Lloyds TSB has replaced Natwest as provider of the Airmiles loyalty credit card. The Duo card, which launches on June 1, will be available in both American Express and Mastercard versions.
Airmiles currently offers members the chance to earn miles on two existing credit cards – the Natwest credit card, and the Airmiles Mastercard, also provided by Natwest. But from the end of this month Natwest will no longer offer Airmiles for purchases on its cards, although it will be launching a scheme with Easyjet and ebookers (see below).
The good news is that the replacement Lloyds TSB cards will offer members up to twice the number of miles previously available – purchases with the Amex version will earn one mile for every £10 spent (as opposed to one mile for every £20 spent on the existing Natwest card), while Mastercard payments will earn one mile for every £20 spent (although in the latter's case this is an introductory offer until November 2007, after which the rate drops to one mile for every £50 spent). And of course members will continue to earn Airmiles from other partners such as Tesco and BP, on top of the miles earned by making Lloyds TSB credit card purchases at these retailers.
The idea is that members apply for both cards simultaneously, which will be linked to one account, with one overall balance, a single statement and PIN number, and no annual fee. The purpose of this is that users will pay with the Amex card wherever possible (thus gaining the highest number of miles possible), and where American Express is not accepted they can use the Mastercard version and still earn miles. Says Andrew Swaffield, managing director, Airmiles:
"Our members have told us that they want to earn more Airmiles and faster, and the double reward rate offered with this new partnership helps them to do just that from day one. The popularity of the Airmiles scheme provides an opportunity for Lloyds TSB to attract the eight million members already loyal to the Airmiles brand."
As an added bonus, Airmiles will credit member accounts with 500 bonus miles the first time they use their American Express card, and those applying for a card before May 31 will be placed in a draw to win up to 10,000 bonus miles (10,000 miles first prize, 5,000 and 2,500 miles runners-up prizes, and 500 awards of 500 miles). Foreign purchases using the Duo card will also attract double miles until May 31, 2008. As an example of the number of miles needed for flight redemptions under the Airmiles scheme, current fixed rates include 400 miles for a return trip to Paris, and 900 to Vienna.
Not to be outdone, Natwest has announced that it is teaming up with Easyjet and ebookers to offer a new reward scheme to existing credit card customers. When the 19-year relationship with Airmiles ends in June, Natwest credit card holders will automatically switch over to the Your Points programme, allowing members to earn and redeem points against flights with Easyjet (the first time the low cost carrier has aligned itself with such a scheme), and flights and hotel packages sold by ebookers.
Members will earn one point for every pound spent, and unlike most other reward schemes airport taxes can be paid for using Your Points (but not APD or other charges). Note though that at present this scheme is only available to existing Natwest credit card customers (although it's fair to assume the scheme will be extended to new account holders if successful), and there is a catch – customers spending under £1,000 per month on their card will have to pay a monthly £3 charge to benefit from the scheme. Says Alan Josephs, managing director of ebookers:
"[With Your Points] customers won't be restricted to one airline or limited seat availability when they come to use their points. Instead customers will be able to choose from a vast range of airlines, hotels and car hire which are available on the ebookers.com site."
It's unclear at present the exact number of points needed to redeem flights with the Your Points scheme, although Natwest said that in April 4,300 points would have been needed for a return trip London-Paris, plus around £40 in taxes.
Report by Mark Caswell and Matt Sharp