NatWest Black drops Priority Pass for DragonPass – but is it worth £28 per month?

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We don’t talk about the NatWest Reward Black current account much on HFP, although it has good travel benefits. 

It has also been trialling an Avios offer recently, as many of you who were targeted for the trial will have noticed.  Whether this ends up being a permanent feature or not remains to be seen.

NatWest Reward Black has a chunky £28 monthly fee.  At £336 per year, you are almost in American Express Platinum territory, and arguably Platinum has a better range of benefits.

From 1st October, NatWest Reward Black is making a series of changes to its packages.  This PDF explains them.

From a travel perspective, the most interesting one is the move from Priority Pass to DragonPass as the airport lounge provider.

NatWest Reward Black moving to DragonPass

What is DragonPass?

The three major lounge access cards, which take up 95% of the discussion on HFP about such cards, are:

Priority Pass (buy outright here or free with Amex Platinum)

Lounge Club (two free visits per year for Amex Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders) and

LoungeKey (for MasterCard World Elite cardholders, eg HSBC Premier)

These are all owned by the same company, Collinson.  Whilst there are some differences between the lounges available across the three Collinson products, the similarities are far greater.

DragonPass is the only company apart from Collinson offering airport lounge access cards.  This has allowed it to cut some interesting deals which are not available with the three Collinson products.  Here are some interesting London examples which are NOT available with Priority Pass or Lounge Club:


In Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, you can use the Regus Express business centre lounge in Arrivals

In Terminal 5, you can use the new Plaza Premium departures lounge (this can be accessed by showing an American Express Platinum card but it is not a Priority Pass benefit)

In Terminal 3, you can use the No 1 Lounge in departures (this is in Priority Pass but not Lounge Club)

You get dining discounts – but no freebies – at The Prince of Wales (T4), Giraffe (T3, T5), Comptoir Libonais (T4), The Curator (T3), Apostrophe (T4), Wonder Tree (T2), Market Gardener (T3)


In South Terminal, you can use the Regus Express business centre lounge in Arrivals

You can get dining discounts – but no freebies – at Nicholas Culpepper (North), Giraffe (South), Garfunkels (North), Wonder Tree (South), Eat (North), Armadillo (North), Shake-a-Hula (North), Comptoir Libonais (North), Joe’s Coffee House (South)

Obviously DragonPass will also get you into most of the ‘usual suspect’ lounges which Priority Pass can also access such as Aspire (but not Heathrow Terminal 5) and No 1 Lounges sites.  You can search the DragonPass lounge directory here.

NatWest Reward Black adds DragonPass and drops Priority Pass

What will NatWest Reward Black offer?

From 1st October, DragonPass replaces Priority Pass as the default lounge provider. 

This is generally a positive move because of the addition of Plaza Premium in Heathrow Terminal 5, used for the majority of British Airways flights.

Additional guests will be charged at £20.  Your DragonPass appears to be ‘account holder only’ so your guest fees will add up quickly if you travel a lot with a partner.

(If you open a joint account then you receive two lounge access cards but only pay the same £28 monthly account fee.  This is clearly the way to go if you travel with a partner.)

Very generously (ahem), NatWest is also promoting the ability to pay £5 to guarantee entry at No 1 Lounges as a new ‘benefit’, even though this is available to the general public via this link.

What are the other NatWest Reward Black changes?

There will be no charges for foreign currency purchases made using your Black debit card.  ATM withdrawals outside the UK will still incur a fee.

Discounts on hotels, cruises etc will continue to be offered although I doubt these are better than anything you could track down yourself.

You no longer get free in-flight meals and a 20kg baggage allowance when flying with Thomas Cook!

Outside travel, you will get a 40% discount at 250 UK cinemas and free UK and European breakdown cover with Green Flag.

Benefits remaining the same include travel insurance (although the age limit is dropping from 75 to 70), mobile phone insurance and 2% back on direct debit household bill payments.

How do I get Reward Black?

NatWest Reward Black offers many of the benefits of American Express Platinum for a lower fee, although certainly not enough for me to justify switching.

The criteria – apart from a willingness to pay £28 per month for a current account – are a minimum £100,000 sole income or £120,000 joint income paid into your NatWest account, or £500,000 minimum mortgage borrowing or £100,000 in NatWest savings or investments.

The fee will drop a bit if your household bills are high, because of the 2% rebate on Direct Debit payments.  This covers council tax, gas, electricity, water, home & mobile phone, TV packages and broadband.  I reckon we would save around £7 per month, although I would lose the points I currently earn for paying our council tax with a credit card.

The move to DragonPass is an interesting one and opens up some interesting new options for cardholders, including Plaza Premium in Heathrow Terminal 5.

You can find out more about NatWest Reward Black here.

PS.  Don’t forget that American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with 20,000 Avios or other airline miles (or hotel points, or loads of other things) just for signing up and spending £2000.  You also get two free lounge access cards – which get you into some places that DragonPass doesn’t – AND the card is free for a year.  I strongly recommend getting one of these to boost your frequent flyer miles quickly.  You can find out more in this article.

(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 1.4 million monthly page views.  Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios?  Click here to read our latest news storiesclick here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.  Read this article to learn how you can get 20,000 FREE Avios by signing up for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card.)

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  1. Dragonpass is great. But NatWest should be treated like syphilis is. Hope you don’t get it and nip it in the bud if you do.

    • Why? I have no problem with them at all from a personal banking perspective – £28pm for all this esp if you are a regular traveller, plus thier other benefits is pretty good value actually and you get a reduced o/d rate – so if you go overdrawn ocassionally savings there too

  2. Stephan says:

    OT but related to bank packaged accounts. Given that it is free, it worth signing up for HSBC premier account if you meet the eligibility criteria?

    • Bonglim says:

      I switched to hsbc and think they are fine
      -free travel insurance, which includes our moderate pre-existing conditions is great.

      I also have just got hsbc world elite MasterCard which might be the best mnon- Amex if you don’t use virgin much.

      They regularly run transfer bonuses for hsbc, I got £200 by waiting a month.

      The main downside is they are pretty strict on money laundering, after a US fine for funding criminals, so it is prudent to keep at least one non hsbc account as well. There are some horror stories of people having their life ruined by hsbc immediately shutting their account without warning.

      • Genghis says:

        I’m waiting for the next switching bonus

      • HSBC tried to shut mine at one point, and it was the only the fact that I used to work for them that persuaded them not to.

        • Similar stories surrounding Citibank closing account on zero notice. Suspicion remains that the ‘ML can’t duscuss’ covers straight forward commercial decisions on dumping accounts they don’t like.

        • New Card says:

          +1 on the travel insurance benefit – defined benefit for delayed travel paid out quickly and without fuss

        • You were lucky. They threatened to close ours because a director had moved house and we hadn’t told them – admittedly a mistake on our part, but one which must rate about 0.1 on the Richter scale of suspicion. We spent a month trying to get this simple thing changed, being pushed around from pillar to post, until eventually time ran out and they sent us a letter saying that they were closing our account and “would not be changing their decision”.

          So we said “good riddance” and moved our account elsewhere – then for the next 6 months, we kept getting letters from HSBC “extending the deadline” – ending up with one saying that they had completed their checks and wouldn’t close our account after all. Bear in mind that (1) we hadn’t ever fixed the original problem and (2) the account had already been closed for 4 months by then!

          I also used to work for HSBC, so I kind-of know what was happening behind the scenes – but at the end of the day, I think it’s just too much of a risk to have an account with them, until they’ve sorted themselves out and built an OKYC infrastructure that’s fit for purpose.

      • Stephan says:

        Thanks bonglim. Wow that sounds drastic regarding the shutting of accounts. What are transfer bonuses – is this the switching offers from other banks?

        I might consider it also because of the Expat account which seems to have more flexibility than the currency accounts.

        • Mark1980 says:

          What happens if you put £50k savings into HSBC, get the account and card and then use those savings as a deposit on a house? Will they close your account and card?

        • Yes. That is in the rules. Same with Jade if you drop below £500k.

        • Jonathan says:

          They’ve been flexible with me when my savings/investments have fluctuated above/below 50k but if you left the money there for a matter of days & then emptied account they would probably withdraw Premier or levy a charge.

          I can certainly recommend the free travel insurance Premier comes with though. I’ve had some hefty claims in last few years for illness abroad (they flew me home BA First), missed connections on separate tickets & a lost passport abroad. All sorted over the phone & any expenses incurred paid immediately by BACS.

        • I opened a hsbc premier account several years ago and afterwards opened an Expat account in Jersey. When i no longer qualified in the UK, HSBC contacted me that they would downgrade me to a paid account, As i did qualify in Jersey they agreed to let me keep the benefits. But after that Jersey closed my account without notice / explanation. I have been keeping the benefits with hsbc ever since despite no longer qualifying in the UK so this might be a route to avoid having to keep funds / investments with hsbc

      • the_real_a says:

        HSBC are ridiculous when it comes to ML rules. I had my account suspended and told to report in branch to prove the source of funds for a £750 cash deposit i had made. Altogether this took a day off work and the best part of a week without banking facilities… An absolute joke.

    • If you are with a high street bank at the moment, you will find it better than what you’re currently getting in terms of service, but not life changing.

      • Stephan says:

        I think so me one of the main draws was the Expat account which seems to useful if moving abroadbut soll not clear on how exactly it works.

        • For moving abroad, looks like Premier helps with setting up accounts in advance (for free), and apparently also gives you Premier in your destination country, so might have access to better credit cards etc.

          I agree, it’s quite unclear how it actually works, but I’m moving abroad in about 6 months and am in the process of getting Premier, just cos I assume it will make life a bit easier…

        • David, means you are instantly set up with your bank account before you even get there. Very useful when moving to a new country. V helpful for us years again.

        • Yep I moved to Canada and the set up was excellent, had account open and online baking with card before I left the uk. And had a branch contact at my local branch when I arrived. Very impressed.

        • Went to Canada on a sabbatical couple of years ago, had account opened and debit card delivered in UK before actual travel, CC arrived a couple of weeks after we reached Canada, good service in my view, I also use the HSBC Premier debit card to withdraw cash abroad if there is a HSBC ATM given preferential rates. `za

    • I have problems with my hands due to a lung issue, I find using the dongle to access the accounts more trouble than its worth.

  3. “You can’t have more than two joint account holders on your account. The benefits are
    designed to be used by two individuals only.”

    Does this mean 2 dragon pass cards on a joint account?

    • Steven Hannah says:

      Should do, currently if you have a joint account both joint account holders get their own priority pass card

      This account more than pays for itself once you take into account the travel insurance, the waiver of fee on the associated credit card, the ticket booking discount, the cash back on bills and the ancillary stuff like the mobile phone insurance and breakdown cover

    • Robert Govier says:

      I currently have 2 priority pass cards from my joint account, and they haven’t indicated that this will change with the move to Dragon Pass

  4. RBS has just reduced the discount on cruise bookings to 5% (previously 10%) I saved a fortune and it justified the £20 pm fee. They have also added the cinema discount to the package but it’s only 40% at certain locations and it would appear London has its own pricing structure. The Showcase cinema near my location is working out at roughly 30% off standard adult entry tickets – not a bad saving if you’re a regular cinema visitor.

  5. Isobel Brown says:

    As a Natwest pensioner I get the account for £12 a month so it’s very good value.
    We live near Gatwick and use it often – a bit miffed to lose the £15 towards the bill at Grain Store we got with Priority Pass.

    • Yes, and you can’t always be guaranteed entry to these lounges now, as they reserve tables for virgin pax etc. They now advise pre booking for £5 to guarantee entry. Which is not really good. After all this pass is a benefit, which you are supposed to be able to use.
      Grain store was a nice option. We sometimes used it to buy nice food for the flight, and then into the lounge.

  6. So glad you posted this. I’ve been a Black customer for years and received the comms yesterday about the changes. Couldn’t for the life of me work out whether they were positive or not, particularly as I know nothing about Dragonpass.
    The points I would add from my own experience:
    1. I once lost my Google Pixel XL phone. Was dubious about my ‘free insurance’ but I put in a claim and a brand new one arrived next day. No catches. I was thrilled.
    2. I once missed a long-haul Etihad Business Class flight because of a delayed BA short-haul flight on a separate ticket. Again, I was dubious about my ‘free travel insurance’ but I kept all my papers, submitted a claim, and received £2000 which covered the cost of the last minute flight change.
    3. You get 25% cash back when booking tickets with their ticket booking service. It’s great. Say there’s 4 of you going to a West End Show for £100 each, they will literally refund you £100 cash after the show. I think it covers something like 4 or 6 events/concerts/theatre etc per year for multiple people people per event.
    4. You get access to NatWest Black Concierge which is provided by Ten Lifestyle Management. I am repeatedly disappointed by that service. They are virtually useless and I would not trust them with any task that is important to you. God knows how they are still in business.

    I use the Black Rewards bank account for my Salary and the Black benefits. I use a basic NatWest Rewards bank account for all of my household bills (they’re a little complex and need to be separate because I live in a 4-person house share and I’m Lead Tenant). I have the NatWest Black MasterCard because it looks fancy and it’s my card of last resort (in case Lloyds Bank goes offline or blocks me overseas etc). All my ordinary spend goes on the Lloyds Avios Rewards Credit Card though. Having just triggered my 4th Flight Upgrade Voucher I’m looking to switch to AMEX Gold though, due to the upcoming product downgrades.

    • Ten is useless and always has been. Sadly HSBC just switched to them for its super-premium customers ….

  7. Highland Traveller says:

    Just a note to say that I am an RBS Private Customer and generally their flight booking service will get me at least the lowest flight cost offered by a third party on Skyscanner etc, and with no credit card fees (even when they were chunky). Have found travel insurance good too.

    Not tried concierge…not sure what I would use it for?!?!

  8. I hadn’t heard of Dragon Pass before, but for certain locations it seems to be a very cheap way of accessing lounges on a one-off PAYG basis.

    Using Plaza Premium Lounge (Heathrow T2) as an example:-

    Dragon Pass: £26.19
    Plaza Premium Direct: $49 (£37.64)
    Holiday Extras: £36
    Lounge Buddy: £36

  9. If you can’t make the 100k salary minimum, at least HSBC is less at 50k deposit requirement. Just as well off doing an amex Plat churn every 6 months if you have other half. With pro rata fee refund, plus 104k MRs or avios plus spend, whichever you are collecting. With pro rate fee refunds, and attention to detail on cancelling dates etc. Sadly no upgrade to Plat from Gold now.

    • Brian Porter says:

      You can now get HSBC with a £75k salary and an investment product.

      • Any suggestions for the HSBC investment product? (I have Premier/World Elite but will shortly need most of the savings in the account towards a building project)

    • Robert Govier says:

      It’s also worth having a chat with your local bank (if you still have one!). Apparently the £100k income is a flexible requirement, especially if you’re younger and have prospects to get to £100k in a few years.

  10. Anyone able to share what the Avios trial was that ran recently?

    • Pretty sure it’s still ongoing. At least it was when i checked yesterday.

      Rewards customer can redeem their cash back for Avios at pretty good rates. £10-1300, £20-2600, £50-6,500.

      Though I must say, pretty surprised that Rob decided to mention it on this site. Does it mean that the trial is likely to go on for a couple more months?

  11. Colin JE says:

    For those who might not qualify for HSBC Premier, DragonPass also comes with the Travel Plus Pack with pretty much any Barclays current account for £15.50 a month, inc travel insurance & RAC European recovery. It works through Lifestyle Services Group (LSG). Joint account holders get two cards, and all other covers cover both. Either way you get 6 free lounge visits per year between you, then further visits are charged at £15.
    There’s an app for DP but not the regular DP one – it’s called Traveller. Shows the free visits you have left, discounted restaurants, finding a lounge and your digital card, though you get a physical one for each member too.
    I don’t know if HSBC will do the same or if membership will be direct with DragonPass.

  12. I don’t think it’s worthwhile getting the NatWest black rewards credit card if you don’t have a black current account as the only thing you really get from the card is the 0.5% cash back and the fx fees. You can get cards like tandem which offer the same thing without the £84 annual fee.

    Yes NatWest rewards has some flexibility in terms of what they can be redeemed for but I can’t justify that annual fee.

    • Robert Govier says:

      I agree. If I didn’t have the account, I wouldn’t have the card, but if you have the account the card is free, so seems like a no-brainer.

  13. Aeronaut says:

    “Benefits remaining the same include free travel insurance, free mobile phone insurance and 2% back on direct debit household bill payments.”

    £28 a month is not free.

    (Nor, as far as I can see, do NatWest describe them as being free.)

    • True. But we’re heading into the great Holiday Inn Express court case here ….

      (If anyone is bored, google why Holiday Inn Express is no longer allowed to call its breakfast free, even though no-one pays for it.)

      • Aeronaut says:

        I agree with the ASA and disagree with you on the HIE breakfast issue, i.e. at HIE you pay for the breakfast as an integral part of your hotel room charge, hence it is not free. If you don’t eat your breakfast, that’s your shout – likewise if you don’t use the shower, that’s up to you (hotels don’t speak about ‘free showers’ for example).

        The NatWest Reward Black account scenario is I’d suggest even more black and white than the HIE breakfast scenario – with NatWest, customers are specifically paying £28 a month for a package of benefits, of which the travel and mobile phone insurance is part.

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