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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)

  • Bft01 says:

    We have Barclays Blue Rewards they take a monthly fee of £4.00 but give it back to you with an additional £3.00 credit, this makes no sense at all as to why they charge you a few then give it back to you.

    • John says:

      Because if you don’t fulfill the criteria every month you pay the fee rather than just getting nothing

  • Bft01 says:

    We have Barclays Blue Rewards they take a monthly fee of £4.00 but give it back to you with an additional £3.00 credit, this makes no sense at all as to why they charge you a fee then give it back to you.

  • Genghis says:

    We downgraded to Lite when they decreased the 123 rate down to 0.6%. Now they’re increasing the Lite fee to £2. We only earn about £2.50 in CB which will decline with the next changes, so considering downgrading to a normal current account.

    • the_real_a says:

      I downgraded to the regular free account. You maintain your account/sort number and everything remains in place (direct debits, saved payees etc). Very easy, but does involve a trip into a branch.

      • MarkH says:

        I also moved from 1-2-3 to Lite and now to free account. The amount kept in the account has also drastically reduced as a result.

        I was able to switch online. Log into online banking and click Upgrade Account on the right hand side I think and then follow the screens to the account you want and enter your current account and sort codes.

        Took less than 5 mins.

        • the_real_a says:

          Good to hear you can now do this online!

        • Genghis says:

          +1 for doing the move online. I used to keep the full £20k in the account as interest rate was decent. Now keep just a few k to manage day to day costs.

    • PJJ says:

      Club Lloyds now offering £100 incentive to switch if you don’t already have it Genghis

      • Nick_C says:

        The Club Lloyds switching incentive applies to existing CL customers as well!

        The MSE article is wrong. It says;

        “”To get bonus: Request a switch to a new Club Lloyds account by 9 November 2020
        Who’s eligible for offer: Anyone switching to a new Club Lloyds account”

        But the switch bonus is also available for any current CL customers who switch another account to Lloyds.

      • Genghis says:

        Thanks. I actually quite like Santander. I’d make my HSBC Premier my main day-to-day account but for the (unnecessary) £10k daily limit on faster payments

        • Rob says:

          Yes, that’s a pain. Limit is higher on website – £10k is just the app limit.

          • Michael C says:

            What’s the website limit, Rob? So how do you do things like make tax payments – just through a “non-fast” payment?

          • Rob says:

            I now pay tax in weekly chunks via my Miles and More card!

            The big issue is when moving £ between savings accounts as the old provider insists on sending it to HSBC and not the new bank. I either end up moving it over a number of days or visit a branch (with 1m pieces of ID ….)

  • Rob says:

    Thanks. Website is not clear on that.

  • Genghis says:

    No cap.

  • Colin JE says:

    For those folk who downgraded to Santander 123 lite: did any of you get and keep the Elite MasterCard?
    I got invited to get the Select account a year or so ago (didn’t meet the criteria at all) but have since downgraded to lite. The elite credit card is tempting though. Is there any travel insurance with it?

    • DJ says:

      I’m pretty sure the World Elite card from Santander gives you discounts on travel insurance, but it does not come with it.

  • Spk says:

    The new Barclays rewards card gives 0.25% cash back and no fee

  • Alex says:

    Any suggestions for euro account to pay ulility bill in holiday home in Italy ?

    Trying to avoid opening account locally there as will only use it for those purpose

    • DJ says:

      Starling has an euro account. I have been using for that purpose as well.

    • Rob says:

      Get Revolut or a a similar product which will allow you to hold multiple currencies on one card (and not charge fees for moving money between them) and can also do bank transfers.