(EDIT: This article was updated in March 2017)
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.
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.
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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.
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
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 points. This 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 Honors 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.
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.)