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Free flights between the UK and Malta – via your credit card

In light of the historic lack of credible points-earning credit cards (and redemption options) in Malta, MaltaPoints has never focused in any great detail on the credit card market. This position was not helped by the death of the BOV Flypass credit card, which earned Air Malta KMiles.

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However, the following factors have led to this post, which is a (hopefully) succinct summary of the methods by which you can earn credit card points for UK-Malta flights:

  • the success a number of MaltaPoints readers have had with points-earning on the BOV American Express card;
  • British Airways returning to Malta (and the option to use Avios to fly with them: American Express points can be converted to Avios, while some UK cards simply earn Avios directly). Bear in mind a UK-Malta return with BA is 20,000 Avios, plus £35: compared to 50,000 KMiles with Air Malta, plus tax/fees;
  • a number of excellent Avios offers in the UK credit card market, which we will also focus on.

Accordingly, this post should be of interest to both Malta and UK-based readers looking for a “free” way to earn return flights between the UK and Malta (or indeed British Airways flights anywhere – your Avios do not have to be spent on a flight to Malta!)

Before we launch into the various credit card options, it’s worth setting out the redemption rates for return reward flights between Malta and London:

  • British Airways: 20,000 Avios + £35 capped tax/fees
  • Air Malta: 50,000 KMiles plus applicable tax/fees

We repeat them below for convenience, but always bear these rates in mind when considering the credit cards summarised.

Malta credit card options

Card: American Express Green/Gold/Platinum

  • Issuer: BOV
  • Annual fee: €20 first year then €55.25/€110/€550
  • Sign up points bonus: None
  • Earnings: €1 = 1 Membership Reward (MR) point
  • Avios conversion rate: 3 MR points = 2 Avios
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight: €30,000 (i.e. to accrue 20,000 Avios)
  • Which airline? BA
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for more points? No

Card: HSBC Premier

  • Issuer: HSBC
  • Annual fee: Free, but you need €70,000 worth of savings/investments with HSBC
  • Sign up points bonus: None
  • Earnings: €1 = 1 KMile
  • Avios conversion rate: N/A
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = €50,000 (i.e. to accrue 50,000 KMiles)
  • Which airline? Air Malta
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for more points? No

Card: HSBC Advance

  • Issuer: HSBC
  • Annual fee: €84 (€7 monthly)
  • Sign up points bonus: None
  • Earnings: €1 = 0.5 KMiles
  • Avios conversion rate: N/A
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = ahem, €100,000 (i.e. to accrue 50,000 KMiles)
  • Which airline? Air Malta
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for more points? No

Card: Banif Gold

  • Issuer: Banif
  • Annual fee: Free
  • Sign up points bonus: None
  • Earnings: €1 = 1 KMile
  • Avios conversion rate: N/A
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = €50,000 (i.e. to accrue 50,000 KMiles)
  • Which airline? Air Malta
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for more points? No

The best option?

It is quite clear that, if you are looking to earn points for a free flight, the BOV American Express credit card is by far the best Malta option. Ignoring the simple fact that the spend required for a return flight is much less, the following are also crucial factors:

  • the tax will be capped at €35 – which is substantially less than the tax that will be imposed by Air Malta on its UK returns, in addition to the 50,000 KMiles (versus 20,000 Avios with BA) required
  • American Express may well offer a bonus at some point on transfers to Avios – for example, transfer your MR points to Avios and receive a 20-50% bonus number of Avios. This will not happen with the KMiles-earning credit cards.

Whether you go for the Amex green, gold or platinum card will depend on the benefits you wish to receive.

UK credit card options

(Note that this is not a comprehensive review of Avios credit card options available to the UK market – which would take months – rather it is a short summary of the best value Avios earners)

Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card

  • Issuer: Amex
  • Annual fee: Free first year, £125 thereafter
  • Sign up points bonus: 20,000 MR points (20,000 Avios) when you spend £2,000 on the card in the first three months (and the 20,000 Avios figure here is the bare minimum, as there may well be a transfer bonus from MR to Avios during 2014).
  • Earnings: £1 = 1 MR point
  • Avios conversion rate: 1:1 (but see point above)
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = £2,000 (i.e. to accrue 22,000 Avios)
  • Which airline? BA
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for further bonus points? Yes – you will get an extra 2,000 MR points (2000 Avios). Simply email maltapoints@gmail.com to ask for a free referral link.

British Airways card

  • Issuer: Amex
  • Annual fee: Free
  • Sign up points bonus: 9,000 Avios when you spend £2,000 on the card in the first three months
  • Earnings: £1 = 1 Avios
  • Avios conversion rate: N/A – you earn Avios
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = £11,000 (i.e. to accrue 20,000 Avios)
  • Which airline? BA
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for further bonus points? Yes – you will get an extra 1,000 Avios. Simply email maltapoints@gmail.com to ask for a free referral link.

British Airways Premium Plus card

  • Issuer: Amex
  • Annual fee: £150
  • Sign up points bonus: 25,000 Avios) when you spend £3,000 on the card in the first three months
  • Earnings: £1 = 1 MR point
  • Avios conversion rate: 1:1
  • Spending required for a UK-Malta return flight = £3,000 (which will accrue 29,500 Avios: if you include the bonus below, that’s enough for one return plus one one way flight, or one segment of your return flight in business class)
  • Which airline? BA
  • Can MaltaPoints refer you for further bonus points? Yes – you will get an extra 1,000 Avios. Simply email maltapoints@gmail.com to ask for a free referral link.

The best option?

These three cards are all excellent Avios earners. Which one best suits you will of course depend on your budget and anticipated spending. However, the Preferred Rewards Gold card has a very achievable spending requirement of £2,000 in three months (plus the potential for further bonus Avios when you transfer your MR points to Avios). If you get referred by MaltaPoints, that will get you a minimum of 24,000 Avios – enough for a free return flight between the UK and Malta, plus change.

The UK looks good – but is there actually any benefit in Malta credit card points earning?

It is quite clear that there are some generous offers out there, albeit solely in the UK. While UK readers can make very good use of these, it raises the question whether a Malta resident should even bother.

To put it in stark contrast, the lowest required spend for a free flight is £2,000 on the UK Amex Gold card, while the largest is €100,000 on the Malta HSBC Advance card. Even the (substantially) lowest Malta spend comes in at a hefty €30,000.

However, if you are Malta-based, don’t let the slightly stratospheric spend requirements, even for the Amex cards, put you off. The key is to simply use these cards on your everyday purchases, making sure you pay them off monthly (see below), and you will slowly build up a points balance. Bear in mind, of course, you may well be earning Avios elsewhere (e.g. on BA flights), so the 2 Avios earned per €3 spent on your American Express card can be combined with these, and you will find reward flights are available without the need to burn through €30,000! The same of course applies to KMiles.

I use an Amex card consistently in Malta, and I can assure you that the points from everyday spend do rack up.

One related aside is that almost all of the above cards come with additional key benefits, including such things as travel insurance or (in the case of the Amex Platinum) La Valette lounge access. To keep things simple we have focused on the flight-earning potential of these cards, but if you are tempted by any of them, it is well worth having a look at the full suite of perks.

Finally – a warning

All the value in the above recommendations is reliant on you paying off your credit card each month without paying fees/interest. If you are not able to do this, do not sign up to the cards for the benefit of the free points/flight – it will not be worth it. Only sign up to these cards if you can pay them off in full each month. Helpfully, BOV will set up an automatic payment for you for the Amex card, so you do not need to worry about this if you get a Malta Amex.

 


4 Comments

  1. Marzio says:

    Can i have a basic Amex with BOV? Not green, not gold, not platinum.
    This one: http://www.americanexpress.com/malta/personal_cards/american_express_basic_card.shtml

    • maltapoints says:

      I can’t see any practical reason why not, although I notice that BOV do not list it on their Amex landing page. I think that is simply because it’s not as commercially attractive to them, so they’re less inclined to publicise it.

      That said, I am not really sure why anyone would apply for an Amex Basic card – you do not benefit from Membership Rewards points which, for me, is the sole reason to own an Amex card. Bear in mind the Green card is only €20 a year, and Membership Rewards enrollment is free for the first year (€30.25 a year thereafter).

      If you really want a Basic card and have problems getting it with BOV for whatever reason, then you should still be able to get one by going through Amex directly. You can call them on 2275 2639.

      • Marzio says:

        Well i’m interested in that card simply because it will be used like an emergency card. I’m perfectly fine with my BOV Visa debit card, i only need a card “just in case” something happens and i need to have another card at hand. 🙂

        • maltapoints says:

          Noted – fair enough. I’d still recommend you got an Amex Green card and then put all your spending through that, rather than your BOV Visa card, though. You pay it off monthly, automatically, so there’s no additional interest/charges, and you will earn Membership Rewards points on all your purchases with it.

          I have a BOV account, and use my Amex Green card as the main card, and the BOV Visa card as the back up.

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