Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How to use your Starbucks card for free foreign currency conversions

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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.

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.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital on Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (44)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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!!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.