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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.


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? – June 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

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.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 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 1.5 points for every £1 you spend 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 offers:

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

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (161)

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

  • Jon says:

    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.

  • The_real_a says:

    What is the criteria for proofs btw?

    • Rob says:

      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?

      • Rob says:

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

  • meta says:

    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.

    • Will says:

      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)

      • meta says:

        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.

      • Rob says:

        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.

  • Richk says:

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Alan says:

    Yep, MBNA always fine about shifting limits between cards.

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

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