A few people have emailed me about this offer in the last month or so. I have not written about it before because this is a very complex process which should not be entered into lightly, but as it does seem to be coming onto the radar of more and more people I have decided to cover it. Do not apply for this card unless you are 100% sure what you are doing and what it entails.
American Express issues two cards for UK residents (and indeed other EEA residents, but the cards are run from Brighton) who would prefer to bank in US$ or Euros.
These cards are known as International Currency Cards, with the individual cards known as the International Dollar Card (IDC) and International Euro Card (IEC)
They are available in Green, Gold and Platinum versions
There is no sign-up bonus for the Gold or Green card. However, the Platinum card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points. Full details can be found here.
Instead of telling you why you should apply for this card, let me tell you why you should NOT:
60,000 Membership Rewards points does NOT get you 60,000 Avios. The International Currency Cards have their own separate Membership Rewards programme. The conversion rate to Avios is 3:2 so your 60,000 point bonus is only worth 40,000 Avios or Virgin miles.
American Express will insist on a written reference from your bank before it will give you a card. If you have been an Amex client for a decade or so it appears, anecdotally, that they do not take up the reference. They do for everyone else.
You will need to provide CERTIFIED copies of your passport and utility bills
The application process takes 2-3 months to complete based on reports, primarily due to the bank references
You must pay your card bill in $ or €. This can only be done by making a foreign currency bank transfer to an overseas bank account. You cannot pay your bill by direct debit or by a £ bank transfer.
You must have a personal income of €65,000 / $65,000 or equivalent
There is an annual fee of €550 / $550
All sounds less attractive now, doesn’t it? (Note that I have actually have a Green $ card, so I know what I’m talking about!)
There are some positive reasons to get one:
If you spend a lot of money in $ or € you will avoid the FX fee on using a £ credit card
Some Membership Rewards partners transfer 1:1 out of the IDC / IEC scheme – see this HFP article from last year. There are also partners such as Malaysia Airlines and Jumeirah hotels which are not in the UK MR scheme.
You can transfer your UK Membership Rewards balance to your new IDC or IEC Membership Rewards account. Your balance will be increased by the current exchange rate, so your balance is boosted by 65%-70% if you have an IDC account. Of course, this is almost entirely offset by the poorer transfer rates.
You get free travel insurance with the card which is better than the UK Platinum Card coverage (the maximum age limit is 80 years, for example)
You get the same Priority Pass, Starwood, Club Carlson and Accor status benefits as you would get with the UK Platinum Card
Despite the Amex disclaimer to the contrary, as the Membership Rewards scheme for IDC and IEC cards is totally separate to the UK scheme, you should still receive the bonus even if you already hold a UK Gold or Platinum card
I hope this makes the pros and cons of the card a lot clearer for anyone who sees any Amex advertising for the product. Whilst the sign-up bonus may initially seem very attractive, I genuinely do not think that it is worth getting the card unless you are very financially sophisticated as it may end up being more trouble than it is worth.
(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.)