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What are the best Star Alliance credit cards for UK residents?

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If you have been following our series of UK credit card reviews over the last couple of weeks, we are now up to ‘M’ in the alphabet.  The next article will be on the new Miles & More charge cards, recently launched with Diners Club and Mastercard.

There has been one other major change to Star Alliance credit card earning in the UK.  The merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest means that there are new airline partners who you can access via the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.

These two developments meant that I wanted to take a look another look what is out there in the way of UK Star Alliance credit cards, since access to earning via a credit or charge card is often a key factor in choosing a programme.

Picking a UK credit card to earn Star Alliance miles

When bmi British Midland still existed, it was easier to get around the world with airline miles.  British Airways was a core member of the oneworld alliance, and bmi British Midland was part of Star Alliance. Between them, you could redeem to pretty much anywhere. Even better, both schemes allowed one-way redemptions so it was easy to mix and match.  bmi also had an insanely cheap redemption chart because, as a primarily short-haul airline, they assumed that no-one would be able to run up high balances.  They got that wrong ….

Now that bmi is no more, it is tougher to maintain a Star Alliance mileage balance.

Star photo

One of the key determinants for me when joining a mileage programme is the ability to earn miles via a credit card. There is often a generous sign-up bonus to be had, and earning via a credit card lets you top up your mileage balance if your flying reduces. A credit card is also a good way to ‘top off’ a mileage programme you intend to abandon after one last redemption.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

Here is a comprehensive list of Star Alliance partners and their credit card earning opportunities if you live in the UK.

Star Alliance members with their own specific UK credit card

The only UK card which allows you to earn Star Alliance miles directly is the Miles & More Global Traveller Card from Lufthansa.

This is a double pack of a Diners Club and Mastercard, with an annual fee of £79.  It is a charge card, not a credit card, and you must clear your balance at the end of each month.

The earning rate is an impressive 1.25 Miles & More miles per £1 spent.  Until 31st December 2018 there is a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles.

Star Alliance members who are American Express Membership Rewards partners

You can collect with the following Star members via an American Express Platinum or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or Amex Rewards card and then converting your Membership Rewards points to airline miles. Large sign-up bonuses are currently available for these cards – see ‘Credit Cards Update‘. Taken from the Amex Membership Rewards catalogue:

  • SAS – 1 mile per £1
  • Singapore Airlines – 1 mile per £1

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card currently has a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points – this gets you 20,000 miles with SAS or Singapore AirlinesHere is my review.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.

The American Express Platinum charge card currently has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points – this gets you 30,000 miles with SAS or Singapore Airlines.  Here is my review.

The free Amex Rewards Credit Card comes in three variants, one of which has a bonus of 10,000 points – this gets you 10,000 miles with SAS or Singapore Airlines.  Here is my review.

Star Alliance members who are Starwood Preferred Guest American Express partners

The SPG Amex now awards points in the combined Marriott / Starwood loyalty scheme, covering 30 hotel brands.  You can convert SPG / Marriott points to 40 airlines. The transfer rate is nominally 3:1, with the credit card earning 3 point per £1, but this is increased to 3:1.25 if you convert 60,000 points at once.

The SPG American Express card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 pointsThis means that you would receive 10,000 miles in most of the schemes listed below.  My detailed review of the SPG American Express card is here.  The representative APR is 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

These are the Star Alliance members which are Marriott / SPG airline partners and so earn miles via the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.   The earning rates shown ignore the 25% bonus if you convert 60,000 points (20,000 miles) at once.

  • Aegean – 1 mile per £1
  • Air Canada – 1 mile per £1
  • Air China – 1 mile per £1
  • Air New Zealand – 1 point per £66
  • ANA – 1 mile per £1
  • Asiana Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • Avianca – 1 mile per £1
  • Copa Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • Miles & More – 1 mile per £1
  • Singapore Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • South African Airways – 1 mile per £1
  • TAP Air Portugal – 1 mile per £1
  • Thai Airways – 1 mile per £1
  • Turkish Airlines – 1 mile per £1
  • United Airlines – 1.1 miles per £1

Star Alliance members who are partners with other credit cards

Apart from SPG, the other UK hotel cards offer poor earnings rates when transferring to Star Alliance airlines. For completeness, though, I have listed them below:

IHG Rewards Club credit card – earns a poor 0.2 miles per £1 of credit card spend, although if you have the IHG Rewards Club Premium credit card, this is doubled to a more reasonable 0.4 miles per £1. Star Alliance partners are: Air China, Air New Zealand (£400 spend = 1 point), ANA, Asiana Airlines, Copa, Miles & More, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways, United.

HSBC Premier is also an option if you want Singapore Airlines miles.  It has an excellent Visa / Mastercard rate (0.5 miles per £1 on the free card, double on the paid card).  You need a HSBC Premier current account, however, which has tough income and savings criteria.

Conclusion

There are plenty of options here for anyone wanting to earn Star Alliance miles from a credit card. As far as I can see, the only members with no earning ability are Egyptair, Ethiopian and EVA Air.  Shenzhen Airlines uses Air China’s PheonixMiles programme.

The free (in year one) Amex Gold card is your best choice if you want SAS or Singapore Airlines miles.  You earn 1 mile per £1.

The Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard (£79 annual fee) is also a decent option if you have a lot of non-American Express spending and so cannot make full use of the SPG American Express.

Earning 1.25 miles per £1 on this new card doesn’t mean that Miles & More is necessarily the best option, however.  You also need to look at redemption rates on your favourite routes.  For example, a Business Class flight from the UK to the Middle East on Star Alliance requires 70,000 Miles & More miles but just 50,000 Singapore Airlines miles.  For anyone flying to Dubai a lot, earning 1 Singapore Airlines mile per £1 via Amex Gold would be a better deal than earning 1.25 Lufthansa Miles & More miles per £1 on the Global Traveller Card.

Apart from SAS or Singapore Airlines, where Amex Gold is preferable due to the free first year, the £75 SPG American Express is my choice.  The Starwood Amex has a number of partners at a decent conversion rate of 1.25 miles per £1 (assuming you convert in 60,000 point chunks) and may be a good way to hedge your bets about which Star programme you want to redeem through.  You can also redeem your Starwood points for hotel rooms if you change your mind about airline miles.  My full review of the SPG card is here.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Bits: good Star Alliance deals to Australia, Loganair grows at Edinburgh, Marriott's daily play game
Bits: earn Avios and BA tier points on a KLM route!, Icelandair in surprise rescue acquisition of WOW Air
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Comments

  1. Ah the good old days of BMI. I was commuting from London to Glasgow each week for three years and between that mileage , the BMI credit card, Amex Rewards on my company card and transferring Hilton points, I managed to pay for our round the world honeymoon in First class for only £900 in taxes. Not quite so easy these days sadly

  2. Thanks for this. I have booked flights with TK (Turkish) for next summer. They status match, offer family accounts and appear to have a very good product that is well regarded. Oh and a new 787 with a new seat. Their fares are also very good. The missing link was a credit card in the U.K.

    Posting here as it might give TK UK some ideas!! Preferably via Visa which is missing from my wallet!

    • Flown TK a few times!Excellent product,service one if the best I know,did not know about the family account,will try to combine mine and my wife’s!I look forward to a Business class flight with them,even in short haul flights there Bussines is one of the best!
      Until end of this year they give five times the miles if you fly from their new Istanbul airport.
      Also 25% discount on redemption flight to and from their other Istanbul airport(Sabika)
      UK credit card would be great!
      Connecting at Istanbul airport not great thought!

      • 5x miles isn’t particularly exciting since the new airport (ISL) is basically in beta-test mode until the end of the year, with flights only to 5 destinations, all also served by flights from the regular airport.

        Connecting at the new airport should be fine once they get it all sorted.

      • Imbruce says:

        its turkish they fly to istanbul, no chance of me ever using this airline or flying there

    • Oh Matron! says:

      Flew TK between IST and Bishkek this summer. Their product is very good indeed. They make BA look like RyanAir. Food was good and the setback entertainment very good indeed. And their business class seat is actually a business class seat, unlike BA

      • It’s only a proper business class seat if you get one of their widebodies. It’s just a blocked middle on the narrowbody planes

        • The 737s and A320s use a 2×2, 12 seat business layout thats recline (not lay flat). Google “Turkish shorthaul business class” and you’ll see pictures of it.

        • Blocked middle seat now only left on a few domestic route planes. 737 & 320 to/from Gatwick, for example, has a proper business class seat.

  3. Hello, both my parents had the Gold Amex upto a few months ago (not six) and I’m wondering if having recieved the sign up bonuses for these will impact their ability to claim the SPG AMEX sign up bonus ?
    Or are these cards completely separate in that regard ?
    Cheers.

  4. OT – Has anyone recently had issues with Hilton points not posting? Been waiting 10 days and after an on line chatting promising the points …nothing! Then when I asked about the miles and more points offer they said it’s nothing to do with them it’s upto lufthansa speak to them!

    Anyone else had issues?

    • There was a database upgrade last week which they are still catching up on. Just file a missing points request

      • Done that still nothing! How long do the Lufthansa points take to post?

        • I had M&M points post very quickly after a stay on 16th Oct – but nothing for a different stay ending on the 18th Oct. It’s a pain, not even my Hilton points have posted and I need to book a night in Hong Kong on points – but not sure how far to push the boat out, as I have no idea how many points I have.

  5. Typo police here. Need to convert in chunks of 60,000 “new scheme” points to achieve 1.25 miles per £1 on the SPG amex. Not 20,000.

  6. This is exactly what I have started to do – save via credit card for Singapore Airlines. We are not big spenders but do churn one gold/Plat and SPG each per year. Because Singapore Airlines have a strict 3 yr expiry policy I have decided to start moving some MR pts per year to our SPG/Marriott accounts. I know going direct from MR to Kris Flyer is cheaper but we won’t be using them within 3 yrs. This year we used 58k KF miles each for SIN-BNE – this is what we would like to do again for another trip down under in a few years time. I have plenty of Avios and hotel points for what we need for the next couple of years so this is a good way to forward plan for future trips.

    • Sounds like a good plan, yours usually are and always make interesting reading.

      I find their cash and points offering rather lets the side down for serious point collecting on an ongoing basis which is how I prefer to buy award seats. Their spontaneous escapes and middle east deals though are very attractive.

  7. Oh Matron! says:

    A shame the hilton / M&M offer has just finished. Have gone from nothing to 21K miles with M&M this summer. Has been quite lucrative 🙂

    • Shame but good whilst it lasted. Amex are still running their £50 off £250 Hilton spend. May be stackable with the new Hilton sale.

  8. OT: Question on the Amex Plat travel insurance – throughout the T&Cs it talks about bookings having been made on the “card account”. I have a month away in Dec where different flights were booked on a mixture of BA Amex and Halifax Clarity payment (depending on currency).

    Does that mean I should rule out getting the Amex Plat? I think we paid £250 for John Lewis travel insurance last year (who, as it happens, were excellent when I needed to make a substantial claim) but it kind of feels like that cost could be absorbed into an annual Amex fee, should the cover work.

    • Genghis says:

      You’d be covered for the big stuff (health) but not the inconvenience cover. I don’t count on Amex Plat insurance for that reason.

      • What do you use for inconvenience cover? I “self-insure”, on the basis that most of it will be recoverable from the airline, and for anything else I can just suck it up. Is there a sensibly-priced policy that actually offers anything valuable?

        • Genghis says:

          I have a policy through work which costs me hardly anything, perhaps £50 a year for me and my wife. Claimed £1,500 on it a couple of weeks ago and paid out yesterday no problem. Claimed in Feb for delayed baggage and paid out no problem.

    • Voltron says:

      I was actually looking at this yesterday, so would appreciate some advice. My understanding of the Amex plat benefits are as follows:

      https://www.americanexpress.com/content/dam/amex/uk/benefits/benefits/Platinum-Insurance-Documentation.pdf

      The following are covered irregardless of whether paid via amex plat charge:
      – MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND EXPENSES
      – CAR RENTAL BENEFITS – THEFT, DAMAGE AND LIABILITY
      – PERSONAL ACCIDENT WHILST ON A TRIP
      – LEGAL ASSISTANCE AND COMPENSATION

      The following can be paid via any AMEX card i.e. plat charge / BA / SPG (not MBNA / Lloyds cards):

      “Card” means any card or other Account access device issued to a Cardmember (or a Supplementary Cardmember) for the purpose of accessing the Account”

      “Account” or “Card Account” means your consumer and small business cards issued by American Express in the UK, excluding corporate cards and any American Express Cards issued by bank partners.”

      – CANCELLING, POSTPONING AND ABANDONING YOUR TRIP
      – CUTTING SHORT A TRIP
      – PERSONAL BELONGINGS, MONEY AND TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
      – TRAVEL INCONVENIENCE

  9. Roger1* says:

    I’m looking forward to Rob’s imminent review of the M&M DC/Mastercard account.

    Any chance that it could include estimates of applications and results? In my case, I’ve heard absolutely nothing about my application, and by end of October, there had been no credit check visible at ClearScore. I haven’t even a contact number to ask.

    • Have we heard any reports of anyone actually receiving their cards?

      • BlueHorizonuk says:

        MC has been sent out but Diners not yet arrived.

        • When did you apply? Two weeks for me and not a peep…

        • +1
          MC arrived and active, Diners Pin arrived but not the card, applied at the beginning of October around 06-07

        • I’ve been told by a Diners Club rep that Diners Club cards should be dispatched this week (w/c Mon 5th November) – despite me signing up on the 2nd of October).

          So far, I’ve been really disappointed by Diners Club. The Cornercard ‘companion’ Mastercard debit isn’t accepted in many places (as they have the BIN/IIN down as a credit card and/or don’t accept ‘prepaid’ debit cards) and Diner’s have already double billed me for a ‘cash withdrawal fee’ (once on the original – non-cash withdrawal – transaction, and a second transaction for the same fee again – but with an additional cash withdrawal fee on top of that). Their online portal also doesn’t allow you to make immediate payments.

        • New Card says:

          Same issue re cash withdrawal fee, also double charged – the transaction was also not a cash withdrawal.
          Manual payments are possible – you can ask for the bank transfer details.
          The online portal seems to update very, very, infrequently – no update for a week now.

      • New Card says:

        I have my MC.

      • when they open your account, you will receive a welcome email

    • Call the number on the application form, someone will be able to help. I’ve phoned a few times (once to chase the application and the second to obtain the Diners Card card number) and they haven’t been able to help.
      A representative told me on the phone that the demand they were expecting in one month they got in less than a day so I imagine there is some back log. The diners card should be posted out beginning 15th November but I’d imagine sooner given they have a card number for me and others.
      Im surprised someone has said the Mastercard isn’t widely accepted as I’ve had no issues with it since I’ve been using it either physically or via Apple Pay.
      I do agree though the website could do with some improvements but given that when you go the main site and click log in you get taken to a “coming soon” page, I imagine that they are slowly building it up.

      • *haven’t not been able to help

        — Really need an edit button on here

      • The majority of places I’ve tried to use the Diners Club M&M Mastercard has been online: HMRC won’t accept it as a Mastercard Debit, Barclaycard, Halifax and Virgin all class it as either a ‘banned prepaid’ or credit card and can’t connect the card to Curve (as banned prepaid). I’ve only had it accepted at 4 merchants so far – and one of them caused a double (possibly triple as DC card a fee on top of the duplicated fee) cash withdrawal fee.

  10. Worth mentioning that Amex Platinum gets you Star Alliance Silver status thru Shangri-La Jade

    • Or Krisflyer Gold (also Star Alliance) with just three one-way flights on Singapore Airlines in four months any class. So if you time it right can be pretty good. I am planning to do this next year after my ANA Platinum status from IHG promo expires end of March.

    • ….and Star Alliance Silver gets you nothing

  11. Lady London says:

    Only flown TK in Y. Food was great, and nice clean plane not overcrowded. I’d happily fly them again.

    I’ve seen comments that TK is not so helpful in the case of irrops though. Does anyone know do TK count as an EU airline for EU261? if not then any irrops from outside the EU on TK, would not receive EU261 protection

    • Turkey is not in the EU.

      Flights on airlines based in Turkey, and to/from airports in Turkey, are covered by Havayolu İle Seyahat Eden Yolcuların Haklarına Dair Yönetmelik (Regulation on Air Passenger Rights), which is remarkably similar to EC261/2004, but not exactly the same.

  12. Lady London says:

    @Liz how did you find BNE to fly into? would you choose it over SYD MEL?

    • We like to fly to BNE as my brother and sister both live close by. We flew BA EDI-LHR-SIN in F and stopped for 5 days in SIN. Always wanted to fly business with Singapore Airlines so this was a good opportunity to try it and it was great! We did fly back from Sydney in CW as we managed to get 2 seats with BA and used our 241. Plan B was BNE to HKG on Cathay if we didn’t manage to get the BA seats from SYD. Next time will def go back via HKG. We also flew economy from BNE to MEL and then out to Alice Springs and back to BNE for £94 + Avios with Qantas – saving about £1000! So BNE is our airport of choice just because family live there.

      • Flying out of BNE twice domestically, once to MEL and then to SYD there is no lounge for Priorty Pass. My sister and BIL were able to come through security with us to the gate. We went to one of the restaurants and ordered 4 big breakfasts, drinks, 4 bottles of waters and 4 banana breads and spent the full $144 using Priorty Pass – we did that twice! Brilliant value!

  13. Lady London says:

    Thanks @Liz. I like the sound of that.

    It would be nice to get some idea of Priority Pass’s strategy going forward, given the reports on here about the number of times Priority Pass holders are being denied entry to Priorty Pass lounges.

    • Shoestring says:

      Surely they will just encourage Lounge operators to follow the No1 reservation system, ie reserve ahead for £5 to guarantee entry. £5 is actually perfectly reasonable, in the current climate of lounges getting busier & busier & turning cardholders away because of prior reservations by others (incl airlines), why wouldn’t you pay £5?

      Is it just No1 where you can do that at the moment?

      • Sure, if I can charge it back to Amex against the £450 cost of Platinum that hasn’t been accordingly reduced, it’s reasonable.

        • Shoestring says:

          Odd you see it that way. 5 referrals = £900 in points so pays your sub with £450 on top for you. PP lounge access is therefore free, so £5 guaranteed entry/ reservation is chickenfeed.

      • Lady London says:

        So you’re viewing the £5 as a kind of a “Priority Pass Supplement”? And Priority Pass lets the lounge operators keep that, as a kind of incentive to keep on taking Priority Pass? I know that reflects what’s happening. I’m just unsure if it reflects Priority Pass’s strategy. It’s just that some numbers for Priority Pass don’t seem to add up at the moment. I am wondering if Priority Pass will feel a need to change strategy, or not.

        • This is how I see it. Priority Pass pays less than a normal paying customer pays. The £5 is actually a way of levelling the field – otherwise, if there are only a handful of spots before they hit capacity, it makes sense to sell to walk-ups and earn more.

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