Etihad Guest launches a UK credit card – is it worth applying?

Well, I didn’t see that one coming! MBNA announced yesterday that they have launched a new UK credit card in conjunction with Etihad Guest, the loyalty programme for Abu Dhabi’s national airline.

The first thing to note is that the cards look very pretty!

Etihad card

The earnings rate is pretty decent as well.

As is becoming the norm, the cards come as a double pack of an American Express and a Visa. This is the same structure as the Virgin Flying Club, Miles & More and American Airlines cards from MBNA, and indeed the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios cards.

The Amex earns 1.5 Etihad Guest miles per £1

The Visa earns 0.75 Etihad Guest miles per £1

The cards have no annual fee.

But what’s the sign-up bonus?

Well, it’s OK but not a game changer. Sign up today and you will receive 5,000 Etihad Guest miles. You only need to spend £250 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

That is not a bad deal for a free credit card, to be honest. However, I believe that you will see that figure creeping up from time to time. MBNA recently offered 15,000 miles in a targeted deal for the Miles & More card, for example, despite only offering 1,500 miles usually. And, of course, the free MBNA American Airlines cards are currently offering an exceptional 35,000 AAdvantage miles.

The bottom line is that, if you don’t already collect Etihad Guest miles, this card is not a good enough reason to start. For comparison, you would need (according to their calculator) 87,951 Etihad Guest miles for a return Business Class flight to Abu Dhabi and 110,450 for First Class. Ironically, redemption rates are cheaper when you use American Airlines miles to redeem on Etihad than using Etihad miles directly.

If you a serious collector of Etihad Guest miles, I would recommend that you focus in the short term on the Starwood Amex instead. As per this post, you currently get 20,000 Starwood points for signing up, and these are convertible into 25,000 Etihad Guest miles (or 25,000 Avios, amongst other things).

For on-going earning with Etihad, of course, the new Etihad Guest card is better than the Starwood Amex. The Starwood card would only earn you 1 Etihad Guest mile per £1 (1.25 if you convert in 20,000 point chunks) whilst this new MBNA package gets you 1.5 Etihad Guest miles on the Amex and the flexibility of the Visa card as well.

FREE promotion to Etihad Silver status and double / triple miles

There are three interesting extra perks which come with the card:

Double miles on Business Class flights taken with 90 days of account opening

Triple miles on First Class flights taken within 90 days of account opening

Promotion to Etihad Guest Silver status after one return flight within your first year of card membership

If you are a regular Etihad flyer in premium classes, the first two benefits are substantially more valuable to you than the 5,000 mile sign-up bonus. The Silver status upgrade is a ‘nice to have’ but – as Etihad is not in a major alliance – is not much use if you are only planning one flight with them.

Interestingly, this is the first card promotion I can think of that actually gives you a bonus for flying the airline concerned instead of simply using their card.

Etihad is clearly making a big push in the UK

I doubt that Etihad was top of MBNA’s list of target airline partners, so I assume that Etihad has offered them a good deal. It is also worth noting that Etihad became an American Express Membership Rewards partner last year. The airline is clearly trying to get traction for its loyalty programme in the UK market.

If you want to know more about the Etihad card, you can find out more and apply here.

The card has been added to our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page and I will update it with the latest sign-up bonus each month.

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Comments

  1. Phillip says:

    The one thing I will say about Etihad Guest, is that there is always very good availability with some bargain redemptions cheaper than what is on the standard mileage chart.

  2. I can elaborate a bit more than what Philip said. They offer something called Guest Seat and Open Seat. Guest Seats are normally allowable redemtion seats ( for fixed miles) , but Open Seats are “limited time only” seats and it is available only as return tickets. Miles needed to redeem these open seats vary based on time of booking ( how many days before travel date) and travel dates ( summer peak Vs winter).

    I was planning to book my tickets to India from London Heathrow ( via Abu Dhabi) in Etihad and I found return tickets in Coral Economy in Open Seat for 32,000 miles and taxes ( £320 which is very hefty ). But normally I would pay £519 or £520 for that tickets. Usually a Guest Seat for the same trip is 97,000 miles plus taxes. As Raffle always say, you can try to fly from some European destinations to save on taxes.

    I am a member of Etihad Guest from 2009 and I use to travel only once an year. In 2011, because of extra couple of trips ( totalling 25,000 tier miles in an year) became Etihad Silver member. You get lounge access for Silver member and in most of the airports it’s almost same lounge as all other higher tiers. Also get 10 Kgs extra baggage allowance.

    Raffles, if you want me to provide some screenshots of current availablity of open seat Vs Guest seats, I can send you that. Do let me know.

    • Thanks Jay. Etihad seems to let you search reward seats without even registering, though, which is good of them.

  3. Question to Raffles, In 3 months, do you see a possibility of MBNA raising the guest miles to 10 K or more. ? I already have Etihad Silver membership. I intend to take 1-2 flights in Etihad per year. I can spend upto £2,000 in 90 days. Will MBNA offer a better sign up reward ?

    • No idea! I would be a little surprised if they ran a higher bonus so soon, though, because it would annoy everyone who signed up now as a launch customer. If I were MBNA I wouldn’t do anything higher for at least 6 months (or if I did, I would only use targetted emails to avoid existing card holders finding out.)

  4. I picked up an Etihad Gold Card through status match last year and this led me to booking a flight to Australia with them in March.

    As Jay said you do get the lounge access with Silver and Gold membership when flying whichever class. I just want to mention that, if flying in Economy with status, when you stop in (or return from) Abu Dhabi, you get lumped into a shared lounge rather than their business lounge. Compared to the business class lounge at Heathrow, or the Air NZ lounge they gave us in Melbourne, the shared lounge in Abu Dhabi is pretty rubbish. This might just be me being a bit snobby but I was really disappointed not to get access to their new swish lounge and instead thrown in with half of the other airlines and people paying $15 to have a comfy seat.

    B

  5. AndyGWP says:

    On the subject of the AAdvantage MBNA card, I’ve had both my 5k and my 10k miles posted following my first months statement (as well as the associated miles for the Amex / Visa spend)…

    I’ve got some bills coming up that will help me achieve the full £5k in 6 months but not there yet! :)

    Just mentioning as I expected them to take longer but they posted a few days before I got email notification about my first statement :)

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