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

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I wanted to take 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.

At the moment, there is a special sign-up bonus of 10,000 Miles & More miles on the Lufthansa Miles & More payment cards which makes this topic especially pertinent.  It will run until the end of the year – full details in our Miles & More credit card review here.

The merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into Marriott Bonvoy this year means that there are also new Star Alliance airline partners who you can access via the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.

Who are the members of Star Alliance?

The bulk of major global airlines have formed three alliances – oneworld (which includes British Airways), Star Alliance and SkyTeam.

Star Alliance is the largest of the three, both in terms of member airlines (26) and destinations serviced (almost 1,300).  This means that it can be handy to have access to miles in a Star Alliance frequent flyer programme in order to redeem across these carriers.

The full Star Alliance member list is: Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels, Copa, Croatia, EgyptAir, Ethopian, EVA, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzen, Singapore, South African, SWISS, TAP, Thai, Turkish and United.

Star Alliance aircraft

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 when travelling, 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 until the end of 2019, which is double the usual bonus of 5,000 miles.

My full review of the Miles & More Global Traveller Card is here.

Miles and more uk credit card

Star Alliance members who are American Express Membership Rewards partners

You can collect with the following Star Alliance 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‘ for details.

Looking at the Amex Membership Rewards catalogue you see the following Star Alliance airlines:

    • 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 Amex Gold 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 AirlinesHere is my Amex Platinum 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 Amex Rewards review.

Star Alliance miles via American Express

Star Alliance members who are Starwood Preferred Guest American Express partners:

The Starwood 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 (currently suspended)
    • 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

Best Star Alliance credit card if you live in the UK

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 (currently suspended), 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) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card is probably 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 good option if you have a lot of non-American Express spending and so cannot make full use of the SPG American Express.  I have one of these cards and use it heavily.  The current bonus of 10,000 Miles & More miles means that the first year fee is covered.

Earning 1.25 miles per £1 on the Miles & More 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 return Business Class flight from the UK to the Middle East on Star Alliance requires 70,000 Miles & More miles but just 58,000 Singapore Airlines miles (remember that BA wants 120,000 Avios on a peak date!)  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.  On the other hand, Lufthansa has a 25% discount for children on Lufthansa Group airlines, so perhaps it is the better option ….. there is rarely an easy answer.

Unless you want SAS or Singapore Airlines miles, where Amex Gold is preferable due to the free first year, the £75 SPG American Express is probably your best choice for Star Alliance miles.  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 Marriott 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. I’m currently in the US, and chatted with an AMEX sales agent in the airport a couple of days ago – the bonus miles sign-up are extraordinary, with ongoing perks way better than UK equivalents. 80,000 delta miles and sky club membership on the best of the fee-paying delta Amex’s, plus numerous other bits n bobs…
    I assume their interchange commissions are higher than the EU imposed limits, allowing better customer benefits… And their tighter once-only bonuses would require careful strategy to time with the best offers, but even so….

    • And the US cards have no FX charges!

    • guesswho2000 says:

      I know right, I’d do (not quite, but nearly) anything for the Hilton Aspire Amex they get over there!

      • I have that card (via amex global transfer), its great, but I’m actually finding I dont want to stay in hiltons when im travelling, and prefer the marriott hotels much more, specifically the ex spg ones.

        The hilton redemption rate is also terrible. I have 555,000 hilton points are my last two trips I wanted to stay (munich over oktoberfest, and conrad osaka) I dont have enough points…!

        The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card doesnt come with top status there until you’ve spent $75k in a year, which wont be doable since I dont live there, so im stuck with hilton…

        I need a decent uk Marriott card!

        obviously far superior to uk hilton cards, but I feel like im trying to make a square peg fit a round hole with it.

        • I’m due, barring anything unexpected, to move to the US next month so I’ve been looking at which Amex to get via Global Transfer. The consensus on FT seems to be that it’s a bad idea getting the US Platinum for credit score reasons (to do with it being a charge card). It feels like a toss-up between the Hilton and Delta cards; all things being equal I think I’d find Delta miles more useful but when I think about the routes I’m likely to be flying I think I’m more likely to be using United or American.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Did you get it via Global Transfer as a resident, or some other way? I primarily want it for the Diamond status without having to worry about requal, as it now looks like I’ll be Gold after next year.

          The UK Hilton card is all I’ve got now that the Aussie one has been killed. It’s better than nothing, though.

    • This is nothing new tbh.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’ve had a look at Amex US cards market, looking at airline cards, and they’re a lot better than what we get offered here in the UK. It’s clearly hard to know the credit card market in the US without being able to try any of their cards on offer over there

  2. Harry T says:

    Can you load Revolut with the Miles and More MasterCard? If so, what are the limits?

  3. For the HSBC Premier. I do a zero hours job but have 50k sitting in an ISA and I qualify. So I would say tough income OR savings requirement.

  4. Still miss BMI. Right up to the very end it was our corporate policy to always use BMI. It came with a negotiated discount so all staff could get domestic returns in economy for £80 as long as a seat was available to sell. Then there was the Friday Fifties Club. BMI staff walking the check in queue waving £50s (or £100 vouchers) for a delayed or next morning departure.

    I had a good few trips to Canada with the points I earnt.

  5. Any chance of any promos on the Lufthansa cc with a higher sign up bonus or is 10k historically been the highest?

  6. Presumably no news on an Emirates, hotels.com or Easyjet credit card Rob, otherwise something would have been said

  7. IIRC you did an article about Star Alliance CC/miles for UK residents already this year. Obviously you cover oneworld extensively because of BA, as this is a UK based website.

    But why not do the same articles for SkyTeam? We have 2 major SkyTeam members on our doorstep (AF and KL), the latter very useful for people outside of London (e.g. BHX, BRS, CWL, MME, HUY, NWI) to fly via the AMS hub. It would be very useful

    From a Flying Blue Platinum member / UK resident. No flights/status with oneworld or Star Alliance.

    • We could do, I agree. We have done versions of this article annually for six years without ever doing a SkyTeam version, albeit it will be a lot shorter.

      • This was the other Star Alliance article I was recalling: https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/07/23/what-is-the-best-star-alliance-frequent-flyer-programme-for-you-2/

        I hope you do write equivalent articles for SkyTeam and give fair(ish) coverage of the various airlines: not just 99% about Delta since they are US and linked to Virgin Atlantic. Personally, I have not flown with DL since the ’90s (never flown with VS) but flown many times with KL,AF,AZ,KE,MF,CI,VN,GA (I’m always heading eastbound from the UK).

        Even though SkyTeam articles might be shorter, they will still be very useful to, I expect, quite a few readers here.

        • I spoke recently to someone from Romania who lives in the US and often flies home on Aeroflot via Moscow. Apparently, SU runs some aggressive transit deals via Moscow which are very competitive, give you a decent seat and service on one of the newest fleets in the world and earns you a decent amount of SkyTeam miles. Two colleagues recently flew with SU from London to Japan and Armenia respectively – definitely SkyTeam is worth an article or two. And not only AF/KL/DL stuff

  8. The 10K points you get with Miles and More do these class as Award Miles or Stats Miles?

    I need just over 10K points to achieve Senator so trying to work of worth paying the £79 for this as a one off

  9. I will be flying from Melbourne to london 3 times a year please tell me what credit card to use for my flights I will be using thai airlines because after flying international for 20 years they really are the best thanks

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