MBNA launched a new rewards credit card yesterday. This is not a travel rewards card. The reason I am writing about it is that it shows you what the future of free non-Amex reward credit cards will be like.
To put this card into context, you need to remember that MBNA has historically been the most generous player in the market when it comes to credit card sign-up bonus. Back in 2013 it offered 35,000 American Airlines miles with the FREE UK AA cards. As late as September 2015 it was offering 25,000 Etihad Guest miles with the FREE UK Etihad cards.
What is fascinating about this card is that it is possibly the first brand new free UK rewards card launched since interchange fees were cut to 0.3% last December. It is a sign of what the card companies can now afford, and a sign of what you will see on existing cards once the current contracts expire.
The new card is targetted as customers of intu shopping centres across the UK.
The first thing to notice is that it only comes as a Mastercard.
Historically MBNA has offered double packs of Amex and Visa / Mastercard products with higher rewards on the Amex card. This is now dead because third-party Amex cards (ie MBNA, Lloyds, Barclays ones) are subject to the same 0.3% fee cap as Visa and Mastercard.
American Express is believed to be in the process of cancelling its licensing agreements with MBNA etc since those contracts are now pointless.
The second point to note is that the rewards are unexciting.
This is what you get back from Year 2:
a £10 intu Gift Card when you spend £3,000 on card purchases
an additional £10 intu Gift Card when you reach £5,000 on card purchases
The best possible return you can get is 0.4%. However, in order to achieve 0.4%, you need to stop spending on the card as soon as you hit £5,000. The more you spend above £5,000, the lower your overall return will be.
These rewards are doubled in Year 1 but that is just a way of making the sign-up deal sound more interesting.
The third thing to note is that the card has a lot of soft offers which cost MBNA nothing.
These include one year of Gourmet Society membership, 30% off main courses at Pizza Express and free buggy hire at Intu shopping centres.
On the positive side, it is worth noting that the interest rate – at 16.9% – is lower than the 22.9% which is now charged on most of the MBNA airline cards.
This package – a maximum return of 0.4% on your spending and, realistically for most cardholders, less – is the best that MBNA thinks it can afford in the new credit card world.
Coming from the company that brought you hugely aggressive sign-up bonuses in the past, it is a vision of where all rewards card, including airline ones, will end up when the current contracts come up for renewal.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – August 2022 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:
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.
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.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 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 & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
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
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus 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:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
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
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company 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.