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My review of MBNA’s Horizon Visa credit card – possibly the UK’s best credit card to use when 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.

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.

MBNA Horizon credit card review

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.


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 miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Final closing date for MBNA's Virgin Atlantic cards announced - what should you switch to?
How to get a 35% bonus on your Membership Rewards balance - but why it isn't always a great idea
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  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!

  3. Yes I have this. Obviously only works if you’re self employed/not on expenses. Not really travel/points related so not really for HFP coverage. 1% with piddly £35 annual fee is a fantastic deal though.

  4. The_real_a says:

    What is the criteria for proofs btw?

    • Looks strict – unincorporated companies do not count, one-man bands do not count.

      • Genghis says:

        Does it look strict? My wife and I are shareholders of a small ltd co so it seems we could apply. How do credit searches work though? On the two of us as individuals?

      • Ah, didn’t see the sole trader bit – that wasn’t on the headline bit of the website. Didn’t go into the details.

  5. You will still be able to transfer the new Marriott/SPG programme points to all the airlines plus the Marriott credit card is coming back in August.

    • 1 point per £ isn’t it with the Marriott?
      No matter which way I look at that I can’t make it worthwhile vs other alternatives (eh IHG)

      • Yes, but with Marriott/SPG you have a much wider option of airlines to transfer to and the transfer ratio is hopefully going to stay the same as with SPG, but we will see.

      • Free Marriott card – 1 point per £1 = 0.5p of value
        Free IHG card – 1 point per £1 = 0.4p of value
        Free Tesco Mastercard – 0.125 Clubcard points per £1 = 0.312 Avios per £1 = 0.312p of value

        Arguably Marriott looks good vs other free cards, although most of us would do better paying £99 for IHG Premium, getting 0.8p per £1 AND the free night at £10k.

  6. Richk says:

    Just got a letter from MBNA about my Virgin Atlantic card. Offering the Horizon.

  7. David Butcher says:

    I would go further than to say that MBNA’s service is “almost at Amex standards”; that may well once have been the case but my recent experience of both is that MBNA are now well ahead of Amex in terms of customer service. It took me literally months and the eventual involvement of the Ombudsman to resolve what should have been a very simple complaint to Amex. They just did not want to help. The withdrawal of their secure messaging system was a huge step in the wrong direction – MBNA still have this and it works superbly well. The Amex live chat takes days/weeks to resolve what secure messages used to resolve in 24 hours. If I had to give an award for customer service to one or the other, it would definitely go to MBNA on current performance.

    • EwanG says:

      This is a the opposite to my very recent experience of MBNA customer service who have been very slow in handling a simple complaint. They have not been able to resolve it within the 8 week limit but to give them credit MBNA have provided a credit and token payment of redress and is still officially waiting resolution. During the 8 weeks I had no progress updates – but as a small issue I did not feel the need to proactively chase them for updates either.

      If the complaint had been on my Amex, they would have resolved it immediately when contacted by chat or phone as there seems to be more discretion given to Amex agents.

      • Andrew M says:

        The Amex chat agents (which I think are located in The Phillipines) seem to have very little flexibility or ability to make decisions. I’ve contacted them many times, usualy about missing MR points and I don’t remember having a sucessful outcome in any of the cases. Calling Brighton is a completely different experiance and issues are almost always resolved quickly and positively. I almost look forward to calling if I can speak to the Brighton Call centre!

        • the real harry1 says:

          Odd, that. Phillpines. Brighton.

          I wonder who was the manager who chose those 2 locations?

    • Crafty says:

      I have also had to involve the Ombidsman in what should have been a very simple, low value customer service interaction with Amex. I am clearly in the right and I’m amazed they haven’t stepped in to resolve the matter at numerous possible junctures. The Ombudsman involvement will cost them literally 10x more.

  8. ThinkSquare says:

    Just received my offer of Horizon in exchange for my Virgin White card. Interesting that it will arrive automatically – no application required.

    Goodbye Lloyds £24/year Avios card!

    • lev441 says:

      If I were you, i’d hold on to the Lloyds Avios whilst it’s still around!

  9. Devin says:

    OT > I have the 10k bonus points activated, with the anniversary at the end of June. Any recent experience for how long they take to post. If I upgrade to platinum first would I lose that bonus?

    • lev441 says:

      Yes you’ll loose it. They post at the end of the first month, so you’ll have to pay for 1 month of the gold card. Once the points post, then do the upgrade.

    • Genghis says:

      About a month after anniversary. Yes, you’d lose the bonus. Wait.

  10. Yep, MBNA always fine about shifting limits between cards.

  11. Roger1* says:

    Just had 2x SMS and an e-mail from AwardWallet warning me that some M&M miles will expire on 30 June 2018. Presumably these are those credited in June 2015 and I can look forward to similar future messages.

    Rob, you suggested posting expiring Miles&More Miles to Heathrow Rewards. Yes, I’ll do that for my existing HR account. But what about Mrs Roger’s expiring M&M miles?

    I believe only 1 HR per family is allowed. I’m checking how Mrs Roger can open her own HR account. Is a different e-mail address enough? Thanks.

    • Genghis says:

      If you live at 1 The Street, does she not live at 1a The Street?

      • Indeed, or if you call them they can manually create an account for another person at the identical address.

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