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

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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.

The merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into Marriott Bonvoy means that there are new airline partners who you can access via the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.  We have also just seen the launch of a new Lufthansa card in the UK.

This article was updated on 1st September 2019.

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.

All of these cards carry a 3% foreign exchange fee when used abroad.  If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  It doesn’t earn miles, but this card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

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.  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 10,000 points – this gets you 10,000 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 5,000 points – this gets you 5,000 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 merged Marriott Bonvoy loyalty scheme, covering 30 hotel brands.  You can convert Marriott Bonvoy 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 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

These are the Star Alliance members which are Marriott Bonvoy 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.

(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.)

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.

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Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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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