Barclay’s offers two credit cards for Lufthansa’s Miles & More frequent flier loyalty program—the Miles & More World Mastercard, and the Premier Miles & More World Mastercard.
While we’ll get into a more granular comparison below, basically the Premier version offers a slightly higher sign-up bonus (5K more miles) as well as 2 miles per dollar spent on airlines within the Miles & More network, versus only 1 point per mile for the non-Premier version. And of course, the Premier Miles & More card has a slightly higher annual fee.
Your major concern here isn’t the credit cards per se, but rather the underlying airline (Lufthansa), given the potentially devastating fuel surcharges that can be applied to your reward tickets (see below for more details on this).
|Premier Miles & More World Mastercard||Miles & More World Mastercard|
||Earn 1 mile per dollar on all purchases|
|Initial Sign-Up Bonus||20K miles after first purchase||15K miles after first purchase|
|Balance Transfer Bonus||Earn 1 mile per $1 of balance transfer, up to 15,000 miles (transfer must be made within 30 days of account opening)||Earn 1 mile per $1 of balance transfer, up to 10,000 miles (transfer must be made within 30 days of account opening)|
|Mileage Expiration||See below||See below|
|Annual Fee||$79 (waived for Senator and HON Circle Members)||$59 (waived for Senator and HON Circle Members)|
|Balance Transfer Fee||During 1st 15 billing cycles, $10 or 3% of each transfer; after that, either $10 or 4%, whichever is greater.||During 1st 15 billing cycles, $10 or 3% of each transfer; after that, either $10 or 4%, whichever is greater.|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||1% of each transaction in USD||1% of each transaction in USD|
Quick Primer On Miles & More
Miles & More is the largest travel loyalty program in Europe, with more than 20 million members as of early 2011. The program was originally founded by Lufthansa in 1993, and is now used by a number of Euro-centric airlines, including:
- Adria Airways
- Air Dolomiti
- Austrian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Lufthansa, Lufthansa Regional, Lufthansa Private Jet
Additionally, Miles & More also enables its members to redeem miles on the Star Alliance.
How Much Are Miles Worth In The Miles & More Program
GetDebit has not yet made this calculation, but will update the post once it is complete. However, Lufthansa does add fuel surcharges above and beyond the award tickets, and for trans-atlantic flights, for example, the fuel surcharges and additional taxes can often exceed $700 per ticket. In our experience, any airlines that charge fuel surcharges of this degree typically have miles worth less than $0.005. So expect the worst!
Which Card Should You Get, The Premier Miles & More World MC or the non-Premier Version?
Well, actually that’s a bit of a trick question. The real first question you want to ask is, “Should I get either of these cards?”. Generally, I’d say “NO” unless you have some special circumstances or other qualitative reasons for doubling down on Miles & More. With crazy-high fuel surcharges, the value of the miles is driven to depressingly low levels (think, Hades low).
Now, if you still want the card after that dire warning, then here’s the simple math. If you plan to spend about $2,000 per year on airline tickets within the Miles & More network, then the incremental $20 annual fee will be covered.
Additionally, the incremental 5K miles you get as a sign-up bonus will pay for almost 3 years of the difference in annual fees between the 2 cards, so that’s another aspect to consider.
If you want to be doubly sure, or don’t trust your napkin math, feel free to take a spin on the GetDebit Ranking Engine. Just provide your basic spend information by category, and it’ll generate fairly accurate estimates of what each card would earn you over any time period you select (from 1 to 10 years).
A Note On Miles Expiration
The Miles & More expiration policy is complicated enough to warrant a few quick words of explanation.
- Under normal circumstances (ie if you don’t possess a Miles & More World Mastercard), miles expire after 36 months if they have not been redeemed.
- However, your miles will remain valid for an unlimited time if you meet the following 2 conditions: 1) You have been a Miles & More credit card holder for at least 3 months; and 2) Each month you make at least 1 purchase (that is not returned or refunded) with your Miles & More credit card.
Concluding Thoughts on The Barclay’s Miles & More World Mastercard
Actually, while not rock stars, the Premier and non-premier versions of the Barclay’s Miles & More credit cards are reasonable cards, with respectable sign-up bonuses and modest annual fees. However, our beef is with the underlying airline itself (Lufthansa) and the European practice in general of applying harsh fuel surcharges and taxes that are not included as part of your reward tickets. The hidden charges all but kill the value of these otherwise noble loyalty programs.
Perhaps I should have picked a more cheery topic to review on Christmas Day, but there you have it. Call me the Grinch—Lufthansa certainly will.