Get 15,000 American Airlines miles with the NEW MBNA Visa (no Amex!) card

And so it finally happened ….  We have known for some time, although it has never been widely publicised outside of HFP, that American Express had cancelled all of its licensing deals with other credit card issuers.

The first to be hit was TSB.  Barclays followed.  Lloyds, for now, is hanging on although the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card is surely for the chop (in its current form) soon.

MBNA is, by far, the largest issuer of licensed American Express cards in the UK.  It currently issues double packs of American Express and Visa / MasterCard credit cards for:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Etihad Guest
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Flying Club

Yesterday, the first card fell.

The free American Airlines ‘Amex and Visa double-pack’ was withdrawn from the market.  It was replaced by a new card.  Take a look:

MBNA American Airlines credit card

There are only four things you need to know about this card:

It only comes as a Visa – there is no American Express partner card

It has an exceptionally high (stunning, frankly) earning rate of 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1 spent

It has an annual fee of £70

The standard sign-up bonus is 5,000 American Airlines miles, but until 22nd August that is increased to 15,000 miles if you spend £1,500 within 90 days

For legal reasons, there is a fifth thing you need to know:

The card has a representative APR of 38.4% variable, including the fee, based on a national credit limit of £1200

The offer is outlined on the American Airlines site here.

This card is a niche product but could herald a radical shake up for some people

These changes all stem from the 0.3% cap on credit card interchange fees which came in across the EU 18 months ago.  Whilst American Express is exempt from this – which is why you haven’t seen reduced benefits on any cards issued by Amex itself – Amex cards issued by other companies are not exempt.

This is why Amex cancelled its licenses with TSB, Barclays, Lloyds and MBNA.  There was simply no point in these companies continuing to issue combined Amex and Visa / Mastercard products – with a higher earning rate on the Amex – when the interchange fee on both cards was the same.

At 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1, this is the most generous Visa or MasterCard out there.  There is nothing which comes close.  Even if you earn six figures and are ‘allowed’ to pay £195 for HSBC Premier World Elite, you will only be earning 1 Avios, Asia Miles, Singapore or Etihad mile per £1.

If you have a lot of Visa or MasterCard spend, this card could be a revelation for you.  I know there are many Head for Points readers who put six figure sums through a Visa or  MasterCard.

If you are self employed, you can pay all of your income tax, national insurance, VAT and PAYE for any employees with a Visa or MasterCard for a 0.38% fee.  At 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1, you would be paying 0.30p per mile.

The £70 annual fee is a stumbling block, of course.  You need to be spending quite a lot to amortise that.  If you are paying £35,000 per year to the Revenue, then your HMRC card fee at 0.38% would be £133 and your card fee £70.  That is £200 of outlay for (35,000 x 1.25) 43,750 miles which means 0.46p per American Airlines mile.  That’s more than acceptable.

Don’t jump in just yet

Even if you have huge Visa / MasterCard spend, I still don’t recommend jumping onto this card.

Over the next few months, it is likely that the Virgin, Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad and United cards will see similar changes.  One of those may be more suitable than this new American Airlines card.

American AA 350

Should you get the card purely for the sign-up bonus?

If you already have some American Airlines miles then, yes, it seems a no-brainer for the first year.

The annual fee is £70 – this is NOT refundable if you cancel the card

You receive 15,000 American Airlines miles for spending £1,500 within 90 days

That is under 0.5p per mile, plus you will get miles for your spending as well

If you are not a big spender then it unlikely to make sense carrying on into Year 2.  For the first year, though, it looks good.

Do I qualify for the bonus?

The small print is strict:

This offer is only available once for every new customer applying for the MBNA / AAdvantage Credit Card.  Previous and existing MBNA / AAdvantage Credit Card Account holders are not eligible.

This implies that anyone who held the old Visa / Amex double pack cannot get a bonus on this card.

In practice, MBNA has a habit of giving a sign-up bonus again, irrespective of its rules, if it has been a couple of years since you previously cancelled.  I recently received my third ‘once per lifetime’ bonus on the Lufthansa Miles & More cards from MBNA.   This is certainly not guaranteed and – given that you are risking £70 here – I don’t recommend a fresh application if your only interest is in getting the bonus.

What can I do with American Airlines miles?

I don’t want to go into this here as the article would go on for ever.  There are a few key points to remember:

American Airlines is a oneworld member.  Any mileage seat bookable via ba.com on a oneworld airline can also be booked on American Airlines miles.

You will need a different amount of miles – sometimes more, sometimes less – because American has its own pricing chart.  Whilst Avios prices by flight, AA prices by trip irrespective of the number of connections needed.  At the most extreme, First Class to Australia is just 230,000 AA miles compared with 400,000 Avios if booked via BA.

American only adds fuel surcharges to British Airways redemptions.  This means that many redemptions have substantially lower taxes than if booked on Avios, including AA transatlantic flights.

American Airlines is a partner with Etihad.   This is an extra redemption option which Avios does not offer.  Etihad redemptions using AA miles need, ironically, far fewer miles than if you used Etihad Guest miles – and American doesn’t add the crazy fuel surcharges that Etihad now adds!

Your American Airlines education should start here with the reward chart for AA’s partners.  This is all one-way pricing so, for example, UK to Abu Dhabi on Etihad in their amazing A380 Business Class Studio would be 85,000 miles return.  You’d need £68,000 of card spend to earn that.

Unless you are a heavy credit card spender, I don’t recommend jumping into the American Airlines programme unless you already have some of their miles.  If you do already have an active AA account, or if you spend so much on a Visa / MasterCard that you could earn enough for a flight purely from card spend, this new £70 MBNA American Airlines credit card is worth a look.

You can apply via the American Airlines website here.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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.

What is worth booking in the new British Airways sale?
Bits: Etihad drops free chauffeur transfers, IG Index drops credit card fees
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Jason cooper says:

    Interested stuff Rob.

    I am currently debating whether or not to get the emirates skywards credit card with £150 fee or whether to wait to see what the reformed emirates card will look like.

    I currently have a amex gold and am interested in the skywards for the 2 points per £1 spent.

    Say based on £150,000 spend and needing to use emirates regulary (only buy economy flights) – is it worthwhile waiting or just getting the skywards card?

    Also for the skywards card is that expected to be reformed also.

    Look forward to your reply.

    Thanks

    • Jason cooper says:

      £140 fee i meant

    • It will definitely be reformed, the question is when – and that depends on the current contract expiry date, which none of us know anything about ….

  2. Kevino says:

    The one slight downside of American is that reward availability is 2 or 3 weeks after the window opens on BA flights.

  3. Hi tks for sharing. I have the current amex/visa aa card and have not received any communication. Would that mean my current cards including amex mbna advantage card will remain as it is?