Exceptional 35,000 miles bonus for the FREE American Airlines credit card (miles valid for BA flights)

I did have todays posts already lined up.  However, it is 6.25am on Saturday and I have been woken up by an over-enthusiastic 23 month old.  He is watching Fifi & The Flowertots, I am checking my e-mail.  And – tucked away at the bottom of my American Airlines statement this month – I found a great offer.

Until May 31st, American Airlines is offering 35,000 miles when you take out their UK credit cards!

This is, by a very long way, the best offer that I have ever seen on these cards.

Here is the link to the application form.

American Airlines

The key facts of the card are discussed in the review of the American Airlines card that I wrote last month, when the old offer was running.  Here are the key points:

The cards are issued by MBNA, so if you already have the bmi, Lufthansa or United cards it may impact your ability to get them

However, MBNA has a history (with the bmi cards at least) of allowing you, if rejected, to still get them if you agree to reduce the credit limit on your existing cards

The cards come as an American Express and Visa double-pack, earning 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa

The cards are free

The bonus is triggered as follows: 

  5,000 miles for the first purchase

  10,000 miles when you spend £1,500 within 90 days

  20,000 miles when you spend £5,000 within 180 days

These sums are NOT cumulative, so the 180 day target is £5,000, it is not £1,500 + £5,000.

There is NO restriction that the spend must be on the American Express card.  All of the qualifying spend can be made on the Visa card if you want.

The interesting thing about this promotion is that American Airlines miles are valid on British Airways flights since both airlines are members of the oneworld alliance.  You can also redeem on Iberia, Malaysian etc, plus AA-specific partners such as Etihad to the Middle East.

This is what I wrote in my ‘Credit Card Reviews‘ article last month:

“AA miles can be redeemed for BA flights, although you will be using AA’s partner award chart which is here.  You can quickly see that using them for BA European flights is poor value – 10,000 AA miles is enough an Economy one-way inside Europe in Economy, for eg, but you will still pay BA’s full taxes and fuel surcharges.

(Redeeming with Avios instead would let you do a Reward Saver redemption which caps the taxes on a one-way in Europe at £15, possibly £100 cheaper.)  It only becomes interesting if you go to the far reaches of Europe, since AA charges the same for London to Paris as it does for London to Moscow.

Long-haul from London, using BA planes, AA is a relative bargain on India and the Middle East, since Business is 60,000 vs 80,000 (Middle East) or 100,000 (India) for BA, and First is 80,000 vs 120,000 (Middle East) or 150,000 (India) with Avios points (all return prices).  AA is also a partner with Etihad which lets you fly to Abu Dhabi in their impressive J and F cabins.

Asia routes are also attractive, with Japan and Hong Kong costing 105,000 miles return in J compared with 120,000 Avios.  Cape Town is also a decent deal – BA charges additional Avios miles if you change planes in Johannesburg, which is necessary in most cases given poor availability on the direct flights, whilst AA does not.

AA miles come into their own when redeeming on AA planes, especially across the Atlantic, where you will not pay a fuel surcharge.  When using Avios, BA charges a fuel surcharge whether you use AA or BA planes, even when AA does not charge a fuel surcharge itself.

However, BA has moved New York, Boston and Washington into a cheaper band since November 2011 (Club World is 80k return) whilst AA still charges 100k from London for J to all points in America.  This offsets much of the difference when going to the East Coast.  AA’s J product is also behind BA’s in terms of food and comfort, although the new seat being rolled out is a major improvement.”

So …

You would have – including the miles earned on the minimum spend – over 40,000 miles.  That would get you a (one way) First Class ticket from the UK to the Middle East on Etihad.

Because AA includes Russia in their definition of Europe, a return BA flight to Moscow in flat-bed Club World would be just 40,000 AA miles.

Get to 50,000 miles and you would get a one-way in Business Class to anywhere in the US – and you won’t pay fuel surcharges if you fly on an American Airlines plane.  That same 50,000 miles will get you a one-way to Cape Town via Johannesburg on British Airways in Business Class – a cheaper redemption than using Avios.  (Coming back, of course, you can use your Avios.)

You don’t even have to use your miles for a flight!

Via this link, you can redeem American Airlines miles for hotels or car hire.  40,000 miles (roughly what you’d have after making the minimum spend) is good for around £160+ of hotel rooms.  You can mix miles and cash for more expensive rooms as well.

American Airlines is also a points.com partner.  Through this, you can exchange your AA miles (at an admittedly pathetic rate) for other programmes.  For example, 40,000 AA miles will get you 17,000 Priority Club points, 8,800 United miles or 11,000 Aeroplan miles.  This is clearly not the best way to go, though.

All in all, this is an excellent deal, especially as you can make the bonus by spending on the Visa card.  The offer runs until May 31st, so there is no immediate rush to sign-up.  I will run a reminder nearer the closing date.

(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.)

Generous Hertz deals with Virgin Flying Club and American Airlines
'Miles & More' redemption savers for April launched
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  1. I love MBNA – the whole application process is so painless compared to Barclaycard & Amex! Instant approval with a slightly scarily generous credit limit, card on it’s way! 😀 I think I’ll need to buy a new wallet now for all these cards 😉

    • MBNA are very good. They don’t suddenly stop your card overseas, and they are very proactive in calling if they spot suspicious activity on your account. They spotted fraud on my card recently just from 2 x £20 Vodafone topups which someone had put through.

      They also post miles very promptly. BMI miles post before the statement arrives.

  2. Any recommendations on how to hit that £5000 spend limit?!? That is quite high!!!

    • It is over 180 days, though. And the Visa counts, so easier to spend. One cheeky option is to take advantage of the 0 per cent deal on AA flight purchases. Buy a flight, wait for all of the bonuses to post, then cancel it. They won’t take the miles back.

      • That seems like quite a big loophole… I assume they would take back the miles earned on the spend for the tickets but let you keep the 35000 bonus?

        • Yes and no. They don’t even take back the miles on the basic spend … you simply have a negative miles balance with MBNA and they won’t send any more miles to AA until you’ve earned them back. (This only applies to base spend, the bonus will never be reclaimed.)

  3. Also the app doesn’t ask to put your existing AA Mileage number and acct info – is this something you do later on the phone?

    • With the bmi cards, they found your number by matching your name and address. If they fail to match, they open a new account, annoyingly, which you will need to merge.

    • It should work the same way as it did with bmi MBNA cards – they’ll try to link to your existing account based on email/address (not sure if both or just one), if they can’t find it then they’ll create a new one that you can subsequently get merged.

      Re meeting the spend target – see the article on here re. paying council tax, etc. via card – that’s immediately a couple of grand and then you’ve got options like Amazon vouchers, Tesco giftcards, other retailer giftcards from Tesco, etc. Over 180 days I think it’s not unreasonable – although it’s good that they do offer bonuses for smaller spends too.

  4. Robert says:

    FWIW I have been rejected for this card/offer (already have 2 mbna cards). Called up to ask if I could lower credit limit on existing cards to get this and was flat out rejected and told that once declined there is absolutely no discussion about getting the card unless you can prove that information in your credit file is incorrect.

    Don’t know if MBNA has chaned policy or not. Anyone else been rejected or have different experience?

    • Had exactly the same experience on the recent LUFTHANSA card … don’t know if I should try again now for the AA card …

      • Thanks for the feedback. I will stop repeating the mantra (which WAS true in the BMI days) that MBNA is more than happy to give existing cardholders more cards. Perhaps this bonus is too expensive for them to be too flexible.

        • Do you know how long is the cooling of period by MBNA I should be able to reapply after being declined? I thing AMEX for example will automatically decline your application if you’ve been declined on this card within the past three months, other card issuers do it within six months

        • No idea, sorry. I have just applied myself today and get a feeling I may get rejected due to the high limit on my BMI card, so I may be about to find out.

        • I take it they didn’t give you an instant decision then, Raffles? 🙁

        • I never get one, card companies go nuts when they see the cost of renting property where we live and assume the form was done wrong!

        • Ahh fair enough – they seem a bit happier with my repayments on a baserate tracker 😉

  5. Just applied now, no instant decision , came up a 0800 number i should call them , and if I wont call within 7 days they will consider it themselves according the information they have. do you think its better to call or better not to call? p.s. I have the VIRGIN MBNA card .

  6. KilburnFlyer says:

    “Long-haul from London, using BA planes, AA is a relative bargain on India and the Middle East, since Business is 60,000 vs 80,000 for BA, and First is 80,000 vs 120,000 with Avios points (all return prices). AA is also a partner with Etihad which lets you fly to Abu Dhabi in their impressive J and F cabins.”

    Does this mean that is only costs 40,000 AA miles to fly First with Etihad, one-way to India then? (For example LHR-AUH-MAA)

  7. rasper says:

    I got approved!

    But I’m not sure I can hit the target spend.

    Would it be possible to send some money to a family member on paypal, them to withdraw it and hand me the cash back?

    • No, very bad. Paypal is legally obliged to look out for money laundering and may well block your account, without returning the money for some time. There is a good reason why we don’t all do this.

      The answer was posted higher up. As you get 0% interest free credit on AA flight purchase, simply buy a refundable AA flight, wait (however long it takes) for the bonus to be paid, and then cancel the flight for a refund.

      More boringly, stock up on supermarket gift card etc for the rest of the year, try to pay council tax for the year in advance on plastic, if you pay tax online make an early payment now etc.

      • The T&Cs for the offer seem fairly short and straightforward. Could we presume that Amex sterling travellers cheques would work here too, as per the extensive testing performed by Raffles during the Amex Platinum signup bonus?

        • No, I don’t think so. I believe that only applies to Amex issued cards, not MBNA ones, presumably because it’s through Amex’s own currency exchange/TC service.

        • Correct. Only Amex-issued Amex cards work for this.

          It is another Amex card for the next Foursquare promotion though!

      • Flashware says:

        Note that on the AA website it says it will take 6-8 weeks for the bonus points to post.

        • With the bmi card they were always very efficient in posting bonuses.

        • Flashware says:

          Agreed, that was my experience too. Hopefully this is also the case as I need the miles for when my wife and I head over to Aus to visit my folks back at home!

      • Just wondering, why would Paypal view it as money laundering? If its just sending money to someone from your credit card, its all electronic and traceable. They even advertise the service themselves. Although there is a fee which makes it pointless anyway. But just wondering about the money laundering as Ive sent just over £4000 to my parents through paypal before without issues.

        • If you could do this, everyone would be doing it. Yes, as a one-off you should be OK. But Flyertalk is littered with tales of people who had their accounts frozen and were denied access to their cash. Your length of service with Paypal and the level of verification you have plays a key role in what they will let you do.

  8. Cardiff John says:

    I’m gutted. I signed up for a measly 5K on the 21st of March. So I phoned them today and pleaded to be switched to this offer but no luck. The customer support did say that she knows of people having more than one card and she suggested I apply again but I don’t want to hurt my credit rating by being turned down. Any ideas?

  9. Can the miles be used for anyone, ie could i use my dads miles if he got a card?

  10. Rich Spencer says:

    Can anyone advise what happens if you book a refundable flight and then refund at a later stage.
    I’m assuming you wait for the miles to post, move them out then request the refund from AA, but am intigued to know whether that then shows as a -ve balance on your MBNA Account?


    • I am doing a post on this on Thursday. The bonus will remain, your base miles for the flight will be reversed, but will not be taken out of your AA account. You will simply run a negative miles balance with MBNA.

  11. Does anyone have a promotional codes for Bonus Miles when joining the AAdvantage Program?

  12. One possible point to note..

    I received my card(s) through the post today and when I noted that there was noting about an AA membership number on there, I called MBNA to enquire. They hadn’t set an AA account up for me and asked me to do it myself and then provide them with the account number so they could link it. Anyway, that all got sorted but while I was on the phone I asked the lady if the spend for the 35,000 bonus points could be on either the Visa or Amex cards. She went away to check and when she came back she said that it had to be on the Amex.

    By this time I had already been on the phone for a while so I didn’t challenge this but it might be something to be aware of/check up with MBNA. There’s nothing I can see in the T&Cs that say if must be on the Amex but she was obviously told this by someone…

    • Flashware says:

      Yeh, doesn’t seem to be indicated:
      “5,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles will be awarded to the primary cardholder only after first use of new card account within 90 days of opening the account. With
      this offer, you will also earn 10,000 bonus miles after you make a minimum card spend of £1,500 within 90 days of the account being opened and you will receive a further 20,000
      bonus miles if you make a minimum card spend of £5,000 within 180 days of the account opening. You must apply for the MBNA / AAdvantage credit card account by 31 May
      2013 to be eligible for this offer. Please allow four to six weeks after your transaction appears on your credit card statement for the AAdvantage® bonus miles to be posted to your
      American Airlines AAdvantage® account. Offer may be changed, withdrawn, or extended at any time and cannot be combined with any other offer. Card purchases do not include
      balance or money transfers.”

      If they do go that path though, I have a PDF saved of the original offer when I applied, so will fight if I have to!

    • This is not MBNA’s style, the current Miles & More offer also has no restriction on card used. My guess is that the agent is wrong, and as its not in the rules it doesn’t matter anyway!

  13. Daniel says:

    A quick question while this topic is still active – how is the deadline for the 35,000 worked out? Is it quite literally £5,000 of cleared transactions within 180 days of the date that I was accepted for the card? Or the date that I received the letter? Or does £5000 have to have cleared on the previoous statement prior to the 180 day deadline?

    Sounds petty but obviously with such a lot at stake I’d like to make sure I don’t make a simple mistake which would not allow me to claim the points!

    • I would work on 180 days from the date of the first confirmation of acceptance – date of application for immediate acceptance or date of email saying you were approves otherwise. Just to be safe. Buy some supermarket gift cards if you are close to the limit but not there.

  14. Sorry this is probably a very lazy question, is it possible to book a child ticket without an adult one on miles? I am looking to book a family trip but given it not possible to merge accounts, the miles would need to come out of separate accounts and be booked individually?

    • Good question, never done it. It presumably is – if not online, you could do it on the phone and have it linked to the adult reservation so it doesn’t look like an unaccompanied minor.

      Other option, unless using a 241, is to book all the outbound flights from one account and the inbounds from another. On long hauls, though, check the taxes as BA often charges more on 2 one ways than for returns.