In early 2019, Ireland got its first official Avios credit card. This was the Aer Credit Card, offered by Bank of Ireland and earning Avios in Aer Lingus AerClub. I want to review it today.
The rewards credit card market in Ireland was always 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. This route went away in April 2019, however, leaving the ‘official’ Avios card as the only route to earning points.
Here is the official website for the card.
As you can see from the image above, it looks very smart.
The problem is the fees:
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:
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 Lufthansa Miles & More UK credit card (£79), for example, which offers 1.25 miles per £1 you spend. The free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard earns 0.75 miles per £1. By comparison, 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.)
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. The insured limits appear to be low but it does cover you up to the age of 80. Bank of Ireland claims that the policy is ‘worth’ €158 because it is comparable to Bank of Ireland Annual Multi Trip Silver worldwide travel insurance. I am sure that comparable cover could be found for substantially less – or strong cover for the same sum.
Note that there is no sign-up bonus.
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 – 6 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:
You will be asked to complete a booking request form and send this to Aer Lingus through the Aer Credit Card Portal. On the booking request form you tell us your preferred departure airport, destinations and travel dates. You must also select a time for Aer Lingus to contact you on your booking request.
When Aer Lingus receives a completed booking request form from you, an Aer Lingus agent will contact you within the period indicated by Aer Lingus for you to complete your booking. If Aer Lingus are unable to contact you over a reasonable period, please check your email, as you may need to submit a new booking request form.
Free Fares will be allocated by Aer Lingus on a first come, first serve basis upon successful contact with you.
There is no guarantee that your preferred destinations and/or travels dates will be available. If your preferred destinations and/or travel dates are not available, an Aer Lingus agent will discuss alternatives with you which you may choose to book as a Free Fare.
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.
It is also worth noting that if you cancel your free flights, you CANNOT rebook. The voucher is lost.
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.
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, except for the pre-booking requirement)
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.
If you live in Ireland, you can find out more, and apply, on the Bank of Ireland website here.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)