Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Get airport lounge access with the Santander World Elite Mastercard credit card

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This is our review of the Santander World Elite Mastercard credit card.

Our main credit card focus on Head for Points is, not surprisingly, cards which earn you miles and points when you spend.  There are other cards on the market which offer travel benefits – but don’t offer any points when you spend – and I also like to take a look at those from time to time.

Santander Select is one the least known but offers good value.  The Santander Select current account makes you eligible for a World Elite Mastercard credit card which comes with a chunky fee but also has free airport lounge access included.

Details are here on the Santander website.

I should be clear up front that I don’t find this card as good as the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard which I reviewed here.  This is because the HSBC card has a similar cost (£195 v £180 for Santander) but comes with 40,000 HSBC points (= 20,000 Avios) for getting the card and a further 40,000 HSBC points (= a further 20,000 Avios) for spending £12,000 in your first year.

What is the income requirement for Santander Select?

As with HSBC Premier, you need to open a current account to get the credit card.

Both have high income requirements.  HSBC Premier wants £75,000.  Santander wants roughly £89,000 (or £60,000 if you are self employed) to show £5,000 per month going in to the account.  Reader feedback in the past has suggested that the £5,000 can come from two combined salaries if you have a joint account.

Alteratively, you can put – and keep – £75,000 in any Santander investment, savings or current account

What are the benefits of the Santander World Elite Mastercard?

The Santander Select World Elite Mastercard has a £15 per month fee.   The representative APR is 49.8% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

The key benefits are:

Airport lounge access via LoungeKey for yourself and three supplementary cardholders.  This has an equivalent network to Priority Pass (LoungeKey has over 1,000 lounges) which is not surprising as it is run by the same people who run Priority Pass, Collinson. 

No foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad

0.5% cashback on all spending, capped at £15 per month – so you can offset the monthly card fee if you spend enough

Santander Select World Elite Mastercard review

An interesting catch if you have young kids vs adult kids

You can have up to three additional cards for adult family members or friends free of charge.  ALL of these cards are eligible for free airport lounge access since you only need to show the credit card at the desk – there is no separate LoungeKey card.

If you have adult children, this is arguably a very valuable benefit indeed.  You would get unlimited airport lounge access for four adults for just £15 per month.

However, all guests who go into a lounge with you will be charged £20.  This is bad news if you have children under 18 years who cannot get a supplementary credit card as you cannot avoid paying the £20 guest fee.

How do Santander Select current accounts work?

The Santander World Elite Mastercard is only available to Santander Select current account holders.  Santander Private Banking customers are also eligible.

Santander Select current accounts carry a £5 monthly fee and to qualify for this, you would need:

Income of £89,000 per year gross (because £60,000 net must be paid into the account) unless you are self-employed or otherwise paid gross, in which case a £60,000 salary would be OK – this can come from two people paying in their combined salaries, or

£75,000 of savings or investments with Santander

Unless you are self employed, this is now a stricter target than HSBC Premier requires because HSBC has dropped its income requirement from £100,000 to £75,000.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the £5 per month account fee.  This can easily be offset by two things:

  • You earn interest of 0.6% on balances up to £20,000
  • You earn up to 3% cashback on selected household bills, capped at £5


This card isn’t a no-brainer for anyone.  It is attractive if you have adult children – or indeed want to get your own parents free airport lounge access via supplementary cards.

Whilst you may be tempted to put £3,000 of spending through the card each month to generate £15 cashback to offset the £15 monthly card fee, I don’t recommend that.

It is better to put your £3,000 of spending through another credit card which offers rewards which are worth more than 0.5p per £1 spent and bite the bullet on the £15 Santander fee!

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (January 2021)

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Lounge Club card loaded with two free visits to any Lounge Club lounge – see the list here

The Lounge Club list is slightly shorter than the Priority Pass list.  Additional visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  There is no annual fee in Year 1 and a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (51)

  • GM says:

    It was useful for lounge access, so seems less useful now. I groan when I think of the fee for nothing much. The current account interest was a draw initially, but of course cut when the BoE dropped rates. Any other perks are a bit useless.

    One minor note is that the £5000 needs to be deposited, but doesn’t have to stay. You can transfer out again. Still probably should have gone with HSBC but Santander requirements seemed a bit easier to hit at the time.

  • Michael C says:

    For various uninteresting reasons, I opened both my business and current accounts with Santander when we moved to the UK: they offer me this card literally every couple of weeks, and whenever it’s in person, I mention the exact factors here – no Avios, and no child lounge entry, and all for a fee!

    That said, any recommendations for a business account bank?! All my clients are either in the EU or USA and pay respectively in €/$, converted into GBP, so anyone who knows of a bank with a consistently decent rate would be good. Santander even charges GBP25 to transfer any amount within the EU…

  • Chris L says:

    Does anyone know if the HSBC income requirement can be split across two salaries?

    • Genghis says:

      It can’t.

      • Jimbob says:

        Not officially, but they didn’t ask for proof of income when I applied. I guess, as long as you transfer in £5k per month, they won’t know any better.

  • Neil says:

    You learn something new every day. I didn’t even know this card existed until today and after reading this article, I still don’t understand who would be mad enough to pay for this.

  • jamesj says:

    +1 I think even for the HFP ‘crowd’ this is a pretty poor offering, I think if you’re earning over 90k a year you’d be smart enough to give this a miss.

    • Spk says:

      Tbh, Hfp crowd would be the most demanding ones.

      • cinereus says:

        Could be fooling me with the number of people falling over each other to earn £3 from surveys or a fiver off an Uber ride…

  • Dilbert says:

    Rob, what’s the latest rumours on the Barclays Premier account/ avois sign up last discussed back in Feb?

  • Nick_C says:

    I downgraded my 123 current account to the Lite account a few years ago, but still have “Select” status. The fee on the Lite account is £1 a month, but about to double.

    • John says:

      I got Select by putting £100K into an esaver in 2012 or thereabouts. Took the bulk of the money out shortly after, but I remained select for another 6 or so years. I believe I was only downgraded after my average balance for 12 months was £50 (after they stopped offering me 5% interest on certain amounts of savings)

  • Sina says:

    I have a Private Account with Clydesdale, criteria is easy, just £75k income deposited into the account, No monthly fee, and I get free travel insurance and lounge access (DragonPass).

    • Sam says:

      I just looked this up and it says £25 monthly fee. How does it compare to the HSBC Premier Account with regards to travel insurance and other benefits?

      • Spk says:

        Just 6 lounge visits free!

        • Sina says:

          Yeah sorry you’re right, Double checked and this offer is only for KPMG employees! No monthly fee, Asset Manager and unlimited lounge access.