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MBNA adding cashback rewards to its credit cards

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Many HfP readers have an MBNA credit card, primarily the (not available to the general public) Horizon card:

For the benefit of new readers, MBNA used to dominate the ‘air miles’ credit card market in the UK. At its peak, it issued cards for:

  • American
  • bmi British Midland (many versions!)
  • Emirates (x 2 versions)
  • Etihad
  • Lufthansa
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic (x 2 versions)

With the introduction of the cap on interchange fees, MBNA decided to withdraw from the affinity market and put itself up for sale, eventually being purchased by Lloyds Bank.

MBNA Smart Rewards

Most people who held one of these cards were offered something called the Horizon card. This is, frankly, an amazingly good piece of plastic:

  • It’s a Visa card
  • which gives 0.5% cashback
  • and which has no foreign exchange fees

You don’t earn any points, but for non-UK spending it is a great product.

MBNA is now introducing Amex-style cashback rewards

MBNA is about to launch ‘Smart Rewards’. There is a holding page here on their website and a FAQ here.

All cardholders will see potential ‘Smart Rewards’ offers as long as they are registered for online card servicing.

As with Amex, you need to manually opt in to each offer that you think may interest you.

Cashback will be added to your card balance once per month. You will be able to see ‘pending’ payments online so you will know that an offer has successfully triggered.

The companies shown as typical of the partners who will be involved are:

  • Co-Op
  • LNER trains
  • Hilton
  • Costa Coffee

To quote:

If you’d like shopping to be a little more rewarding, MBNA Smart Rewards could be the perfect fit:

  • Browse available offers and pick out the ones which suit you best.
  • Keep track of the cashback you’ve earned in the Smart Rewards hub.
  • Coming to Online Card Services soon, and launching on our app in early 2021.

It’s the cherry on top of that ice cream sundae… an extra banana in the bunch. Up to 15% cashback on the things you buy regularly soon adds up, but you might also be inspired to try something new.

At present, we don’t know any more. It is good to see Lloyds Bank extending this scheme, which is already available via some of its other brands, to MBNA.

The key point at present is that, if you were thinking of cancelling a legacy MBNA credit card for any reason, you may want to hold on.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

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You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 bonus points (SPECIAL OFFER TO 2ND OCTOBER) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (51)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • T says:

    Maybe being picky here but MBNA was a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America and thus perhaps BofA put it up for sale. They also unloaded MBNA Canada earlier.

    • RussellH says:

      I had an Amazon branded M/Card issued by MBNA for a few months many years ago – a bribe of £15 to take it out.
      For some reason or other the statements, though not the card, were branded BofA.

  • Doug M says:

    @Rob. When you say offers are paid for by merchants, it interests me with the Morrison’s one. What benefit do M see subsidising 3rd party gift cards? Are the number of people doing this so small it doesn’t matter to them, they break even make a small amount anyway, or ?
    Assuming M fund the cash back, the Virgin miles and their own points the cost could be 18.5%, seems an expensive way of driving sales at Waitrose and Amazon.

    • Rob says:

      M isn’t expecting you to double up.

      • Doug M says:

        Poor use of data if after multiple repeats they’re not learning people do.

    • Andrew says:

      Don’t forget that Gift Cards aren’t valued at face value.

      It’s why insurance companies are so desperate for you to take an Argos or H Samuel voucher when you make a claim. Check your corporate perks offers as well. You’ll find your Starbucks cards sold at £90 per £100, Sainsbury’s sold at £95 per £100 and so forth.

      Even the people who just go in for a £50 Amazon voucher will probably take a trolley and do their week’s grocery shopping whilst they are in there anyway.

      • Doug M says:

        I’m not so sure. I think those driven to exploit offers like this will buy only what they want from that store.
        Starbucks is not a proper comparison, high fixed cost, additional sales cost next to nothing, you’re paying for branding they can easily dump 10% offers, not true of supermarkets on tight margins. I get your point, but I still suspect Morrison’s are screwing up here with HfP types dropping £1K upwards on gift cards to use elsewhere and stacking multiple offers.
        Regardless long may they repeat it.

        • memesweeper says:

          Morrissons will have a decent margin on gift cards, hence the prominent placement by the tills.

          • Rob says:

            I think it’s a combination of profit per square metre of selling space and the minimal amount of working capital required (although supermarkets tend to have negative working capital anyway, eg they sell stuff before they’ve paid for it).

          • Doug M says:

            OK, the selling space makes a lot of sense. Having worked for a supplier to JLP they’re not exactly angels to the supply chain either.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            They’re hugely cash generative, but margins will vary. Amazon won’t be selling them for less than 95p in the £

  • The Urbanite says:

    No limit as far as I know!

  • RussellH says:

    I have always got the impression that M/Card FX rates are better than Visa rates, but does the 0.5% rebate on Horizon Visa more than compensate for the better FX rate on M/Card?

    • The real John says:

      Depends on how the spot rate moves during the day plus the differential spending between GBP cardholders paying in a foreign currency and foreign cardholders paying in GBP

  • guesswho2000 says:

    I would assume that they’re not, other than from those who use the cards for the balance/money transfers they permanently offer. They were introduced to retain the customer base they’d lose if they simply swapped us all on to no rewards cards.

    • 747_Brat says:

      Makes sense, but many of those “retained” customers simply threw this card in the drawer. But I am sure that retained customer base might have looked pretty on paper, when MBNA sold itself to LBG.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Fairly sure (rightly or wrongly) that someone will have clarified customers with ‘active’

    • James. says:

      Their BT and MT offers are rubbish. Not as good as what MBNA used to offer when they owned the market. For anyone willing to be charged a 3-4% fee hats off to you. I will rather go for the 0-2% fee option with other lenders.

  • mark2 says:

    I seem to remember that LBG paid £1.9 billion for MBNA but they seemed to close most of it own.
    Were they perhaps interested in the systems, which were much better than those of Lloyds.

    • Rob says:

      The £1.9bn was almost exactly the same as the MBNA ‘book’. They got the company for virtually nothing, assuming all the debt was repaid.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Well, to be fair if they ever expected to have it all repaid they’d have been operating at lower margins than 20%+ interest!

        But BofA just wanted out, as I understood it – much As capital one all but exited the market overnight

  • Charlieface says:

    Wasn’t the Horizon card a replacement also for the excellent BMI card? I remember trying to apply for it about 3 days after it was pulled back in 2012 (grrr…)

  • Yu says:

    Does anyone knows if this card still works with bendy to Ernie?
    Also has anyone try to top up R card with it recently? Does it charge any fee?
    Many Thanks

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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