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.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
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
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
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
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.