Foreign airline co-branded credit cards issued by American banks, #5: Lufthansa Miles & More by Barclaycard

The Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard is today's entry in my analysis of foreign airline co-branded credit cards issued by US banks.

Lufthansa Miles & More by Barclaycard

Barclaycard issues one co-branded credit card that earns Lufthansa Miles & More miles:

  • the Miles & More World Elite MasterCard has an $89 annual fee (not waived the first year) and a signup bonus of 20,000 Miles & More miles after your first purchase and 30,000 additional miles after spending $5,000 within 90 days of account opening. It earns one mile per dollar spent everywhere and 2 miles per dollar spent at "integrated airline partners:" Adria Airways, AirDolomiti, Austrian Airlines Group, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Lufthansa Regional, Lufthansa Private Jet, Luxair and SWISS. The card also earns an annual Economy Class Companion Ticket, including one after your first purchase with the card, and gives you the option of converting 25,000 award miles into 5,000 status miles each calendar year.

Economy Class Companion Ticket

Unfortunately, unless you're booking at the last minute and have no choice but to fly on Lufthansa, the Economy Class Companion Ticket is unlikely to be of any value at all. That's for two reasons: it can only be redeemed for tickets in Lufthansa's most expensive economy fare classes (H, M, Y, and B), and it requires you to pay all the taxes and fees associated with a paid ticket.

Under most circumstances, the additional cost of booking into a higher fare class will exceed the fare savings provided by the Companion Ticket. However, on last-minute bookings where only H, M, Y, and B fare classes are available, and when Lufthansa is your only option, it's certainly possible that the Companion Ticket could provide quite substantial savings.

Status Miles Conversion

Another benefit of holding the Barclaycard credit card is the ability to convert up to 25,000 award miles into elite-qualifying miles at a 5:1 ratio. There do not seem to me to be any clear advantages to doing so, since the opportunity isn't scalable in order to actually achieve Miles & More elite status, which requires 35,000 elite-qualifying miles. Converted status miles also don't count towards Lufthansa's top-tier HON Circle status.

Earning Miles & More Miles

Besides integrated airline partners the Barclaycard credit card doesn't earn bonus miles for any categories of spend, so unless you're topping up a Miles & More account towards a redemption it's unlikely to be worth putting any purchases on the card after you've triggered the signup bonus.

If you need to top up your account, you'll get a better earning ratio transferring Starpoints in 20,000-Starpoint increments and earning 5,000 bonus Miles & More miles than you will putting additional unbonused spend on their Barclaycard credit card.

Redeeming Miles & More Miles

Lufthansa belongs to the Star Alliance and offers a few popular redemption opportunities:

  • domestic first class awards within any one country, including the United States, cost 17,000 miles one-way. If you can find award availability (good luck!) you can redeem the same 17,000 Miles & More miles for United's transcontinental premium service;
  • Lufthansa first class awards from Europe for 85,000 miles. Miles & More passes along fuel surcharges on award tickets, but those surcharges are significantly lower on flights from Europe to the United States than in the opposite direction. For flights from Frankfurt to San Francisco, fuel surcharges run about $224, while in the opposite direction they're about $478. The key advantage of booking such flights with Miles & More miles is expanded award available compared to booking with partner miles.

Germany is a rich, populous country and Lufthansa is a big global airline, so as you'd expect there's a fair amount of material out there if you want to research additional routes that offer particularly good values. Drew at Travel is Free has documented some great routes without fuel surcharges, and this apparently-abandoned English-language German blog has some additional and some overlapping suggestions.

Is it worth it?

The current 50,000-mile signup bonus is the highest I've see it go, and after spending $5,000 on the card the resulting 55,000 miles would be enough for 3 one-way domestic first class flights. Another 30,000 miles (25,000 transferred Starpoints) would get you a one-way flight from Europe in Lufthansa first class, with increased access to award seats compared to redemptions of partner award miles.

On the other hand, since Miles & More passes along fuel surcharges, it's a relatively poor currency to accumulate speculatively. Before signing up for this card take a look at some of the best Miles & More redemptions linked to above and see if any of them fit into your near-term travel plans. If not, this is unlikely to be the right card for you.