How to use your Starbucks card for free foreign currency conversions!

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This is one of those silly travel tips which you may, actually, find that you can make use of!

If you have a Starbucks plastic payment card or pay via the Starbucks app, you may not know that there is a degree of compatibility between countries.

According to the Starbucks website here a UK Starbucks account in £ can be used in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Hong Kong,  Australia, and Mexico.

It cannot be used in Brazil, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand or Turkey.  Cards issued in those countries cannot be used outside of national borders.

Here is why I mention this on HFP:

Starbucks 350

Imagine you are at JFK in New York about to depart for the UK.  In your pocket you find that you have $20 in notes and about $4 in loose change.  It is hardly worth changing back into £, and it is unlikely that anyone would take the coins off you anyway.

Instead, you go over to the nearest Starbucks and ask to top up your account using all of your remaining $.  The rate is apparently spot, give or take – and you get to use up all your coins as well.

It will convert to the £ equivalent and you can spend the balance when you get home!

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  1. Morning all. I’ll start the ball rolling.

    I hate SB, always have. But due to the vagaries of trying to find an actual ATM in Shanghai (sounds easy? It isn’t – indeed there are many machines that look like ATMs, but they only accept deposits) I needed coffee fast and stupidly selected a SB I was passing at the time. I requested an Americano & paid first, then moved along the counter to collect my drink. But I did not collect a freshly made coffee with added hot water. No. I was simply poured some slop from a container that had already been sat there since before I placed my order. Did I say I hate SB?

    • Genghis says:

      I topped up a SB online acct a few times back end of last year when Amex had the spend £15 get £5 back promo on. Ive been using the balance v slowly, the occasional cake / frap etc as the coffee really is crap (quality coffee at work and Waitrose (ideally) when out).

    • Yep starbucks serves up absolute malaena. Truly a scourge.
      Monocle magazine run a yearly “best cities to live in”. In the most recent one, they added a new criteria (amongst many others); a higher number of starbucks, correlates with a poorer quality of life. Haha

  2. PS – Isn’t post holiday loose change why Duty Free exists? The crap tat and overpriced chocs bought for colleagues to show you genuinely, deeply care about them & think of them throughout your holiday? Maybe its just me…

  3. Andrew says:

    Or you put it in the Change For Good envelope in your seat pocket and hand to the crew.

    • Genghis says:

      I donate loose change to charity at work. Better than buying overpriced stuff at duty free.

    • It’s much better to donate it to airport collection boxes in the country where the coins are actually used.

      Since American coins are mostly worthless, the charities get roughly £3.50 per kg for them. The rest of the value is used as an incentive for people and companies to fly or ship them back to the US, which also costs a lot.

      If you donate them inside the US, they would be run through a machine that extracts all the American coins and the charities would get the full value.

      • Alex W says:

        Interesting. Another reason, besides the tedious video that ruins your IFE, not to donate to “flying start”.

      • Simon says:

        Where did you hear that? Even the public can exchange US$ coins if you look for the machines (there is one at Blackfriars Station, for example)

        In bulk you get a better rate, through a company like this:

  4. I fill up the hire car, use all the shrapnel to part pay the fuel and then pay the rest on card.

  5. Concerto says:

    I just keep the change for my next visit. It’s really handy to have some cash handy when you turn up in NYC, for MTA card top ups etc.
    I think I’ve only ever once been in SB., which happened to be in Boston. It was so crap, utterly rubbish coffee, that I couldn’t understand what everyone sees in SB. And they’ve got the cheek to be damned expensive for the dishwater they serve.

  6. Our_Kid says:

    Change for Good

  7. Steve says:

    Slightly OT

    Not only for free currency conversions, but actually profitable ones if you are lucky.

    My daughter had £100 on her revolut card, and converted it to Euros while she was saving for her spending money, a week later she coverted it back as she needed the £100 for something else. She got back £102 for the week she had it in Euro’s, not recently I must add!

    Free FX trading if you ask me, wonder what the limits are, could play around between dollars, pounds and euros trying to make money, although I guess there is probably a rule against this in the T&C’s

    • So you make £5 or £10 here and there 50% of the time, and lose it 50% of the time.

      Hardly worth it if you have better things to do. If it turns out that you win 60% and lose 40%, open a proper forex account and do it full time with £10000.

      • Steve says:

        It wasn’t supposed to be taken very seriously, its only a fun fact.

        • John B says:

          This is the sot of thing this blog is for! It’s the little things that matter right?

    • Jovanna says:

      In the Revolut app and under ‘Profile’ there’s something called ‘Verification & limits’.

  8. Nick Burch says:

    You can add India to the list of countries with non-roaming starbucks cards too. I think it’s because Starbucks India is a joint venture with Tata

    • Fenny says:

      Isn’t everything in India a JV with Tata these days. It’s 18 years since I was there auditing our company’s JV with Tata!

  9. Weston Newgirl says:

    Glad to hear it’s not just me that doesn’t like SB coffee!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      pure coffee is shoddy, most people go there for there for the other drinks – fraps etc

  10. mark2 says:

    We shall be in Seattle in June and the first Starbucks is just outside Pike St. Market.
    I will probably have a Cinnamon Swirl cake but drinking the coffee would be a step too far.

    • Andrew says:

      The store where they still have proper boobies on the mug!

      Everyone has different tastes, I find Starbucks filter coffee and their breakfast tea reasonably drinkable. I don’t cut my hot drinks with milk though.

    • Mzungu says:

      Agreed – if I really have to drink Starbucks coffee, I have to have an extra shot in an attempt to make it taste of something!
      (I don’t at any other coffee shop, chain or otherwise)

  11. Martin says:

    Thanks for that! Off to New York next week so very useful cheers!

  12. Henry Larsen says:

    Starbucks is the McDonald’s of coffee. 🙂

  13. Jon L says:

    I have found in the US that stars also track as well. So use up your cash for some drinks at the airport then potentially get a free drink back home.

    • Fenny says:

      Exactly. And in Leftpondia, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is my preferred beverage (or Tim Horton’s in Cananananadia).

  14. Not a coffee drinker, so can’t comment on the quality although they only have a couple of stores in Oz (and none in NZ) as they like their fresh coffee there and Starbucks don’t seem to have been able to make an inroads!

    Still get their food sometimes – as long as paying from credit bought at 1/3 to 1/2 normal rates thanks to Amex deals their pricing isn’t that bad!

    • Yeah there are only 7 starbucks in the whooe of treater melbourne… don’t even want to know how many there are in London… there are 5 in Soho alone!

    • SydneySwan says:

      Starbucks has been a failure in OZ. There are still a few around but mainly in tourist areas and populated with tourists. Most of those that opened in suburban areas of Sydney have long since closed, driven away by the local coffee shops which make much better coffee and to which Aussies tend to be intensely loyal.

  15. O/T (sort of). I am flying back from New Orleans C/W in October and there is no O/W or third party lounge that BA use, so I was wondering if I am guaranteed to get a voucher to spend in the airport (such as Starbucks…there’s the link!) instead or whether this is on an airport by airport basis.

  16. Andrew says:

    This will be quite handy on my next trip stateside – particulary as my employer sells £50 Starbucks cards for £45. At today’s rates, that makes it a 1.38 exchange rate.

  17. Frappuccinos

  18. I love a cup of McDonald’s black “tar”. Many an afternoon’s travel has been boosted by an injection of caffeine. McD’s also great for long cycle journeys, caffeine, toilets and salty fries. A significant contribution to road safety.

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