I posted last weekend that MBNA had pulled the application forms for the bmi credit cards with no warning. This meant the end of the most generous sign-up bonus on offer from any UK loyalty card.
I said in that post that I would write something about the bmi cards and what they have done for me. This is, admittedly, a rather odd thing to write – you don’t see many eulogies for credit cards!
To be honest, my bmi credit card – the bmi Platinum Mastercard – died some time ago for new applicants. Most people have never even seen one, and I can’t even find a stock photo of it online. However, the fee was £60 per year and it earned 2 miles per £1! For a non-Amex card, this was outstanding.
The arrival of this card on the market around 2005 coincided with two other things:
- HMRC’s willingness to take credit cards to pay tax, initially with just a 0.75% fee, and
- My move off PAYE as I became a Partner in the firm I worked for, meaning I paid my tax in one go at the year-end
Being able to pay all of my income and capital gains tax on my bmi Mastercard was a game changer. Even with the 0.75% fee, I was only paying 0.37p per mile.
And bmi miles were worth more than Avios, because:
- availability to spend them was better,
- you needed fewer of them for most places,
- the multiplier for business class was 150% (BA is 200%) and first class was 200% (BA is 300%) and
- you could do ‘cash and miles’ redemptions, allowing you to effectively ‘buy’ half the miles you needed for 0.7p each
I’ve lost track of the redemptions I did, but they included:
- 3 friends and myself to Dubai (Lufthansa first class out, business back)
- 3 friends and myself to New York (Lufthansa first class out, business back)
- Swiss first class out to Singapore, back from Tokyo
- Singapore Airlines first class Singapore to Tokyo
- Myself and my wife to the Maldives (redeemed to Dubai, cash ticket to Male)
- Business class to Moscow for myself and my wife (on a bmi plane, amazingly!)
- Continental business class to New York for my brother and his wife
I would say that 80% of the miles used for these redemptions came from the bmi credit card! The rest would have been from American Express Membership Rewards transfers, BAA WorldPoints, Hilton stays (1,000 miles per night), car rentals (1,700 miles per rental) and various generous bmi promotions along the way. It also includes 3 x 20,000 mile sign-up bonuses for myself, my wife and my Mum.
And now, of course, I am a bit stuffed.
Yes, I have a huge pile of Avios. But with two kids, the youngest turning two next April, we need 4 seats whenever we redeem. And with our eldest now at school, we are tied to school holidays, so availability is trickier.
I can honestly say that I had no problems redeeming bmi miles on Star Alliance during peak periods, including school holidays.
Of course, the bmi scheme had already started to go downhill over the last year or so:
- First class redemptions became 250% rather than 200% of base miles
- ‘Cash and miles’ was dropped as an option for first class redemptions
- Lufthansa imposed a 10,000 mile per sector surcharge for first class redemptions ….
- …. and then LH and Swiss blocked pretty much all first class availability from Star Alliance partners anyway
- …. and we had kids. And when you’re travelling with young kids, having to change your plane in Germany, Switzerland or Austria to get to where you’re going looks very unappealing.
I still have a lot of Amex Membership Rewards points. I could move those to Singapore Airlines or SAS to get access to Star Alliance availability if I wanted, although not at such good rates. My dream solution would be for Virgin Atlantic to join Star Alliance, so I could channel my miles through them.
I should also add that MBNA was a great administrator of the bmi credit cards, and I cannot remember ever having any real difficulties with them. They even once arranged a 3-way conference call between Santander (acting for the tax office), myself and MBNA when I had major problems putting a particularly large tax bill through my credit card, which I had put into credit in order to be able to pay it.
I still have my bmi Mastercard. And, ironically, it is still my main credit card when I am not working towards my Amex 2-4-1 or a sign-up bonus on a new card. 2 Avios per £1 and a Mastercard which is accepted everywhere. How could you go wrong?
Ah well. Let’s move on.
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)