Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best credit card for foreign FX spending 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.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

Another option is to open an account with online bank Starling. It comes with a debit card which charges no fees on FX cash withdrawals up to £300 per day and no fees at all on overseas transactions. You can fund Starling by moving money to and from your existing bank account via their app. Our review of Starling Bank is here and you can apply here.

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 56.6% 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 22.9% variable.

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 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

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

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

Nectar American Express

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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 card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

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 card

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.

Comments (172)

  • AndyW says:

    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.

    • Anna says:

      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.

      • Andrew says:

        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.

  • Ree says:

    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!

  • 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.

  • Brasov says:

    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?

    • Alan says:

      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.