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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.


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Comments (161)

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

  • Jay says:

    Rob. What happens to the balance on the card ? I had a zero % for 3 years and took some money out from the card. Supposed to pay before 2021.

    • Andrew says:

      Essentially the background account remains the same (alhtough the account number may change), it’s just the features of the card that links to the account that changes.

  • Martin says:

    Does anybody know how the airline handles card termination? The Miles and More card keeps miles from expiring, normally they are lost after 36 months. So if (when) MBNA pulls the plug does the clock start ticking for the entire balance?

    • David says:

      This is my concern. I only have about 16k M&M miles, so not really enough for a decent redemption, but still more than I want to throw away…

    • Andrew says:

      Although the m&m expiry rules aren’t 100% clear my reading of them is that spending on the card doesn’t reset the clock. Stop spending and you don’t get 36 months. Anything earned more than 3 years ago disappears almost immediately

      • the real harry1 says:

        Logically your contract with M&M card is entirely different to your contract with Lufthansa reward scheme. I’d be surprised if you are given any new way to keep points alive just because a route to earn points has disappeared/ is disappearing.

        You’ll have to find a new way to reset the clock, if there ever was one in the first place!

        • the real harry1 says:

          boom!

          Any other benefits?

          You earn 33% bonus miles for the first six months. This could have some value if you are a heavy spender.

          Even more important than earning miles, in my view, is that having the card and using it at least once a month stops your Miles & More miles from expiring.

          If you are a base level M&M member, your miles will expire three years after you earn them whether or not you have credited miles to your account in the meantime. This is a particularly mean and nasty expiry policy. British Airways, for example, simply requires that you credit 1 Avios to your account every three years to keep all your miles active.

          I had the M&M card for a couple of year before I gained M&M status, and it was purely for this reason – to safeguard my 100k or so miles. Note that you need to have had the card for three months before your miles are protected. I have it again at the moment and have been paying my HMRC bills with the Visa.

        • Andrew says:

          Lufthansa specifically mention on their own site that spending on one of their cards halts the expiry of miles. I think they’d struggle to completely wash their hands of any responsibilities if the UK card was withdrawn. The decent thing for them to do would be to give everyone another 36 months. That would be up to Lufthansa though and not MBNA. Whether they’ll do that is of course another matter.

      • Lloyd says:

        This is my big worry, I have over 120k M&M, my wife has about another 60k, and it appears we will lose an awful lot of miles with the loss of the credit card. We’re intending to spend a lot of them towards the end of this year, but that being said, there seems no way to check how many miles I currently have which are over 3 years old.

      • RussellH says:

        That is my feeling too. Most of my remaining ~12 000 miles have been earned in a steady trickle by doing hotel reviews on Holidaycheck.de.

        I do not expect to be offered the Horizon card by MBNA, though, as these days I just put >£5 on both the Amex and the Visa (different accounts going back 10+ years) per month to keep the miles alive.

        I see a vist to Lufthansa Worldshop looming in the near future.

  • Nick says:

    Thinking aloud… but could the reason they’re trying to cling on to customers be that they need the numbers to report to the City/shareholders/lloyds directors and that actually ‘making money’ will come from better access to money markets and improved share performance rather than creaming it from customers?

    • Michael Jennings says:

      That would be my thought, too. MBNA was sold to Lloyds last year. Certainly there would have been financial projections offered to Lloyds about what the business would do and how many customers it would have etc etc going forward – possibly with penalties faced by someone somewhere if those projections were not achieved. Having the customer numbers suddenly halve because all the airline cards have closed might well be very embarrassing in the circumstances. So they make an offer to customers that makes it worth their while to keep the card.

      This works for me. I will keep the Horizon card, if they offer it to me, whereas a bog standard card I will cancel immediately.

      • Rob says:

        It’s not the numbers, it is the volume. Average spend on airline credit cards in the UK is £1000 per month. Average spend on supermarket reward cards in the UK is £600 per month. Average spend on non-reward cards is even lower. (This is per a research report I read recently but did not keep the link for, sorry.)

  • Dominic says:

    Rob, just to clarify…. “free cash withdrawals abroad” literally meaning the same as using a fee-free debit card? No difference in rate (minus Visa/Mastercard variation)?

    Also, has anyone seen the letter for the Etihad MBNA card? If so – can anyone confirm when the replacement card is being sent? I’m leaving the country a few days before the 27th of July, so really need to receive the replacement before the Etihad card closes…

    Thanks!

    • Rob says:

      It means you don’t pay the £3 cash advance fee that most cards charge, plus no FX weighting.

  • Andrew says:

    Whilst the “interchange fee” is 0.3% (with a few exceptions) within Europe. I haven’t been able to pin down what the interchange fees are for, say, a UK issued card being used in the USA.

    Could it be that this particular cohort tend to use their cards outside the EEA and consequently are a fairly high income stream for LBG?

    Disappointed if my ex-BMI Amex & Visa card aren’t switched to Horizon – it would allow me to junk my Virgin Money f/x free card.

  • Genghis says:

    Low free limits on ATM withdrawals though

  • david devine says:

    I will never get a MBNA card again. Spent a considerable amount and was treated like a real chump. I value great customer service which MBNA don’t do

  • Lemeng says:

    Rob, there is a final closing date for the Virgin Atlantic cards. I used the messaging facility online to ask and got the reply: “You’ll continue to earn miles on card purchases posted to your account until close of play the day before the conversion, 6 July 2018.” That seems pretty clear.

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

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