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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The free American Airlines ‘Amex and Visa double-pack’ was withdrawn from the market.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 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 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

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

50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – 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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (104)

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

  • Mycity says:

    I have a stash onf AA miles, the reason I keep the AA card is because it keeps the miles alive. If you look on FT there’s many complaints about not being able to get the saver rewards either domestic or international, on domestic it’s getting the direct routes that are difficult. I find award space hard to get as well, there’s little availability some times.

    • Roberto says:

      I looked for flights for rewards next year MSY to MIA and the availability was spotty and tended to be on their non direct route. The prices for the direct flights were pretty reasonable so I found the value for miles pants tbh

      • Mycity says:

        Agree Roberto, across the pond is 57,000 miles, availability poor unless you want to go up a grade you the pay 110,000 or even 130,000. What you say about domestic is the main complaints on FT, the miles offering is nearly always non direct, suspicion is that AA are making it difficult for people. For me now AA other than using on Etihad is fast a non starter

    • idrive says:

      Mycity: what is you say is not fully correct.
      Keeping the AA card active does not prevent the expiration of miles. it is indeed “helping” to acquire some miles occasionally and renew the expiration but you may well just do otherwise by crediting a flight when you are near to expiration or buying something through the portal or a hotel booking service.
      This strategy is indeed valid for Lufthansa where the miles would die after 3 years from the moment they were acquired in any case. With the M&M card, you in fact prolong their life by spending on the Amex every single and each month.

      • Mycity says:

        Sorry your right, what I meant was I keep the AA card and once a year spend maybe £5 on it, this way my AA miles don’t expire, I credit all flights now to BA as I struggle to use the AA miles at decent rates

  • Alan says:

    MBNA-related – opened VS Black on Clubhouse offer a few weeks back. Applied for White under Clubhouse offer yesterday, asked to call as ‘more info reqd’. Phone answered within a couple of rings and very helpful agent immediately understood when I said I was just signing up to White for the points, happy to transfer some of my Black credit limit across to the White and got it all approved. So ended up with 44k VS miles for £140 (3.2ppm), no minimum spend required – very happy with that. At that price it means my recent Upper Class redemption to Boston cost only £788 including taxes/fees/charges!! 🙂

  • James A says:

    My gosh! This is fantastic news for me, I am jumping in immediately 🙂

  • Optimus Prime says:

    Well, they’ve rejected my application both online and over the phone. Even before the credit score, I’ve failed the eligibility check :-S

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Wife’s application has been fully accepted even though she earns less.

  • Jason cooper says:

    Interested stuff Rob.

    I am currently debating whether or not to get the emirates skywards credit card with £150 fee or whether to wait to see what the reformed emirates card will look like.

    I currently have a amex gold and am interested in the skywards for the 2 points per £1 spent.

    Say based on £150,000 spend and needing to use emirates regulary (only buy economy flights) – is it worthwhile waiting or just getting the skywards card?

    Also for the skywards card is that expected to be reformed also.

    Look forward to your reply.


    • Jason cooper says:

      £140 fee i meant

    • Rob says:

      It will definitely be reformed, the question is when – and that depends on the current contract expiry date, which none of us know anything about ….

  • Kevino says:

    The one slight downside of American is that reward availability is 2 or 3 weeks after the window opens on BA flights.

  • Jose says:

    Hi tks for sharing. I have the current amex/visa aa card and have not received any communication. Would that mean my current cards including amex mbna advantage card will remain as it is?

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

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