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Credit Card Reviews (8) – bmi American Express and Visa cards

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27th October, to all intents and purposes, will mark the end of bmi Diamond Club.  As of that day, the only way to earn points will be via the bmi credit cards, and the only way to spend points will be to transfer them to British Airways Executive Club.

It is not clear if you will still be able to apply for the bmi credit cards after October 27th.  For that reason – and, frankly, for sentimental reasons! – I am kickstarting the ‘Credit Card Reviews’ series again with a look at the bmi cards.

This will be the 8th of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the Cards Update page. Click here to see previous entries on Lufthansa, Marriott, United Airlines, Flybe, Tesco, American Airlines and Hilton.

About the card

The bmi credit cards are issued by MBNA, part of Bank of America and one of the UK’s largest loyalty credit card issuers.  Like the American Airlines and Miles & More cards, which they also run, it comes as a combined pair of American Express and Visa cards.  There are two application options – a free one and an annual fee (£85) one.

It is worth noting that the card has NO stated income requirement.  This makes it very attractive compared to the £20,000+ household income that Amex wants.  My Mum was accepted for these cards and she is a low-income pensioner.

There is also a very low spend target required to trigger the bonus – just £250.  This compares very well with, say, Amex Gold which requires a £2,000 spend within 90 days.

If you already have an MBNA card, they are happy to move credit around for you from one card to another.  This virtually guarantees your acceptance as long as you are prepared to accept a lower limit on your current card.

What is the sign-up bonus?

Before reading on, you need to remember that bmi’s reward currency is Diamond Club Miles.  These are convertible to Avios at the rate of 1:1.  However, you must have a bmi Diamond Club account (available via www.flybmi.com) in order to earn miles from the bmi credit card – the miles cannot be deposited directly into your Avios account.

The sign-up bonus on the free card is a whopping 20,000 Diamond Club miles.

The bonus on the £85 card is 24,000 Diamond Club miles plus 4,000 status miles and 2 bmi lounge passes.  The status miles now have no value at all as DC no longer gives status.  The lounge passes may or may not still be accepted in the Heathrow Terminal 1 lounge, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Any other benefits?

No.  There is no ‘2 for 1’ and no bonus for spending large amounts on the card.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

The earning rate is very good – ironically, better than the BA Amex cards!

The free card earns 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa.  (Compare this to the free BA Amex which only earns 1 mile per £1, or the Lloyds TSB Mastercard which only earns 0.2 Avios points per £1).

The paid card earns 2 miles per £1 on the Amex and 1 mile per £1 on the Visa.  (Compare this to the paid BA Amex which earns 1.5 miles per £1 – albeit with the 2-4-1 voucher to aim for as well – or the paid Lloyds TSB Mastercard which earns 0.25 Avios per £1.)

What is an Avios airmile worth?

I tend to value an Avios at 0.75p, as I have written numerous times in the past.  However, if you always redeem with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher then you can double that.  I am very tough on my valuation of Avios, but that is partly because I have a large balance (2.5m across myself and my wife) and so the marginal value I place on them is low.

Is it worth applying for the £85 fee cards?  Well, that depends on your valuation of an Avios, your spending levels and how long you think these cards will exist before BA closes them down.  The extra 4,000 Avios sign-up bonus is worth £30-£40.  You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 on the paid Amex, so spending £10,000 would bring you another 5,000 extra Avios worth £40-£50.  That would cover the fee.

The cards will probably survive for another six months or so, so if you will easily spend over £10,000 in that time then the paid version may be worth it.  Personally, though, I wouldn’t bother.  I wouldn’t want to feel that I had to put a large amount through the bmi card to get my money’s worth, because I want the flexibility to put spend on the next decent credit card sign-up bonus that comes along.

You should also note that MBNA does NOT offer a pro-rata fee refund if you cancel your card.

How does this compare to a cashback credit card?

Very well on the Amex card.  My preferred cashback card, The Capital One Aspire card, offers 0.5% cashback on annual spend up to £6,000, 1% cashback on all purchases from £6,000 to £9,999 and 1.25% cashback above that.  For the free Visa card, it is about on a par with the Capital One card unless you value Avios points highly.  The paid Visa card is clearly better than the Capital One option.

The Head for Points verdict:

Score for the sign-up bonus – 10/10 for free card – there is no fee, a low £250 spend target, no minimum income requirement and a high bonus.  What more could you want?  If you don’t have one, get one now.  If you do have one, get one for your partner.  If your partner has one, get one for your parents and move the miles to yourself via a bmi Family Account!  I rate the paid card at 7/10 because 24,000 Avios for £85 is still not a bad deal.

Score for on-going earning – for the Amex, 7/10 for the free card and 9/10 for the paid card.  2 miles per £1 on the paid Amex makes this best earnings rate of any airline card on the market.  I rate the Visa lower because of the attractive cashback alternatives – 5/10 for the free card and 7/10 for the paid card.

Farewell bmi …. you will be missed!  (You are lucky I have decided not to post any of the photos of me enjoying a plate of caviar in a Lufthansa First Class cabin or knocking back a suitably expensive whisky in the Frankfurt First Class Terminal – all part of the bmi redemption experience in the past!)


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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

Comments (17)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Martyn says:

    I’m really surprised this card is still around, and I wonder if MBNA will attempt to replace it with anything else that could earn Avios? I’ve had it, got the miles and spent them. Nice while it lasted.

    • Raffles says:

      Got a wife / partner / parent you could sign up and pop into a bmi Family Account with you?!

      • Martyn says:

        Yes and no. Wife is not a UK citizen so difficult to get credit. Probably worth a shot all the same for an easy 20k.

  • George the Travel Monkey says:

    @Martyn

    My wife is not a UK citizen and she was approved instantly for a BMI non-fee with a credit limit of £1,900

    • Martyn says:

      Thanks George, I’ll have to give it a try.

      • Jenni says:

        I’m not a UK citizen, and I got approved for the BMI card with a credit limit of £4,700, despite already having two credit cards with a combined limit of almost £12,000,and an AMEX charge card.

    • ups says:

      Did she have a current bank account? I think they ask for a current bank account in the name of the applicant, if you don’t have it can you use the spouse’s?

  • Marwan says:

    I have an old BMI mastercard, do you think I can still apply for the Amex/Visa combo and get the bonus miles?

    • David says:

      Probably (there have been reports of this) and it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

      • Andrew says:

        Indeed, you definitely won’t get it if you don’t apply. Would only avoid if you’ve already got a recent application on file and want to churn an Amex.

  • Andrew says:

    I think you could specify a DC number when you applied. If you call MBNA, they can tell you where the points are going.

    • Raffles says:

      If there was not a box on the application form for your DC number, MBNA and bmi will try to find your account manually. If they miss it, they create a new one for you. The problem is, they don’t tell you they’ve done this! All you can do is wait for your first statement. Either the miles post in your current DC account, in which case you are OK, or they don’t. In this case, you need to call bmi and MBNA to see what the number is of the new account they created, and then get bmi to merge them.

  • Eshaq Choudhury says:

    Great. Applied for an account for my wife and it went through even though a few months ago they declined. Maybe they are getting as many applications as possible before this card closes down for good.

  • Mummy55 says:

    I had a bmi card which I had not used for a couple of years so i canceled it about a month ago. Would it be worth applying again or would I not get the bonus again !!! Maybe this would be a bit naughty!!!

  • Mummy55 says:

    Sorry have just read the rules.It says you can only get bonus once for any MBNA card.

    • David says:

      That’s what it says, reality is something different. Especially if you had the Mastercard, etc. I.e. an old bmi card. If it was an old card I would certainly give it a go. If one of the current type…. still nothing really to loose by trying.

  • Christian says:

    Just had my application approved and will spend the £250 to get the 20,000 points so I can transfer them to my BA Exec Club account, one point I am not sure on is whether my wife can apply for her own card, get the bonus herself and transfer it to her BA Exec Club (we have a household account with BA)? Any advice gratefully received, top site by the way!!

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