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

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As it is a Bank Holiday today, I have no qualms in filling a slot with a silly travel tip which you may, actually, find that you can use.

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, 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!  Happy New Year.

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Comments (44)

  • Peter K says:

    Thanks Harry

  • RussellH says:

    Interesting article, but I just do not see why any regular traveller (as I assume most people here are) would not hang on to the cash for the next trip?

    Particularly USD or EUR – there are plenty of places outwith the USA where USD can be spent as cash. I never change spare cash from a trip, unless it is somewhere like Tunisia where they ban import and export of their currency.

    Occasionally I do get caught out by this – the Swedish Kronor I still ‘have’ have all been cancelled and I had to send several CZK banknotes to the Salvation Army in Prague as they were due for cancellation in a couple of months.

    And given that throughout my life the value of GBP against almost anything else has been steadily downhill, there is always the distinct possiblity of making a profit.

    • Peter K says:

      I’ve seen the £ compared against the € within the past few years go from 1.4 to about 1.1 back to 1.4 down to 1.1 again. Things go in cycles as a general rule.
      Also, some of us lose coins or forget to take them on the next hol so a good cashout is useful.

      • RussellH says:

        Re value of GBP – I am looking over the period frm when I first started to travel on my own, so since 1961. Of course there have been short term fluctuations, but the overall trend has been steadily downward.
        I very clearly recall my first summer (1966) job in Germany, in a small machine shop near Bonn. I was paid DM2 per hour. At the time the exchange rate was £1=DM13,40, so my pay was the equivalent of 14.925 pence /hr. This was a definite improvement, though, on the 1/10+1 halfpenny I got at the GPO in 1964, equal to 8.54p per hour..
        [For those who are too young to remember DM. €1=DM1,98]

        And, lose coins??? Forget them??? Really???
        🙂

  • Tom1 says:

    Given that you can frequently buy Starbucks gift cards through various schemes at 5-10% discount, I don’t think you are really getting great value even at spot rates. (it’s small amounts, I know)

  • Nick Burch says:

    You can add India to the list of places with a Starbucks but where the cards aren’t interchangeable. UK Starbucks cards won’t wok in India, and Indian ones won’t work back over here. I believe it’s because Starbucks India is a 50% joint venture with TATA

  • dotti says:

    in France and London cannot use my starbucks app or gold card..refused to take it!!