What credit card should you get if you want to redeem for flights with a Star Alliance airline? Let’s find out.
Who are the members of Star Alliance?
The bulk of major global airlines have formed three alliances – oneworld (which includes British Airways), Star Alliance and SkyTeam.
Star Alliance is the largest of the three, both in terms of member airlines (26) and destinations serviced (almost 1,300). This means that it can be handy to have access to miles in a Star Alliance frequent flyer programme in order to redeem across these carriers.
The full Star Alliance member list is: Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels, Copa, Croatia, EgyptAir, Ethopian, EVA, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzen, Singapore, South African, SWISS, TAP, Thai, Turkish and United.
Picking a UK credit card to earn Star Alliance miles
When bmi British Midland still existed, it was easier to get around the world with airline miles. British Airways was a core member of the oneworld alliance, and bmi British Midland was part of Star Alliance. Between them, you could redeem to pretty much anywhere.
Even better, both schemes allowed one-way redemptions so it was easy to mix and match. bmi also had an insanely cheap redemption chart because, as a primarily short-haul airline, they assumed that no-one would be able to run up high balances. They got that wrong ….
Now that bmi is no more, it is tougher to maintain a Star Alliance mileage balance.
One of the key determinants for me when joining a mileage programme is the ability to earn miles via a credit card. There is often a generous sign-up bonus to be had, and earning via a credit card lets you top up your mileage balance if your flying reduces. A credit card is also a good way to ‘top off’ a mileage programme you intend to abandon after one last redemption.
All of these cards add a 3% foreign exchange fee so you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.
Unfortunately there are no travel rewards cards without a foreign exchange fee. One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than the usual rate) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
Which Star Alliance airlines have their own UK credit card?
It’s a very short answer – none of them.
The only UK card which did allow you to earn Star Alliance miles directly was the Miles & More Global Traveller Card from Lufthansa.
This card is currently suspended to new applications. It was planning to relaunch in late 2021, switching to a Visa card, but I haven’t heard anything from issuer Cornercard for some time. My gut feeling is that it won’t happen but I live in hope.
The old card had an impressive earning rate of 1.25 Miles & More miles per £1 spent which is why it is so badly missed.
Which Star Alliance airlines are Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners?
The easiest way of earning Star Alliance miles indirectly with a UK credit card is by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points.
You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points with, primarily, these five cards:
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
American Express Rewards
The only ‘free for life’ Amex card which earns Membership Rewards Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
Looking at the Amex Membership Rewards catalogue you see the following Star Alliance airlines are transfer partners:
- SAS: 1 mile per 1 Membership Rewards points
- Singapore Airlines: 2 miles per 3 Membership Rewards points
Click the links to our reviews above to learn more about these five cards and their sign-up bonuses.
Which Star Alliance airlines are Marriott Bonvoy American Express transfer partners?
Whilst American Express Membership Rewards points are easy to earn, SAS and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer represent a pretty restricted list of Star Alliance partners.
Your answer is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card.
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express awards points in the Marriott Bonvoy hotel loyalty scheme, covering 30 hotel brands.
You can convert Marriott Bonvoy points to 40 airlines. The transfer rate is nominally 3 : 1, with the credit card earning 2 point per £1. This is increased to 3: 1.25 if you convert 60,000 Bonvoy points at once.
Here are details about the card, which comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Sign-up bonus and earnings rate:
- Get 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend £3,000 within 90 days
- Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent
- Earn 6 points per £1 spent at Marriott hotels
- Points convert at 3:1 into Avios or other airline miles
- 15 elite night credits per year to help you towards higher status
- Free night, up to 25,000 points, when you spend £25,000 per year.
- Upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 in a card year
- Annual fee: £75
Representative 41.6% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 24.5% APR variable.
You will receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.
To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.
You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.
You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.
For clarity, you can still apply for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus. You would still benefit from the 15 elite night credits per year, the free night (up to 25,000 points) for spending £25,000 and Gold Elite status for spending £15,000.
You will receive 15 elite night credits per year in Marriott Bonvoy. The first batch will arrive within 60 days on applying and then in Spring in each subsequent year.
15 elite nights will automatically get you Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and put you nearer to Gold Elite and higher tiers.
If you spend £15,000 per card year, you will be upgraded to Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.
If you spend £25,000 per card year, you will receive a free night voucher, valid at any hotel where reward nights cost up to 25,000 points.
These are the Star Alliance members which are Marriott Bonvoy airline partners. The earning rates shown ignore the 25% bonus if you convert 60,000 Bonvoy points (20,000 miles) at once.
- Aegean: 0.66 miles per £1
- Air Canada: 0.66 miles per £1
- Air New Zealand: 0.66 points per £66
- ANA: 0.66 miles per £1
- Asiana Airlines: 0.66 miles per £1
- Avianca: 0.66 miles per £1
- Copa Airlines: 0.66 miles per £1
- Miles & More: 0.66 miles per £1 (currently suspended)
- Singapore Airlines: 0.66 miles per £1
- South African Airways: 0.66 miles per £1
- TAP Air Portugal: 0.66 miles per £1
- Thai Airways: 0.66 miles per £1
- Turkish Airlines: 0.66 miles per £1
- United Airlines: 0.73 miles per £1
In most cases, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is your best option for earning Star Alliance miles from UK credit card spend.
What other Star Alliance airlines have credit card partnerships?
The IHG Rewards credit card earns a poor 0.2 miles per £1 of credit card spend. Star Alliance partners are: Air China, Air New Zealand (£400 spend = 1 point), ANA, Asiana Airlines, Copa, Miles & More (currently suspended), Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways, United.
HSBC Premier is also an option if you want Singapore Airlines miles. It has an excellent Visa / Mastercard rate (0.5 miles per £1 on the free card, double on the paid card). You need a HSBC Premier current account, however, which has tough income and savings criteria.
There are plenty of options here for anyone wanting to earn Star Alliance miles from a credit card. As far as I can see, the only members with no earning ability are Egyptair, Ethiopian and EVA Air. Shenzhen Airlines uses Air China’s PheonixMiles programme.
Want SAS or Singapore Airlines miles?
The free (in year one) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card is probably your best choice if you want SAS or Singapore Airlines miles. You earn 1 point per £1 and the sign-up bonus is 20,000 Membership Rewards points. The points convert at 1:1 into SAS and 3:2 into Singapore Airlines. You can apply here.
Want Miles & More miles?
The Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard was a great option if you had a lot of non-American Express spending. Unfortunately, as the months go by, it is looking less likely that this card will relaunch.
Want miles with any other Star Alliance airline?
The £75 Marriott Bonvoy American Express is probably your best choice for Star Alliance miles with all other airlines.
The Marriott Bonvoy Amex has a number of partners at a decent conversion rate of 0.825 miles per £1 (assuming you convert in 60,000 Bonvoy point chunks) and may be a good way to hedge your bets about which Star Alliance programme you want to redeem through.
You can, of course, also redeem your points for Marriott hotel rooms if you change your mind about airline miles. My full review of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is here. You can apply here.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Card Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.