This review was updated in October 2016 and all the information is correct as of that date
This is my review of the Etihad Guest UK credit card.
It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Equifax credit report and score. Your first 30 days are free then it’s £14.95 per month. You can cancel at anytime.
As with all rewards cards, this is not a suitable product for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month. You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 22.9% variable.
About the card
The Etihad Guest credit cards are issued by MBNA as a double-pack, with recipients receiving an American Express card and a Visa card. This model may not continue into the future as Amex fees on co-brand cards to UK retailers are now capped at the same level as MasterCard / Visa at 0.3%.
MBNA also issues the United, American, Miles & More, Emirates and Virgin credit cards, amongst others. If you already hold one of these cards and are refused for the AA card, they will usually change their mind if you ring up and offer to reduce the credit limit on your existing card.
What is the sign-up bonus?
Etihad is offering a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Etihad Guest miles for spending £2,000 within the first 90 days.
You will also receive a £50 voucher towards a hotel booking (no minimum spend) with Kaligo.com.
The standard bonus is just 5,000 miles with no hotel voucher. This offer runs until 30th November 2016.
Any other benefits?
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 – in theory, you must pay for the flight with the card
If you are a regular Etihad flyer in premium classes, the first two benefits may be more valuable to you than the 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! Someone at Etihad has realised that this card will only appeal to a niche market and has set out to target those people with useful benefits.
Etihad Guest credit card holders receive a free upgrade to the premium level in the Heathrow Rewards shopping programme. This doubles your Heathrow Rewards earning rate to 2 points per £1.
There are two financing offers available as well:
0% interest on all Etihad transactions in your first year
0% interest for six months on balance and money transfers made in the first 90 days (2% fee)
What is the annual fee?
There is no annual fee.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
Cardholders earn 1.5 Etihad Guest miles per £1 spent on the Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa. MBNA has a good reputation in my experience for posting points punctually.
This is a very good earnings rate for a free card – as good as it gets these days actually.
Note that you can actually beat the earnings rate on the Visa card (0.75 miles) with the HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard. That card earns 1 mile per £1 and the miles can be transferred into four airlines, including Etihad. You need to meet the tough financial criteria for HSBC Premier in order to obtain the card, however, and there is a £195 annual fee – offset by a generous bonus in Year 1.
Remember that the Etihad cards have an FX fee of almost 3% for foreign currency transactions. You may want to consider getting a separate card to use abroad which charges no foreign exchange fees. I recommend the Lloyds Avios Rewards card which also earns Avios points – even on your 0% FX transactions! It comes with a 4,500 Avios sign-up bonus if I refer you. My review of the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is here.
What is an Etihad Guest mile worth?
This is a tricky one, especially from the perspective of someone living in the UK.
Remember that Etihad is not a member of any of the major airline alliances, although it does allow you to redeem on a range of partner airlines.
Following the devaluation in July 2015 you will need according to their calculator 131,928 Etihad Guest miles for a return Business Class flight to Abu Dhabi and 175,465 for First Class. One-way redemptions are available for half price.
These are marginally more expensive than peak day Avios redemptions. Taxes are lower, however, and Etihad includes its free chauffeur service – up to 70 miles – on reward tickets in cities where they have it.
(Ironically, redemption rates are cheaper when you use American Airlines miles to redeem on Etihad than using Etihad miles directly.)
There are some deals available. Under the old reward chart, I flew a friend from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul, one way, for just 30,000 miles + £13 tax in First Class. That was for a 5 hour flight and included a chauffeur car in Abu Dhabi.
Etihad has a good network of flights from the UK regions with Edinburgh being the latest city added.
Here is my review of flying London to Abu Dhabi in Business Class on the new A380 and Abu Dhabi to London in First Class. It is an impressive package. Here is my review of the A380 Business Class Studio which is possibly the best business class seat in the sky.
Since a UK-based Etihad collector is likely to be comparing the scheme with BA, I am happy to use the same conservative valuation as I do for Avios – 0.75p per mile. On this basis, the 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex is equivalent to a 1.1% rebate on your spend. The Visa returns 0.55%. In reality, they are worth more because of the low taxes and the inclusive chauffeur service.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the ASDA card, which pays 0.5% in ASDA vouchers.
On this basis, the American Express card offers value. If you feel that you can get 1p from your miles – and the quality Etihad package, at least on the A380, means that redemptions are a good deal – then the Visa is also worth using.
How else can you earn Etihad Guest miles from a credit card?
There are three alternative ways of earning Etihad Guest miles from your credit card spending:
The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 30,000 Etihad miles. It has a £450 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card offers 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points for signing up. These convert to 10,000 Etihad miles. It has a £75 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
Etihad Guest also has family accounts allowing you to pool the miles earned by various people in one pot. This makes it easier to reach the required amount for an award more quickly if other members of your household also take out their own cards.
15,000 miles is an excellent deal for a free airline card, especially as you also receive the £50 hotel voucher. The standard deal is just 5,000 miles and no voucher.
However, the miles are not much use if you do not have a plan for redeeming them – less easily done with Etihad than with, say, British Airways.
The on-going earning rate is very generous. 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex is as good as it gets at the moment on any free airline card. The same goes for the Visa at 0.75 miles per £1, although this is still not a great return on your spending when compared to a good cashback credit card.
The application form for the Etihad Guest credit cards can be found here.
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.