Nutmeg Avios

The future of loyalty credit cards is here and it’s not a pretty sight

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.  You can find full details here.

The representative APR is 16.9% variable.

Intu credit card

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 miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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.

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  1. Reporting back – just signed up again for the virgin white card again. Got immediate approval, despite cancelling my previous virgin white card about 2 weeks ago… Credit limit even higher than the previous limit!

    As a side note, my credit record is perfect.

  2. Scottydogg says:

    Think I read somewhere that Amex Black is about 25,000 until January ? not sure what it will drop to then , sure I read it off this site about a month ago

  3. OT – virgin reward seat sale on now for economy and premium economy.

  4. Brilliant ! Just bagged 3 X PE with VS to ORLANDO paid economy sale mileage and upgraded using MBNA vouchers for August 2017

    BOOM BOOM !!

  5. (Very OT, apologies)

    I have the AMEX Preferred Rewards Gold Card and I want to refer my OH to the Platinum card. Am I able to do this? Possibly being stupid, but the only link the Amex portal takes me to is for a referral to the Gold…

    • Send the link, on the right on the application page is a button for Platinum.

      • you’re better off referring gold, hitting spend target then upgrading to plat. higher points earnings.

        • But if he refers the platinum he’ll get double the referral points and his partner will get 13k more points for hitting the same amount of spending.

        • Actually you’re right, however, £450 for that additional 2k points isn’t great value.

          refer gold = 9k+ 22k gold partner + 20k plat upgrade = 0 fee, £3k spend.

          refer plat = 18k+ 35k plat = 450 fee, £2k spend

        • Would there be any points on offer for upgrading to the platinum card after already getting the gold card? Bear in mind the spending requirement for getting a bonus is £2k on both cards.

          Also, the £450 is refunded pro rata and would have to be paid whether you initially get the platinum card or upgrade to it afterwards.

        • Cancel the platinum card after £2000 spend and get pro rata refund. Just done it after having platinum for just over a month. Used it for car insurance and lounge access for four of us in two lounges in USA ( wife had supplementary card) . Just cancelled it after referring wife for her platinum card. Got £392 back and 53000 avios for £58.

        • Yes, it is 20k points offer to upgrade to Plat with no fee to pay until your gold card anniversary date.

  6. Slightly O/T from a relative newbie to the ‘hobby’ (sitting on 250k avios and have completed 2 241’s but only came across HFP in the past 12 months) when people refer to cc churning what exactly are you doing?

    I currently have a lloyds amex, ba plat amex and amex preferred rewards (gold). I am planning on getting my wife the same three and getting the referrals.

    Do people also then recommend cancelling my existing lloyds and BA cards (gold amex is soon to be cancelled anyway) waiting a year and then reapplying?

    • Churning refers to cancelling the card and applying, typically 6 months later, for another bonus.

    • probably will not work with Lloyds.

    • Nate1309 says:

      You wont get a new bonus on the Lloyd card I don’t think, so no need to cancel that. If you read the comments in a few of the threads you may not even get the bonus for referring your wife, Lloyds have poor service. However the AMEX referrals are straight forward and my wife and I refer and churn regularly.

      • Although Lloyds has other introductory offers such as double avios and interest free purchases?

  7. £36 means spending £7,200 a year to break even vs the free card.

  8. MR Bridge says:

    and we were worried about Lloyds buying MBNA.
    Wonder why BOA have put it up for sale

  9. I got excited about the Hilton statement credit on Amex Offers since we are staying in a Hilton starting on Thursday. As I would expect our destination is not included; they are nearly all in UK.

  10. Rob,
    You reference the interchange business and card providers coming to the end of their contracts with airlines/banks.

    I’m not in finance but is there a definitive date that these contracts end that consumers will be aware of on your site or is it a stab in the dark? I’m guessing each time a product is re-branded it’s game over and best to sign up now while the going to fair?

    • Each card will be on its own separate deal. I think the new Amex / Avios deal is 10 years for example.

      • 10 years since when? Does this mean Amex basically still have to provide an avios earning card.. yet they can set the earning rate?

        • Not sure. My understanding is that the deal covers all of IAG including an Aer Lingus and Vueling product, once those airlines have their Avios schemes running.

      • William Avery says:

        time to lobby Amex to be more widely accepted in the public sector environment me thinks. at the moment a business amex has limited use to me.

  11. rams1981 says:

    OT anyone used supercard domestically to see if they correctly charge for £ spending?

  12. I missed it before but I see that we can carry on using the MBNA ex-BMI cards after the BMI Club destination miles finish posting on 30 September.

    For those who don’t have the letter, MBNA will set up a new rewards scheme for our existing Diamond Club cards, so interesting to see what that looks like, can’t wait 🙂

    I did realise that as long as Amex runs Shop Small again this year, it will be good to have that extra Amex card in the armoury – could be worth a fair few quid in itself.

    Nil desperandum!

    • The more cards the merrier as far as shop small is concerned 😉

    • An important part of the letter is:-

      “You can contnue to earn yoru usual miles on card purchases that *post* to your account on or before 30 September 2016”.

      So be careful about making a large purchase on the last few days of the month – it might not “post” until 1st October. or later.

    • flyforfun says:

      I expect the “exciting offers” MBNA have lined up for the Diamond Card to be recycled from the above selection of soft and useless deals. I found the Gourmet Society and other meal club cards to be restrictive and not good value. I haven’t eaten in Pizza Express for around 10 years i if not more now. Far better pizza places, particularly non-chains.

      I think it will be a case of make hay (points) on this and other cards while we enter their final twilight days and then search for either a cash back card or something else that gives something back while shopping.

      • I will be pushing for a fee refund and then potentially switching to the Lufty card.

        • If Amex cancels its licensing agreements with MBNA (by mutual agreement, I assume), will the old BMI Amex card just cease to exist, do you reckon? With the duo card (Visa in my case) hanging on if people want it?

        • flyforfun says:

          Maybe not as doomed as we thought. Just got an email from Amex pushing the BAPP card with bonus points for recommendations. There must be some life left to that one at least!

  13. RE BA Spend £5/10k extra bonus – is this just showing in the main offers list? Or was it in an email? (Not showing on either of ours and we haven’t used the cards for a couple of months – keep meaning to cancel!)

  14. Re the IHG free night voucher with the Creation credit card, can anyone advise the following;

    1. How long the voucher lasts before expiring?

    2. if it expiries, for example, in September 2016, can I book before the expiration date for a date afterwards e.g. January 2018 ?


    • Voucher lasts 12 months from issue date, which will be your card anniversary it seems.

      The Barclaycard version can be used for a stay after the expiry date but, as I found, you cannot amend or cancel the stay in that case.

      • Thanks Raffles , that’s something I’ve been interested to know as I have the Barclaycard version

  15. Triple Avios Offer – Book and Fly between September 6th – Dec 11th 2016

  16. I know that different companies have different criteria for determining an applicant’s credit score – but I’ve only been in the country a year (so have limited credit history) and I was carefully nursing my credit score (monitored via equifax) and took a massive hit (good to poor) when in the same month I changed my electric supplier (I hadn’t not paid a bill on time – just switched to a provider with a cheaper tariff) and had a closing balance on my one and only credit card of £375 (of a £500 limit) – so was classed as using a very high percentage of my available credit (notwithstanding that the £375 was paid off in full before the due date).

    Having said all that – assuming that you have been up to date with payments on everything, is 3 months between credit applications generally enough to not be classed as being of poor credit for applying for too much credit. It’s been 3 months since I switched my electric supplier and 7 months since I applied for credit proper and was going to apply for the Hilton card in the not too distant future. I’m keen to get on board this game – but will wait another couple of months if the general consensus is that 3 months is too soon. For some reason the Barclays eligibility check doesn’t show your chances of the Hilton card (my chances on all the others are 8s and 9s out of 10).