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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.

  • PJK says:

    So does anyone know of a way to stop LH M&M expiry now that the card might disappear?

  • Ross Williams says:

    Received my letter this morning also. So what do we do? Apply for new Virgin card – with or without fees – and keep the new Horizon card for foreign spending? Will this replace the Halifax Mastercard currently used abroad?

  • Neil says:

    I got my AA Horizon letter yesterday and my Virgin Black Horizon letter today – they appear to be intending to send me two Horizon cards as the latter didn’t mention the £55 offer as with AA.

    If they do the same with Lufthansa I will presumably have three Horizon cards?

    • Alan says:

      Yep! See my post re different offers.

    • Tariq says:

      No bonus payment on my Horizon letter 🙁 had VS black card. Have been thinking about cancelling for a while, not used the card for ages. Holding on to it to see what happens – I really do think that Virgin will reach out and try and convert people over to the new card if they haven’t already applied directly.

      • Alan says:

        Yeah, seems weird they’re not offering any bonus for VS Black yet they’re giving £15 for VS White (IME at least).

  • justin kennedy says:

    will american airlines offer a miles credit card anywhere else in uk?

    • Polly says:

      Doubt they can afford it
      My worry is after spg possibly ends beg 2019 there is then really no way to earn aa miles.

      • Sundar says:

        The over-dependence on credit cards as a way of getting miles needs to be revisited. There are probably other ways of earning aa miles(though not at the same level/pace).

        • Polly says:

          Yes l have started using aad to book hotels via booking.Com. not great nos of miles but keeps miles alive

  • JohnT says:

    For Virgin Black – was there any info about any pending upgrade vouchers due on anniversary (if earned)?

    • Dan says:

      Nothing about the vouchers specifically it does say ‘miles redemption will continue as usual, inline with the Flying Club terms and conditions’ – I would read that not to be a reference to the vouchers (but not sure what was in their mind). I would assume they will issue the vouchers if you’d hit the spend target already – but whether they will adjust the issue date to the end of the relationship with Virgin or your anniversary date who knows. It’s a surprising omission as to my mind it’s a big benefit of the card.

      • Alan says:

        Agreed, I thought they might have mentioned it – my card anniversary is June so won’t be an issue for me but I thought they’d have mentioned it for others. Does anyone that received them previously know if the vouchers show up in the VS account when awarded?

        • dan says:

          Looking under ‘my activity’ showed this line around my anniversary date:

          VAA Credit Card Econ>Premium Reward Upgrade x2

          And this line:

          VAA Credit Card Companion Flight Qualification

          Around the actual time of hitting the spend.

          • Alan says:

            Hmm, I can’t get my VS account to go back past September (despite picking ’12 months’ option) so can’t see if anything showing up for when I passed the trigger re companion voucher. Will keep an eye out for the upgrade ones at card anniversary, thanks for confirming they should show up there.

        • Nicola walton says:

          My husbands MBNA vouchers triggered a couple of days ago according to his VA flying club account.

  • PJk says:

    Hahaha, I’ve just had an alert from AwardWallet that my 50k M&M will be expiring in 29 days, even though I haven’t had any official info from MBNA that my card account will close!

    Oh dear, time to think about using them or does anyone have a bright idea for keeping them alive?

    • Rob says:

      That is a mistake, if you have the M&M credit card. If you don’t then, erm, yes some will expire. ONLY MILES OVER 3 YEARS EXPIRE – you don’t lose your full balance. Log in to your M&M account and it will explain it clearly.

      Move them to Heathrow Rewards if you can’t find a flight to book.

      • C F Frost says:

        Something that’s always hurt my noodle with M&M/MBNA is the requirement for a mandatory monthly spend. I rely on my wife for my M&M spend but she keeps on having these unhelpful debit card periods. So, if she misses a month then is it the case every thing from 3 years before that missed month is then set to expire? And if so, then how long have i got before they go?Maybe it’s in the t&c somewhere but I couldn’t find…

        • C F Frost says:

          Ok, that was poorly articulated. What I meant to ask was whether you’re set to say goodbye to your miles that are three years and older at the time of that missed month but that everything you’ve earned since then is ok and remains ok despite your misdemeanour..

      • RussellH says:

        Rob,

        Can you actually convert M+M miles into HR points (which is what I understand you to be saying?)

        All I can find on the M+M site and the HR site is that 7 500 miles can be redeemed for 4x £5 airport shopping vouchers, equivalent to 2 000 HR points…

      • PJK says:

        Thanks Rob. Heathrow is interesting, presumably no expiry then exists and I’m free to move our use them however?

        Happy days!

        • Rob says:

          No, Emirates transfers in to Heathrow Rewards are ringfenced and can only be used for shopping vouchers. Lufthansa makes you take the vouchers in the first place.

  • Matt says:

    Horizon letter received today for VS Black.

    No mention of annual fee refund if account retained onto the new card?

    I’m only 6 months into my current fee year… anyone spoken with MBNA yet about how this would work?

    • StevieM says:

      Hi Matt,
      Letter states:
      “you’ll receive a partial refund of the last annual fee payment you made for your Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card Account. This will appear on your account by end July 2018, providing your account remains open”
      Hope that helps

    • Johnny Tabasco says:

      Mine says ‘because you haven’t made a card purchase on your VA Black Credit Card account since your last annual fee was paid we will provide a full annual fee refund. This will appear on your account by the end of July 2018’

      A couple of points – firstly I have made plenty of purchases since I paid the yearly fee in April. So that’s confusing.
      And secondly I’d rather the money didn’t just go into my account, I’d prefer it in a cheque so it can go directly into my personal bank account which is where it came from in the first place. Hopefully I can challenge that.

      • lev441 says:

        If it puts your account in credit you can then call MBNA who will send you a cheque…

      • Mark2 says:

        I always make sure that I owe more than the credit in this sort of case.

    • Alan says:

      My letter said they won’t charge the annual fee, due in June. Am sure they’ll give pro-rata refund based on what others have posted.

  • StevieM says:

    Just received my Horizon offer from MBNA for my Virgin Atlantic black card.
    Dates are :
    6th July – last date purchases posted to Flying Club
    7th July – 1st date purchases will earn cash back

    • Mycity says:

      My letter re Virgin Black card, say that as my renewal fee is due mid June, I won’t be charged on renewal but will still get the same benefits till 6th July.

      Someone mentioned booking fully paid but refundable hotels before close date on the American card, how would that work if you cancelled when you had the new card, where would the refund go and could they claw back the Flying Club miles or AA miles?

      • Stuart graham says:

        I have something similar – my annual fee was due mid May and MBNA said it is not charging me and I can keep earning miles until July

      • Nick Burch says:

        When the BMI card closed, the BMI Flying Club scheme closed too, so there was no scheme left for MBNA to claw the miles back from those of us who found our expensive refundable Las Vegas holidays suddenly incompatible with our work schedules…

        With the Virgin / AA / Etihad etc closures, the scheme remains, so there’s still something left for MBNA to claw back from. Whether their contracts permit it, either with the scheme or with you, is a different matter though. I’m sure if you ring MBNA they’ll say they can (after all, that’s what they said when we asked over the BMI closure), whether they actually can or will is different!

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