At Gatwick, Moneycorp will be the exclusive provider from 1 April. At Heathrow, both Travelex and Moneycorp have won contracts – no more Amex at LHR, or Travelex at LGW. Not sure of date for changes at LHR yet.

    This of course won’t change the ability to order Amex FX and T/C online for home delivery though.

    • Seriously?!

      So BA has signed a multi-year deal with an FX partner who will no longer have a presence in either of BA’s main airports?!

  7. I’ve phoned up Card Services to get my Cash Advance enabled – they’re claiming that a purchase of TC’s still attracts the 3% cash advance fee as well as the 1.5% fee for Travellers Cheques.

    Perhaps there is a loophole for now, but if the cash advance fee is mandated the value largely is gone.

    • You don’t need Cash Advance enabled. Forget the rubbish the website tells you.

      I actually used to think that getting Cash Advance enabled WOULD lead to you getting charged, but since this also worth with Amex credit cards – which are set up to work in ATM’s from day one – I don’t think so.

  8. Georgie says:

    Whilst in theory this is a great idea to meet the £2000 or £3000 spend you require for an introductory bonus in the first three months or card ownership. In practice I would imagine if folk use it on an endless rinse and repeat cycle it will get pulled in a pretty short space of time.

    • Very true. That is actually why I am happy that the fee is 1.5 per cent and not 0.5 per cent! If it was 0.5 per cent everyone would be jumping onto it. At 1.5 per cent, it only makes sense for the small number of people who have sign-up bonuses to meet and can’t manage them from their day to day spending.

    • AS I said in another place, £2,500 for what, 50 odd days at a cost of £37.50, makes Amex the lowest cost payday loan company in existence.

    • I imagine if people keep phoning AMEX to query if they will get charged a cash advance fee when purchasing from Amex Currency Exchange that might raise the profile of this and result in it being pulled as well.

  9. 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.


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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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%

  12. 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.”

    • 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.

  13. 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 ??

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

  14. 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