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Bits: bad news as Lloyds tries to buy MBNA, bad news as Regus culls Gold cards

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Some (bad) news in brief:

Lloyds to buy MBNA UK?

According to reports yesterday, Bank of America has put the UK operations of MBNA back up for sale following a failed process five years ago.

The business has a loan book of £7bn and is believed to worth around £8bn, implying a £1bn value for the equity.

Regular HfP readers will know that, by a gap too wide to measure, Lloyds has the worst run credit card business in the UK.  Only Lloyds, for example, could take FIVE DAYS – in a good week – to send out refer-a-friend emails for their credit cards.  Five days to send an email.  And that is if you are lucky.  I recently had someone receive a Lloyds Avios Rewards refer a friend email SEVEN MONTHS after it was requested.

Only Lloyds would block my wife’s card on suspicion of money laundering because her bill was paid BY HER HUSBAND – and then refuse to unblock it until an original (ie sent in the post, not a branch print) bank statement could be produced, which took three weeks due to my statement cycle.

The news that Lloyds is apparently eager to buy MBNA should send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a Virgin, Etihad, Emirates, United or Lufthansa credit card.  The good news is that there are other names in the frame too such as Santander, Barclaycard, Virgin Money and potentially private equity.

A sale is not guaranteed, however.  MBNA, because of its focus on loyalty and affinity cards, will be very hard hit by the interchange fee caps.  Most of its cards are probably not sustainable now and, when the current airline contracts expire, we are likely to see benefits cut or fees increased.  The customer base is certainly not secure.

MBNA DOES, however, know how to run a card business.  It isn’t perfect – I get regular complaints about non-posting bonuses, whilst I can honestly say I have NEVER had a complaint about a non-posting bonus on an Amex card – but in general they are well regarded.

Regus Gold

Regus closing down free Businessworld Gold cards

During the recession, serviced offices group Regus was throwing free Businessworld Gold cards around like confetti.  Many airline, hotel and car rental firms were allowed to give them out to their status members for free.

These offers started to dry up in 2014.  The last mainstream one, offered by Virgin Atlantic to its Gold Flying Club or Black credit card members, ended in May 2015.

Businessworld Gold allowed you to use the business lounge in ANY Regus business centre for free, as many times as you wanted.  It was effectively free hot desk space.

Head for Points was born out of Regus.  For the first three years, I probably worked out of Regus for 150 days a year for a grand total of £0.  I didn’t just use them in London – I visited numerous centres across the world when travelling. This was thanks to a Businessworld Gold card I got free with a Business Traveller subscription back in 2011.

These free Gold cards usually did not have expiry dates on them.  However, I have had a few emails in recent weeks from readers who have turned up at Regus centres – including the one in Heathrow Terminal 5 arrivals – to find that the system now shows them as Blue and so not allowed to enter.

It seems that Regus has had a clean up of its database.  As Gold cards now cost £600 per year and do not even offer global access for that price, you can see why.  Historically, the charge was £299 per year for global use.

If you were planning to visit the Gatwick, Heathrow or indeed any other Regus lounge with a long-held free Businessworld Gold card, I would have a back up plan in case you find you have been downgraded as well.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (September 2022)

As a reminder, here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit card:

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta Air Lines and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Business Platinum

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

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

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 Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (73)

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

  • Graeme says:

    OT – I’m at Gatwick, travelling to Norway. If I withdrew say €500 on my Supercard from one of those multi-currency ATMs, do people think I’d get away with it processing as if I’d withdrawn from a normal ATM in Europe?

    I’ve got several visits to France next month after Supercard closes, so it’d be really handy to stock up now.

    Thanks all!

    • Lewis says:

      I got euros out of those cards from my revolut card and it worked perfectly fine. €20 was €20. No fee.

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Yes, as long as the ATM bills you in a foreign currency, you’re ok – I’ve used them to withdraw USD and EUR before, you just need to find the ones which don’t charge a fee!

    • John says:

      I think they will DCC you in pounds.

      Withdraw NOK in Norway and I’ll buy them for euros at the spot rate…

    • Graeme says:

      Fantastic – thanks!

    • James67 says:

      Not sure about the answer to your question because presumably you mean one of those travelex atm. I used them only for free sterling withdrawals. Just wanted to point out that if EU vote is remain then £ may rise.

      • Liz says:

        JAmes – I just phoned Amex re platinum upgrade offer and was told it is on till 11/1/2017

        • James67 says:

          Thanks Liz. Reply option was exhausted so I could not reply you last night re: income. This is my own experience and how widely it applies to financial providers and credit card companies in particular I don’t know. My partner, now spouse, came to UK with a visa to get married and faced usual difficulties of identity, address, credit rating etc despit having appreciable assets. A very helpful FA at one of the majof banks advised I pay my partner a minimum of £1000 from my account into my partners sole account by standing order each month as that would then constitute their income for any future applications. That it was at least £1000 seemed to be important. My partner was advised to use the account regularly and to have a minimum of two direct debits which actually paid each month, and to open an ISA once visa was extended and right to work granted. Although the FA was at pains not to say so explicitly, she indicated that the recycling of money between accounts as you describe was not an issue, and was actively, if inadvertently, encouraging it so we would open joint accounts and provide more assets to the bank (and probably more com for her too). Also important was to use housewife or homemaker as opposed to unemployed in any applications. I know not all of this is relevant to you but it does seem to me that you can legitimately claim that money you receive from your husband is your own regular income, and I doubt that you need to worry about recycling for interest purposes which I suspect is very common these days given best rates are associated with current accounts. Hopefully, Rob, Andrew or somebody else here inside the industry can give you a more definitive answer on income.

          • Liz says:

            Brilliant James – thanks for that – I will bear that in mind for next application.

    • Catman99 says:

      Norway? Oslo on Norwegian Air? Good luck with that my 9.20 eventually took off at 4:40….without me

      • Leo says:

        But did you get your QR flight??!

        • Catman99 says:

          No I’m going Thai air direct to Bangkok his morning. It was a good learning experience. Next time I will try taking the flight and staying in a hotel. I will have a quick look at for hotels before I go mainly because trying to do anything with the Airport wifi is frustrating….

      • Graeme says:

        Bergen actually. Took off 50 minutes late…. with me.

    • World Traveller says:

      Travelex’s multi-currency ATMs are configured as being in the UK so you’ll be charged a ‘UK usage fee’ even if you draw out foreign currency.

  • Danksy says:

    Oh dear….I left Lloyds after 3 shambolic months!

  • Go says:

    I took the lloyds avios card out in february. So far i have zero avios post to my account despite healthy spending. They admit its their fault but say it will take at least 60 days to sort! They have given me £25 so far in compensation. They say they do not have the option to give avios as compensation

    • mark2 says:

      My wife got £100 compensation because he (I of course) had written twice. She, of course, got the handbag!
      They are still not crediting Avios so I am hoping for more compensation.

      • FM says:

        I had a similar issue when I had the £24 Lloyds Avios credit card (Amex/MasterCard) as well. The Avios points wouldn’t post to my account, and I had to call or write to their customer services every time I wanted the earned Avios to be credited to my account.

        I got bored of doing this after three or four times, especially when they kept insisting that it would all be resolved, and I wouldn’t need to contact them again to chase-up the missing points. So, after about seven months I cancelled the card(s) and switched to the BA Amex Premium Plus & Tesco MasterCard.

    • Callum says:

      They do but at pitiful rates. I was offered £80 or 500 Avios before, not a tough choice!

      Lloyd’s are very liberal with compensation, I tend to be happier after the problem than I was before it.

  • Dan says:

    I turned up at my local Regus the other day to find they wouldn’t let me in. No worries though as within 30sec I’d signed back up thanks to my Aegean Gold. It says you are signing up for Businessworld Preferred (still good) but has come through as Regus Gold the last 2 times I have signed back up 🙂

    • V says:

      @Dan, same thing happened to me. Didn’t know about Aegean– does it matter what tier level you are with Aegean for what Regus level you get? I don’t have elite status with Aegean and tried signing up, but the email says “preferred”. Will the card come in the mail as gold?

  • Fenny says:

    I have 2 Regus accounts, one through Avis and Gold via Virgin. Both have been downgraded to blue. I have never used them, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to in the future. Not being informed of being downgraded is rather annoying.

    • ADS says:

      I opened it last week – it initially showed gold, then turned turned to blue a minute later.

      I visited a lounge, and in one screen it told them I was gold, and in another screen that I was blue – thankfully they let me in anyway.

      Really shoddy that they didn’t even inform us of the downgrade.

  • Arun T says:

    OT – Advice needed. I’m relatively new to the points game so thank you Raffles and fellow commenters for valuable insight. I have just had my 20k Amex gold posted, what is the best next card for me? I am leaning towards the BAPP before bonus drop? Also, do I have to transfer my Amex MR points out to Avios before I close the card? Thoughts appreciated please!

    • Mikeact says:

      You really should look at previous posts, there is a stack of information available. Start searching. OT’so start messing up the main threads.

    • Raffles says:

      Yes, you need to empty your MR account after a short grace period.

      BAPP is a decent option whilst the bonus is high, and your Amex points would boost your Avios balance when you come to use your 241 voucher.

    • Genghis says:

      Could upgrade to platinum (still seems to be working per other posters), refer your partner, try SPG or BAPP (best to have a stack of avios to make good use of 241).

  • mark2 says:

    It is possible that if Lloyds buy MBNA they will improve their admin.
    Having said that, I much prefer the Lloyds Avios card to any of MBNA’s offerings. Apart from the referral shortcomings everything else works well as long as you also have their current account, with cash back far exceeding the £24 annual charge leaving avoided FX fees and Amex statement credits as pure profit. They did manage to not add Avios to my wife’s account but gave her £100 compensation.

    • Callum says:

      It’s not pure profit, you can get the cash back on free cards too so it’s still costing you £24.

  • dewsburyborn says:

    All this talk of MBNA – does anyone have any ideas as to when their agreement with BMI / BA may end ?

    So glad to have followed FT advice and added the 2.5 miles per £1 plastic to my wallet several years ago.

    • Alan says:

      Ditto, here’s hoping it keeps going for some time yet, I’m loving my bmi Mastercard being linked to my Supercard!

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

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