Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

A sneaky way to hit the £5,000 spend target on the AA credit cards

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

I received some good news by email yesterday – I have been approved for the American Airlines credit cards with the fantastic 35,000 miles sign-up bonus!

I was a little worried, to be honest, since my BMI MasterCard has a substantial £20,000 credit limit, and I wasn’t sure that MBNA would want to extend me more credit. 

However, I have been an excellent MBNA customer over the years and presumably come out quite highly on their ‘people we want to keep as customers’ scoring.  This clearly worked in my favour, and they have given me the card with a £10,000 credit limit.

AA cards

The one downside of this card is the requirement to spend £5,000 within 180 days to trigger the full 35,000 mile bonus.  Because you get a Visa card as well as an Amex, this is less difficult than it could be, especially if you can pay the Inland Revenue, your council tax etc with it.  It is still not an easy target for many, though.

There is, however, a work-around.

When I wrote about the card, I didn’t mention one additional benefit that comes with it:  you get 0% credit for 12 months (from account opening) on all flights bought from the American Airlines website.

You could, therefore, buy a £5,000 fully refundable flight on the AA website.

We don’t yet know how long it will take MBNA to send over the bonus miles.  However, because of the 12 months interest free credit, it doesn’t matter.  Wait as long as it takes, then cancel the flight and extinguish your card liability.

Note that, whilst the purchase will accumulate no interest, you still have to make the minimum 3% repayment each month.  MBNA will want £15 off you, which will of course in turn reduce your outstanding balance.

When you trigger the refund, MBNA will not reclaim the base miles from your AA account.  They will, however, send your internal MBNA account into negative territory, and you will not any further AA miles until you have earned enough to wipe out the deficit.  This deficit would be 7,500 miles if you used the Amex card or 3,750 miles if you spend the £5,000 on the Visa card.

To avoid MBNA putting a black mark against your name for future applications, I would strongly recommend wiping out this negative balance by putting £5,000 of fresh spend through the card before you cancel it.   Closing the account with a negative mileage balance is possible – and MBNA will not come after you for the value of the negative miles balance – but you shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t rush to offer you new cards in the future ….

Without stating the obvious, be sure that you are 110% certain that the flight you are booking on the AA website is fully refundable.  If you are not sure, do NOT go ahead!  Personally, I have a tax bill due at the end of July which I am going to pay early, so I will not be doing this myself.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending 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:

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

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

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Comments (51)

  • Max says:

    I’m fairly new to Avios, miles and points and have benefited greatly from the advice on your blog. Thx
    Wish I discovered these travel hacks when I was single and was travelling more often.

    I have earned 57K MR points with Amex Plat. and I’m planning a summer break this year, in economy, with a family of 4 to visit Asia e,g. India, Singapore, Malaysia, HK etc. I was wondering if you can advice me on the best CC(s) to apply for to get the maximum points to reduce the cost of return flights from LHR?

    Many Thanks,

    • Rob says:

      As you’ve got Plat, you could refer your partner for a Plat or Gold. A Plat referral is worth 47,000 between the 2 bonuses, a Gold referral is worth 31,000.

      If you can spend the £5k, the AA cards are also worth a look especially as AA miles have lower requirements to India that Avios.

      Look at the new deal on the Lloyds cards as well, which is not bad.

      Redeeming for economy is never the best use of miles due to the high taxes, although at peak periods it can be a decent deal.

      • Max says:

        I recently got my AA card (as mentioned in the post above). Should I get one for the Mrs. too? This would also mean a 10K spend in 6 months (for both of us) to trigger the bonus. This could possibly be achieved with the sneaky trick you mentioned here (at least for one of the cards).

        Is this a better option than an Amex Plat referral for the Mrs. if we plan to holiday in Asia?

        • Max says:

          Thanks Raffles.

          • James67 says:

            Max, if economy os a necessity your family might enjoy a380 with Malaysia airlines. Availability is great and there is 2 flights a day between KUl and LHR. Tax and fees are low on AA redemptions but you need to call as MH not available online. There are great priced hotels on KUL and good deals on beach and Cameron Highland breaks for dramatic contrasts. Recommend booking with local tour company for best deal. Other big plus for KUlis you get cheap fares to just abput any place in Asia with Air Asia if you want to add more destnations to your trip. Btw, Air Asia is fab.

          • Max says:

            Hi James67,
            I’m not sure how the passengers in F class will tolerate 2 hyperactive toddlers, hence the economy class
            Always wanted to try the A380 so thanks for the tip. Will definitely check out Malaysia as an option.

  • James Ward says:

    Paying your tax on a credit card? I hadn’t realised that was possible! Good tip.

    However, is it worth the 1.4% fee that is charged by HMRC?

    • Sir Stamford says:

      Assuming that you value each Avios at 1p apiece, the break-even point is whether your Visa or MasterCard earns you at least 1.4 Avios per £1. The same analysis applies for other frequent flyer programmes.

      For instance, with the MBNA BMI Mastercard, you earn 2.5 Avios per £1, meaning that you are getting each Avios for 0.56p, after incurring the 1.4% CC charge. So, this is good deal.

      Sir Stamford

    • Rob says:

      If you have the old BMI Mastercard, currently 2.5 Avios per £1, then Yes!

      Even with this card, I think I would bite the bullet and pay the fee. I want to trigger the bonus points ASAP as I have a potential use for the AA miles in late July.

  • Neil says:

    For people who have had this or similar MBNA cards before, is there any way to view your current number of miles earned with the card? Obviously you can log into your AA account but how often do MBNA send the points across to AA? Is it once a month with your statement or just ad hoc?

    • tearsplash says:

      MBNA send the miles across quite quickly to AA – within a day of your statement being generated, sometimes the same day.

      • Rob says:

        Yes, they are great. If you get your statement in the post, you should have already had the miles! If not, something is wrong, so call them.

        Compare and contrast with Barclays, who “lost” everyones Hilton and Priority Club points in March – which have still not turned up – and have admitted today they have “lost” April as well.

        If MBNA would give me a few affiliate links for their cards – hint, hint – then all would be perfect! (MBNA does not do affiliate links for its travel cards in general, unless your name is moneysupermarket or similar …. although I must send them more business on the travel cards than they do)

    • Ian says:

      In my experience MBMA are excellent at sending the miles across every statement day.

      I’ve been with them for years and never had a problem.

      Another thing to consider here is AA’s merger with US Airways. There’ll be nowhere in North America or the Caribbean you won’t be able to get to!

    • Rob says:

      You can view your transactions online, and at the end of the statement period it shows how many miles have gone across.

  • FromTheRail says:

    This sounds like a good deal for me, will be having to pay a decent amount of money in tax soon and could get this easily in one go.

    For redemption can you use them on Qantas flight? I would be looking at SIN-PER either full redemption for Eco or use them for upgrade to business, does anyone know how many would be needed as I can’t seem to find the right bit.

    • Rob says:

      Not sure what the rules are (or even if you can) for upgrading on Qantas with AA miles. For a full redemption, see the link to the chart I published in another reply. No problem using them on Qantas as they are a oneworld partner.

      • FromTheRail says:

        cheers, actually just found that, from what I can see it would pay for one business class flight from SIN-PER

  • Neil says:

    Completely unrelated but I thought posting this on an active thread would make it more likely that people will see! Tesco are running a short repeat of their 750 bonus CC points for £50 spend on wine (no restrictions for number of cases etc) until midnight tomorrow (Fri 26 April). Use code XX7TCK.

    • Rob says:

      More on this tomorrow!

    • Neil says:

      Also, not the cheapest option but they’re running 40% off a case of quite good chateauneuf du pape – £72 down from around £120.

  • Al says:

    Don’t suppose anyone knows if it’s acceptable to pay HMRC in multiple payments? Seems like I could hit a number of bonuses by paying by credit card in chunks over the course of the year (before payment is due at the end of Jan 14). Might make better value than trying to find the best card to pay it all on (or not getting anything and saving the 1.4%).

    • Rob says:

      Multiple payments are fine, I do this all the time. As long as all the payments are made by the due date ….! Note that payments take about a week to show up online, so don’t panic if they don’t show immediately.

      If you are self-employed, the 1.4% can also (in my opinion) be written off as a business expense.

      • Al says:

        Thanks – I’ll give it a go … will make the AA spend easy at least.

  • Jay says:

    I am planning to apply for this card because I want to use it to travel to New York, probably off season, this November or December. Do you think it is worth the miles to redeem this for a LON-JFK flight ? I see, I can get a return flight for 40K. What about taxes ?