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Bits: mystery Supercard charges, LAN Madrid to Frankfurt deal back, Luxury Travel Diary deals

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News in brief:

Supercard – the small print we missed

I covered the relaunch of Supercard recently, the payment card which lets you charge foreign currency transactions to ANY Visa or Mastercard without incurring any FX fees.

You can download the free Supercard app and order a card here.

People are now starting to use their Supercard and a strange pattern is emerging.

When transactions are made, they are logged by the app along with the exchange rate used.  A few days later, Supercard is charging a separate – smaller – amount and calling it ‘exchange rate difference’.

This is apparently the difference between the exchange rate on the day of the transaction and the date that it is cleared.  That said, I was under the impression that Mastercard locked the exchange rate on the date of transaction ….

Extra confusion comes from the fact that Supercard does not tell you which transaction these ‘exchange rate adjustments’ refer to.  If you are using it for business purposes, it will be difficult to reconcile the original transactions with the additional charges.

It isn’t clear if Supercard gives you a credit if the exchange rate moves the other way.  The market has generally been one way over the last fortnight as we all know.  One reader was told by Supercard that he had ‘saved £48’ by using Supercard on a US holiday only to find an additional £50 of charges added on as ‘exchange rate difference’.


Fly Frankfurt to Madrid in LAN business class for £120

Last year I wrote an introductory piece on South American airline LAN. LAN is a oneworld partner so you can use Avios points to redeem for its flight from Madrid to Santiago, Chile.

It also has an impressive business class seat as you can see from that article and the photo below.

Few people know that the LAN flight from Chile does not terminate in Madrid. It carries on to Frankfurt.  This allows you to earn some British Airways tier points in style.  Why? Because you can buy tickets just for the Frankfurt to Madrid flight.

If you want to try out the very nice business class seat below, here are the current special prices available on certain days over the Summer as per the LAN website here:

Frankfurt to Madrid one-way – £120

Madrid to Frankfurt one-way – £101

Return trip – £179 irrespective of where you start

You will earn roughly 1,100 Avios points and 40 tier points for each segment. The flight is 2 hours and 40 minutes so you will get a decent amount of time to enjoy the LAN seat. Lounge access is also included.  You will be flying a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which a lot of people have not yet been able to experience.

The timings are not ideal, to be honest. The Frankfurt flight departs at 19.35 and lands in Madrid at 22.10. The Madrid to Frankfurt flight leaves at 15.10 and lands at 17.45.

There probably aren’t many HfP readers who actually need to fly from Madrid to Frankfurt, or vice versa. However, if you are after some cheap BA tier points and fancy trying out a different airline then this is a fun deal.  You can book this on the LAN website here.

If you want to do a triangular trip from the UK to Frankfurt to Madrid to the UK or vice versa, remember that some Iberia flights to Heathrow are operated with long-haul A330 aircraft with flat beds in business class. You can redeem these seats using Avios and it would be an interesting comparison to do that flight and the LAN trip as part of the same journey.

LAN 787 business class

Luxury Travel Diary auctions

Finally, the Luxury Travel Diary site dropped me a line about another wave of its auctions closing this week.

Here is 7 nights in a villa in Mallorca which ends in a few days and is currently very lowly priced.  This 2 night beach break near Athens is also finishing very soon.  Looking further out, there are a batch of 2-night Paris hotel breaks in the system as well as a St Lucia holiday.  Not everything will work for you, either in terms of location, length or dates, but you’ll probably find something of interest if you poke around!

Comments (155)

  • Hugh says:

    I’m sure this used to happen occasionally with the old card, but the movement was a few pennies – i track my spending using the YNAB app, so would enter what the app said was to be charged at the time of purchase, but when it came to reconciling, it could occasionally be out by 2-3p

    • Stu R says:

      I used my pilot card a total of 46 times, and only once was charged a different sum to the app notified figure, and then it was only a penny. The article references one reader getting £50 in additional changes – ‘this’ never used to happen with the old card.

      • Travelbug says:

        I used my trial card all around the world for a fair few transactions and never recall being charged extra just that sometimes the transactions took a while to show.

      • John says:

        Same here, a penny out once out of almost 100 uses.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Used 500+ times in the beta only noticed the change in charges towards the end of the beta period (Last Month), it would initially track at a certain amount then be charged at a slightly different rates a couple of pence difference.

      I assume the fluctuations in charges have been due to the exchange rates being poor against the pound recently and if you purchased before Brexit and it posted after then you would lose out there.

      This charge is ridiculous, I have not used the new supercard yet and if there charges are going to be appearing I will probably stick to my Lloyds Avios cards, I also doubt if the fluctuations are in your favour that they will refund you any money.

  • Stu R says:

    The Supercard rate charge is frankly a deal breaker for me; the one thing I liked most about the pilot was the ability to budget on my trips, knowing exactly at the point of purchase how much I would be charged. Knowing how ‘slack’ (to say the least) Supercard are at charging sums to the linked card, the thought that I could be charged random amounts 2 or 3 weeks after the event is unnerving.

    I guess the moral of this story is ‘always read the small print’ ….

  • Travelbug says:

    I have made a few purchases coming up about £1600 on my Supercard. I have now had an extra £5.21 charge taken off my credit card and all it says is Supercard ‘CASH’ on the statement and nothing in the app. Messaged them on Twitter and they said it was for changes in the rate, I asked them to show me in the t&c’s that they will do this and they never came back to me, maybe I missed it. I am starting to think that this card might not be the best to use.

  • AJ says:

    Logged an complaint with the Supercard helpdesk yesterday which should have triggered a telephone response within 2 hours, but no call back as yet .

    I too was a pilot customer and never saw any retrospective charges liek this with the VISA card.

  • Mr Bridge says:

    This seems odd.
    Like other my pilot supercard never did this.

    Personally, if true, I think it’s a breach of their own and mastercards t+cs, because you are only authorising a single transaction, not two transactions.
    The exchange rate billed should be included in the main transaction.

    The scenario outlined in the article would seem to suggest that its travelex that are converting currency, not mastercard.
    so you spend $, and travelex convert to £ . It should not matter when it hits your linked card, because the conversion is already done, this is why your own statement does not show the fx rate or bill you the 3% fx fee.

    I would sugguest that any one affected contacts their linked card provider to dispute the extra transaction, as you have not, according to supercards t+cs, authorised the extra transaction:-

    Transaction” means any transaction which can be executed using your Supercard including a POS Transaction, an E-Commerce Transaction and/or an ATM Transaction;

    Authorising Transactions

    4.1. You will be asked to authorise each Transaction at the time it is initiated by you through the Supercard. A Transaction will be regarded as authorised by you where you:
    (a) authorise a POS Transaction by following the instructions provided by the merchant or retailer to authorise the POS Transaction which might include: (i) entering your Supercard PIN; (ii) signing a sales voucher; (iii) providing the Supercard details and/or providing any other details as requested; (iv) inserting your Supercard into a card reading device for the purpose of making a payment; (v) swiping your Supercard through a card reader;
    (b) authorise an E-Commerce Transaction by following the instructions provided by the merchant or retailer to authorise the E-Commerce Transaction and by providing the Supercard details and/or any other details as requested; or
    (c) authorise an ATM Transaction by inserting your Supercard and entering your Supercard PIN to request a cash withdrawal.

    • Genghis says:

      The pilot was a Visa card. As I understand it exchange rates on visa are fixed at point of sale. That’s why visa rates are generally worse than MC rates as they built in a premium for FX movements.

      • John says:

        Supposedly so, but I think I only heard this (“that’s why Visa rates are worse than MC”) on HFP.

        Visa Europe website publishes the rate for the next working day shortly after midnight CET. With Supercard Pilot I always got this rate.

        Previously I used to use Santander Zero Visa debit for cash withdrawals abroad, but I never received the rate on the day, always the rate a day or 2 later.

  • Genghis says:

    “That said, I was under the impression that MasterCard locked the exchange rate on the date of transaction ….”

    No – MC use settlement rate

    • AJ says:

      My main beef is that the app does not update the amount when it moves from Pending to Purchase.

    • Natalia S says:

      Yes, Mastercard uses settlement date. I am now interested in HOW THEY CHOOSE the exact settlement date though.

      My example:
      I’ve got Halifax Clarity, used it abroad the day before the EU referendum for large amount of cash and had to do it in 5 transactions due to ATM limitation. My 1st cash withdrawal transaction was charged at pre-referendum rate; but four others (done literally within 20-30 seconds from the 1st – getting the card out of ATM, putting back in, and pressing few buttons!) were “conveniently” held to go from pending to settled for 2 extra days – and I got hit with the SIGNIFICANT rate change. The total difference was more than £30.

      I plan to question this to Halifax, as it looks really fishy. Seems like a too good an opportunity for the bank to play with your currency exchange rates abroad, and get extra profits by just choosing another day to settle – especially when the bank sees a downward trend for the currency…

      • Genghis says:

        That does seem very fishy. I’d seriously question it and hold your corner.

        • Natalia S says:

          Thank you, I will.

          For me it raises a larger question: I see “the exchange rate at settlement date” as a door widely open to malpractices in the retail banking world in general. Kind of “few pence here and there as the difference from daily exchange rate difference – nobody will really notice…” I wonder what controls are in place, if any.

          And I guess, nobody would pay too much attention to several pence difference. It’s just that in case of Supercard it became so bluntly obvious because the charge from currency exchange rate difference shows as a separate transaction. The “normal” banks just hide things related to exchange rates better (and have better written T&Cs which allow them to do it without being dragged to court). It must be huge money on the scale they operate. Well worth a bit of tweaking how to “redistribute” transaction settlement dates.

        • Callum says:

          Not really fishy, unless you’re suggesting they employ people to monitor people’s spending and deliberately delay some transactions for a – normally – marginal gain?

          With their lax compensation policies you may get them to refund the difference as a “goodwill gesture”.

          • Rob says:

            It’s not a marginal gain, it would be a huge chunk of money across a large customer base. When you remember that FX fees are – in the new world of 0.3% interchange fees – the only way to actually make any money off ‘non interest paying’ card holders these days, it would not be surprising if certain people were playing with rates.

            In a world where my old employer – nominally the best regarded bank in the world when I worked there – turns out to have been running a secret banking operation for Mexican drug barons to allow them to rinse their gains, I doubt anyone would give a 2nd glance to rigging card FX rates.

            I was also lucky enough to work at Black Horse Financial Services (the old Lloyds bancassurance business) around 1990 as a University placement and, thinking back, some of the stuff that was going on there in terms of product selling was reprehensible.

          • Natalia S says:

            Agree, that’s what I meant to say. Large customer base would make it a huge potential gain. And on a personal level it seems so small that nobody would pay attention. I guess, a potential area for Fin.Ombudsman to look into – at least to make sure that there ARE some controls and flags to prevent it, and no legal loopholes.

            Also quite simple to implement automatically, no need to hire a “real” person trying to keep an eye on things to squeeze a few pence. System-wise, it should be almost exactly as normal currency trading, but working only one way (making automatic “bets” for currency going up next day, but never down); with the difference being that If bank “loses” its bet, it can pass the losses to the cardholder. If it wins, no need to share. Seems an easy and attractive scheme for me, nothing too new to implement (with similar systems already in place), good potential for solid improvement to bank bottom line – and all this coming risk-free. I can see a very convincing business case for a bank, a bit dodgy, but not on par with Mexican drug barons cash laundering (surely it must be illegal by now?) 🙂

          • Genghis says:

            Bearing in the mind the size of the numbers across the industry, it’s pretty significant.

            I’d say having 5 consecutive cash withdrawals with the last four going through at a different (and worse) rate to the first is rather strange.

          • Callum says:

            Of course its strange, fishy implies deliberate manipulation. Which would make little sense for them to not do it with all the transactions.

            As to the suggestion that banks would be doing this on a wide scale, while I don’t have Raffles industry experience I can only refuse to believe such blatant manipulation happens in this closely regulated industry (its not the 90s anymore). The drug laundering claim (assuming it’s HSBC?) doesn’t seem overly accurate either?

          • Natalia S says:

            I’ll find some time to write to the bank, and will be extremely interested in the official reply (even much more than in c.£30). I personally cannot think of an adequate explanation.

            To make sure that I am fair to Halifax, I’ve just checked the exact time of withdrawals to make sure that I did NOT incidentally hit some cut-off time between the first transaction and the rest (that would be a real bad luck of mine, but not bank’s fault) .

            No chance, local UK time for the transaction would be 14:06 to 14:13. Same cash machine, same amount in foreign currency, but the first withdrawal is charged as £52.49 at the rate for the 23rd, and the rest seven (it happens to be eight, not five altogether, I forgot the details) are at £56.26 each – and they appeared on my statement as settled on the 27th.

            Interesting and thought provoking read, these bank statements, who would have thought… 🙂

          • Genghis says:

            I’m sorry Callum but I completely disagree. Banks have been doing lots of morally inappropriate activities in recent times because that’s the way it was generally done.

            Rigging of the BBA Repo rate (e.g. inter alia Lloyds fined in 2014 for activities 2008-09), rigging LIBOR from 1991-2012 (e.g. inter alia Deutsche fined $2.5bn in 2015), FX rigging (FCA fining 5 banks $1.7bn in 2014).

            You seem to think that we live in a perfect world where people (read bankers) wouldn’t do morally inappropriate stuff to earn a quick buck. If bankers are incentivised in such a way that they are rewarded for such activity, the temptation is there.

            And the HSBC Mexican cartel story is rather true –

          • Mr Dee says:

            Lets be realistic the people that work in the banks are interested in the numbers and will delegate tasks to others and somewhere along the line people may go off track and the customer maybe manipulated.

            Back in the day I applied for a Loan with Lloyds and was told I had to take PPI even though I had been approved for the loan, the guy said I can’t take the loan unless I have the rip off PPI as well. In the end had to go elsewhere due to the call centre staff forcing PPI onto me as at the time most people were taking it and the banks were making their money with it.

  • Mike says:

    I have noticed a similar issue on my Santander Zero Mastercard. E.g. I booked a Hilton hotel and got a text saying I’ve made a purchase of £218. When it appeared online it had changed to £222. Never seems to be in my favour!

    • Mr Bridge says:

      but that’s not the same as an extra charge separate to the main tx

    • John says:

      Yet if you check the interbank rate, there is a greater than 50% chance that you will have paid less. Maybe not right now when the pound moves up and down several % every day.

      MC rates usually better than interbank by around 1% if the interbank rate has been stable for the past week.

    • Per says:

      Halifax Clarity Mastercard is the same. I’ve previously noted the amount charge when transactions are in a status of pending, and it’s always different by the time it actually lands on my account.

      • Genghis says:

        Happened to me over the weekend for use (purchase and cash withdrawal) in Sweden. I paid off the pending amount shown but now my account is 5p in credit.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        But that is correct as the final FX is on the settlement date not the transaction date, depending on the situation i.e. brevet, PM Changes, Cabinet changes this is usually not very much.

        Issue for me is i assumed supercard worked like Curve where the rate at the time is used to calculate the GBP amount and then thats charged to your card. Instead Supercard seem to be taking the opportunity to sting you for more £ if the rate is in their favour when the GBP charge is settled.

  • mark2 says:

    I was always dubious about this card (and Curve), but have acquired one so that I can transfer my expenditure in Italy onto my Hilton card without paying 3%. It may well be, however, that it would be cheaper to buy the points next time that they are half price. If I get the Amex Platinum tomorrow when I apply I can use the MR points to convert to HH.
    Sounds like it’s back to Lloyds Avios Reward.

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