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Review: Is the Bank of Ireland Avios credit card from Aer Lingus AerClub worth the fee?

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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.

Aer Lingus AerClub credit card review

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

review aer lingus aerclub avios credit card bank of ireland

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 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.)

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.  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.

review aer lingus aerclub avios credit card bank of ireland

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.

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, 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.)

Comments (19)

  • Callum says:

    I remember getting excited by my first airline credit card offering “free flights” (Flybe). Availability was dreadful, and when I could find flights I’d want the “taxes, fees and charges” were somehow generally higher than the cash ticket price.

    I wonder how much value you can actually get from these ones. The card seems more reputable so I’m sure it won’t be “negative value” (though a quick search found a few flights where Aer Lingus fees alone were higher than the BA cash price), but will it be more than a few euros?

  • jkay86 says:

    A poor product in an unexciting credit card market. Bank of Ireland Premier account holders already get 2 entries per year to DAA-operated lounges in DUB/ORK/SNN using the black debit card.

    • jkay86 says:

      Edit: SNN is not run by DAA but that’s how the T&Cs are worded on the BOI website

  • guesswho2000 says:

    OT, but since Amex don’t (afaik) operate in Ireland directly, and the ICC now excludes EU, is there any way for Irish residents to procure an Amex (not counting any they hold in other countries)?

  • Jonathan says:

    @guesswho
    I’m an Irish resident and have the Amex ICC plat. The application was quick and easy although it was three or four years ago so things may have changed.

    • Declan says:

      You must have had that Amex card before you moved to Ireland, as Amex do not accept applications from anyone living in Ireland for any of their cards, and the ICC is not available to any resident of the EU. If you did manage to get the card as an Irish resident, can you share how please?

      • guesswho2000 says:

        I think based on their response and my recollection that Amex ICC used to be available to EU residents – I’m pretty sure they only used to ban US/SG residents from taking it out.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Interesting. I think it is a recent-ish change to the ICC, as I don’t remember the EU restriction before (I’m sure it used to be no US/Singapore residents only).

  • Declan says:

    I have this card, and the reason is there is quite literally no alternative and no competition. No other bank or card company offer any sort of a reward card. Many banks offer a cash-back reward on their debit/credit cards, but with an equally terrible earning rate. Aer Lingus and BOI know this, hence the measly offering in terms of rewards. I view the fee as the cost of my travel insurace as it is only a few euros more than I have paid for annual multi-trip travel insurance for 2 over the last few years. I view the small number of Avios, the ‘free’ flights and the airport benefits as an added perk and nothing more.

    Some people have reported managing to get good value for the ‘free’ flights to sun destinations in summer when prices are high. But in general, you don’t save much on the cost. In fact, some people have reported that availing of the reward has cost them money, as if they want to add checked-in baggage to their booking they have to do so over the phone as it is not a web booking and the cost is €10 more expensive per bag.

    What’s exceptionally annoying is that I applied for the card in January this year. I made some travel bookings and qualified for the ‘free’ flights in February and my reward was valid for 12 months. I was planning to use them in June but clearly that didn’t happen. Just yesterday Aer Lingus emailed to say that reward validity has been extended for 6 months for those who qualified for their rewards on or after 01 March. As I qualified in February I still need to use my ‘free’ flights by February 2021 or lose them. However, someone who qualified just a few days after me has until August 2021 to use them. I fail to see the sense in that and it’s just angered me more. Also, seeing as international travel continues to be advised against by the Irish government my travel insurance (aka my annual fee) is worth nothing to me. Finally, as the travel bookings I made in January were cancelled and refunded to my card I had a minus balance for 2 months and earned zero Avios. Getting this card in 2020 was a serious mistake.

  • AJA says:

    Well this appears to be a reason, among many others, to be grateful I don’t live in Ireland. What a pathetic offering.

    • A says:

      do tell us about the many other reasons you wouldn’t want to live in Ireland ?

  • guesswho2000 says:

    The situation with CCs in Ireland intrigues me, especially the absence of Amex, so I spent five seconds on Google and this is worth a read for interest if nothing more. It’s from a few years ago, but highlights how difficult it seems to be to get credit cards there.
    https://flameeyes.blog/2014/09/26/i-finally-have-my-first-irish-credit-card-here-s-why/

    I was aware of the stamp duty as I used to have an Ulster Bank account (although I had a UK address on the account, so never actually paid it), but the lack of options and unwillingness of banks to issue cards seems really bizarre, although the UK’s always been an outlier in Europe in how prolific credit card use is.

    Years ago I remember great issues using cards in some places in Europe (NL in particular sticks in my mind), even for semi-substantial sums (talking EURx00 on tickets for things, for example, not simply a can of Coke from a convenience store). Obviously the usual suspects like hotels and most restaurants accepted them.

    • Roy says:

      The problems of getting a credit card as a newly arrived immigrant – with no credit history in the country – are hardly unique to Ireland, though. Amex is the usual workaround for this – as they will take into account your existing history with them – but obviously not a solution in this case since not available in Ireland.

    • Declan says:

      That article makes reference to the Tesco credit card, which I too used to have. Unlike in the U.K. Tesco points could not be converted to Avios. Tesco withdrew from the Irish credit card market in 2017 and transferred holders to a specific Avantcard card which offers paltry rewards for shopping at Tesco and is not open to new applicants.

    • ADS says:

      That article is from almost 6 years ago. Things may have changed somewhat since then!

    • John says:

      Dunno if you’ve been in Australia that long, but in Australia before the GST came in, every transaction on a bank account was taxed by your state government.

    • Sam S says:

      I’m an Irish resident and I can confirm that getting a credit card with a decent credit limit is a nightmare. When I helped my father apply for a credit card they offered him a credit limit of 1,500. He was then employed for 31 years in a government job with no debt. We tried phone calls and emails and snail mail to get the limit raised to what he would need for a 3 week USA trip. We tried to visit the branch but they wouldn’t talk to us on the day. Our snail mail raised his limit to 2,700 and then we gave up.

      I have a card with a 3,000 Euro limit. I lived in the US and retain my US credit cards as the Irish banks are nightmares.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    Do amex have any Irish offering?