I recently wrote this l-o-n-g article on how I saw the future of airline credit cards in a world of 0.3% interchange fees. In summary, I expected to see higher fees, lower miles earning but better benefits – I even speculated that airline status as a card benefit may be on the way.
Three months later, Iberia has done it.
Before I come on to that, let’s look back. In early 2015, American Express held an investor day in New York which I covered here. At that event, it was announcing a new IAG contract. This would include launching an Iberia American Express card, to replace the existing Amex / Visa combination. It never happened.
Two year later, Iberia seems to have dumped American Express. Whatever deal was signed appears to have been torn up. This is not surprising, since co-brand Amex cards make little sense with a 0.3% interchange fee. An airline is better off partnering with Visa or MasterCard because they have far better acceptance in stores and have the same 0.3% interchange fee.
The new Iberia cards are the way forward
It is rare that Iberia shows you the future, to be honest. They have delivered here though.
Iberia has launched a new premium credit card called Iberia Icon. It is ONLY available as a Visa. Goodbye American Express.
It will earn 0.5 Avios per €1 spent. This isn’t huge, but is probably the maximum that can be funded given 0.3% interchange fees.
There is a fee of €90 per year, waived in year one.
There is a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Avios which is very generous for a €90 fee card. You get an extra 4,000 Avios if you add a supplementary card.
But here is the key …..
New cardholders receive Iberia Plus Plata status – equivalent to British Airways Bronze status or oneworld Ruby status – immediately when they sign up.
After the first year, you will keep your status as long as you spend €9,000 per year, of which €100 must be on iberia.com.
Iberia Plus Plata / oneworld Ruby status doesn’t give you lounge access. When flying BA, however, you would get access to business class check-in desks, priority boarding, 25% bonus Avios on your flights and free seat selection seven days before departure. Not bad for €90 per year.
There are some other small benefits too – Avis Preferred Plus status, which comes with free car upgrade and free additional driver, and access to the VISA Hotels Luxury Collection.
Will British Airways follow?
These Iberia changes are a very surprising development. Will British Airways follow? It’s possible.
The flow chart is simple:
As I reported here, Amex recently lost what is (almost) its final appeal against co-branded credit cards being included in the 0.3% interchange fee cap imposed on Visa and MasterCard. Only Amex own-brand cards can now charge shops high fees.
Are the BA Amex cards now loss making for Amex? At best, on the free card, they are paying Avios 0.75p for Avios when you spend £1, yet only receiving 0.3p in pseudo-interchange fees (topped up by IT charges and interest payments and FX fees, knocked down by bad debts and admin costs).
If BA switched to Visa or MasterCard, there would be the same cut of interchange fees to play with BUT the cards could be used in far more places, increasing overall billings.
The BA Amex cards currently generate over £1 billion per month in billings. That should mean a £10m+ monthly income stream to Avios, but presumably a far smaller – following the recent EU ruling – stream of profit into Amex. Something has to give.
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.
The Iberia card is pretty much exactly what I predicted would happen given the new market dynamics.
The questions for HFP readers are these:
Would you give up your free BA Amex with 1 Avios per £1 for a BA Visa paying 0.5 Avios per £1, with a £75 fee, but coming with BA Bronze status?
Would you give up your BA Premium Plus Amex with 1.5 Avios per £1 for a BA Visa paying, say, 0.75 Avios per £1, costing £195, but still coming with a 2-4-1 voucher and adding BA Bronze status?
Would you take out a new BA Elite Visa costing £495 but coming with 1 Avios per £1, a 2-4-1 voucher and giving BA Silver status?
None of these cards currently exist, of course. I made up the commercial details – I don’t have any inside information – but I reckon they are not far from where we will end up in a few years.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2020 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our December 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.