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Credit Card Reviews 2013 (14): Ryanair Mastercard

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This is the 14th of my series of article looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Card Offers‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

Let’s be honest. I doubt that many Head for Points reader actually have the Ryanair credit card! But have we all been making a big mistake?!

About the card

The Ryanair MasterCard is issued by Santander. They are not major players in the loyalty credit card market, and I think they inherited this card when they took over GE Bank’s card portfolio.

What is the sign-up bonus?

The sign-up bonus has been constant over the last year or so.

On paper it is attractive, offering up to 5 free flights in your first year, and 4 free flights per year thereafter. You get the first flight when you spend £100, two more if you spend £3000 in your first six months and two more if you spend £3000 in your second six months.

It’s Ryanair. What is the small print?

Here is the first ‘catch’ – the six month periods do NOT run from the date you open the card. There are 2 six month spend periods in a year. One runs from 11th December to 10th June inclusive and the other from 11th June to 10th December.

To be fair to Ryanair, some of the other rules are actually very generous:

  • If you only spend between £1500 and £3000 in a six month period, you still get 1 free flight voucher
  • If you spend over £3000 in a six month period, the excess is carried over (up to a maximum of £3000) into the next period
  • They count cash withdrawals on your credit card as part of the £3000 calculation

What are the rules on redeeming my free flights?

Here are the relevant rules:

Flights must be redeemed by the cardholder, except when two vouchers are earned in one period, when you can travel with a friend

Flights are subject to availability, seats may not be available even if seats are for normal retail sale

Vouchers are valid for 8 months from the date of issue and the Give-Away Flight must be booked and taken prior to the expiry date

July and August are completely blocked for redemption

Some routes – not named – are completely excluded for redemption

Flights must be booked one month before travel

Taxes must be paid on the Ryanair MasterCard, which will attact the credit card payment fee (!)

Any other benefits?

There is talk of ‘exclusive cardholder benefits’ but they seem to consist of a few pounds off digital photo gifts – nothing life changing.

What is the annual fee?

There is no annual fee.

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

There is no points scheme. However, the ‘free flights’ bonus runs for each year you hold the card, so you will earn 4 free flights a year if you spend £6,000.

What are the free flights worth?

No idea! However, this could be a decent deal for someone who flies Ryanair (and many people do, not through choice but because they serve destinations that others do not. Second-home owners in Europe are often in this category, as are a lot of people outside London who live near a Ryanair hub.)

You will, of course, have to pay full taxes on top of your ‘free’ flight. Since taxes make up the bulk of the cost of a Ryanair flight, the benefit is not huge. However, you only need to spend £6,000 to get your four free flights.

Arguably, even if you only got £15 of value for each free flight, you are getting 1% back on the £6,000 of spending. You could probably do better than this before you started coming up against ‘black out dates’.

Other points to note

You need to ring Ryanair to book your free flights, on a 10p per minute – from a landline – telephone number. I don’t know if there are further offline booking fees.

The Head for Points verdict:

I genuinely don’t know enough about how easy it is to redeem the free flights or what extra offline booking and premium rate telephone charges may be involved. It is not fair to rate the card on this basis.

I am interested to hear from anyone who actually has one about their experiences of trying to redeem their flights.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – April 2024 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

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 famous annual 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

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points 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:

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

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

Huge 30,000 points bonus until 12th May 2024 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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback Business Credit Card

1% cashback uncapped* on all your business spending (T&C apply) Read our full review

Comments (9)

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

  • Roger says:

    Nobody looking? OK, I’ll own up. I had a previous version of the card, from MBNA IIRC.

    At that time, the award bonuses were different. This one looks more generous, though as it’s Ryanair, what they give with one hand they take away with the other – revenue-enhancing phone lines, a 2% credit card fee – and more on normal web bookings.

    I kept the card long enough to redeem a pair of flights to Biarritz. It went surprisingly well. We ‘saved’ around £130 compared with revenue flights at that time. However, I didn’t look upon the card as a long term prospect and gave it up. The ducking and diving involved with keeping up with Mr O’Leary meant one couldn’t take one’s eye off the ball.

    The T+Cs you outline require attention, unlike those of legacy carriers’ FF schemes. The card would be particularly useful for those unable to use other carriers because of either their location or their destinations. Regular travellers to/from provincial Poland or Spain, for example.

  • Paul says:

    Unless you want to fly to somewhere that no other UK airline flies to, say Santiago De Compestella (great buffalo steaks 🙂 ) then I don’t see much value in the Ryanair card. It sounds like, in typical Michael O’Leary fashion, there are too many terms and conditions for my liking. Perhaps he will offer free blow jobs for a spend over £20k?

  • Andy S says:

    I am just unable to think that Raffles and his family getting the Ryanair flight from stansted! The post flight blog would be a read on the Ryanair experience. I think we all need to take at least 1 Ryanair flight in our lives and never again!

    • Alan says:

      Well I’ve taken two (to/from Frankfurt Hahn, which is as usual nowhere near Frankfurt itself, but instead is around 125km/1.5h West of Frankfurt!!). That must have been in around 1999. Tried again a year later to go to Italy from Prestwick – arrived 44 min before departure time (ie when the first train of the morning arrived at Prestwick) and was told that as we were 1 MINUTE too late (min 45 minutes) we couldn’t check-in (this was in the pre-OLCI days). The flight itself was delayed by an hour but that didn’t matter to them. So we got the train back home and lost our holiday. Never flown with them since then and don’t plan to! Have been on both Easyjet and Jet2 and happy enough to travel with them – they at least make a half-decent attempt at customer service!

    • Rob says:

      We used to do it a bit, because parents in law live near Lubeck which is what Ryanair calls Hamburg. However, flight times got less convenient so we moved to BA, haven’t done Ryanair for about 6 years now.

      • Roger says:

        Well, the lack of business from Raffles clearly had an effect – Lubeck/Hamburg is no longer a Ryanair destination. 😀

        Our former Chief Economist came from Lubeck. Living north of the river in London, she was very happy flying STN-LBC for family visits often for a few pence at the time. So much more convenient than trekking to/from LHR and HAM. 🙂

        • Rob says:

          I noticed that a couple of years ago. When the only departure was 6.15am I thought the game would soon be up!

          Truth is, once we had the kids, Lubeck Airport is the last place you would want to be stuck when your plane is late!

          BA CE to HAM is more pleasurable in every way. Stansted was also less convenient once we moved from E1W to SW3.

  • John Trops says:

    Lovely city Lubeck. Went there for a weekend with the wife when we were first dating only because we could go there on Ryanair and at the time we were on a very tight budget. The place was a very pleasant surprise. Great rates at the Radisson and I think £5 each way on Ryanair. Five years later having flown in F on a few oneworld and *A carriers and with a small child in tow, I doubt she would appreciate a weekend away on Ryanair as much!

  • Simon says:

    I try to avoid Ryanair where possible but living in Bristol they are handy for some routes. To be fair flights with them have always been fine so far.

    I can’t stand their website though, you can’t register so have to enter your personal details everytime, there is that captcha on the first page, then you have to go through pages of saying no to things.

    I wonder how many people have been ticked into buying their insurance by answering the question of “What is your country of residence” with the answer of UK instead of giving the answer “Travel with Insure”

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

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