EXCLUSIVE: Bank of Ireland to launch an Avios credit card – but is it worth the fee?

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This is our preview of the “so new it’s not even launched yet” Aer Credit Card, offered by Bank of Ireland and earning Avios in Aer Lingus AerClub.

The rewards credit card market in Ireland is pretty thin, not helped by a €30 annual tax imposed by the Government on each credit card you own.

Historically the only way for our Irish readers to earn Avios via an Irish credit card was to earn SuperValu shopping points via a Bank of Ireland personal credit card.  You could convert the SuperValu points to Avios in Aer Lingus AerClub.  The rate was a stinker – you got 1 point for every €10 spent.  The effective rate has got worse over the last couple of years as the transfer bonuses from SuperValu to Avios have shrunk.

However ….. Ireland is about to get its first Avios / AerClub credit card, the Aer Credit Card.  The issuer is Bank of Ireland.

There is no website yet as the card has yet to launch.  I would expect to see it on Monday.  The link should be here – if it’s not live it will divert to the general Bank of Ireland personal banking site.

Aer Credit Card for Aer Lingus and Bank of Ireland

As you can see from the image above, it looks very smart.

Let’s start with the fees, which are a bit steep in my view:

Monthly fee of €7.99

Government Stamp Duty of €30 annually

Total annual cost is €125.88

Whilst this card does not fall under FCA guidelines, let’s still do the usual disclaimers:

Interest rate on purchases: 16.12% variable

Indicative interest rate including annual fee:  26.6% variable

Annual income requirement: €16,000

Supplementary cardholders are allowed

Existing Bank of Ireland credit card holders can add this on top of any existing card

What benefits does the Aer Credit Card offer?

This is where the card gets interesting.  I have been saying for a long time – in conference speeches as well as via HFP – that co-brand credit cards need to offer more than just points and miles, because the 0.3% cap on interchange fees makes points and miles difficult to afford.

Aer Lingus has grasped the nettle.  What you have is an airline card which is very low of mileage earning but strong on benefits.

This is what you get:

Avios benefits:

1 Avios for every €4 you spend on the card

1 Avios for every €1 you spend with Aer Lingus

1 Avios per €4 is exceptionally weak for a card which carries an annual fee if you compare it to the UK market.  The fee is higher than the new Lufthansa Miles & More UK credit card (£79) which offers 1.25 miles per £1 you spend.  The Aer Lingus card is offering 0.25 miles per €1.

(Of course, with few alternative options in Ireland it isn’t necessarily fair to compare this card to UK alternatives.  I make the point purely to show that Bank of Ireland hasn’t tried very hard and customers should feel short-changed.)

Non-Avios benefits:

2 free Aer Lingus tickets EVERY YEAR for spending €5,000 on the card.  You receive two free tickets to any European Aer Lingus destination from Dublin, Cork, Shannon or Belfast.  You need to pay taxes, fees and charges.  The vouchers are triggered as soon as you hit €5,000 and are valid for 12 months.  

2 Fast Track & Priority Boarding passes every year when travelling on Aer Lingus.  Nice to have, but not hugely valuable.

2 Lounge Passes.  This is more like it.  Each year you will get two lounge passes to use at Dublin, Cork, Shannon or Belfast.  This is worth €40+.

Worldwide multi-trip travel insurance including winter sports.  ‘Free’ travel insurance tends to vary from very good (Amex Platinum, Barclays Travel Pack) to pretty useless.  Having looked at the policy document, the insured limits are VERY low – eg €250 maximum coverage per item lost or stolen, €50 for an 8+ hour travel delay, €150 per party for delayed baggage, a pitiful €3200 should your child under 12 be killed – but it does cover you up to the age of 80.  You can download the policy document here.

Note that there is no sign-up bonus.

Aer Credit Card

Redeeming your free flights

Interestingly, the small print implies that the free tickets are NOT taken from Avios reward availability.  Aer Lingus appears to be making two tickets per short-haul flight available for credit card holders.

Beware of black out dates where availability will be ‘restricted’:

  • 24 June – 31 August (Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays)
  • 20 December – 06 January
  • February/October mid term breaks (Saturday/Sunday)
  • Easter (Good Friday – Easter Monday)
  • Six Nations Rugby matches (flights to the destination of the matches may not be available on the day of the match and 2 days either side of it)
  • Other Irish bank holiday weekends (Friday/Saturday/Monday)

Don’t get carried away by the apparent value here because ‘taxes, fees and charges’ make up the bulk of the cost of short haul flights.  A further snag is that you need to book at least 30 days before travel which further restricts your ability to make a substantial saving on a pricey last minute deal.

Booking your free flights looks messy …..

You cannot book your free flights online.  This is the process:

“Log in to the Aer Credit Card portal. Click on the My Fares tab to complete the 2 Free Return Fares request form. Given travel restrictions we’ve outlined above, make sure you have a few preferred dates to suggest when completing the request form. Once you complete the form, you will receive a call back from an Aer Lingus representative within 24 hours (excluding weekends and bank holidays).”

This sounds like a LOT of trouble to book a ‘free’ flight when the saving, realistically, is unlikely to be more than €10-€20 per person given that all taxes and charges are still due.

Even using the free lounge passes and fast track / priority boarding passes is complex.   You can’t just turn up with a voucher – you need to pre-book online.

Conclusion

I don’t know enough about the Irish credit card market to put this card in context.  As the €30 stamp duty must be paid on any credit card, you should arguably not include this in the annual fee calculations if you get this card to replace another one.  On that basis, you are paying €95 for:

travel insurance which looks like it could easily leave you out of pocket due to low limits

two free flights per year but which look fiddly to redeem and which may not end up substantially cheaper than cash tickets

two lounge passes (no complaints there!)

two fast track and priority boarding passes (no complaints there!)

a modest – bordering on poor – Avios earning rate on your spending

You would need to do the maths to see how this compares with any other Irish credit card you currently have.  You should be able to recoup the value of the annual fee but that is not exactly a great recommendation.

My personal rule of thumb is that the benefits I receive from a paid credit should be worth 2-3x the annual fee (including the value of the miles I earn over and above what a free credit card would get me).  I don’t see that happening here for the majority of people.

The Aer Credit Card will be available very soon via Bank of Ireland for residents of the Irish Republic.

(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.)

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Comments

  1. Don’t live in Ireland, but I’m planning to go to Dublin in the spring. Useful info that amex isn’t accepted widely. Thank you.

    On the article itself, it was really interesting. I just like reading about credit card offers in different countries (although I do get jealous of the insane range of offers/cards that Americans have access to!)

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Not my experience when I visited. Widely accepted but most had to swipe it rather than chip and pin

    • Always worth asking, use mine a lot over there.

      • Ah ok. There does seems to be a bit of a debate on travel forums as to how widely accepted amex is! Thanks for the clarification both. Not really a problem for me, as I’ll just use a Tandem cc and get cash back and 0% fx fees!

  2. The Irish market is woefully uncompetitive. Most banks have a monthly fee for a basic current account AND fees per transaction. This card needs to be seen in that context.

    Would the Iberia Icon card not be a decent option for anyone who could get one? I think a Spanish address is necessary and payments within the Euro area should be charged at the same as domestic bank transfers.

    But if you had a reasonable grasp of Spanish and an address there, that’s the card I’d be looking at.

    https://www.iberiacards.es/icon/

  3. OT Amex is restricting the use of their Centurion Lounges for Platinum Card holders. One biggie is that you’ll no-longer be able to access the lounges at your final destination.

    • Yeah they seemed to be swamped by customers, not surprising given the state/cost of many US lounges! Limited to 3h prior to departure for entry now too.

  4. Anyone not seeing the resemblance between the card image on this card and the old Virgin Arlantic MBNA cards.

    • Now you mention it ….

      I also just realised that Google searches for Aer credit card throw up results discussing the AER interest rate!

  5. Michael says:

    Can I just bring the comments back to the Irish question

    FWIW, Here is my tuppence worth …

    This card will only be a success for those who are not “Travel Credit Card savvy”. They will view it as a means of collecting avios

    Please allow me clarify a few things about the Irish CC market

    The Irish Government charges a tax of €30 ( US$35 or UK£27 ) per card, NOT per account

    When using an Irish Credit card abroad, my bank charges the bank rate conversion PLUS a currency conversion fee

    Most banks charge transaction fees

    The transfer rate to avios is below what I would expect

    The “Free” Aer Lingus tickets are without Taxes & Charges which usually are the big issue

    As best I am aware, no other bank in Ireland has a Travel Credit Card that accrues miles, so in effect, there is no competition

    I have tried over the years to get a card from any other European Bank, but have always been declined because I do not live in the country of issuing bank

    Overall, the Irish consumer is being screwed by both banks & Government

  6. Michael says:

    Interesting to note, that the new card and application details were online on the link yesterday Monday 21st January 2019, but are not available on the link today

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