Holiday Tips 3 – earning miles when ordering foreign currency

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This is third part of our ‘Holiday Tips’ series this week, covering ways of earning miles and points from every aspect of your holiday planning.  Earlier articles covered earning miles from your credit card abroad and earning miles from airport car parking.

Even if you do decide to pay for the majority of your holiday costs by credit card, you will still need some foreign currency to tide you over. In general, I avoid getting foreign currency from a Bureau de Change and simply use a cash machine at my destination. The overall cost is unlikely to be worse than using a bureau and it is far easier.

That said, you are taking a gamble when you do this, especially if you need money for a taxi.  I remember spending ages in Berlin Tegel a couple of years ago trying to find a cash machine – it was especially galling as the taxi rank was directly outside passport control.

Remember that the Halifax Clarity credit card has no FX fees on cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad (most other ‘no FX fees’ cards still charge 2.99% on ATM transactions) although you will pay interest from the date of withdrawal.  The Curve card has a fee of just 1% and you can recharge your first £200 withdrawal per month to a credit card to earn points.

The game has changed in the last year

Whenever I have written about this topic in the past, the answer was simple – use American Express Currency Exchange.

Why? Because of a unique loophole in the way that Amex Currency Exchange worked. When you pre-ordered foreign currency with an American Express-issued Amex card (ie BA, SPG, Gold, Platinum, Nectar – but NOT an MBNA or Lloyds Amex) it was treated as a Purchase and NOT as a Cash Advance.

This game is now over as Amex has closed down its foreign currency service in the UK.

How can I earn Avios from foreign currency?

You can’t.

End of story!

(Well, you can withdraw cash on your Curve card and recharge it as a purchase to an Avios-earning Visa or MasterCard, but that isn’t exactly a major earner unless have the old bmi Diamond Club MasterCard.)

This is the ba.com foreign currency page.  Historically it had information on deals with Moneycorp (for ‘at airport’ transactions) and American Express Currency Exchange (for pre-booked transactions).  For a period last Summer BA went back to working with Travelex for two months but that trial was not repeated.  The only thing it mentions now is the Executive Club Multi-Currency Cash Passport which I consider useless.

One thing you can do, if ordering from Travelex for collection at Heathrow, is earn Heathrow Rewards points on foreign currency transactions.  You will receive 1 point for every £10 you exchange and they convert 1:1 into Avios.

Travelex is also offering £10 cashback on airport shopping if you collect over £500 of currency at Manchester Airport – see here for details.


Earning miles buying currency at Gatwick and elsewhere

If you are not flying from Heathrow, there is one option open to you.

The good news is that Moneycorp, which has a strong presence at Gatwick, gives Virgin Flying Club miles on pre-ordered currency.  This is a great option as you benefit from the convenience of collecting at the airport plus the substantially better rates available for pre-ordering plus 1 Virgin Flying Club mile per £1 exchanged.  Details can be found on the Flying Club website here.

Whilst Virgin does not mention it, you can also pre-order currency and earn Virgin Flying Club miles for collection at Moneycorp desks at Stansted, Southend, Bristol and Southampton.

In general, though, there are currently no ways of earning Avios points from purchasing foreign currency which are worth the effort.  Focus on getting the best rate instead.

British Airways announces its in-flight service cuts for August!
Hilton tightens up on its Gold and Diamond status match
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  1. Jovanna says:

    OT: Anyone know anything about Coin, Plastc, Stratos or Swyp? I’m seeing ads for these on my social media – probably because I’ve Curve or Supercard in my cookies. Plastc seems to offer Amex functionality.

    • They appear to be US products which “clone” cards onto their magstripe. So not great for security and not great for UK use. Some have a fee and some have gone bankrupt.

      Presumably you could clone your hotel room key onto these cards…

      I’d rather have physical cards in my wallet instead of having to fiddle around on an app or website to make sure I’m using the card I want to use.

  2. PalCsaky says:

    How bad is the hit on credit rating after cash withdrawal from the credit card?

    • There isn’t one as long as you pay your bills on time. Make sure you pay back ASAP to minimise interest though.

      If you don’t want to apply for a new credit card (eg already have Lloyds Avios for forex I purchases) then Revolut allow £500 per month (or local currency equivalent) in ATM withdrawals free of charge.

      • Genghis says:

        Are you sure of that Alan? The number of ‘cash advances’ (eg ATM withdrawals) is captured on credit reports even if you pay back the cash straight away. The effect of this, however, I’m not sure.

        • I think they still care more about overall credit utilisation and late payments. I’d be surprised if many folk were taking out significant enough amounts of cash via ATMs for it to have any effect (and obviously when taken out on Curve/Supercard it goes through as a purchase anyway although given the fees I doubt many will withdraw much that way). If you’re worried about it then Revolut would definitely be fine!

        • RIccati says:

          Of course there is.

          Not a hit to a formal credit rating, but raises a flag on the new account application and can be the reason for rejection in itself. AMEX doesn’t like its cards being used for cash withdrawals.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Taking cash from credit cards in theory is only done when someone is desperate for cash i.e no money in their bank and the reason its reported is to give lenders an idea of your spending habits, it is of course not a positive thing however I can’t see it having a huge effect on future credit products if your paying the card off in full.

  3. If you order over £500 moneycorp do free home delivery.

  4. Phill Ramsay says:

    Moneycorp used to be great. I could use the Virgin branded site with my Amex. Get the flying club miles and points for my card spend. A while back there was no card fee for Amex. Now there is a card fee from MCorp plus you get hit with the 2% fee from Amex themselves for cash transaction.

    The other thing I used to consider is the rate I was getting. Sometimes it has worked out better to use my debit card to get cash and the money I have saved has been able to pay for the equivalent miles.

  5. Genghis says:

    Or sign up to Heathrow Rewards, order just over £150 from Travelex while entering your HR number and get 2,500 HR points after 40 days (after Travelex but back guarantee period). The rates aren’t the best but the HR points more than make up for it.

    See https://www.headforpoints.com/2016/04/12/new-2500-avios-or-other-miles-heathrow-rewards-sign-up-bonus/

  6. First £200 per month on Curve card for ATM? I thought it was £200 per day max?

    • Genghis says:

      £200 per day for actually being able to get the cash from the ATM but over and above the first £200 withdrawal of the calendar month, there are charges at home and abroad.

  7. Johnnycl says:

    Can’t you use Curve/Supercard to pay at Moneycorp and get some points that way?

    • Mr Dee says:

      I wouldn’t think so and if you could no doubt there would be charges added on also you can’t use supercard without having to pay a fee for GBP purchases

    • Genghis says:

      I remember reading somewhere that you can use Curve at Bureaux de Change where payment is taken on collection (i.e. not in advance). I’ve not tried it myself. Moneycorp (I think) and Best Foreign Exchange (for sure) are pay on collection. Could be worth a try if it’s not out of your way.

  8. Graham Walsh says:

    I try and make sure I can get by without changing any money when travelling. Most places take cards everywhere nowadays. You should see the disbelief when you ask a taxi driver is Oslo if they take cards. They think I’m crazy.

  9. Roger says:

    You say: ‘ I remember spending ages in Berlin Tegel a couple of years ago trying to find a cash machine …’

    What? Shock! Horror! I’m surprised you didn’t use Uber. I’m told they are quite useful.

    • This was pre-Uber. That said, ordered an Uber in Dubai last year and I think Vodafone billed me something like £13 for the data used ….

      • Roger says:

        Hi, Rob. Not for discussion now (in spite of earning M&M miles), I use https://www.swiss.com/gb/en/book/swiss-choice/swiss-mobile in distant places. They have several packages. I have the basic PAYG offer for which the UAE data charge is CHF 0.48/MB. For comparison UK and many countries including South Africa CHF 0.10/MB. Voice calls are decent, too.

      • xcalx says:

        Similar thing happened to me at LAX. Needed to use the Silvercars app to access the Audi, Vodaphone data charge was £15.

        Raffles, You’ve never written about Silvercars, some good promo’s out there with a very generous referral programme.

      • Adrian says:

        I had exactly the same in Panama, saved £5 on a trip and spent £15 on the data to do that!

        • Mr Dee says:

          Definitely buy a local sim card and an unlocked phone/dongle outside of Europe

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Register for Vodafone World Traveller USA/UAE both covered use you home tariff abroad for £5 a day, not cheap but far better than the standard tariff charge of £6/MB

        • Fenny says:

          US is one of the 3 Feel at Home countries. You can buy data top ups or calls & data or just PAYG.

  10. You can earn Avios by buying foreign currency on ebay!

    • Mr Dee says:

      Don’t think I would be willing to take the risks on ebay for currency purchases TBH

    • scott says:

      $112 usd on ebay currently bid up to £100 plus £ p&p are these people stupid ? you would get more just going to a local bureau de change lol

      • You forget that eBay is a major source on money laundering. This is why supermarket gift vouchers go for over face value. You get money dropped into Paypal and then liquidate it via eBay.

  11. Adrian says:

    The loss of the Amex currency service was huge for us, we go to the USA a lot. Out of the £10k spend needed for a 241, £4k was currency, it will be much harder to make the spend on the 241.
    Any ideas to manufacture spend apart from gift cards? Any advice would be welcome.

    • Genghis says:

      The first rule of manufactured spend is to not talk about manufactured spend (in open fora).

  12. Simmo says:

    Has anybody used their Tesco credit Card to get currency from a Tesco currency stall?

    I briefly remember when getting the card there was no cash advance fee issued?

    • CardiffJock says:

      Yes I’ve done this. If you order online with Tesco you get a better rate than the walk up rate. It’s treated as a purchase on a Tesco credit card so you earn club card points too, which you can of course convert to Avios.

      Their rate isn’t always the very best, but the Avios (and ability to have it delivered or collect from local store) made it a not bad deal.

      • Devon Lad says:

        Are you sure it’s treated as a purchase? I have never received points when buying Tesco currency on my Tesco credit card…

    • AmandaB says:

      Yes we have used the service too, excellent.Minimum order is £500 in any currency combination. Can recceomend for ease and speed. Delivered by the postie too

  13. Talay says:

    I have used a certain £35 card to obtain currency from a certain Supermarket and whilst it won’t go through online, it does then allow you to collect in person at the online rate (obviously after putting in your loyalty card number to get a better rate) and thus the effect is pretty decent.

    I have done a few €1000 pick ups this way and it has gone through each time.

    I must say that the linked card is the Marriott Mastercard and as I had trouble with that previously, I got both Marriott and the £35 card people talking about their API interaction where the £35 card is sending it through as a purchase but Marriott is picking it up as a cash transaction and refusing to authorise online. Via chip and pin it is fine though !

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