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.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2022 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
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
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
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
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.