What are the best Star Alliance credit cards for UK residents?

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the best Star Alliance frequent flyer programme.  I thought today that I would take a look at the best Star Alliance credit card for a UK resident.

When bmi British Midland still existed, it was easier to get around the world with airline miles. British Airways was a core member of the oneworld alliance, and bmi British Midland was part of Star Alliance. Between them, you could redeem to pretty much anywhere. Even better, both schemes allowed one-way redemptions so it was easy to mix and match.

Now that bmi is no more, it is tougher to maintain a Star Alliance mileage balance.

Star photo

One of the key determinants for me when joining a mileage programme is the ability to earn miles via a credit card. There is often a generous sign-up bonus to be had, and earning via a credit card lets you top up your mileage balance if your flying reduces. A credit card is also a good way to ‘top off’ a mileage programme you intend to abandon after one last redemption.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here for a free 30-day trial of Equifax’s online credit report service.   Note that a monthly fee of £14.95 will apply following the 30 day free trial of this product if you do not cancel within the trial period.  You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Travel rewards credit cards have high interest rates and are not suitable 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.

Here is a comprehensive list of Star Alliance partners and their credit card earning opportunities if you live in the UK.

Star Alliance members with their own specific UK credit card

  • Adria / Austrian / Brussels Airlines / Croatia Airlines / LOT / Lufthansa / Swiss – all use Miles & More as their reward scheme. The Miles & More American Express earns 1.5 miles per £1, the Visa earn 0.75 miles per £1.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.
  • United – has its own pair of cards, earning 1.25 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.625 per £1 on the Visa.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Getting the Miles & More card also stops your Miles & More miles expiring. Here is my review. My review of the United card is here.

Star Alliance members who are American Express Membership Rewards partners

You can collect with the following Star members via an American Express Platinum or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card and then converting your Membership Rewards points to airline miles. Large sign-up bonuses are currently available for these cards – see ‘Credit Cards Update‘. Taken from the Amex Membership Rewards catalogue:

  • SAS – 1 mile per £1
  • Singapore Airlines – 1 mile per £1

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card currently has a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points – this gets you 20,000 miles with SAS or Singapore Airlines. Here is my review.

The American Express Platinum card currently has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points – this gets you 30,000 miles with SAS or Singapore Airlines. Here is my review.

Star Alliance members who are Starwood Preferred Guest American Express partners

Starwood Preferred Guest is the loyalty programme for the Westin, Sheraton, W, St Regis hotel group.  You can convert Starwood Preferred Guest points to a number of airlines. The transfer rate is nominally 1:1, with the credit card earning 1 point per £1, but this is increased to 1:1.25 if you convert 20,000 points at once.

The SPG American Express card has a sign-up bonus of 10,000 pointsThis means that you would receive 10,000 miles in most of the schemes listed below.  My detailed review of the SPG card is here.  The representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

These are the Star Alliance members which are SPG airline partners:

  • Aegean (NEW) – 1 mile per £1
  • Air Canada – 1 mile per £1
  • Air China – 1 mile per £1
  • Air New Zealand – 1 point per £65
  • ANA – 1 mile per £1
  • Asiana Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • Miles & More – 1 mile per £1 (their own card is better, see above)
  • Singapore Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • Thai Airways – 1 mile per £1
  • United – 0.5 miles per £1 (their own card is better, see above)

Star Alliance members who are partners with other hotel credit cards

Apart from SPG, the other UK hotel cards offer poor earnings rates when transferring to Star Alliance airlines. For completeness, though, I have listed them below:

Hilton HHonors credit card – earns a poor 0.2 miles per £1 of credit card spend with most partners. This is based on 2 points per £1 on the card and 10,000 points to 1,000 airline miles when you convert. Star Alliance partners are: Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Avianca TACA, Miles & More, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Thai Airways, United.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Marriott Rewards credit card (this card is currently closed to new applications) – earns a very poor 0.15 or 0.2 miles per £1 of credit card spend, although this improves slightly for converting larger quantities. Star Alliance partners are: Air China (0.15), Air Canada (0.2), ANA (0.15), Asiana Airlines (0.15), Avianca TACA (0.15), Miles & More (0.15), Singapore Airlines (0.15), South African Airways, TAP Air Portugal (0.15), Turkish (0.15), United (0.2).

IHG Rewards Club credit card – earns a poor 0.2 miles per £1 of credit card spend, although if you have the IHG Rewards Club Premium credit card, this is doubled to a more reasonable 0.4 miles per £1. Star Alliance partners are: Air China, Air New Zealand (£400 spend = 1 point), ANA, Asiana Airlines, Copa (via Globalpass), Miles & More, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways, United.

 So, there are plenty of options here for anyone wanting to earn Star Alliance miles from a credit card. As far as I can see, the only members with no earning ability are Egyptair, Ethiopian and EVA Air. Shenzhen Airlines uses Air China’s PheonixMiles programme, which can be accessed via Starwood, IHG, Marriott and Hilton.


The highest Star Alliance earnings rate for a UK resident is via Miles & More and their American Express card at 1.5 miles per £1.

However, the Starwood Amex has a number of partners at a decent conversion rate of 1.25 miles per £1 (assuming you convert in 20,000 point chunks) and may be a good way to hedge your bets about which Star programme you want to redeem through.  You can also redeem your Starwood points for hotel rooms if you change your mind!  My full review of that card is here.

(PS. Whilst I haven’t covered it above, you can also convert American Express points into Club Carlson at a 1:3 ratio and then transfer those to various airline programmes. The effective transfer rate at the most generous level would be 33,333 Amex = 100,000 Club Carlson = 10,000 airline miles. This is a very poor rate at 1/3rd mile per £1 spent. Star Alliance partners are Aeroplan, Air China, Asiana, Miles & More, SAS and United.)

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

First photos of Gatwick North Clubrooms for BA First and Gold passengers
Bits: win tickets to Le Mans with Avios & Shell, how a reader used his free GHA Platinum status
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  1. Toby Warren says:

    This is helpful – but surely it’s half the info you need – where do we find out the value of the points – is there handy guide anywhere?

    • Yes, and extrapolating out to a £ spend per redeemable business class ticket / upgrade might be a great matrix.

      For instance, a BA ticket on LHR-BKK runs around 150k to 180k points which would take £100k to £120k of spending exclusive of bonus offers.

      You could even further expand it (don’t you just hate statistics :)) to compare the taxes payable on the “free” redemption against the full normal (discounted) fare. In the above case, taxes are roughly £500 against a normal (lowest) fare of circa £2000 making the points worth around £1500

    • It isn’t that simple.

      Each airline has sweet spot redemptions so the ‘best’ depends on where you want to go. Some do not allow one way bookings. Some do not add fuel surcharges on some airlines (but it only matters if flying those airlines). Some have nasty booking or change fees. Some have draconian expiry rules. Some schemes make enhanced availability available to their own members, eg LH and SQ.

      There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.

  2. Just to note, US Airways is no longer *A (nor in existence at all!).

  3. Singapore miles are good value due in part to the online booking discount (which in practice the call centre staff happily apply if you can’t book your itinerary over the phone). It cost me just 51,000 miles to fly KUL – SIN – AMS in business. Perth is around 76,000.

    • Can’t book your itinerary online even! You can book stopovers for $100 USD extra even on one way redemptions also (return redemptions qualify for free stopovers in SIN).

      • I was told by Ain you can’t book stopovers on a one way reward saver ticket even If you pay for it. I must have got a bad agent.

  4. OT: just got my IHG Visa membership fee waived for my 2nd year. I called a couple of weeks ago and got it ok’d but as it hadn’t appeared on my statement yet I was told to phone back when my statement came in. Today I was offered £40 off – I told him I rang in a couple of weeks ago and was told a note would be put on my record to confirm the fee was to be waived – of course no note was recorded but because he said I I been promised it before he would waive the full £99! Made my day!

    • Rob would this make it easier to whip the benefits away should they start actively trying to pull the card? I think I’ve paid mine anyway last month – I need to check!

      • Hmmmm should be taken this month. Will have to see what shows up when the statement is available. Otherwise might be worth a call but I want to keep the IHG visa and its current benefits as long as I can……

    • rams1981 says:

      Liz, thanks for your post, just called IHG and got a full refund on year 2’s fee also! I did put a lot of spend through the card including some FX earlier in the year pre supercard so they make their money from me… wouldn’t of though of asking until I saw your post.

    • Huh, I wouldn’t exactly be pleased if I was promised something and then I had to fight to get it again.

      I have the same promise from barclaycard but my statement hasn’t come yet so we shall see.

      • It wasn’t a fight – he was very nice about it – no quibble at all – even though there was no note on file he gave me the full refund straight away. I’ve seen others mention it before so thought I would give it a try – if you don’t ask you don’t get! I put £15K through it in my 1st year and want to continue using it as long as I can what with all these c/c changes going on.

  5. OT – I’m loyal to SPG and Hilton so have the majority of my points there apart from around 3000 in Hyatt and 2000 in IHG. What is the best way to transfer these points to miles? Or will they have to be used as part payment for a stay?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Can’t speak for Hyatt, but with IHG I’m fairly sure you need at least 10k to transfer to miles (10:1). You’d be better off getting the balance to 5k and redeeming for a pointsbreak night at some stage.

      • IIRC Hyatt do allow smaller transfes, just call them – I earned points on a stay when I wanted miles and they just converted them for me.

  6. Bit OT. So I have just signed up and received my Nectar Amex. Here’s a question… what would be the best way to spend the 20k points???

    Easy jet flights?!

  7. Slightly OT but some advice welcome. I know this will have been covered many times on this site but I can’t find the article!

    I need to churn my BA AMEX blue having got my companion voucher but don’t know what card to apply for now. I have BA AMEX blue and the AMEX plat credit and charge cards. I’m going to cancel the plat credit card too as I don’t use that. I’m also supplementary card holder on others but I don’t think this matters right?

    Any thoughts on the best card to get and use for the next six months?