Holiday Tips 2 – earning Avios 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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Virgin Atlantic offering 0% FX fees to new credit card applicants - better than bonus miles?
Holiday Tips 1 - Earning Avios and other airline miles from car rentals, and saving on insurance

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Comments

  1. NigelthePensioner says:

    If you simply want US$ then you will get “spot” rate at many of the little bureaux de change along Queensway at the back of the tourist “gift” shops. Clearly no Avios or anything, but simply the best rate and no commission. Otherwise use http://www.compareholidaymoney.com for the best worldwide currency exchange rates from different suppliers – Ive never had any issues with any that I have used from this website. Other than my Euros BoI A/C ATM card I have never used a foreign ATM and don’t intend to anytime soon, but my Tandem card has nearly persuaded me!

    • I once sold some euros to a Queensway shop at 1.17, when the spot rate was 1.19! (And I had bought the euros on ebay at 1.205 too, inclusive of delivery to my address in Bayswater…)

  2. Shoestring says:

    Worldremit giving £55 discount to new customers when you send £100+ to your foreign bank a/c.

    Has anybody tried to set up a Monese bank a/c in another country where you have a friend’s address handy?

    • Sandgrounder says:

      I thought you had an overseas address Shoestring?

      Thanks for the heads-up on the £55, will be sending a ton to the OH’s N26 tonight I think….

      • Shoestring says:

        sure, we got it 4x already (self, wife, son), obvs use genuine different personal details

        we tend to send chunks of money to our foreign bank a/c at what it is hoped are decent FX rates – ATM withdrawals on the local card – which is partly why I only take a passing interest in the ‘best’ cards for FX articles

        Clarity + Amex Gold do me fine for back up cards, Clarity for no-fee usage, Amex Gold for 2.67 MR points per £1 (and effectively buying Avios @1.1p/ point) – on my relatively small usage of these 2 cards abroad, it’s chickenfeed in fees compared to the hassle of alternatives

        • Nick M says:

          I’d definitely look at using Revolut in your situation… you can transfer to/from UK account and Place in the Sun account, switch between currencies very easily and of course use the actual card for spending if you wanted.

          • Shoestring says:

            it would come down to Revolut’s exchange rate if that were to be useful – and I can’t see them matching Worldremit – who are easily beating the likes of HIFX (now XE), Moneycorp etc – who in turn VERY easily beat all the High St banks, travel exchange bureaux etc. I think it’s part of Worldremit’s strategy – offer not only a cheap, seamless service – they *are* extremely quick & cheap, only £1 fee which you can avoid with a code – but also offer the *best in market* exchange rate on our currency pair.

            You can do a dummy Worldremit transaction online in about 20 seconds if you want to compare rates for yourself.

          • Nick M says:

            Sending £100 via World Remit = 109.92 Euro (assuming there is a code to waive the £2.99 fee)

            Sending £100 via Revolut = 111.11 Euro (or £102.99 = 114.44 Euro)

          • Revolut (actually Currencycloud) has a spread of about 2 basis points for EUR/GBP. As long as you trust them not to arbitrarily freeze your account and won’t go over their limits, they will beat anything else that doesn’t use the same provider. Without special offers Worldremit seems to have a £3 fee and a 2% (200 basis point) spread.

          • Shoestring says:

            @Nick M – OK cheers

      • Any experience as to whether you can get the money into World Remit in the first place either from Revolut or Curve (backed with Virgin+) with it being treated as a purchase?

    • Louise says:

      Should work for sending to a revolut EU account?

    • Alex M says:

      Does it have to be my oversees account or somebody else’s is fine?

      • Shoestring says:

        Somebody else’s is fine. Plus multiple people can send to the same bank a/c abroad, as long as the sending party is a genuine new user, they don’t care about the same receiving a/c being used more than once. Sender must be 18+.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Harry, have sent to my aunt in Ireland, will get the husband to sign up and do the same from his account, easy £110 to be made!

  3. Mikeact says:

    If you load up your Halifax card with, say, £500, is an ATM withdrawal still regarded as a cash withdrawal, even though your card is in credit ?

    • Shoestring says:

      you wouldn’t pay interest but sure, it would probably figure on your credit report as cash withdrawal thru credit card @ATM

      not that £500 would have any significant impact on your score anyway

    • Yes, but you are not allowed to preload Halifax credit cards, and I only see the number of cash withdrawals but not the amounts on my Experian report.

  4. Nothing about Revolut, Rob?

    (I had written a longer version of this explaining why it is at least as good as any of these, if not better, but the website has eaten it. Meh.)

    • We are thinking of rerunning that series of articles next week. Anika was down at Revolut yesterday as it happens.

  5. reddot says:

    IHG Creation charged me a cash advance / withdrawal fee last year for a Curve ATM withdrawal. Having been stung, I didn’t try again. It is not in Rob’s list above. Has that been rectified now?

    • Grant says:

      I’ve not experienced this recently

      • I use my IHG Creation cards frequently for non-cash money purchase transactions, including topping up Revolut and paying off other credit cards via Curve, and I am never charged a fee. However, I am limited to £300 per day, £500 per week and 20% of my credit limit.

        • Rui N. says:

          How do you know these limits, did Creation tell you or it was by trial and error by you?
          Just got an IHG card yesterday, after many months of not passing the dreaded “check your eligibility” page!

          • guesswho2000 says:

            The limit is £300 per day £700 per week, as discovered through trial and error. The £300 daily limit is advertised on their website or statements or something, somewhere, but the £700 I discovered.

            Seems you can’t (in my experience) make more than 1x £300 daily transaction in a week, even if below the £700 – 300x200x200 works, 300x300x100 doesn’t, if that makes sense.

          • Creation told me these limits when a large Revolut top-up was declined. I think that guesswho2000’s explanation is very plausible, as I did once manage to do more than £500 in a week. Now I understand why.

      • Mike Bickle says:

        Can’t find anything on worldremit re £55

  6. Travelex is a very expensive way of getting cash. EUR/GBP is trading at 0.8976 as I write. Travelex is charging GBP 91.74 for EUR 100, which is a rate of 0.9174. That’s a transaction cost of 221 basis points (2.21%). To compare with live interbank rates, see http://www.truefx.com.

  7. Does anyone have any experience of how good the Tandem cards are at not declining legitimate transactions as fraud? I have a Santander card which is essentially the same as the Tandem one but with a £3/month fee – I got it before the Tandem cards came out and couldn’t be bothered to switch, but nearly every time I pre-pay a hotel abroad Santander block the transaction, which is extremely irritating.

    • SimonW says:

      Tandem excellent for me so far. Used it in Florence twice, notifications appeared on my phone as the payment happened. FX rate was spot on spot. If I ever use it at an ATM I will pay it off on the same day to avoid any interest charges.

    • I’ve had no issues with Tandem declining any transactions, except Revolut top-ups, which it doesn’t allow. But I haven’t used it for anything above £118. My first transaction was a cash withdrawal in Georgia, which worked perfectly.

  8. If you have an M&S credit card you can use that to order FX online for collection at any M&S bureau de change. Or you can simply buy on spec at the bureau. It is commission free and it is charged as a purchase not a cash withdrawal so you don’t get charged interest and you earn M&S reward points. They allow you to buy any amount too. I usually buy no more than £250 of other currency. Just keep it as a float for the next trip rather than trying to resell.

    • M&S’s rates are around 1.5% worse than Revolut’s interbank rate. So why not instead top up Revolut with a points-earning credit card, convert to EUR at Revolut’s interbank rate, and then withdraw from a EUR cash machine, including many in the UK, for example at Tube stations?

  9. 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?

    • 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?

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

    • 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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

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