We’ve gotta give Barclays some props for what they’re doing in the US credit card market, as they’re slowly starting to give American Express and Chase a run for their money as far as their sign-up bonuses go. In this case they just increased the sign-up bonus on the Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard.
The official version of the increased sign-up offer is for 20,000 miles after the first purchase and an additional 30,000 miles after spending $5,000 on the card within 90 days.
However, there’s an unofficial sign-up offer which is also for 20,000 miles after the first purchase and an additional 30,000 miles after spending $2,500 on the card within 90 days. The catch is that if you’re not approved for the Premier card and are instead approved for the Platinum card (which sometimes happens with Barclays) you get only 5,000 miles, which isn’t the case with the official offer, which gives you the 50,000 miles for both offers. Furthermore, there’s no landing page to this offer, and in the past Barclays has sometimes auto-declined applications for unofficial links, so there is some risk with this offer.
Through both offers there’s an annual fee of $79, which isn’t waived for the first year. The card offers two miles per dollar spent on airline purchases and one mile per dollar spent on everything else, so really isn’t very attractive beyond the sign-up bonus. The card also comes with a companion certificate valid on coach fares, though unfortunately it’s only for higher fare tickets, so probably isn’t of much value to most of us.
In terms of redeeming Lufthansa miles, they have a zone based award chart, which can be found here. As you can see the redemption rates aren’t especially attractive. The other catch is that they impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions in most cases when the operating airline would as well. Miles & More miles are valid for 36 months from the date of issue.
Given that, there are only thress instances where Lufthansa miles are notably worthwhile:
For travel within the US
Lufthansa charges just 25,000 miles for a roundtrip domestic US coach award, or 35,000 miles for a roundtrip domestic US business class award. They even offer one-way awards at half the cost of a roundtrip.
While 25,000 miles is the standard roundtrip coach award cost, the 35,000 miles for a domestic business class award is pretty damn good. It’s worth noting that Lufthansa will charge the business class price for United domestic three cabin business class or United domestic two cabin first class, both of which book into the “I” (business class) award fare bucket. Unfortunately US Airways first class awards book into “O,” which is the first class award fare bucket and wouldn’t be eligible for those rates.
For travel in Lufthansa first class
Nowadays Lufthansa only releases first class award space to Star Alliance partners at most 15 days out. The only way to snag it before then is to redeem through Miles & More. A one-way first class ticket between the US and Europe costs 85,000 Miles & More miles, plus fuel surcharges.
This sign-up bonus gets you a good ways towards that, and given that you can transfer in points from Starwood it might not be too expensive to make up the difference.
For travel in Swiss first class
If you think Lufthansa is restrictive with releasing first class award space to Star Alliance partners, take a look at Swiss’ policy. They don’t release any first class award space to Star Alliance partners anymore. Not even a day before departure.
Despite that policy, they actually release a good amount of first class award space to Miles & More members, often a handful of seats per flight:
And Swiss does have one of the world’s best first class products, in my opinion, with amazing in-flight catering. So if you haven’t yet flown Swiss first class and want to use miles, Miles & More is your only option for doing so.
Is this a better deal than the Barclaycard Arrival?
The sign-up bonus was also recently increased on the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard which offers a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus, good for up to $440 towards the cost of travel. Earning the sign-up bonus on that card requires just $1,000 worth of spend within 90 days, and while there’s an $89 annual fee, it’s waived the first year.
So which should you sign up for — the Arrival card or the Lufthansa card? Well, you can actually get approved for more than one Barclay credit card at a time, so if you wanted to you could pick them both up at once. And since most people are limited in inquiries with American Express and Chase, both of these sign-up offers are valuable if for no other reason than that they’re not American Express or Chase cards.
But if you wanted to get just one, which is a better offer? To simplify the offers, as I see it, you can get two roundtrip domestic coach tickets or three one-way domestic United first class tickets with the Lufthansa sign-up offer, and it’ll cost you $79. The alternative is more or less $440 of travel cash without an annual fee the first year and with a lower spend requirement, with the Arrival sign-up offer. Assuming you’d have no problem redeeming for three domestic one-way first class tickets with United, I’d say the Lufthansa card is a better offer. That being said, if you don’t have a specific use in mind I’d probably go with the Arrival card given how much more flexible the miles are, the lack of an annual fee the first year, and the lower spend requirement.
(In the interest of full disclosure I earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through the official Lufthansa card link as well as the Arrival card link, though I don’t earn a bonus for anyone that’s approved through the unofficial Lufthansa link. Regardless of which links you use, thanks for reading!)