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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.

  • Mikeact says:

    Now Lloyds are on Android Pay, once again it leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve given up adding cards, no text or email verification has been received. Very poor for a major banks.

  • Callum says:

    I used to have a Lloyds TSB account. My sort code was a branch that was marked as part of the new TSB bank. I wanted to stay with Lloyds Bank to take advantage of Club Lloyds so opened up a new account. 3 months later I applied for the Lloyds Avios card…declined. Never been declined by any other credit card provider. I managed to get one 12 months later, purely for overseas spend and the upgrade voucher. Its been a hassle…but you know what the worst part is….I have worked for Lloyds for the past five years….tbf I like the mobile banking app 🙂

  • Neil says:

    This is very bad news if Lloyds gets MBNA. I do have the Lloyds Avios but the credit limit is stuck at £2900 – they won’t move it upwards having held the card for years with an excellent credit history. So that card is stuck in a drawer and never gets used.
    MBNA, on the other hand, are my main provider and have always been very good (I have the Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Everyday Amex with MBNA).
    I really hope someone else, anyone else, gets MBNA.

    • Kathy says:

      Sad to hear that credit limits are low on the Lloyds Avios card. I was hoping to use it to buy my season ticket for next year and get half-way to an upgrade voucher!

      I guess I need to look at a plan b.

      • Alex W says:

        I have the lloyds Avios premier and just got a letter in the post saying my credit limit has been increased to £12,250.

      • Brian W says:

        My Lloyds Avios Prem Duo cards have a limit of £13,750 so worth asking for a higher limit.

    • Mr Dee says:

      My lloyds card is now the lowest one I have, I have to pre pay for any moderate purchases which luckily goes through even if its more than the actual credit limit, I’m hoping they will increase this soon especially being with them for years.

  • Sussex Bantam says:

    OT – BAPP used to give a small bonus for applying for a supplementary card on your account but I can’t find a reference to it anymore. Does anyone know if it still exists ?


  • Alex W says:

    I have Lloyds Premier Avios. Had an issue where one £5 transaction was charged to the card 226 times in error! Took a couple of months to sort out with various issues but ended up getting £300 compensation and kept most of the Avios after the refund too 🙂

  • Henry says:

    Regus: I also got one of the free Gold cards, a little over three years ago. Looking at my account online just now, it says Expiry date: 31/12/2078 ! ! !

    • Rob says:

      Does it still show Gold?

    • Clive Gardner says:

      Unlikely it will for much longer. Mine showed that expiry also, but its been downgraded to Blue without warning. Their CS rep tells me all cards over 12 months old are getting cancelled as soon as they pick them up.

  • Matt says:

    I’m taking a more optimistic stance on a MBNA-Lloyds integration: If Lloyds are paying £8bn for £7bn receivables, they are not buying a loan book, they are buying a business. Is it out of the question that Lloyds might be looking to shift its card book to Chester to operate it under MBNA? If I was going to pick a legacy system to use, it certainly wouldn’t be Lloyds!

    That said, since Lloyds and MBNA both have around 7% market share (I’m taking 2013 figures) their combined entity would put them at a comparable size to Barclaycard, the market leader. It will be interesting to see what impact that has on competition.

  • Nick Piggott says:

    My Regus Gold was also downgraded with no notification, which was embarrassing when I tried to use it.

    The mobile website doesn’t show any expiry dates for cards. I had to log onto the desktop version to see that it had acquired an expiry date of a few weeks previous..

    It’s too expensve to maintain for the ad-hoc use I make. I’m finding independent hot-desk and meeting room locations much better value for money and generally far less dull to work in (admittedly, I’m in a ‘creative’ industry, not a suit-and-tie business). It just needs a bit of Google work to find them.

    • Rob says:

      Try WeWork which is expanding at a furious pace in London. Free beer too! £30 for a days hot desk.

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

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