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ALL MBNA airline credit cards withdrawn – what are your alternatives?

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Last week I ran this article suggesting that you should act immediately if you wanted to apply for any of the MBNA airline credit cards.

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

Emirates Skywards Elite

Virgin Flying Club White

Virgin Flying Club Black

Etihad Guest

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. (The Lloyds Avios Amex is still being issued but the end is nigh.)

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

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or American Express Platinum (points convert 2:1 into Starwood Preferred Guest, then 1:1 – or 1:1.25 for larger amounts – into Miles & More or AAdvantage)

or

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.

Emirates Skywards

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or American Express Platinum (points convert 1:1 into Emirates Skywards)

or

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.

Etihad Guest

You can use the Amex Gold, Platinum or Starwood Amex options as per Emirates

or

HSBC Premier MasterCard (0.5 miles per £1) or HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard (1 mile per £1) – these cards are only available to HSBC Premier current account holders

You can also use the IHG option for a Visa / MasterCard (0.2 or 0.4 miles per £1).

Virgin Flying Club

You can use the Amex Gold, Platinum or Starwood Amex options above as per Emirates

or

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard (0.31 miles per £1) or Tesco Premium MasterCard (0.62 miles per £1)

or

you can also use the IHG option for a Visa / MasterCard outlined above (0.2 or 0.4 miles per £1)

or

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).

Reviews and to apply

Here are my reviews of the cards mentioned above, which also explain the sign-up bonuses available:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – review, apply 

American Express Platinum – review, apply 

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – review, apply 

IHG Rewards Club MasterCard – review, apply 

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard – review, apply 

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard – review, apply 

Tesco Premium MasterCard – review, apply 

HSBC Premier MasterCard – review, apply 

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard – review, apply 


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 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 fee 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 (161)

  • mark2 says:

    slightly OT
    Here is how the changeover from Citi to Amex for Hilton cards is being handled in US https://awardwallet.com/blog/hilton-honors-changes-citi-co-branded-cards-confirmed/

  • lee says:

    im trying to get to Berlin on the 22nd Dec but options are limited apart from Business class from LCY
    Are there any other options other than Avios

    Thanks in advance

  • Lee says:

    Have MR points Virgin ,Krisflyer .

    Looks like limited choices as Air berlin going bust didnt help.

  • Mr Dee says:

    I will miss the Virgin Black card when mine ends, a good way to earn the points, it is just difficult to find good value redemptions with short notice.

    • Rob says:

      Virgin is retaining the White and Black model – there will be 2 versions going forward.

  • Delbert says:

    OT – are you going to run an article on the Small Luxury Hotels of the World latest wheeze, Rob? I signed up quite a while ago to be grandfathered in to the anticipated new loyalty scheme and received an email today to join Inspired status. I don’t feel too inspired to be honest but might be worth a look?

  • CountryKerry says:

    That’s the mobile cash back offer they had going by the way; 5% back on Apple Pay Transactions.

    It seems depositing £500.00 everyday to Revolut and withdrawing immediately worked a treat (Y)

  • Jeff says:

    When checking in online, the message is “unfortunately seat cannot be assigned. You have been placed in the standby list. You will be allocated seat at the airport if there is one available…” blah blah blah. Is this true?? It’s a bump or is this some kind of error? I’ve never heard of anyone getting this message before!!

    • the real harry1 says:

      which airline?

      • Jeff says:

        BA

        • the real harry1 says:

          never heard that before – seems pretty clear, though

          make sure you get compo if bumped/ cancelled

        • the real harry1 says:

          don’t forget your EC261 rights include
          -re-routing, on competitor airlines if that is reasonable, ie gets you to your original destination without unreasonable delay
          – duty of care, ie food & drink (not alcohol) & hotel accommodation whilst delayed, keep receipts

        • the real harry1 says:

          airlines overbook flights

          it is worth checking in online as soon as you can, this pretty much guarantees you will be on that flight

          if you get bumped/ cancelled, don’t take it personally – that’s the risk you take

          simply get your compo and get re-routed, man up, understand your EC261 rights

        • Jeff says:

          What if there are 2 adults and 2 kids travelling together and only one of the adults has been bumped? Can we all get rerouted together?

        • the real harry1 says:

          not exactly sure of your re-routing rights, might be worth asking on the FT compo thread

          in the first instance, I’d be talking to BA customer services

          how old are the kids? I believe Raffles has been in a situation where his young kid got bumped! but talking to CS got it resolved easily enough

        • Lady London says:

          Haha ! Shades of when Rob’s two-year-old was bumped from his family party, and put into a hotel room in the Middle East!

          Personally if you’re travelling as a family, I’d call Customer Services asap and explain you’re travelling as a family so that hopefully they might decide to choose someone else to bump. I think I’d let them know you understand that under EU261 they are supposed to re-route you on another airline if BA doesn’t have a seat as well. The thought of even the pathetic interline cost going out of their money account, to pay another airline might also encourage them to do the decent thing and confirm all your family’s seats.

    • TripRep says:

      Jeff – doesn’t sound promising, hopefully just a downgrade and not an Involuntary Denied Boarding (ie Bump)

      What Classes are all the pax traveling on, is it an Avios redemption / 241 BAPP booking?

      Keep us in the loop on developments, from personal experience of a downgrade & appalling customer service I also echo TRH1 comments, its difficult not to be annoyed but please dont let it stress you out too much on your journey. C-W-S on FlyerTalk is a great source of help.

      You will get our support post flight for compensation and advice, meanwhile for your day at the airport, prepare for weak excuses and attempts to fob you off with misleading advice. Try to note down info and names of BA reps involved for you to file a complaint.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks for all the info guys! What an invaluable resource. Turns out this is BA’s new messaging to say a passenger has been “selected” for extra security screening. They’re not allowed to assign seats to anyone who is selected in this way. I think it will get sorted. Kids are 2 and 5.

        • TripRep says:

          Hmm, very misleading message, but then again this BA…

          Was the checkin itself successful, is your partner is checked in but unable to select seat?

          I believe the dead giveaway for a downgrade or IDB is being unable to start the OLCI process at all…

        • TripRep says:

          I mentioned the other day for my (not downgraded) CW return from the Maldives that I got a similar message saying Ihad checked in successfully, but was unable to issue boarding pass and had to collect at airport. No mention of standby, etc.

        • Polly says:

          Jeff, l would still print off a copy of their t and c regarding downgrade or bump for the return journey, just in case. Rob/Raffles kept repeating their compo, re routing etc etc until they finally let them all fly together, l think on another airline. But it takes guts to stand up to them. They tried it on with us in LHR years ago, said one of US! Could fly but not the other. I just kept at them until they relented, and we both got one PE. . Think they upgraded a silver or gold. Be firm, they can’t cope with being challenged.
          As Harry and Triprep say CWS on FT has great guidance on this very topic. Be ready for them!

  • Basil says:

    I hold the Miles & More Credit Card – only reason is that I want to prevent my LH/LX miles from expiring (as I mostly earned them more than three years ago).

    Does that mean I will have to spend them all at once, in order not to lose them? Or are there any other options available?

    I live in Hong Kong, and unfortunately there is no Miles & More Credit Card available here…

    • Pangolin says:

      I have the cards for the same reason but if they’re being canned the only alternative is to get at least FTL status. Miles & More is just about the worst for earning status as LH is the stingiest airline in the world and they own the program. This is the airline that breaks the *A rules by not giving Golds an extra bag if they buy cheaper economy tickets (i.e. 0 BAG).

      • Basil says:

        Thanks – in that case I will have to use up all my remaining MM miles (it is not that many, anyway). Agree re: your overall comment on MM…