It was good advice.
All eight MBNA airline credit cards were pulled on Monday evening. Slightly surprisingly, this included the new American Airlines card which is only a few months old and which did not have an American Express element.
These are the cards you can no longer get:
Lufthansa Miles & More
Emirates Skywards Elite
Virgin Flying Club White
Virgin Flying Club Black
United Airlines MileagePlus
American Airlines AAdvantage
You should NOT assume that these cards will return under a new issuer.
We know that the two Virgin Atlantic cards will return shortly under the Virgin Money banner. However, I know from some discussions I have had that you should not necessarily expect the other cards to return. If you think that they are all primed to relaunch next week, you are very wrong.
Two linked events caused this. The core driver was the European Union cap on interchange fees. This restricted the fee that payment processors could charge retailers for accepting credit cards to 0.3%. It is very difficult to run a successful mileage card on this basis.
The second driver was American Express being caught up in the 0.3% cap, even though it was originally expected to be exempt. American Express decided to pull all of its licensed cards from the market, which means that MBNA, Lloyds, TSB and Barclays had to stop issuing Amex-branded products.
I am a little surprised that the American Airlines card was pulled. This had already been relaunched without an American Express element. It combined a chunky fee (£70) with a very high earning rate (1.25 miles per £1 on a Visa). I thought this might prove sustainable but MBNA clearly had other ideas.
So, overnight, one third of the UK airline and hotel credit and charge card market disappeared.
What are my alternatives?
If you currently hold these cards (I have the Lufthansa ones, my wife has the Virgin ones) they will continue to operate for a while. Whether that is weeks, months or years I don’t know.
If you had been planning to get one of these cards but never got around to it, here are your options:
Lufthansa Miles & More / American Airlines AAdvantage
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (best choice – points convert 1:1 into Miles & More or AAdvantage, or 1:1.25 for larger amounts)
The only half-decent Visa / MasterCard option is via the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (0.2 miles per £1, assuming you convert 10,000 IHG points into 2,000 airline miles) or, with the £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard, 0.4 miles per £1.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (points convert 1:1 into Emirates Skywards, or 1:1.25 for larger amounts)
The only half-decent Visa / Mastercard option is via the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (0.2 miles per £1, assuming you convert 10,000 IHG points into 2,000 airline miles) or, with the £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard, 0.4 miles per £1.
You can also use the IHG option for a Visa / MasterCard (0.2 or 0.4 miles per £1).
Virgin Flying Club
you can also use the IHG option for a Visa / Mastercard outlined above (0.2 or 0.4 miles per £1)
wait for new Virgin Money-issued Virgin Flying Club credit cards
United Airlines MileagePlus
You can use the Amex Gold, Platinum or Starwood Amex options above as per Lufthansa / American. However, because Starwood has a poor transfer rate to United, you should move your Starwood points across to Marriott Rewards and convert from there. The exact rate will depend on the amount you transfer.
You can also use the IHG option for a Visa / Mastercard (0.2 or 0.4 miles per £1).
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.
The following offers will end soon:
- 2,000 Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard (ends 15th October)
- 30,000 Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard (ends 15th October)
- 10,000 Avios on British Airways American Express (ends 2nd November)
- 40,000 Avios on British Airways American Express Premium Plus (ends 2nd November)
- 60,000 points on The Platinum Card from American Express (ends 2nd November)
- 30,000 points on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (ends 9th November)
Here are the top current deals:
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 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
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard
The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
30,000 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
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
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: