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My review of MBNA’s Horizon Visa credit card – the UK’s best credit card for travelling

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This is my review of MBNA’s new Horizon Visa credit card.

Yesterday I wrote about how MBNA has pulled the plug on the UK Etihad Guest credit card from 27th July.  This is also now confirmed as the final date for the MBNA American Airlines credit card.

I also expect that the Lufthansa, United and Emirates cards will also be closed on 27th July.  MBNA may be staggering the letters or it may be staggering the closing dates, it isn’t clear.  The Virgin Atlantic MBNA credit card is closing earlier, in the first week of July.

MBNA Horizon credit card review

If you are looking for:

alternatives to the American Airlines credit card, read this article

alternatives to the Etihad Guest credit card, read this article

alternatives to the Miles & More credit card, read this article

alternatives to the Emirates Skywards credit card, read this article

alternatives to the United MileagePlus credit card, read this article

Obviously holders of the MBNA Virgin Atlantic cards can simply switch to one of these two new Virgin Money-issued Virgin Atlantic cards.

However, MBNA is desperate for you to stay

All holders of the Etihad, American, Lufthansa, United and Emirates airline cards are being offered a new MBNA Visa product called Horizon.

This card is not available to the general public.  You will only get it if you are a holder of a co-brand card which is being closed.

Horizon is, frankly, great.  My best guess is that it will be the least profitable credit card in the country!

Just look at this for the list of benefits:

No annual fee

0.5% cashback on all your spending

No foreign exchange fees

Free cash withdrawals, both in the UK and overseas (although you pay interest from the date of the withdrawal)

Some people are being offered a cash incentive to retain this card until October!

I mean …. where is MBNA going to make any money here?!  They give you 0.5% cashback on the back of receiving a 0.3% interchange fee.  They won’t make any money when you use the card abroad.  They won’t make any money – apart from a tiny interest charge – when you withdraw cash on the card.  They won’t make any money on annual fees.  And, hopefully, they won’t make any money off you in interest charges because you’re not that stupid.

The only tiny catch is that the 0.5% cashback is paid on transaction multiples of £2.  This means that a £1.99 purchase earns nothing and a £7.99 purchase only earns 3p (0.5% of £6).

The APR is 22.9%, with a higher 27.9% rate applying to cash withdrawals.

MBNA Horizon credit card review

Should you keep this card?

I currently have the MBNA Lufthansa credit card which I am expecting to see closed very shortly.  My gut feeling was that I would be cancelling the replacement MBNA card before it even arrived.

(When my MBNA BMI Diamond Club credit card was closed, MBNA chose to give unprofitable customers like me a replacement card with zero benefits to encourage us to leave, which I did.  Profitable customers got a better deal.  This time everyone seems to be getting the same good deal.)

If I am offered the Horizon Visa card when / if my Lufthansa credit card is closed, I will be keeping it.

I won’t use it much in the UK.  0.5% cashback is fine but I can get a far better return from the IHG Rewards Club Premium MastercardAs I calculated in this article, you should expect to get an overall return of 2.3% on your first £10,000 of spending on that card.  Even when you have triggered the free night, the two IHG points per £1 are worth 0.8% back.

You can also get between 2.4% and a whopping 12.3% back on the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards (my maths is here) although you need to be a regular Virgin Atlantic flyer to maximise that value.

However, as a card to use when I am travelling, this will do the trick.  0.5% cashback on my holiday spending and no FX fees is a great deal.  Tandem has the same benefits including free cash withdrawals but Tandem is unlikely to offer the same chunky credit limits that MBNA usually gives.  Tandem also does not offer free UK cash withdrawals.  That said, one upside with Tandem is that cashback is paid monthly whilst MBNA is only paying out annually.

Conclusion

I have no idea what MBNA’s strategy is with Horizon.  Stopping your existing customer base from defecting by paying them to stay – which is effectively what MBNA is doing here – doesn’t make a huge amount of sense in the long run.

Whilst I admit that MBNA runs a very impressive operation, almost up to Amex standards, holders of the co-brand cards were primarily loyal to the airline and not to MBNA.  Perhaps they are hoping that most of their customers won’t be aware that they can continue to earn American, Lufthansa, Etihad etc miles via the Starwood Amex, Amex Gold, HSBC Premier etc and will stick around.

If you are being transferred to a Horizon Visa, I would think twice before cancelling it unless you already have another option for foreign spending with a good credit limit.  You can feel happy tucking it into your passport and focusing your UK card spend elsewhere.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2022 update

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In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards. You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios or other airline miles, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

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American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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Earning miles and points from small business cards

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British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

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Comments (161)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Mike says:

    Any reason why you can’t make a faster payment to your credit card as soon as you take money out of a foreign cash machine?
    I vaguely remember new rules whereby the most expensive debt is cleared first, and thus would this avoid any interest?

    • Nick Burch says:

      That won’t work if you’re also spending on the card. The most expensive debt is cleared first, not pending debt which will become expensive….

      If you’re only taking cash out, paying immediately will work fine. If you’re also spending, you’ll need to wait 2-3 days for the cash transaction to come through and stop being pending, then send it. (Timeline based on what I see with my Halifax Clarity)

    • the real harry1 says:

      No reason whatsoever – this is the way to avoid all fees/ charges on Halifax Clarity when you withdraw cash @ ATM abroad. You can even pre-fund the a/c by a day or so though strictly speaking this is against the T&Cs.

      Having said that, my wife took out £250 or so here (place in the sun) before Easter, behind my back so I didn’t get to know about it (or forgot, in possible truth 🙂 ) until the statement dropped on the floor when we got back – the interest was only a couple of quid so nothing to worry about.

      • the real harry1 says:

        https://www.halifax.co.uk/creditcards/clarity-card/

        Halifax are giving you £20 to take out a Clarity card (free card, perfect exchange rate & fee-free ATM withdrawals abroad being the key benefits).

        • RussellH says:

          The £20 seems to take a long time to come through, but it still paid for decent sized cocktails for 4 at the roof-top bar of El Corte Inglès in Madrid, which I class as a win.

      • MDA says:

        Funding your account takes a few days to reflect so it shouldnt make a difference if you know your going to withdraw the next day

        • Genghis says:

          I find the easiest way is to make the withdrawal and then make a payment to true up difference between available credit and credit limit. Then once posts, make another payment of a few pence etc or be in credit. Not done it for ages though as prefer Starling these days for ATM use.

    • Craig says:

      This was the reason I took out a Tandem card, I only use it for ATM withdrawals and fund the card immediately. I ended up with a balance of 36p the other month because of fluctuating exchange rates. As and when MBNA release this to the masses I might be tempted to change.

    • The_real_a says:

      I always put the card in credit before i leave on a trip. No interest accrues whatsoever. Despite many people claiming issues, ive done this for 20 years on most card providers and never had an issue. TECHINCALY you not covered for s75 in this case so buyer beware.

  • ChrisC says:

    I think it would be worth me having this card.

    Yes I was wedded to the Virgin MBNA Amex for the VS miles but my travel and spend patterns have changed and I’m about to cash in my miles on a redemption that will clear out my account and the miles I earn in the last couple of months until it closes will just sit their until I earn through flying.

    No foreign exchange fees is a good benefit and will make booking ex-EU even more economic.

    I await my ‘please stay’ offer letter with eager anticipation!

    • ChrisC says:

      Assuming of course that they extend this to holders of the VS Amex

  • Daniel says:

    Tandem have been pretty generous with their limits, I received 5 figures when I applied no questions asked.

    • the real harry1 says:

      SPG gave my wife & me (separate cards) ludicrously high credit limits on our latest cards 🙂

      I’d probably get those limits reduced if I planned on us being long-term keepers.

  • Jamie says:

    Rob, if as you have previously predicted, the Lloyds Avios card is closed down, MBNA may find it can change the benefits of the Horizon card to make it profitable. Could that be why they’re encouraging card holders to stay…cheaper to retain now than win over later.

  • PGW says:

    I’ve had the letter about my AAdvantage card closing on 28 July and becoming the Horizon card. I was actually about to close the AA card in advance of the change but I see more reasons to keep it than to close it now the new card details have been published. As I see it I have nothing to lose by doing so.

  • callum says:

    While the “up to” 0.5% is often mentioned almost as an aside in the Tesco reviews (and now here), with my pattern of spending it will make quite a bit difference. I make frequent, small purchases and so many transactions would get 0% and many would get close to 0.25%. Definitely well worth it for the bigger purchases though – and MUCH better than the Tesco equivalent of 1 point per £8.

  • xmenlongshot says:

    Rob, would be interesting to get your view on the Horizon card vs the Lloyds Amex (as long as that one exists)

    • Doug M says:

      Possible difference in exchange rates too minimal to calculate. £24 Lloyds fee, against 1.25 miles per £ on Amex, and 0.5p on Horizon. So each £ on Amex is .75p to the good over Horizon assuming Avios 1p valuation. Therefore you need to spend at least £3,200/year on Amex to be ahead. Probably less as the £2 chunks on the Horizon will reduce the .5% cash back, especially if you make multiply small transactions rather than fewer big ones. You also need to consider if you like cash or Avios more.

      • the real harry1 says:

        Won’t most people take 2-4-1 or flight upgrade into account when comparing? That surely being the major motivation for using the Lloyds card?

        Ongoing spend benefits vs spend benefits is the least important thing to compare, methinks 🙂

        • Doug M says:

          241 is a BA Amex thing, entirely different. How do you value a Lloyds upgrade voucher? I just did the sums on the question asked, I think the obvious comparison thing in these card is the 0% exchange fee of foreign transactions. Personal opinion is Lloyds Amex all day, upgrade voucher for more value to me. Also in terms of just ‘feel good’ a pot of Avios to do something with is much better than £2 or £3 a month in cash back. But if you don’t spend £7K a year to get the voucher, don’t want/use the voucher, spend less than £3K year, then Horizon probably make more sense.

        • callum says:

          My average saving with the Lloyds upgrade voucher has been 78,000 Avios. While I don’t strictly value business class redemptions at 1p per Avios as I generally fly discount economy, those redemptions were such good value I’d happily value the voucher at £780 in those cases!

        • the real harry1 says:

          My blooper 2-4-1!

          Yep, pointlessness for me of going for the upgrade voucher (RFS Europe only flights for us) rules out Lloyds, can’t see the point in paying £24, spending £7000, yes getting a few points – when all I’d be doing is getting lounge access and a couple of drinks on board etc when I prefer an exit seat anyway 🙂

          They did run a decent promotion some 10 years ago that gave us a free return flight (via avios.com) to the place in the sun for taking out a card, which I used. Then I saw that was a one-off with no repeats allowed so cancelled.

        • Doug M says:

          No sweat on the 241, usually it’s me confusing things. I used a Lloyds voucher on an RFS flight, saved 9,000 Avios, but still better than it expiring. The old CE vs ET debate can run all day, I’m not wedded to either, agree exit rows pretty nice and mostly available as a Gold. CE for me is mostly if I have, or think I might have, 2 checked bags repositioning at the end of an Ex-EU, which as a Gold I think I might have anyway, I’m usually confused and cautious.
          The thing with all these vouchers is they’re restrictive in what you can get, as you’d expect I suppose. But a LH redemption paying £500+ in fees still seems bad value to me compared to getting a great £1K revenue fare, earning some Avios, and getting the TP to keep status for the cheapo ET flights around Europe. Obviously you need to mix and match all the sources of payment to your circumstances.

      • lev441 says:

        Best value using the upgrade voucher on routes that use the exBMI a321’s – Last flight I booked I saved myself 50,000 avios which was pretty great.

  • will says:

    “Some people are being offered a cash incentive to retain this card until October!”

    This seems like an unnecessary bonus! We get £55 for doing nothing? That was based off being a frequent user of the new AA card. Doubt my other 11 MBNA airline cards will prove so generous but fingers crossed!!

    • lev441 says:

      Unfortunately i didn’t get this extra bonus – maybe my £120,000k annual spend in 2017 lost them money!

      • Rob says:

        Obviously it did, given they got max £360 in interchange and bought you over 100k miles …..

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