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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 Cards’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (49)

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

  • Waddle says:

    As Amex Gold also has a 10k bonus after spending £15k, if you spend that exact amount a year, the sterling MR earning rate would be 1.66 per £ and spend abroad would be 2.66 or a 2.66% return. Not quite covering the 3% FX fee but getting close.

  • Kris says:

    Why not Curve. In my opinion it’s very good option.

    • Callum says:

      Because the point of this is to get kickbacks at your employer’s expense (sounds judgy but it’s not – I’d definitely do it if it were allowed!) – and these will get you more than Curve.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think this type of article sails a bit close to the wind. Fine use whichever card you have but to get a new card specifically to milk your employer is definitely a bit of a moral grey zone. And by the way somebody does pay – the tax payer through reduced CT receipts and shareholders (incl pension funds) through lower profits.

    • Joe says:

      Most people would just pay and reclaim without thinking about it. Most don’t even have a 0 fx card. If you don’t like it – don’t invest in the company in your pension.

      • GaryC says:

        Do you include the typical reader of this site in either if your groups of “most people”?

    • GaryC says:

      I agree with you Anonymous, and find the views of articles like this (which has been posted previously) distasteful. Yes, the article has been crafted to say there’s no incentive to get a “separate” 0% FX card, but any frequent traveller is likely have such a card.

      Sadly, this “someone else is paying, so why care” mentality is the reason that most expense policies are multi page rulebooks, rather than one liners saying “just do the right thing by the firm at all times”. It’s also a broadly toxic attitude, that reaches far beyond expense claims inflated by 3%.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        My company issued a credit card that isn’t 0% fx. Why should I go out and find one that does.

      • Economist-Nearby1 says:

        This doesn’t make sense. If your employer has not provided you with a card, then you are free to use whichever card you choose. The majority of cards (including Amex, which is widely used for travel) impose a FX surcharge. You are doing nothing wrong by using the card, and your employer can hardly mandate which of your own cards you should use.

    • Genghis says:

      “Tragedy of the commons” type situation though isn’t it?

      • Libertylondon says:

        It’s not really the commons though. An employee owes a duty of good faith to his employer, and so should be trying to minimise the employer’s expenditure where possible. That is the ethical thing to do. And in a world of Big Data it will ultimately be the smart career move too.

        • Economist-Nearby1 says:

          Why does that extend to credit card use. If your employer does not provide you with card, it cannot mandate which of your cards you should use. It’s entirely up to you which card you use. There may be significant benefits (in the form of insurance and purchase protection) if you use a card carrying a FX charge. Amex cards, which carry FX charges, provide a detailed breakdown of travel charges, particularly flight, which are useful when you reclaim expenses.

    • NFH says:

      If my client is a bank, which itself charges hefty FX card fees to its own customers, then I do not hesitate to use the card (usually Amex business) that benefits me the most. These clients just don’t care. But if my client is a small business, then I will find ways to minimise FX costs, which might involve the client paying directly for costs locally without any FX. I’m an FX consultant.

  • Genghis says:

    To add: Creation and Amex lump the FX charge into the final charge (103%) whereas HSBC charge the amount (100%) and the FX charge (3%) separately.

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    Any suggestions on which 0% fx cards allow managing multiple cards at same time?
    Going on a family vacation and would like to give the cards with a small topup to each member for emergency use.

    • memesweeper says:

      You might want to get two or three different top-up types cards, or full bank account debit cards with 0fx (make sure there’s no overdraft facility!) and give those out. I’ve used FairFX, Revolut, Transferwise, Starling, Monese and Monzo before.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    Not sure if this is still currant Maybe Rob can check before this posts
    But Nationwide Credit Card have “NO” FX charge
    But have a strange way off allowing it to work ?
    i think this is how it works?
    “How much you spend on your card, gives you a FX (allowance) free for when your abroad” or that’s how i interpret it
    Many many years ago when i last looked at t&c of Nationwide so might have been removed

    • John says:

      Nationwide has changed their credit card offering about a year ago. The only card accepting new applications has no FX charges on purchases.

      If you have an older card it may still work the way you describe.

  • Rivo says:

    And this is why some companies, especially the larger ones have corporate credit cards. In fact my current employer mandates all business expense transactions must use the corporate card. Transactions made using personal cards will not be reimbursed.

    • memesweeper says:

      I’ve endured such policies. Being sent to some places with only an Amex is really limiting on where you can eat or drink.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        What I love about policies like this is that you probably would have been fine to take out cash from your card with all its fees and use that.

        Policies written by busy fools.

      • Al says:

        The thing I enjoy the most is trying to pay for taxis with Amex. Finding a taxi that accepts Amex is tricky enough, but it’s amazing how many realise at the end of your journey that the card machine isn’t working and demand cash. It’s even more amazing that, when you tell them you have no cash and that you don’t intend to get any out, their machine starts working again. Luckily apps which let you pay for taxis through your phone are slowly changing this.

    • Rob says:

      Your corporate card will have a 3% FX on it 🙂

    • Genghis says:

      With our corporate card anyway, which is issued by one of our own subsidiaries, there’s personal liability for any spend (real or fraud) on the card. They can’t force me to use it.

      • JDB says:

        Our corporate Amex cards were the same although as I don’t believe Amex carries out credit checks on the employee (many of my colleagues wouldn’t have had a UK credit history anyway) they must have some come back on the employer. The good part about it was that the employee got the MR if they had another MR earning card.

  • Mikeact says:

    Currensea is not a credit card…..re opening headline.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      We know it clearly says “You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card”

      It’s mentioned as an alternative to a credit card

      • Mikeact says:

        Then change the headline.

        • lumma says:

          Currensea has nothing to do with the headline. That part relates to saving money on personal overseas spending. The rest of the article is about maximising credit card rewards as you don’t need to use Currensea/Curve/free FX card as you’ll be reimbursed the 3% fee by your company

          • Nick says:

            Currensea is there because they pay Rob a huge commission. Not a problem, of course, but arguing about it will get you nowhere!

          • Rob says:

            It is a decent product. Revolut etc pay us more (Monese pays 3x more, Revolut Business 7x more) but we don’t mention them.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          The headline has nothing to do with the paragraphs under

          “For personal travel you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.”

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

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