What is the best credit card for foreign spend when someone else is paying?

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We write a lot on Head for Points about ways to minimise the 2.99% foreign exchange fee added to most credit and debit card transactions outside the UK.

For personal travel you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.  There are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.

Instead, take a look at cards such as the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  Whilst it doesn’t earn miles, this card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

When you are travelling for work, however, your credit card bills will be reimbursed by your employer.  There is no incentive for you to get a separate 0% foreign exchange fee card.  Your goal should arguably be on maximising rewards for yourself.

I won’t focus on credit card spend bonuses here because those don’t change whether you are spending in the UK or abroad.  I just want to look at cards which increase your earning rate for FX transactions.

What is the best UK credit card for foreign spending?

Here are your options for cards which have bonuses for foreign spending, but in return add on a 2.99% FX fee:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – double points abroad, so 2 per £1.  That translates into 2 Avios or other airline miles, 4 Hilton Honors points, 3 Marriott Bonvoy points or 6 Radisson Rewards points amongst other things.  The card is free for the first year.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – double points abroad, so 2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 which I value at 0.8p.  The card is free.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – double points abroad, so 4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 which I value at 1.6p.  £99 annual fee.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

HSBC Premier Mastercarddouble points abroad, so 1 Avios or other airline mile.  The card is free but you must have a HSBC Premier current account which has strict eligibility criteria.  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.

As you can see there are some good options here that can get you a return of around 2% on your spending.  That is less than the 2.99% foreign fee you are incurring, of course, which is why these are not attractive deals for personal use, just for business expenditure.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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.

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Comments

  1. Lloyds Amex still clinging on for those lucky enough – recently pushed a few K through on a trip via the Amex, they even kindly doubled my avios despite now being beyond the six month double-up period. 2.5 avios per £, 0% Fx and another 16 months to run interest free.

    Don’t forget it if you still have it!

    • So – if you stopped spending when you receive the closure notice, you could do a balance transfer from another card and enjoy the full interest free period (obviously if you then make any purchases you get hit with interest)?

  2. Daniel Evans says:

    Is this considered ethical regardless of who the employer is? Are large corporates, charities, local government and SMEs all fair game? It does seem like a betrayal of trust to deliberately use a card with an FX fee if you have one that doesn’t charge such fees.

    • Adam Brown says:

      The card that is used is a personal thing and there are many reasons why you may choose one card over another. I use a FX fee card to pay for Car Hire instead of a non FX fee card because the fee card comes with free hire car insurance. If I did not use it the costs would be even higher (And I could earn more points) but the fact is that this is what works for me.

      If a company wants to select the card their employees use then they can provide them with a card, otherwise why should they dictate how people amass personal debt.

      • Daniel Evans says:

        My point is, if you are spending money on behalf of your employer and you have a choice whether to earn points on an FX card and pass on the fee or pay on a non-FX fee card I would say it’s pretty clear which option is the more ethical.

        • Adam Brown says:

          So if they want to ensure which card I use they are free to provide one. Otherwise there are hundreds of different reasons why I wouldn’t. My employer does not have the right to tell me how to manage my money.

  3. Daniel Evans says:

    What about when you are on holiday with a large group of friends? Is it OK to pay the restaurant bill on an Amex card with an FX fee but earns points when you have another card in your pocket which would save everyone a bit of money?

    • Adam Brown says:

      To be honest whenever I have paid for friends I have not charged them the FX fee. I pay on my card and they give me the Euros for their share. So what card I use is my own business.

      • Daniel Evans says:

        If you are not passing on the FX fee of course that’s fine but if you were to be really shady you could choose an FX fee card just to earn points from your “friends”.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Unlikely, as they’d give you the EUR (or whatever currency) amount after the meal surely? I’ve never known anyone to go on holiday and pay for everything, then invoice their mates in GBP when they get home.

          • Really? Have done it all the time with friends. We each pay for whatever then settle up when we get back – some have paid for accommodation, some for car hire, some for meals, etc. Find it easier to settle in GBP after home and not worry about cash at the time.

        • Adam Brown says:

          If we are just going to pick random examples – How about if you have a 0% FX fees card but when the bill comes instead of using it you kill a puppy? is that theft?

          The objections seem to believe that Finance departments are completely staffed with morons. People working in finance departments (If they are worth their wages) will know that 0% cards exist and will have calculated the savings by making staff sort out their own expenses and the benefits to cashflow and will have made an informed decision.

          Another area that this is done is Mileage. My work has a fixed mileage allowance regardless of if I drive my 4×4, my City car or my motorbike but all of these have very different costs. When I registered my Bike I asked if it was the same repayment rate and was told that it was easier for them to have a set amount than to try and calculate the running costs for every journey for every vehicle. So was I stealing when I rode my bike? knowing that I was receiving much more than I spent out? Should I have repaid a set amount on those journeys? Was the extra amount given made up for by the fact I would arrive an hour earlier than if I drove?

          The morality or otherwise is between company and employee and what works for both of them.

        • I doubt they’d be too bothered about paying 50p extra, for example. Not that if charge them the fx fee

        • Anyone planning ‘shady’ behaviour with their friends is just generally not a good person though are they?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          i think they’d probably do better out of the rounding call it £300 not £304.50 etc

          either way they have done considerably better than if they exchanged cash before we flew out.

        • @Adam Brown and others
          This is exactly the reason why we need consider investing in tools like the one below:
          https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4607834/Autotrip%20-%20Investor%20Summary%20Nov%2018.pdf

          They have just started a new funding round which you are all welcome to participate

          (I have no direct affiliation – just remembered about complaints here while reading their prospectus)

  4. M Corrêa says:

    Still no mention to Aqua card, despite having the same offer as Tandem. I know your considerations about initial credit limit but they offer very generous limits after some time. You could use the new editors to write about it – could be beneficial to some of your readers. 🙂

    • What is the point getting a credit card aimed at ex-bankrupts and credit defaulters (eg Aqua), which usually comes with a £500 credit limit and which may cause problems on your credit report, when you can get Tandem instead?

      • Why would it cause problems on a credit report, assuming you stick to the terms of the agreement / pay in full etc.?

        Is it the name “Aqua” or type or card (in the same way that a payday loan sinks a mortgage application) that causes a problem?

        • Aqua cards are marketed as cards for people who struggle to get credit elsewhere due to bankruptcy or other previous issues. It is unlikely that it wouldn’t raise some flag on a credit report although clearly it won’t make much impact if everything else looks OK.

      • Huh? Surely you must know the names of your creditors aren’t visible to those running a credit check? What am I missing here? Are you just extrapolating your snobbery on this topic?

        • Aqua also need a phone call prior to spending overseas , not required with curve.

        • Depends on which service is used, remember that the file is being accessed with consent. Obviously the applicant will also usually be required to disclose who the credit card providers are and the extent of facilities with the application.

          The “wrong” providers are a definite red-flag. Why would anyone choose a card from a specialist in bad & doubtful account holders when there are so many better cards on the market?

          The FoS & ICO have found in my favour on several occasions when I’ve received targetted emails these sub-prime companies to “improve my credit score” by taking out one of their cards. One complaint resulted in them undertaking a “soft search” without consent! £750 Kerching.

        • It doesn’t depend on the service used… They can’t see the names unless you specifically tell them or give them a copy of your report.

          I’ve never been asked to identify who my other creditors are. I guess they possibly could for mortgage applications?

          Though your insinuation that these companies specialised in lending money are incapable of making their own assessment of your credit report and would rely on what Aqua thinks of you is absurd in the extreme. It also doesn’t raise any red flags – how could it? Anything stopping you getting mainstream credit would have been reported on your credit report and they can see it’s not there. Not to mention, if you have Aqua alongside more prestigious/mainstream cards, it’s blindingly obvious that you are therefore able to get better cards making that a moot point anyway.

        • Quite frankly, given his background in finance and obviously high intelligence, I’m shocked Rob doesn’t seem to understand how credit searches work! (If I’m being an idiot and have missed something, please do let me know and I’ll gladly apologise!)

        • Callum.

          Perhaps you haven’t spent quite so much time in credit sanctioning as other contributors?

        • I can’t speak for the whole market but from what I know and experience @Callum is correct. The credit data that my co receive from Experian as part of the credit analysis process does not contain information on the names of other credit institutions.

        • I’m also unsure why Dave B is spreading misinformation about overseas spending. I’ve spent on my Aqua card in every country I’ve visited in the last 5 years. I have never informed them in advance that I am travelling. And I don’t recall the card being declined on a single occasion.

          It’s a good card.

        • I’m confused (and know nothing about the subject).

          I did a check on one of the comparison sites (I can’t remember which one!) a couple of weeks ago in advance of getting the Virgin Credit card. I was told it was doing a soft search. I was rated 95% likely to get it. I then applied but was referred. I hadn’t heard back after several days so out of interest went back onto the same site and did the same search. This time I was rated 0% likely to get it. Although it didn’t specify the reason for this, one of the possible reasons was I already had a card from that issuer. I had similar 0% ratings for two other issues with which I have cards (HSBC and Barclays) but nothing below 40% for any other cards.

          I then checked my spam folder and found an email from Virgin telling me I’d got the card. 🙂

          I did a similar eligibility check for my wife this weekend with Moneysavingsexpert. I think she was shown as pre-approved for the Virgin card but when she applied she was also referred. Checking back at Moneysavingsexpert for the same eligibility checker it is now showing her Virgin card likelihood as “Accepted”.

          Does this not strongly imply that soft searches give the names of the issues?

        • issues = “issuers” x 2… Sorry!

        • It was the 3% cash back that attracted me to Aqua in the first place. I’ll try my Aqua without informing them next time I am away. I’ve the curve to use.

        • This may not be seen as I know it’s a bit late, but the comparison site cannot see the issuers.

          Some of them have direct links to the individual lenders however, who will obviously know whether you’ve applied/received one of their cards or not. This is presumably how you get the “guaranteed acceptance” tag on those sites – which I’ve received from Virgin before.

          Andrew – I’ve spent no time in credit sanctioning, I merely know how it works. I always leave open the fact I could be wrong and ask for corrections (I’m not infallible!), but didn’t seem any can contradict me this time…

        • Read it and interesting thanks. A week on my wife still hasn’t had an acceptance email from Virgin! It certainly makes sense what you’re saying.

      • It is. But NewDay has a portfolio of products aimed at different people.

      • Although remember Curve exchange rate loading at the weekend, so I still find Monzo or Starling better (prefer the Monzo’s app).

  5. Interesting topic. What card does Anika use when she’s overseas, and would you ask her to open a 0% FX fees card (Tandem, Curve or Revolut) if she does not already have one?

    • Anika uses her Amex Gold, I repay it without question in full 🙂

      She has a Revolut, I don’t ask her to use it.

      • You should give her a 2.5% bonus on her expenses if she uses a 0FX and you’d both be 0.5% up (well she could be 1% up using a Tandem)!

        • Given that overseas trip expenses are 0.1% of our annual revenue (remember we never pay for hotels etc) I doubt we’ll be wasting mental capacity on that!

          Which of course is the attitude any sensible corporate would take …

        • Rob it’s almost like you have an understanding of how large business works… unlike some of the time wasters on here!

        • Shoestring says:

          It’s when your boss suggests you pay the big dinner bill (even though corporate policy is for most senior person to pay) that you know you’re not exactly going to run into problems with your expenses.

          I can’t remember ever getting questioned much about my expenses, they just took it on trust, as did I whenever I claimed an expense.

      • Would you consider paying my card off in full too?! 🙂

    • You can’t require someone to apply for a card in their own name – that would be entirely unreasonable.

  6. Comments are a good read today… For me, given a 2/3% (or whatever it may be) FX charge is pretty much industry standard then I see no issue using a card that does this, regardless of what other cards you have in the wallet. You haven’t taken out a card (certainly for 99% of people) simply to screw your employer, you are using one that you have anyway. If a company isn’t happy with it they are more than welcome to give you a corporate card, which will cost them money and still incur the FX charge. By using your own even with a charge you are saving the company cash vs that option.

    • It amazes me how otherwise well-educated people have such a flimsy grasp of legal definitions. If you added an extra 2.99% to your expenses claim and kept the money, then it would be theft or fraud. But that percentage goes to the credit card company and thus there is no tangible gain for the employee. Any loyalty points earned belong to the issuer so the employer suffers no loss in this respect either.

      • Not to mention the preference for many people, who use a personal Credit Card for work purposes, to keep a particular card exclusively for work.

        It makes things so much tidier and easier to ensure that expenses claims are settled in full.

  7. Comments today are full of opinions! Interesting!

    Completely off topic but in need of some guidance… I have roughly 8k Emirates points in my account and similar in my other halfs. 3k are due to expire in March – is there anything I can usefully do with them? I’m hoping to book some hotels for the summer but presume it’s not good use of points to transfer from MR or SPG points over to Emirates for hotels…? Very much appreciate some guidance!

  8. George K says:

    This is probably a revelation to just me, but I just booked a return BA flight originating from Europe and was hit by the FX fee. Had I known this was going to happen, I’d have used the Lloyds Amex which would have actually netted me more points too. I can see this both ways, but I was half-hoping that a UK company would always charge in GBP. Lesson learned, I suppose – if you see another currency quoted, then that’s your clue.

  9. BA reimbursed a “duty of care” hotel claim for me in GBP based on the hotel invoice I supplied in euros, and I lost out on the 3% fee that my card charged.

    What should I have done to get the full amount back?

    • I’d have supplied a copy of the CC bill line too – Amex website has a nice feature to allow you to print a PDF of a single transaction that shows the card fee.

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