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LAST CALL: Get 15,000 American Airlines miles with the MBNA Visa card

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Back in June, the free American Airlines ‘Amex and Visa double-pack’ was withdrawn from the market.  It was replaced by a new card.  Take a look:

MBNA American Airlines credit card

This happened because American Express has cancelled all of its licensing deals with other credit card issuers.  The first to be hit was TSB which closed its Avios cards.  Barclays followed by closing all of its Amex products.  Lloyds has just closed its Choice Rewards cards although the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card is still hanging on.

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:

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

We can expect to say goodbye to all of the cards above, at least in their current form, over the next year or so.

What do I need to know about the new American Airlines credit card?

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 the day after tomorrow, 22nd August, it 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 notional 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

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.

The only snag, of course, is that we don’t know if HMRC will continue to accept credit cards when fees for accepting them are banned next January.

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 is 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? – November 2020 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my November 2020 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.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 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

30,000 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:

American Express Business Gold card

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

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending 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

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.

Comments (43)

  • Nishant Tharani says:

    semi OT, apologies!

    but it’s a quick question: do any of you fine folk use a credit score checker to keep track of your score monthly? and if so, which one – experian, equifax, or something like the MSE credit club/noddle?

    • Wally1976 says:

      I use MSE credit club, Noddle and Clearscore to track both mine and my wife’s credit records once a month. All free!

      • Genghis says:

        +1. I’m sad so I track them on a spreadsheet against credit card sign ups.

        • the real harry1 says:

          cheer up, pal! 🙂

          just because you are the guy who gets Amex UK to change the rules, don’t let it get you down, haha!

      • Nishant Tharani says:

        Great, thanks! (to both of you). Have either of you found that applying for many cards/churning cards has hit your rating negatively?

        • Genghis says:

          It does impact but not significantly. That’s why I track it (although by that point it’s kind of too late but at least I can then do something about it).

  • Malcolm Reid says:

    Hi – I am an existing MBNA credit card holder (I have the old, great, once was BMI Diamond Club card) but not a ‘double pack’ holder. Does this mean that I would be potentially be excluded.

  • Benedict says:

    Missed the deadline, damnit. Anyone know if they will extend the offer if I give them a call?

    • Rob says:

      Unlikely. You also don’t want to do this because MBNA has real problems with the start and end dates of its offers anyway.

      Somewhere at MBNA is a system which tracks what bonus is on offer on what day. When a new offer is launched, someone always tends to be a few days late updating it. This means that people apply – with the website clearly showing the higher bonus – but it posts wrong. You then fight the call centre who claim that the system is never ever wrong, and that even though Head for Points ran an article on a certain day saying that there was a promo showing, HFP was wrong and the article was written after Rob had some sort of weird dream because the bonus didn’t actually start for another 3 days.

      I get a LOT of emails like this from readers.