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 (this link will not work after 27th October) 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!)