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Eurostar is usually by far the best way to get from London to Paris, Lille or Brussels. Quick, easy, and city-centre to city-centre, what’s not to like? Well, their annoying £4 credit card fee/surcharge for UK customers is one… Luckily it can be avoided!
There are a few ways to avoid it actually, depending on what you’re doing, and what sort of credit card you have. Obviously you could just avoid the fee by using a debit card, but then you wouldn’t get the points/miles/benefits from using your rewards credit card, so who’d want to do that?
There’s no one overall answer for everyone, but read on for the options available….
When booking Eurostar tickets, if there’s one thing that bugs me more than any other (and there are a few issues with their website, don’t get me wrong), it’s this:
Yup, if you’re using the UK Eurostar site, and want/need to use a credit card, they’ll hit you with a £4 credit card surcharge on pretty much any ticket. Oh, and that’s per-purchase, so if you want to book something that the website brokenly insists has to be across two transactions (e.g. an open-jaw), you’ll have to pay the fee twice, ouch!
The easiest way to avoid this, if you’re lucky enough to have this option available to you, is to ring up American Express – an option open to Platinum (and Centrurion) cardholders, and anyone who
uses Amex as their corporate travel agent.
The UK American Express “Book Travel Online” tool sadly doesn’t handle Eurostar bookings, but the Platinum travel desk Platinum Charge Card (0800 917 8054 or +44 1293 820 925) and corporate travel desks do take Eurostar bookings. Through the magic of GDS’s, they’ll sell you a London to Lille/Paris/Brussels ticket for the exact same price that the Eurostar website shows, charged to your Amex card, with no fees. They’ll even select a nice seat for you, including advising you on which ones the best seats are! It does involve a phone call, but only takes a minute or two more. Oh, but only if you have access to the American Express travel booking services through your card / work/etc.
Next up, with a much smaller fee, is the UK-based startup Loco2. Their mission is to make booking train travel around Europe as easy as booking flights, and on the whole they are doing a pretty good job. Their website, loco2.com, lets you book all sorts of European train travel quickly and easily, including Eurostar tickets. The only downside is that they too have a credit card fee, charged at 2.5%. That means that for any total purchase less than £160, booking with Loco2 on a credit card will work out cheaper than with Eurostar directly. Loco2 also exactly match the Eurostar UK prices.
The two we’ve looked at so far match the Eurostar UK prices and bill in GBP, ideal for those with credit cards with overseas fees. What happens though if you don’t mind paying in Euros, perhaps because that’s no worse than in GBP, perhaps because you have no overseas fees, or perhaps because even with a fee it’s still cheaper?
The first to consider is Eurostar themselves. No, really! Head to the Eurostar website, then in the top click the flag, and change to “Belgium English”. Now, proceed to book your ticket. You’ll notice two things. Firstly, your ticket will be priced in Euros. Secondly, that pesky £4 credit card fee will have vanished! The price won’t be exactly the same as the GBP price on the Eurostar UK site, as both sites have specific “round number” prices that the different tickets price at. Depending on how the GBP-EUR exchange rate has moved since Eurostar last tweaked them, it could be a little more, or it could be a little less. Price it up in EUR, convert to GBP, factor in any overseas fees from your card (many popular cards charge 3%), then decide if it’s cheaper or not.
Looking at a random journey one month hence, with the credit card fee, we see the UK site at £82.50, and the Belgian one at €105.50. With today’s rates, that’s £80.75, so cheaper. Factor in a 3% credit card overseas fee though and we get £83.17, so slightly more. It all depends on the exchange rate of the time, and what (if any) overseas fees you have
Another site to try – Captain Train. This is another European-wide train booking startup, the Parisian equivalent of London-based Loco2. Captain Train also prices in Euros, so you it’ll be the same price as the Eurostar Belgium website. Unlike Loco2 though, Captain Train don’t charge a credit card fee, and take Amex, which is nice of them! You won’t save any money over the Eurostar Belgium website with them, but I do very much prefer their site. So, if booking in EUR with no credit card fee is cheaper for you, then try their site for a nicer way to do it.
One final option to mention, which may sometimes help – the Eurostar UK ticket sales line. As with the website, they will charge you a £4 credit card fee. However, the phone sales line charge it on one set of tickets, whether bookable online or not. If you wanted to book an open-jar London to Paris, Lille to London ticket, then due to yet another annoying limitation of the Eurostar website, you’d have to book that in two transactions, with two credit card fees. Phone up, explain what you need, and they’ll only charge the fee the once.
Did we miss any other ways to avoid the annoying Eurostar UK credit card £4 charge? Let us know in the comments if so!