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Get 15,000 American Airlines miles with the NEW MBNA Visa (no Amex) card

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And so it finally happened ….  We have known for some time, although it has never been widely publicised outside of HfP, that American Express had cancelled all of its licensing deals with other credit card issuers.

The first to be hit was TSB.  Barclays followed.  Lloyds, for now, is hanging on although the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card is surely for the chop (in its current form) soon.

MBNA American Airlines credit card

MBNA is, by far, the largest issuer of licensed American Express cards in the UK.  It currently issues double packs of American Express and Visa / Mastercard credit cards for:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Etihad Guest
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Flying Club

Yesterday, the first card fell.

The free American Airlines ‘Amex and Visa double-pack’ was withdrawn from the market.  It was replaced by a new card pictured above.

There are only four things you need to know about this card:

It only comes as a Visa – there is no American Express partner card

It has an exceptionally high (stunning, frankly) earning rate of 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1 spent

It has an annual fee of £70

The standard sign-up bonus is 5,000 American Airlines miles, but until 22nd August that is increased to 15,000 miles if you spend £1,500 within 90 days

For legal reasons, there is a fifth thing you need to know:

The card has a representative APR of 38.4% variable, including the fee, based on a national credit limit of £1200

The offer is outlined on the American Airlines site here.

This card is a niche product but could herald a radical shake up for some people

These changes all stem from the 0.3% cap on credit card interchange fees which came in across the EU 18 months ago.  Whilst American Express is exempt from this – which is why you haven’t seen reduced benefits on any cards issued by Amex itself – Amex cards issued by other companies are not exempt.

This is why Amex cancelled its licenses with TSB, Barclays, Lloyds and MBNA.  There was simply no point in these companies continuing to issue combined Amex and Visa / Mastercard products – with a higher earning rate on the Amex – when the interchange fee on both cards was the same.

At 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1, this is the most generous Visa or MasterCard out there.  There is nothing which comes close.  Even if you earn six figures and are ‘allowed’ to pay £195 for HSBC Premier World Elite, you will only be earning 1 Avios, Asia Miles, Singapore or Etihad mile per £1.

If you have a lot of Visa or MasterCard spend, this card could be a revelation for you.  I know there are many Head for Points readers who put six figure sums through a Visa or Mastercard.

If you are self employed, you can pay all of your income tax, national insurance, VAT and PAYE for any employees with a Visa or Mastercard for a 0.38% fee.  At 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1, you would be paying 0.30p per mile.

The £70 annual fee is a stumbling block, of course.  You need to be spending quite a lot to amortise that.  If you are paying £35,000 per year to the Revenue, then your HMRC card fee at 0.38% would be £133 and your card fee £70.  That is £200 of outlay for (35,000 x 1.25) 43,750 miles which means 0.46p per American Airlines mile.  That’s more than acceptable.

Don’t jump in just yet

Even if you have huge Visa / Mastercard spend, I still don’t recommend jumping onto this card.

Over the next few months, it is likely that the Virgin, Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad and United cards will see similar changes.  One of those may be more suitable than this new American Airlines card.

Should you get the card purely for the sign-up bonus?

If you already have some American Airlines miles then, yes, it seems a no-brainer for the first year.

The annual fee is £70 – this is NOT refundable if you cancel the card

You receive 15,000 American Airlines miles for spending £1,500 within 90 days

That is under 0.5p per mile, plus you will get miles for your spending as well

If you are not a big spender then it unlikely to make sense carrying on into Year 2.  For the first year, though, it looks good.

Do I qualify for the bonus?

The small print is strict:

This offer is only available once for every new customer applying for the MBNA / AAdvantage Credit Card.  Previous and existing MBNA / AAdvantage Credit Card Account holders are not eligible.

This implies that anyone who held the old Visa / Amex double pack cannot get a bonus on this card.

In practice, MBNA has a habit of giving a sign-up bonus again, irrespective of its rules, if it has been a couple of years since you previously cancelled.  I recently received my third ‘once per lifetime’ bonus on the Lufthansa Miles & More cards from MBNA.   This is certainly not guaranteed and – given that you are risking £70 here – I don’t recommend a fresh application if your only interest is in getting the bonus.

What can I do with American Airlines miles?

I don’t want to go into this here as the article would go on for ever.  There are a few key points to remember:

American Airlines is a oneworld member.  Any mileage seat bookable via ba.com on a oneworld airline can also be booked on American Airlines miles.

You will need a different amount of miles – sometimes more, sometimes less – because American has its own pricing chart.  Whilst Avios prices by flight, AA prices by trip irrespective of the number of connections needed.  At the most extreme, First Class to Australia is just 230,000 AA miles compared with 400,000 Avios if booked via BA.

American only adds fuel surcharges to British Airways redemptions.  This means that many redemptions have substantially lower taxes than if booked on Avios, including AA transatlantic flights.

American Airlines is a partner with Etihad.   This is an extra redemption option which Avios does not offer.  Etihad redemptions using AA miles need, ironically, far fewer miles than if you used Etihad Guest miles – and American doesn’t add the crazy fuel surcharges that Etihad now adds.

Your American Airlines education should start here with the reward chart for AA’s partners.  This is all one-way pricing so, for example, UK to Abu Dhabi on Etihad in their amazing A380 Business Class Studio would be 85,000 miles return.  You’d need £68,000 of card spend to earn that.

Unless you are a heavy credit card spender, I don’t recommend jumping into the American Airlines programme unless you already have some of their miles.  If you do already have an active AA account, or if you spend so much on a Visa / Mastercard that you could earn enough for a flight purely from card spend, this new £70 MBNA American Airlines credit card is worth a look.

You can apply via the American Airlines website here.


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

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our September 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.

The following offers will expire on 2nd November 2021:

  • 10,000 Avios on British Airways American Express
  • 40,000 Avios on British Airways American Express Premium Plus
  • 60,000 points on The Platinum Card from American Express

Here are the top current deals:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 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

60,000 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 offers.

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

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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

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:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (104)

  • Henk says:

    So what is going to happen with current card holders? Do we get switched to the visa only deal with the higher earning rate?

    • Jason Hindle says:

      I have two mostly unused Barclaycards, dating back from the old Morgan Stanley product. Barclaycard have informed me in writing that both will be replaced.

    • Mycity says:

      I’m a current holder of the double pack cards, I expect we will soon all get emails re the Amex ending, be interesting to see what they offer if anything to current card holders

  • Stu R says:

    Can somebody please explain how the BAPP Amex works then as I’d always assumed that this too was issued under licence? I thought this was why the fee increased from £150 > £195 to cover some of the Amex fee loss when it fell under the 0.3% cap?

    • Luke Stevens says:

      The BA Amex is still wholly issued by Amex, unlike Lloyds or MBNA where Amex is just the card network used. (although due to some EU directive wording, its still unclear if the BA AmEx is effected by this (some have argued that BA is the issuer, which is a load of hogwash), I’m not in the UK anymore so not up to date on this).

      Amex is basically closing down its partner program apart from in The United States (where multiple issuers issue Amex cards), Canada (Where Scotiabank issue an AmEx card) and I believe Singapore (and maybe HK). This also doesn’t affect markets where AmEx has essentially franchised out their AmEx cards (Where a bank basically operates the Amex brand in that country, and issues the iconic Gold, Green, Platinum cards etc.)

  • Lee says:

    Double pack?

    I’ve only ever had the Amex with AA. Certainly never a visa or Mastercard.

    But no bonus for existing holders, so looks like I’m out.

    • Matt says:

      Certainly comes with a Visa as well. I’ve had the double pack twice…

      • RussellH says:

        I cannot speak for MBNA AA cards, but I have completely separate MBNA LH cards, not a double pack. I got the MBNA LH Amex in 2008, the Visa a couple of years before that. I still get 1.5 Miles and More miles on the Amex, and 1 mile on the Visa, though I only use them enough to keep my few remaining M+M miles alive.

        I imagine that the double packs with lower earning rates came in rather later.

        The Amex expires at the end of the year. I suspect now that it may not get renewed

  • Aeronaut says:

    “… Etihad redemptions on American need, ironically, far fewer miles than if you used Etihad Guest miles …”

    It took me a moment to parse that – perhaps it’d be clearer to say “Etihad redemptions (booked) via American need [etc…]”.

    • zsalya says:

      +1
      Out of context I would have read “Etihad redemptions on American {metal}” i.e. the other way round from what I think is meant.

      • Aeronaut says:

        I see Rob subsequently gave the text a little clarifying tweak

  • VP says:

    Hello Rob,
    I have the double pack AA card and I had to settle some HMRC bills so used Lloyds Mastercard, IHG Mastercard and AA Visa on Monday to settle my bill. While the 0.38% fee is true for Mastercards, in case of AA Visa it was 0.415% but of course this may work for some even accounting for the slightly higher fee than a Mastercard.

    • Genghis says:

      Frig the system by initially entering a MC prefix?

      • Lev441 says:

        Does that actually work?? Good little loophole if so…!

        • Joseph Heenan says:

          Whether it’s a good little loophole surely depends how you feel about deliberately lying to HMRC, and what you think are the chances of them coming after the money (plus interest) when they discover you have?

          If you’re happy deliberately lying to HMRC I can suggest a lot of ways to save money!

          • Rob says:

            HMRC is not the payment processor. I am pretty sure HMRC just gets the net amount.

          • Lev441 says:

            Wouldn’t dream of it!

          • Joseph Heenan says:

            I’d be surprised if the payment processor was daft enough to charge HMRC a fee other than the actual underlying fee for the card actually used for payment, so my guess would be it’s HMRC that ends up short.

            You input the first 8 digits into a HMRC website, and the full card number into a worldpay website. It’s odd that the message back to HMRC from WorldPay to confirm the payment doesn’t include the actual fee WorldPay charged (or that it is there but HMRC choose to ignore that they ended up short when they apply the credit to your account).

            I would guess that HMRC will eventually cotton on if a lot of people are underpaying via deliberately entering incorrect information, and HMRC unfortunately have a fairly clear reputation for going after missing money!

    • Mr Dee says:

      I noticed they are actually imposing the limits on the amount of times that you can pay the same bill by so keep it to the minimum amounts of cards where possible.

      • Rob says:

        Not sure how this works in reality because I made 10 payments on some bills with no issues.

    • Daniel says:

      WorldPay will usually issue a message: The card number entered does not match the card type you selected. Enter the correct card number or cancel payment.

  • krys_k says:

    What’s the thinking re the upgrade voucher that comes with lloyds, will that go? (I know that mastercard purchases go towards it) but is this a likely cut from the package?

    • Alan says:

      I’m not sure anyone outside of Lloyds/Avios knows! It would certainly make the card massively less appealing, even if they retain no forex fees. I’d prefer a small increase in annual fee and/or loss of free forex to maintain the voucher given I routinely save >50k Avios with it (67k saved on my last booking, so over £300 even if you take an extremely conservative 0.5ppa valuation!)

      • JamesB says:

        I’d be very surprised if anybody inside Lloyds knows either.

    • Julian says:

      I fully expect Lloyds to relaunch the Lloyds Avios Duo card in due course as a Mastercard only product with a higher fee (expecting either £50 or £75 is likely) but with the current 1.25 Avios per £ spent rate sustained and the Upgrade voucher still also provided. Also foreign exchange rate fee free use will continue to be offered.

      That way there is no issue for any existing card user as all they have to do is start using the new single more convenient Mastercard and continue earning Avios at the same rate as before. If anyone is not happy with the higher annual fee then they can cancel their card when the annual fee is due and this also happens to be the anniversary of the earning year that triggers their flight upgrade voucher.

      I expect the change by Lloyds is last because it is the most important and politically sensitive one and perhaps also because Lloyds is negotiating with Visa too (as well as Mastercard) to see if they will give them a better deal.

      • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

        If this turns out to be true, I’ll be very happy. A non-Amex card earning 1.25 Avios/£… sounds a bit too good to be true to be honest.

        If it happens, it’ll be my new default card in Apple Pay!

  • Will says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Etihad redemptions through AA price by sector, as opposed to whole journey. That considered, Etihad redemptions with a connection will need notably more AA miles than a oneworld equivalent. For example, UK – Australia is 85,000 in business with oneworld partners, or 122,500 with Etihad.

    • pauldb says:

      I don’t think it’s quite like that. The specific oddity you raise is that travel from one region to another can only be via a third if there is a particular exemption given. Europe – SWP is only allowed via the Asia1 and Asia2 regions (the Far East, any carrier) and via DOH (QR) and DXB (QF). AUH(EK) is not excepted so LHR-AUH-SYD becomes to segment prices. But LON-AUH-MLE (India/ME allowed via India/ME) is same price as LON-AUH I believe.

      • pauldb says:

        Actually ignore my MLE option. India/ME is two separate regions so that probably isn’t true. LON-AUH-MCT would be a better, but not very useful, example.

        • Roger says:

          No, Lon-India is still considered one segment (although two flights on EY and AY) for miles redemption. The AA miles needed are 20K / 42.5K respectively for Y and J.
          Rob frequently mention this as a sweetspot for AA miles redemption!
          Same miles on BA but of course you would avoid due to BA CIFS (carrrier imposed fees and surcharges).

  • William Avery says:

    Looks like a game changer to me. Can finally get a card which is accepted everywhere and I can use for all business expenditure! Hooray.

    Does open up avenues I wouldn’t have explored previously having stuck with the Lloyds pair. If one of them brings in upgrade vouchers – happy days.

    • Rob says:

      I think, personally, I will wait for the Lufthansa card to switch and then move to that. Due to my VAT, Anika’s PAYE and my own tax and NI there is a lot I can put through and it would let me build a decent Star Alliance balance again.

      The problem with AA is that, apart from Etihad, it doesn’t open any new doors assuming you already have an Avios balance.

      • Evil Gazebo says:

        I wonder what they will do with the Virgin Black card. The VISA rate of 1/£1 is good already and the loss of 2/£1 on the AMEX will be a blow-. Maybe

        a) move to 1.25/£1 like the new AA card and lower the fee to align at £70?
        b) up the rate beyond the AA card (1.5 – 2) and keep the higher fee?
        c) keep the rate at 1/£1 or raise to 1.25/£1 and keep the higher fee?

        I’d like b), could live with a) and unhappy camper with c) 😀

        • Rob says:

          I think we have to assume that the AA model will be replicated elsewhere as contracts come up for renewal. You may see some bells and whistles thrown in. My guess is that we will start seeing status benefits coming into play, either ‘earn 1 tier point for every £x you spend’ or ‘pay for this card and get free Virgin Silver status’ etc. This has no direct cost for the airline but would have a noticeable increase in take up of the card.

          If BA offered Silver status, for example, for anyone who put £50,000 a year through their BA Amex / £100k through the Lloyds card I think they would see some substantial changes in customer behaviour.

          • Evil Gazebo says:

            Makes sense. Not ideal for me as I don’t really travel for work anymore. So I’m just interested in benefits that maximise earnings / minimise redemption spend.

            Feels like I might be headed back to the BA Amex PP if it stays in current form. VS premium availability in school holidays is just so much better though… 🙁

          • Will says:

            I seem to recall a convo about the possibility similar vouchers to Virgin might be offered with other MBNA cards? Maybe I was just having a moment?

          • RIcatti says:

            — If BA offered Silver status, for example, for anyone who put £50,000 a year through their BA Amex

            That would be change! But yes, the spending threshold needs to be set sufficiently high, maybe 40K but not below.

          • Mr Dee says:

            If BA offered status with the use of the card I would definitely use it to acquire the status if needed and it would probably be diverted from virgin spending.

          • Genghis says:

            It would certainly give me a reason to continue holding the card instead of stopping after £10k and churning.

        • Lev441 says:

          I’d also hope they kept the premium economy upgrade voucher at both £5 and at £10k and/or even possibly improving with a 2 4 1 voucher a la BAPP!

          Surely they will need to keep their card competive with the ba amex cards?

      • Will says:

        agreed. I was going to wait to see anyway. I was more interested in your preds re. other cards because it certainly means it opens up the Star group rather than having to stick to Virgin or BA. Both with pretty third rate products these days.

      • Roger says:

        Rob what are your thoughts of IHG black (£99) vs this MBNA AA card (£70).
        I would take 1.25 AA miles against 2 IHG points on any day or night!

        • Genghis says:

          So for say £10k spend on an ongoing basis (i.e ignoring any sign up bonuses), on the IHG black you have a 2.5% return (£250 hotel + £100 points – £99 fee) while on the AA card you would have 0.55% return (£125 – £70). Obviously, higher spend amounts benefit the AA card. Let’s work out that point:

          250 + x – 99 = 1.25x – 70

          Solving for x

          0.25x = 221
          x = 884 (as this is the value of the points, that’s £88,400 spend.

          I.e. If you spend greater than £88,400, the AA card is better than the IHG on an ongoing basis.

          • Genghis says:

            Note this is for IHG 0.5p and AA 1p valuations. Feel free to substitute your own values

          • Roger says:

            It’s not quite simple as that. For example you include £250 hotel but that is only in first year at the same time you do not add 15K AA miles sign up bonus.

          • Genghis says:

            The hotel night valued at up to £250 is every year and I did say “ongoing basis”. The AA bonus and the IHG sign up bonus is at the start of year 1 only. Hence excluded.

            Year one model assuming 20k IHGs given (and not the 40k)

            250 + x + 100 – 99 = 1.25x + 150 – 70
            0.25x = 171
            X = 684
            Ie over £68,400 spend AA is better.

            Year 2 model as previous post

          • Will says:

            Plus ihg spend counts towards status.

        • Rob says:

          …. but what about the IHG free night voucher?

        • Alan says:

          A free night voucher every year with Creation IHG Black on £10k spend still seems a decent deal to me…

      • Talay says:

        We are / were considering the Lufthansa MBNA cards to keep a small but grown Miles & More balance alive.

        If we wait, we could lose this benefit could we not ?

    • JamesB says:

      Depends on the value you attach to AA miles. Without indepth analysis my guess would be that more value could be squeezed out IHG premium card or even Hilton card but depends on value attached to flights versus hotels. At least with hotels you can change or cancel redemptions for free. By contrast, were you to cancel or change an AA redemption the fees involved will seriously affect the value per AA mile. While the era of low cost premium revenue fares persists my feeling is that collecting points makes more sense than collecting miles.

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