Back in June, the free American Airlines ‘Amex and Visa double-pack’ was withdrawn from the market.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:
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
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 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.
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.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
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
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
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
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
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
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
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.