How to earn Avios for purchases in foreign currencies without a credit card

May 16, 2020

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There are plenty of ways to earn Avios, the points currency of British Airways’ Executive Club programme without travelling. One popular way is with a points-earning credit card, such as the two British Airways cobranded American Express credit cards.

While these cards will earn Avios for purchases, regardless of whether they are in pound sterling (GBP) or foreign currencies, there are two issues with using these cards abroad or for purchases at home in a foreign currency. Firstly, they charge a 2.99% foreign transaction fee, which, if the card earns 1 Avios per £1 spent (or foreign equivalent), will be far higher than what we value the Avios you would earn. The second issue is that while American Express may be accepted just about everywhere in some countries (such as the United States), in other countries, they may accept only Visa or Mastercard.

A solution to this issue is with the BA Executive Club Multi-currency cash passport. It’s a prepaid debit card, rather than a credit card. So you’re using your own money rather than being extended credit by a credit provider you would then be required to repay at a later date (potentially with interest). Usually, with a debit card you would not earn any loyalty points, however, the BA Executive Club Multi-currency cash passport is different — you’ll earn 1 Avios for every £1 loaded onto the card, regardless of how you spend it.

Travel debit cards like Monzo or Starling will usually allow you to simply load GBP onto the card and then make purchases in any currency you wish. The BA Executive Club Multi-currency cash passport works differently. You can use if for pound sterling purchases, but if you want to use it for purchases in other currencies, you’ll need to convert the amount you wish to spend (or withdraw at a cash machine) into one of the following currencies:

  • Euro (EUR),
  • U.S. Dollars (USD),
  • Australian Dollars (AUD),
  • New Zealand Dollars (NZD),
  • Canadian Dollars (CAD),
  • South African Rand (ZAR),
  • Turkish Lira (TRY),
  • Swiss Franc (CHF),
  • Emirati Dirham (AED).

You can then use the cash passport, which is a Mastercard, anywhere that accepts payment in the above currencies, without a transaction fee. If you wish, you can also convert these amounts back to GBP or to other currencies on this list.

So, what’s the catch?

Although there’s no application, annual or monthly fee for this card, and you won’t be charged a foreign transaction fee for purchases in the above currencies, there are a number of fees to be aware of:

  • If you make a transaction in a currency other than a currency you have already loaded onto the card or if you don’t have enough of that currency already loaded onto the card to cover the cost of the transaction, you’ll be hit with a big 5.75% fee;
  • If you use the card at a cash machine, you will be charged £1.50 per withdrawal (or foreign currency equivalent). If the ATM provider also charges a withdrawal fee this will be passed onto you, too;
  • If you don’t use the card for 12 months, you’ll be charged £2 per month thereafter; and
  • If you keep GBP on the card (rather than transferring it into one of the currencies listed above), perhaps because you want to use the card for GBP purchases, you will incur a 2% fee on the GBP amount.

Bottom line

It is difficult to earn Avios for purchases in foreign currencies without paying foreign transaction fees, especially if your only card is an American Express card.

The BA Executive Club Multi-currency cash passport can be handy, particularly if you regularly travel to the same destination that uses one of the designated foreign currencies — for example, the United States. However, be aware of the various fees involved to earn those Avios.

You can apply for the BA Executive Club Multi-currency cash passport here.

Featured image by Bet_Noire/Gettys Images.

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