Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Holiday Tips 2 – earning Avios points or other miles when ordering foreign currency

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This is the second part of our ‘Holiday Tips’ series, covering ways of earning miles and points from every aspect of your holiday planning.  The article yesterday covered earning Avios and other miles from car rentals.

Even if you do decide to pay for the majority of your holiday costs by credit card, you will still need some foreign currency to tide you over.  In general, I avoid getting foreign currency from a Bureau de Change and simply use a cash machine at my destination. The overall cost is unlikely to be worse than using a bureau and it is far easier.

That said, you are taking a gamble when you do this, especially if you need money for a taxi.  I remember spending ages in Berlin Tegel a few years ago trying to find a cash machine – it was especially galling as the taxi rank was directly outside passport control.  I also had trouble in Boston last year when the sole ATM in my part of the arrival area was empty.

Tandem credit card

You don’t need to order foreign currency – you can get it for free from an ATM (but not earn miles)

For many years, the Halifax Clarity credit card was your best choice if you wanted to avoid FX fees on cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad (most other ‘no FX fees’ cards still charge 2.99% on ATM transactions) – although you will pay interest from the date of withdrawal.  Representative APR 19.9% variable.

The most attractive today, however, is the Tandem Cashback Credit Card.  As long as you are happy dealing with an online-only card company, you can’t beat their package – no annual fee, no FX fees AND 0.5% cashback on all spending.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

For Summer 2019, the new offer on the Virgin Atlantic Credit Cards is worth a look.  Apply before 30th August and you get 0% FX fees on ‘in person’ overseas transactions until 30th November.  Importantly, you earn Virgin Flying Club miles as usual – 0.75 per £1 on the free card and 1.5 miles per £1 on the paid.  Full details and the application form are here.

Earn Avios from Travelex

How to earn Avios or Virgin miles if you do want to pre-order foreign currency

You can earn Avios points when you pre-order foreign currency via the Travelex website for collection at the airport or delivered.

The webpage you need is here.   This drops you straight into the currency calculator.   Don’t go via the Travelex homepage as there is no option there to add your Avios account details.

Travelex lets you pre-order over 40 currencies and collection is available with as little as four hours notice.  This is what you need to know:

You collect 1 Avios for every £1 when exchanging over £300

You collect 1 Avios for every £2 when exchanging below £300

You must pre-order via the Travelex website here, for airport collection, for Travelex store collection or delivery

Home delivery is free if you exchange over £600, chargeable if you exchange less

‘Click and collect’ is free if you exchange over £300, chargeable if you exchange less

Avios will be added within 14 days of collection or delivery

It is good to see that pre-ordering is available.  The walk-up exchange rates at Heathrow are, frankly, shocking and you should never exchange money without ordering in advance.  You will receive a substantially better rate this way.

The special Avios / Travelex ordering page is here.

If you order your currency from Travelex for collection at Heathrow, you should see if you can also earn Heathrow Rewards points on foreign currency transactions.  You will receive 1 point for every £10 you exchange and they convert 1:1 into Avios.  It isn’t clear if you should earn points on pre-ordered currency but they will accept your number much of the time.

Curve Card

Using an ATM abroad?  Earn Avios via Curve card

If you don’t have a card which allows 0% FX cash withdrawals, try Curve.  Curve is a Mastercard-branded product which recharges your spending or ATM withdrawals to any linked Visa or Mastercard product.

One benefit of Curve is that it only charges 0% Monday to Friday on overseas transactions (weekend fees vary by currency) compared with 3% on most credit and debit cards.

You can therefore earn points on your underlying payment card, say the Virgin Rewards+ Mastercard, as usual but you are saving 66% on the FX fee.

Curve can also be used for making ATM withdrawals in the UK and abroad, and the first £200 withdrawn per month attracts no handling fee.  All cash withdrawals are treated as a PURCHASE on the underlying credit card so £200 withdrawn from an ATM in Germany and recharged to a, say, a Lloyds Avios Reward Mastercard (no longer available to new applicants) would earn you Avios.

You can withdraw £200 per month on a Curve Card from an ATM, recharged to a credit card, for free.

(IMPORTANT:  Tesco Bank, RBS and NatWest credit cards do not allow you to do this and will treat your Curve ATM withdrawal as a cash advance, adding fees.  All other banks are fine as far as I know.)

Curve will pay you £5 for trying the card, which is free.  Full details of how Curve Card works, and the ‘free £5’ code, are in this article.

Moneycorp

Earning miles buying currency at Gatwick and elsewhere

If you would prefer to earn Virgin Flying Club miles with your foreign currency purchases, there is an option for that too.

Moneycorp, which has a strong presence at Gatwick, gives Virgin Flying Club miles on pre-ordered currency.  This is a good option as you benefit from the convenience of collecting at the airport plus the substantially better rates available for pre-ordering plus 1 Virgin Flying Club mile per £1 exchanged.  Details can be found on the Flying Club website here.

You can also pre-order currency and earn Virgin Flying Club miles for collection at Moneycorp desks at Stansted, Southend, Bristol and Southampton or from their counters in Central London.  You don’t need to be flying from Gatwick.

If you have the new Virgin Atlantic Reward or Reward+ credit cards, you could also link the Visa card to a Curve Card and earn miles on ATM withdrawals abroad.

Conclusion

Unless you are spending your employers money, you should always focus on price and / or convenience, whichever is more important to you, when buying foreign currency.  Treat the miles as an extra bonus but don’t be solely driven by them.

As I said above, we tend to use very modest amounts of cash when travelling.  It is a long time since I used an FX counter (except when changing money back afterwards) and I am happy to rely on ATMs at my arrival airport via my Curve card.  Convenience wins out.   If you do prefer to pre-buy, however, the good news is that Avios are available via Travelex.

Comments (52)

  • Flatwell says:

    I have a Halifax card and I like that I make payments ahead of my travel, so foreign ATM cash withdraws are fee free AND incur no interest.

    Does the Tandem credit card also allow this? Can I make payments in advance, so that I have a positive balance on it, to avoid interest on cash withdraws?

    • TedL says:

      In the past I have transferred money to the Halifax card as soon as I make an ATM withdrawal but I have found that it pays off normal spend on the card. The ATM transaction doesnt seem to hit the account for one to two days so I have to wait until I know it is there before paying it off. It then takes a day or two to reach the account so get hit with interest for 3 to 4 days, not a lot usually but annoying. Am I doing something wrong?

      • John says:

        Yes – don’t carry a balance on a card that you also use for cash withdrawals

    • John says:

      Both Halifax and Tandem do not allow this, but based on other reports, Halifax seems not to be enforcing it if amounts are small and the positive balance does not last for too long. Tandem sent me new T&Cs to take effect in September which expressly forbid this (note that Halifax uses the same wording in its T&Cs that also expressly forbid this).

      I have never been charged interest by paying cash withdrawals off with 95% of the expected amount the same day, then waiting for the GBP amount to be finalised and paying off the remaining few pounds.

      • Lady Londona says:

        Wondering is there any good reason for cards objecting to being pre loaded like this

  • Shoestring says:

    BFT01 (19 June 2019 at 12:42) recommended http://www.currencyonlinegroup.com with the comment: ‘I highly recommend Currency on Line Group – Natasha is excellent and will match or better any rate that you can get.’

    I checked out this one for myself and for getting foreign cash delivered to your address, the rate offered was absolutely unbeatable. Worth a comparison if you need a chunk of foreign readies for your hols.

  • Derek Scott says:

    I’ve always found that claiming the Avios route on Travelex, the exchange rate is not as good as not not earning Avios.

    I much prefer using my Monzo Card abroad… near wholesale rates and instant notification of Sterling price. I bought my last MacBook Air in Canada using my Monzo card and saved £££’s on UK prices and another £60 compared to the best Bureau prepay rates.

    I also find that John Lewis has the best prebook Ed rates of any bureau, consistently

  • Doug M says:

    OT. D.C. Attorney General suing Marriott over resort fees. Haven’t seen any comment on this, apologise if already been noted. Who doesn’t hate resort fees.

  • S says:

    Hi
    Please read curves fair usage terms on cash withdrawals – it is confusing as it says your underlying card can charge a fee for cash withdrawals…..

    “Curve strongly discourages using an underlying credit card in order to withdraw cash. Please note that your underlying credit card issuer may charge you fees for making such transactions with your Curve card”

  • Sandra King says:

    How can I claim missing Flying Club Airmiles with Virgin, I purchased Euros online from Virgin on the 1st April, 2019 to the value of £1,000 equivalent to 1,130 Euros.

    My Flying Club No. [XXXXXXXXXX]

    Reference No. GB75243014.

    Regards, Sandra