I am dedicating all three posts today to the new Lloyds Avios Rewards cards. Post 1 is an overview, and Post 3 looks at the upgrade voucher. This post looks at the FX fees benefit.
For me, the most surprising part of this announcement was the fact that there will be no 3% foreign exchange fee added to transactions you make with either of the two Lloyds Avios Rewards cards.
To put this in perspective, never before has a UK rewards card – of any sort – also offered ‘fee free’ foreign exchange transactions.
In general, before today, it was almost always a bad idea to use a mileage card for overseas spend. This is because all miles and points cards – and indeed almost all other UK credit and debit cards – charged a foreign exchange fee of 2.75% to 2.99%. Most card issuers hide this fee so you don’t realise you are paying it, because they simply adjust their exchange rate by 2.75%-2.99% rather than breaking the fee out.
There were a number of credit cards, however, which did NOT charge any foreign loading fees. None of these offered rewards.
With ‘fee free cards’, your transactions are converted at the wholesale exchange rates set by MasterCard or Visa, which to all intents and purposes are the ‘spot’ rates. Before the Lloyds card launched, the best offerings were from the Halifax, Saga, the Post Office and Capital One, who have cards with no annual fee and no FX fees on purchases. Nationwide also offers a good card, but only for its FlexAccount holders. If you live in London, Metro Bank was another option with a ‘no FX charges’ debit card.
Some mileage cards offered a bonus for foreign spending, but still charged the 3% fee.
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card gives you double points when you use it abroad. This means you get 2 Membership Rewards points per £1, which converts to 2 Avios per £1.
The IHG Rewards Club Black Visa card gives you 4 Priority Club points per £1 spent abroad, double the normal rate.
In both of these cases, the ‘bonus’ for foreign spend brought your total reward up to about 2p of value per £1 spent, but this was outweighed by the 2.99p per £1 FX fee.
(Of course, spending abroad also helps you to achieve spending targets. The IHG Rewards Club card mentioned above also gives you a free night voucher when you spend £10,000 per year. And of course the BA Premium Plus Amex gives you a 2-4-1 voucher for Avios redemptions valid in any class when you spend £10,000 per year. It was often worthwhile paying the FX fee on your credit card in order to achieve some of your spending target. After all, for most of us our holiday is one of the main expenditures of the year.)
The new Lloyds Avios Rewards card lets you have the best of both worlds
Your best option, before yesterday, was either:
Use a Halifax, Saga, Post Office etc ‘no fees’ card but get no rewards
The new Lloyds Avios Rewards card lets you earn 1.25 Avios per £1 on the Amex card AND saves you the 2.99% foreign exchange fee. If you spend more than £800 abroad on your credit card each year, the saving on foreign exchange fees (at 3%) would outweigh the £24 annual fee for the card.
For this reason, I recommend getting a £24 Lloyds Avios Rewards card even if you only use it for overseas spend. Whether you should bother to put additional spend on the card depends on whether you value the other benefits …. which is what Part 1 and Part 3 of my series of posts today discusses.
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)