Travelex announced yesterday that it is closing Supercard, its 0% foreign exchange fee payment card. Your card will cease to work on 24th July.
Supercard was an innovative payment product which has, I think, been ruined by poor implementation – primarily the high failure rate of transactions when you tried to use the card.
In theory, it was great. You link any other Visa or MasterCard to your Supercard. When abroad, you swipe your Supercard and Travelex automatically converts your purchase into £ without any FX fees. It then recharges the transaction to your underlying Visa or MasterCard in £.
This meant that you could earn rewards on your underlying Visa or MasterCard without paying the 3% foreign exchange fees which are attached to almost all loyalty Visa and MasterCard products.
If you have a Travelex Supercard – or if you don’t have one but are looking for ways of not paying a 3% foreign exchange fee on all your holiday spending this Summer – you have three options today:
Switch to a credit or debit card with no foreign exchange fees
Using a credit card with a 3% foreign exchange fee but which earns rewards
Switch to the Curve Card, which comes with £5 for trying it out and has the same (better, actually) functionality as Supercard but with a 1% FX fee
I will look at each of these options in turn.
Option 1: Switching to a credit or debit card with no foreign exchange fees
Historically, 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 2.99% which is itemised on your statement. You can clearly see how much money is going out on avoidable FX fees.
In late 2013, Lloyds Bank broke the mould by introducing a credit card – the Lloyds Avios Rewards card – which gave you miles AND no foreign exchange fees. It was the first UK credit card to do this.
No-one else has yet followed suit and, now that interchange rates are capped, I doubt anyone will. After all, FX fees are one of the few ways that a card issuer can now make a profit from anyone who pays their bill promptly.
The Lloyds card has a £24 fee, albeit (as my review explains) you can receive 4,500 Avios for signing up if you are referred.
There are also a number of FREE credit cards in the UK which do not charge any fees on overseas purchases. These include The Post Office Money Platinum Credit and Halifax Clarity. Clarity also offers totally free overseas ATM transactions.
How does the Lloyd Avios Rewards card compare?
The Lloyds Avios Rewards card comes with a £24 annual fee, which makes it worse than the Post Office and Halifax Clarity cards. There is also a 3% fee on cash withdrawals abroad.
You will, however, receive 1.25 Avios per £1 spent abroad on the Amex card and 0.25 Avios per £1 spent abroad on the MasterCard. The Post Office and Halifax Clarity cards have no rewards programme.
For the first six months you receive double points, so 2.5 Avios per £1 on the Amex.
If you value an Avios at 1p, and assuming your foreign spend is 75% Amex (your hotel will take it) and 25% MasterCard, then the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is a better deal than the Post Office or Halifax cards if you spend over £2,400 abroad each year.
(Why? Because your £24 annual fee will be offset by the 2,400+ Avios earned back)
Option 2: Using a credit card with a 3% foreign exchange fee but which earns rewards
With the Travelex Supercard closing, you may not want to go to the trouble of applying for another credit card just for overseas transactions. There are some miles and points cards which are a decent choice for using abroad if you don’t want to go to the trouble of applying for a ‘no FX fees’ card.
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card (click for review) 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. This does not fully offset the 2.99% FX fee, but comes close.
The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard (click for review) gives you 4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 spent abroad. These can be redeemed for free nights at Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, InterContinental etc hotels. I value these at roughly 0.5p per point, so 2p of value per £1. Representative APR 41.5% variable including the £99 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.
If you are a high earner and qualify for HSBC Premier, their cards are also worth a look. The free HSBC Premier Mastercard (click for review) earns double points abroad, so 1 Avios or other airline mile. Representative APR 18.9% variable. The World Elite version of this card, with a £195 fee, also earns double points abroad and is worth 2 Avios per £1.
Spending abroad also helps you to achieve spending targets.
The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard mentioned above also gives you a free night voucher when you spend £10,000 per year.
The Virgin Atlantic cards offer upgrade vouchers when you hit specific spend thresholds.
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. Representative APR 76.0% variable including the £195 fee based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.
You may find it 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.
Option 3: Switch to the Curve Card, which has the same functionality as Supercard but with a 1% FX fee
The Curve Card is a similar product to Supercard, although it can be used in the UK and abroad. Foreign currency transactions come with a 1% fee, which is cheaper than using your usual Visa or MasterCard.
The idea behind Curve is that you can link all of your Visa and MasterCard cards to Curve, allowing you to just carry one card with you. Using the Curve app, you can switch the card which is recharged with your purchase. For businesses, there are additional features such as the ability to scan a receipt with your phone and have it stored alongside the transaction data.
The basic version of Curve is free – in fact, Curve will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use my referral code below. It is now available for Android users as well as iPhone and works with any other Visa or MasterCard you hold.
Curve is currently targeting the small business market. You will be asked to confirm that you run your own business, are a partner in a partnership or have some form of self employed income on top of your regular job during the application process. If you do not feel able to make this declaration, you should wait for the consumer version of the card which will be launched later this year.
If you use Curve in the UK, you can also benefit from Curve Rewards. This pays you cashback, usually 1.5%, at various retailers including Argos, Marks & Spencer, B&Q, Boots, Debenhams, House of Fraser etc. You earn the cashback immediately – it is literally added to your Curve account as soon as your card is swiped in a participating store. (I use this in M&S on a regular basis and can confirm it works fine.)
It is important to remember that you earn Curve Rewards on top of any rewards you earn from your underlying Visa or MasterCard. When I make a purchase in M&S, I get my 1.5% cashback from Curve plus 2 IHG Rewards Club cards per £1 from the IHG MasterCard which is linked to my Curve card.
Curve has one other perk. You can withdraw £200 per month from a cash machine, fee free, and it will be treated as a purchase – earning points on your linked credit card!
How to apply
Curve is a bit fiddly to explain, so the easiest thing to do is to sign up and try it for yoruself. The basic Curve Card is free and you are paid £5 for trying it out.
The Android version of Curve can be downloaded here. The iOS version for Apple devices is here. Enter referral code OQB4J into the app on the first page when prompted. This is my refer-a-friend code and is required in order to trigger the £5 free credit. (For clarity, I will receive a £5 credit for referring you.)
This is the screen of the app where you enter the OQB4J code – click ‘Add A Referral Code’:
This code will get you a £5 credit added to your Curve Rewards account. You can choose between the Blue card (no fee) or the Black card (£50 fee, higher rewards as outlined above). To be honest, I don’t recommend you take the latter option unless you are certain that you spend enough money at partipating Curve Rewards merchants to justify the additional cashback you will receive.
The £0 fee may not show during the application process but will appear on your confirmation email.
It is shame that Travelex Supercard failed. Those of us who were involved in the beta trial, when it was operated by a different payment processor, will confirm that the card worked better then.
I don’t think that I ever got a payment of over £100 to work on the relaunched version. Curve may have a 1% fee but it is more reliable – I got a £1,500 hotel bill in Hong Kong to go through first time over Easter. That said, don’t ever leave home with just the Curve Card in your pocket, irrespective of what their marketing says!
For many people, switching to the £24 Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card may be the best option. This is especially true if you know that you will be using it abroad in places which take Amex, as the earning rate on the Lloyds MasterCard is weak at 0.25 Avios per £1.
If the Lloyds Avios Rewards card doesn’t work for you – and you may not want to pay the £24 annual fee – then it is worth giving Curve a try, linking it to a high earning rewards Visa or MasterCard.
In the worse case scenario, go for a fee-free Post Office or Halifax Clarity credit card. It means adding another card to your wallet but you will still save 3% on every purchase compared to your usual loyalty credit card when travelling.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – November 2020 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my November 2020 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.