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If you’re planning a holiday or business trip, you’ll need to work out the cost of spending in a different currency.
Many people these days choose to spend on debit or credit cards abroad, rather than withdrawing cash in their chosen currency. It’s easier, more convenient and more secure, while some cards also offer low fees and better exchange rates.
If you have an American Express card and want to use it for travel, read on. We’ve put together a guide to Amex UK currency exchange rates, covering everything you need to know. This includes what rates American Express uses for purchases and cash withdrawals abroad, and any other fees to watch out for.
We’ll also show you an option which could make travel spending cheaper. Get the Wise card and you can spend in 150+ countries, for low fees and great exchange rates.
But for now, let’s focus on Amex cards and how they work in other countries.
Yes, American Express does work abroad - but not absolutely everywhere.
Many Amex credit cards are specially designed for travel. For example, cards such as the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card or British Airways American Express Credit Card.
These offer benefits such as extra points when you spend on hotels and flights booked through American Express Travel. Other rewards include air miles when you spend on everyday purchases.
The only drawback is that American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa and Mastercard. You shouldn’t have a problem in major cities and tourist areas, but you may struggle in more rural, small or remote areas.
If you’re unsure, it could be worth taking another card or some cash with you.
When you spend abroad or in a different currency on your credit card, the money will need to be converted. The conversion happens between the local currency (for example, euros in Europe or USD in the United States) and your home currency. This is the currency your card is denominated in, so it’d be GBP for UK cardholders.
The golden rule when travelling is to always pay in the local currency. This way, your card provider will determine the exchange rate. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of local merchants or ATM operators, who can choose their own rate. This can work out expensive for you.
American Express uses its own exchange rates when converting currency, called the American Express Exchange Rate.
The great news for you is that this is usually very close to the mid-market exchange rate. This is the rate that banks use to buy and sell currency, which only a limited number of currency exchange services providers offer - such as Wise, for example.
American Express currency exchange rates aren’t always easy to find online.
If you have an Amex credit card, you can usually log into the smartphone app you use to manage the card to check exchange rates. You can also sign into your online account, and use the Foreign Transaction Calculator to check the true cost of your payment.
Otherwise, you’ll need to contact your card provider to find out the current rate for your chosen currency pair.
American Express does offer some information online about how its currency exchange rates compare to the Euro Foreign Exchange Reference Rates. These are only used in card conversion fees for currencies within the European Economic Area (EEA) and UK against the euro. Take a look here.
It’s not just the exchange rate you need to check before using your American Express card outside of the UK.
Amex also charges currency conversion fees. Here are the main charges you need to know about:¹
|Transaction type||American Express card fee|
|Spending in a foreign currency||2.99% non-sterling transaction fee|
|Withdrawing cash at an overseas ATM||3% or £3 (whichever is greater) |
ATM operators may also charge their own fee
There’s also the cash advance fee for your particular card to bear in mind. This is charged when you use a credit card to withdraw cash at an ATM, whether in the UK or overseas. It comes in the form of interest, which starts accruing right away.
This is unlike with purchases, where there’s usually a grace period to make repayments before interest charges apply.
Get a Wise card and you can spend and withdraw cash in 150+ countries.
This clever contactless debit card offers a world of travel-friendly features, such as:
- Automatically converting GBP to the local currency at the mid-market exchange rate, whenever you spend. There’s just a small fee to convert the currency, or there’s no charge if you already have the currency in your Wise account.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Withdraw up to £200 a month from overseas ATMs for free (although ATM operators may charge their own fees)
- Manage everything from the handy Wise app.
You can also use your Wise account to send money worldwide in just a few clicks. You’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and low fees there too. This ensures your money goes so much further.
And that’s it - everything you need to know about Amex UK currency exchange rates. In a nutshell, American Express credit cards offer competitive rates for converting currency, so there are no worries there.
But Amex cards do come with fees for spending and withdrawing cash in foreign currency. Overseas ATM withdrawals in particular can become seriously expensive, so are best avoided on an ordinary credit card.
If you want the perfect combination of great rates and low fees, check out the Wise card. It’s tailormade for travel, as it works all over the world and automatically converts currency at mid-market exchange rates.
Sources last checked on date: 25-Jul-2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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