Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best credit card for foreign FX spending when someone else is paying?

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We write a lot on Head for Points about ways to minimise the 3% foreign exchange fee added to most credit and debit card transactions outside the UK.

For personal travel you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.  There are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee, although the Virgin Atlantic card is currently fee-free in Europe.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HfP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

UK Rewards credit and charge cards

Another option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than most cards charge) and withdraws the money from your bank account.  Currensea also works off the spot rate, giving you an extra saving from the wholesale rate used by your card company.  You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.

You can also look at debit cards from the like of Revolut, although Revolut’s raft of new fees announced last week make this option less attractive.

If you have a Limited Company, you DO have a credit card which has 0% FX fees and earns 1 Avios per £1 – the Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa. Our review is here.

You may choose to act differently when travelling for work

When you are travelling for work, however, your credit card bills will be reimbursed by your employer.  There is no incentive for you to get a separate 0% foreign exchange fee card.  Your goal should arguably be on maximising rewards for yourself.

I won’t focus on credit card spend bonuses here because those don’t change whether you are spending in the UK or abroad.  I just want to look at cards which increase your earning rate for FX transactions.

What is the best UK credit card for foreign spending?

Here are your options for reward cards which have extra bonuses for foreign spending but in return add on an FX fee of around 3% FX:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Amex Gold offers double points when you spend abroad, so 2 Membership Rewards points per £1.  That translates into 2 Avios or other airline miles, 4 Hilton Honors points, 3 Marriott Bonvoy points or 6 Radisson Rewards points amongst other things.  The card is free for the first year.

Our Amex Gold review is here. You can apply here.

IHG Rewards Mastercard

The IHG Rewards Mastercard has double points when you spend abroad. This means 2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 which I value at 0.8p.  The card is free.

Our IHG Rewards credit card review is here. You can apply here.

HSBC Premier Mastercard

The HSBC card offers double points abroad, which means you are earning 1 Avios or other airline mile.  The card is free but you must have a HSBC Premier current account which has strict eligibility criteria. The World Elite version of this card, with a £195 fee, also earns double points abroad and is worth 2 Avios per £1.

Our HSBC Premier credit card review is here. You can apply here.

Conclusion

As you can see there are some good options here that can get you a return of around 2% on your spending.  That is less than the 3% foreign fee you are incurring, of course, which is why these are not attractive deals for personal use, just for business expenditure.

(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 Card Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (49)

  • Genghis says:

    Surely that’s completely separate to which credit card you decide to use?

  • Alex Sm says:

    Many employers provide their employees with credit cards too obliging to use them and you won’t benefit on any points personally. We have a very simple Barclays business CC. And that’s it

    • the_real_a says:

      I refused to take mine when the agreement i was “forced” to sign stated i was jointly liable for the business expenses. No thanks!

  • Ken says:

    Always feel a bit queasy at the tone of some of these articles but when the vast majority of cards include a charge for overseas spending I don’t see the problem.
    Not like someone using a site like Rocketmiles for business and claiming back on expenses. Employee theft in my view.

    • Rob says:

      Ken, the entire travel loyalty industry is based on one thing – the employer pays, the employee benefits, so the employee will spend their employers money inefficiently.

      That is the rationale for the whole industry. It is why no loyalty scheme outside of travel ever gets the same traction – because in Tesco, Starbucks etc you do spend your own £.

      • Ken says:

        And I get that – but rewards are generally set modestly as a proportion of spend, and a preference for say BA often as much down to convenience and maximising work hours or arriving fresh.
        In addition many companies force employees down the corporate agent route.

        When people are doing things solely to generate an outsize reward at the expense of someone paying their wages, there is something badly wrong.

        It’s like knowing that normal hospitality is acceptable (in most industries) but excessive or soliciting hospitality means people have badly lost their integrity and moral compass.

      • Harry T says:

        @Rob exactly – one reason why airlines are struggling is few people are buying last minute fully flexible business class fares, as business travel is almost entirely curtailed.

    • ADS says:

      I agree with Ken – this makes me feel queasy too

    • the_real_a says:

      But lets be clear – the working capital / opportunity cost of NOT paying commercial interest rates on debt and pushing that debt onto employees (albeit 3% more expensive) is significantly more profitable than mandating and paying additional costs to administer a policy of cheapest possible method of payment.

  • TGLoyalty says:

    Modestly? All hotel schemes offer around 5% back and more for elites to bribe them to use their services where they are often 10-20% more expensive than a local independent.

    Yet banking a point or two for a 3% free makes you uneasy.

    • Ken says:

      I specifically & expressly said that use of a 3% card seemed absolutely fine as that is the majority of the card market, so not sure what you are on about.

    • memesweeper says:

      They are often 100% better than a local independent too. For business travel I don’t want to think too much about where I’m staying, a major brand is safe and fairly consistent. If all the hotel loyalty schemes were scrapped tomorrow my choices wouldn’t alter in that respect, I don’t need to be bribed to avoid crappy hotels. Crappy British hotels seem to be abundant.

      For holidays, often the indies win unless I’m spending points. That’s because I have the time and inclination to research excellent ones that have what I want and are located where I want to be. I simply cannot be bothered to do that for business travel, which is often just one night.

      The exception was when I spent several months in the same city. I found a superb independent B&B, and missed the chance to rachet up the status on a brand or two and a huge pile of points. Totally the right decision.

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