Credit Card Reviews (8) – bmi American Express and Visa cards

27th October, to all intents and purposes, will mark the end of bmi Diamond Club.  As of that day, the only way to earn points will be via the bmi credit cards, and the only way to spend points will be to transfer them to British Airways Executive Club.

It is not clear if you will still be able to apply for the bmi credit cards after October 27th.  For that reason – and, frankly, for sentimental reasons! – I am kickstarting the ‘Credit Card Reviews’ series again with a look at the bmi cards.

This will be the 8th of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the Cards Update page. Click here to see previous entries on Lufthansa, Marriott, United Airlines, Flybe, Tesco, American Airlines and Hilton.

About the card

The bmi credit cards (this link will not work after 27th October) are issued by MBNA, part of Bank of America and one of the UK’s largest loyalty credit card issuers.  Like the American Airlines and Miles & More cards, which they also run, it comes as a combined pair of American Express and Visa cards.  There are two application options – a free one and an annual fee (£85) one.

It is worth noting that the card has NO stated income requirement.  This makes it very attractive compared to the £20,000+ household income that Amex wants.  My Mum was accepted for these cards and she is a low-income pensioner.

There is also a very low spend target required to trigger the bonus – just £250.  This compares very well with, say, Amex Gold which requires a £2,000 spend within 90 days.

If you already have an MBNA card, they are happy to move credit around for you from one card to another.  This virtually guarantees your acceptance as long as you are prepared to accept a lower limit on your current card.

What is the sign-up bonus?

Before reading on, you need to remember that bmi’s reward currency is Diamond Club Miles.  These are convertible to Avios at the rate of 1:1.  However, you must have a bmi Diamond Club account (available via www.flybmi.com) in order to earn miles from the bmi credit card – the miles cannot be deposited directly into your Avios account.

The sign-up bonus on the free card is a whopping 20,000 Diamond Club miles.

The bonus on the £85 card is 24,000 Diamond Club miles plus 4,000 status miles and 2 bmi lounge passes.  The status miles now have no value at all as DC no longer gives status.  The lounge passes may or may not still be accepted in the Heathrow Terminal 1 lounge, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Any other benefits?

No.  There is no ‘2 for 1’ and no bonus for spending large amounts on the card.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

The earning rate is very good – ironically, better than the BA Amex cards!

The free card earns 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa.  (Compare this to the free BA Amex which only earns 1 mile per £1, or the Lloyds TSB Mastercard which only earns 0.2 Avios points per £1).

The paid card earns 2 miles per £1 on the Amex and 1 mile per £1 on the Visa.  (Compare this to the paid BA Amex which earns 1.5 miles per £1 – albeit with the 2-4-1 voucher to aim for as well – or the paid Lloyds TSB Mastercard which earns 0.25 Avios per £1.)

What is an Avios airmile worth?

I tend to value an Avios at 0.75p, as I have written numerous times in the past.  However, if you always redeem with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher then you can double that.  I am very tough on my valuation of Avios, but that is partly because I have a large balance (2.5m across myself and my wife) and so the marginal value I place on them is low.

Is it worth applying for the £85 fee cards?  Well, that depends on your valuation of an Avios, your spending levels and how long you think these cards will exist before BA closes them down.  The extra 4,000 Avios sign-up bonus is worth £30-£40.  You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 on the paid Amex, so spending £10,000 would bring you another 5,000 extra Avios worth £40-£50.  That would cover the fee.

The cards will probably survive for another six months or so, so if you will easily spend over £10,000 in that time then the paid version may be worth it.  Personally, though, I wouldn’t bother.  I wouldn’t want to feel that I had to put a large amount through the bmi card to get my money’s worth, because I want the flexibility to put spend on the next decent credit card sign-up bonus that comes along.

You should also note that MBNA does NOT offer a pro-rata fee refund if you cancel your card.

How does this compare to a cashback credit card?

Very well on the Amex card.  My preferred cashback card, The Capital One Aspire card, offers 0.5% cashback on annual spend up to £6,000, 1% cashback on all purchases from £6,000 to £9,999 and 1.25% cashback above that.  For the free Visa card, it is about on a par with the Capital One card unless you value Avios points highly.  The paid Visa card is clearly better than the Capital One option.

The Head for Points Verdict:

Score for the sign-up bonus – 10/10 for free card – there is no fee, a low £250 spend target, no minimum income requirement and a high bonus.  What more could you want?  If you don’t have one, get one now.  If you do have one, get one for your partner.  If your partner has one, get one for your parents and move the miles to yourself via a bmi Family Account!  I rate the paid card at 7/10 because 24,000 Avios for £85 is still not a bad deal.

Score for on-going earning – for the Amex, 7/10 for the free card and 9/10 for the paid card.  2 miles per £1 on the paid Amex makes this best earnings rate of any airline card on the market.  I rate the Visa lower because of the attractive cashback alternatives – 5/10 for the free card and 7/10 for the paid card.

Farewell bmi …. you will be missed!  (You are lucky I have decided not to post any of the photos of me enjoying a plate of caviar in a Lufthansa First Class cabin or knocking back a suitably expensive whisky in the Frankfurt First Class Terminal – all part of the bmi redemption experience in the past!)

Another silly 'Buy Avios' promo!
Save £20 on a £200 Opodo booking paid with Amex
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Comments

  1. I’m really surprised this card is still around, and I wonder if MBNA will attempt to replace it with anything else that could earn Avios? I’ve had it, got the miles and spent them. Nice while it lasted.

  2. @Martyn

    My wife is not a UK citizen and she was approved instantly for a BMI non-fee with a credit limit of £1,900

    • Thanks George, I’ll have to give it a try.

      • I’m not a UK citizen, and I got approved for the BMI card with a credit limit of £4,700, despite already having two credit cards with a combined limit of almost £12,000,and an AMEX charge card.

    • Did she have a current bank account? I think they ask for a current bank account in the name of the applicant, if you don’t have it can you use the spouse’s?

  3. I have an old BMI mastercard, do you think I can still apply for the Amex/Visa combo and get the bonus miles?

    • Probably (there have been reports of this) and it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

      • Indeed, you definitely won’t get it if you don’t apply. Would only avoid if you’ve already got a recent application on file and want to churn an Amex.

  4. How do you link the Diamond Club account with the MBNA BMI card? There is no mention of DC miles on the MBNA account web site. Have I done something wrong?

    • I think you could specify a DC number when you applied. If you call MBNA, they can tell you where the points are going.

      • If there was not a box on the application form for your DC number, MBNA and bmi will try to find your account manually. If they miss it, they create a new one for you. The problem is, they don’t tell you they’ve done this! All you can do is wait for your first statement. Either the miles post in your current DC account, in which case you are OK, or they don’t. In this case, you need to call bmi and MBNA to see what the number is of the new account they created, and then get bmi to merge them.

  5. Eshaq Choudhury says:

    Great. Applied for an account for my wife and it went through even though a few months ago they declined. Maybe they are getting as many applications as possible before this card closes down for good.

  6. I had a bmi card which I had not used for a couple of years so i canceled it about a month ago. Would it be worth applying again or would I not get the bonus again !!! Maybe this would be a bit naughty!!!

  7. Sorry have just read the rules.It says you can only get bonus once for any MBNA card.

    • That’s what it says, reality is something different. Especially if you had the Mastercard, etc. I.e. an old bmi card. If it was an old card I would certainly give it a go. If one of the current type…. still nothing really to loose by trying.

  8. Just had my application approved and will spend the £250 to get the 20,000 points so I can transfer them to my BA Exec Club account, one point I am not sure on is whether my wife can apply for her own card, get the bonus herself and transfer it to her BA Exec Club (we have a household account with BA)? Any advice gratefully received, top site by the way!!