Picking The Best Frequent Flyer Scheme

December 20th, 2010

I’ve just given up on Airmiles due to the draconian rules in redeeming the miles I’ve accrued. It’s taken me 3 years but I’ve finally blown the lot on a business class weekend in Budapest (including hotel). Now though I want to find a scheme better suited to me. I have a Lloyds TSB credit card for collecting Airmiles which I’ll no longer use, so I’ll be looking at the following:

  • What does signing up for their credit card get me
  • What will I have to show for an annual spend of £5000
  • How many return economy flights will I need to make to earn a pair of economy returns to the same destination? (I’ll use Dubai for this comparison)

The frequent flyer schemes I’m looking at are:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • BMI Diamond Club
  • Lufthansa Miles And More

What does signing up for their credit card get me

For the purposes of comparison, where more than one card is offered I will select the one with the best benefits.

BA: 1000 miles with their standard American Express card, or 6000 miles with their American Express premium card, which has a £150 annual fee. Spend £10k/year and redeem your miles to get a free flight for your companion. This is not enough to even get you one return flight in economy, anywhere.
Virgin Atlantic: 3000 miles with standard American Express card or 6000 for their Amex premium card, which has a £115 annual fee. Spend £5k/year and receive a free premium economy upgrade on an economy booking. Sadly, this does not come close to being a substantial contribution towards a flight. The cheapest economy return is 40000 miles. Next!
BMI: 20000 miles on the standard Amex, or 24000 miles on their premium Amex, which has an £85 annual fee. This is equivalent to a pair of return economy flights anywhere in Europe.
Lufthansa: 5000 miles and no annual fee on their American Express. This is not enough to earn any flights.

Winner: BMI is easily the most generous, with the second-lowest annual credit card fee, and a pair of return economy flights just for opening an account.

What will I have to show for an annual spend of £5000

BA: 7500 miles. Not enough for even a single return flight in economy.
Virgin Atlantic: 10000 miles. Not enough for anything.
BMI: 10000 miles. Enough for one return flight to Europe zone 1.
Lufthansa: 7500 miles. Since airport taxes aren’t included in their scheme, and you can settle them for 15000 miles, this would only cover half of only your airport taxes.

Winner: BMI, again. Two years of average spending and you have a pair of flights.

How many return economy flights will I need to make to earn a pair of economy returns to the same destination? (I’ll use Dubai for this comparison where possible)

BA: A pair of economy returns would be 80000 miles. A pair of full price flights earns you 6800 miles. Therefore you’d need to make the journey 12 times, or spend £53333 on your credit card.
Virgin Atlantic: A pair of economy returns requires 80000 miles. A pair of full price flights earns 6800 miles. Therefore you’d need to make the journey 12 times or spend £40000 on your credit card.
BMI: A pair of economy returns would be 80000 miles. A pair of full price flights earns you 6800 miles. Therefore you’d need to make the journey 12 times, or spend £40000 on your credit card.
Lufthansa: A pair of economy returns would be 80000 miles. A pair of full price flights earns you 6800 miles. Therefore you’d need to make the journey 12 times, or spend £53333 on your credit card.

Winner: None. They’re all the same.

Overall winner: BMI

2 Responses to “Picking The Best Frequent Flyer Scheme”

  1. Peter Lewis says:

    Interesting info, thanks. Did you go with BMI in the end? They do indeed look good on the face of it, but I’ve heard that it’s very difficult to actually redeem their miles on anything. I think this is to do with them only having a very small allocation of seats for Diamond Club members available.

  2. airmiles says:

    depending on the airline frequent flyer program you’re in.. . if it’s singapore airlines, you need to have at least 70% of the miles required in order to purchase miles to top up.. . the best bet is to check the airline’s website or call them directly. sorry can’t help much with other airlines…

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