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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.

Starbucks 350

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 points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £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 UK’s most valuable card perk – the 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 £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 a long list of travel benefits 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.

  • Adam says:

    Worth noting that this no longer works in Hong Kong as of about six weeks ago (I’m sure it used to)

    • JAXBA says:

      Ah, was about to say, I’ve used my US card in both HK and UK. Pity if HK no longer works.

    • Barry says:

      Yeap, it did work in HK in October. Usefo, shame if it no longer does.

  • Matt says:

    Shame that Starbucks makes terrible coffee.

    • Nick_C says:

      … and doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes in the UK. Although the fact the coffee is shite makes boycotting them easier!

      • mradey says:

        Yawn…….. . . . . . . . .

        • Paul says:

          Don’t moan about potholes, lack of funding for schools & police etc then because if every business with a permanent place in UK making a profit paid the proper UK corporation taxes due then there would be more money in the pot to fund these things and make the country a better place.

      • Barry says:

        Blame the Government not Starbucks. Anyone here voluntarily pay more tax than due?

        Starbucks is pretty much the only UK chain for filter (brew) coffee. No-one else other than Pret does it, so outside city centres it’s only Starbucks.

        • Paul says:

          Yes I do – I am on an employed contract and am happy to pay up to 45% income tax rather than a fudged limited company contract as recommended by an accountant friend to be paid minimum wage and then the rest as lower taxed dividends. If we all paid our fair share then we’d all benefit – doesn’t need the govt to make the first move either but agree the bigger solution lies with them.

        • RIccatti says:

          Paul, that accountant friend will get you/people in trouble.

          That scheme of setting up a limited company solely for the purpose of collecting what is otherwise a regular salary — the scheme stopped being acceptable to the HMRC years ago.

          The especially egregious sign if you do pay an exactly the minimum wage.

          • Alan says:

            Yep, IR35 rules have got pretty strict now – esp if working with public sector organisations they’ll treat you as an employee but more and more companies have to do the same now.

        • Lady London says:

          But it’s not coffee!
          I quite like Pret’s coffee though. And fine to have it at McDonald’s in UK.

      • Lady London says:

        +1. Seattle Coffee House used to make fairly decent coffee in the UK before Starbucks took them over.

    • Alex says:

      Out of curiosity, who do you think makes better coffee than Starbucks?

      • Brian says:

        Caffè Nero, Costa, independent coffee shops, my mum – pretty much anyone makes better coffee than Starbucks. They may have improved since I last went, but I see no reason to bother finding out, since it’s unlikely.

        • Nick_C says:

          Completely agree about Caffè Nero and Starbucks. Even Greggs make better coffee than Starbucks.

          Of course if are adding milk and sugar then it doesn’t matter where you buy your drink from. But I think Starbucks is for people who don’t actually like coffee (ie most Americans)

          I rarely get coffee outside as good as the lungo I make at home using Percol Black and Beyond beans, ground fresh every time.

        • David says:

          It’s not just about the beans though is it. Beans are definitely a matter of taste, so fair enough if you don’t like the Starbucks roast, but the quality of staff training in Nero and Costa seems to be terrible – no consistency about what product you’re getting (milk temperature, foam/milk ratio, whether the coffee goes in before or after the milk etc). Starbucks delivers consistently well-made drinks the world over.

      • Mark2 says:

        In Seattle, next to Pike St Market, is the first branch of Starbucks which is now a museum. A few doors away is a French style bakery which sells superb coffee, cakes, bread etc. Otherwise Starbucks seem to supply almost everyone in the Pacific North West including hotels and cruise ships.
        When we recently stayed in the Marriott Kensington my heart sank when I saw the warning: ‘We use Starbucks coffee’ outside.

      • Doug M says:

        I don’t like Cafe Nero, that burnt taste typical of Italy is just not to my taste. Starbucks is generally poor, worse than Costa I’d say. Of chains Pret is far and away the best. But in truth good coffee comes from an independent, chains will never match up. But without any direct knowledge I’d guess that milk based drinks outsell coffee by some margin, so does it matter to most people.

    • Binks says:

      +1

  • Max says:

    Currently in the USA. I will do as you say. Although 00.19 in 2019.

    Happy New Year!

  • vol says:

    Fab tip

    Just out of curiosity

    Why is this Starbucks card top-up quirk available in some countries and not others?

    What about other countries like Greece and Belgium for example – any reports for those?

    • sayling says:

      I’ve used the app in Corfu.

      I tried to use it in New York, but insufficient funds meant I needed to top up – but you can’t top up a UK card through the app whilst in the US (that was in 2015).

  • John says:

    If you ever have more than $2 of American coins you haven’t managed your cash properly….

  • Alan says:

    You can also spend your GBP credit at spot exchange rate too – just scan the barcode in the app. I don’t drink coffee but can be handy for a snack on the go, especially when all my credit was acquired at 1/3 off through Amex promos!

    It’s annoying it doesn’t work more widely though – plus in Oz there’s only about 3 stores anyway!

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      There’s 42, only in VIC, NSW & QLD though. Which is fine by me!

      • RIccatti says:

        Look up the price of pint of milk in an Australian supermarket — and you can understand why Starbucks operation accumulated a debt.

        • Alan says:

          Haha yes, supermarket prices in Oz are certainly quite high. I found it better value to eat out, esp with salary packaging 🙂

      • Callum says:

        55p per litre (the standard supermarket price in Australia) is pretty cheap for milk – you’d struggle to find it much cheaper in the UK.

        • Alan says:

          Was more than that when I was there but that was a few years ago and in South Yarra so may have been a bit on the pricey side! Certainly a lot of other items were more than I was used to here too although I suppose probably not much different to Waitrose pricing!

  • Michael Jennings says:

    I prefer the “I have a smoker friend” trick for getting rid of leftover cash. Buy a carton of cigarettes in the duty free shop at the airport. Hand them all your remaining cash and pay the balance with a credit card. Give the cigarettes to your friend when you get home and let him pay you the total cost of the cigarettes back. (I charge my friend spot).

    It only works in places where cigarettes are cheaper than the UK, but that is most places.

  • Chris says:

    Rob always talks about the typical demographic of HFP being, business class flying, 6 figure salary, zero debt. So if that’s true why does this typical demographic care about reclaiming £4 of unspent coins when travelling?? Personally I’d rather be hearing all that cash was going to charity

    • Jonah says:

      Yes that’s true. There are certain regular commentators who seem obsessed with saving pennies yet also seem to have reasonable incomes. Personally I think life is too short. Each to their own but it does leave you with a skewed view. As Rob says though the relatively small number of people who post regularly simply does not reflect the number of city email addresses he sees.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Pennies make pounds.

      No one likes leaving money on the table no matter how much you earn.

      However, I’m with you all my loose change goes in the charity boxes at airports.

    • Callum says:

      While they may be the typical demographic, they aren’t the only demographic. Why can’t Rob write articles for other people too?

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

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