Football affinity credit cards are fun for fans -- but not the best deal

By Emma Lunn

What better way to demonstrate your loyalty to your favourite football team than to carry a credit card with its name on it? "Affinity" credit cards allow you to do just that -- plus, a portion of each purchase gets donated to the team.

But when it comes to the best terms and deals for cardholders, affinity cards may not be the strongest players on the field.

Affinity card perks
Most of the football clubs that offer football affinity credit cards do so in conjunction with MBNA. The bank runs cards for Chelsea, West Ham, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, among others.

The cards generally offer the same deal: 12 months interest free on balance transfers (which cost 3% of the amount transferred), three months at 0% APR on purchases and an APR of 16.9% after the promotional period ends. The cards also offer money transfers to a current account for a 4% fee. football-credit-cards

A handful of other clubs, including Everton, West Brom, Wolves and Fulham, offer credit cards provided by Creation, another credit card provider. However, the terms are not as good as MBNA's. The cards offer only six months at 0% for balance transfers, and only season tickets can be bought with no interest for nine months.

On top of getting interest-free perks, cardholders earn points every time they use the card, and these can be redeemed for club merchandise. For most of the affinity cards, this boils down to 1 point for every £1 spent.

Some cards also offer draws for club-related prizes. For example, the Manchester United card offers cardholders entry into a monthly prize draw for every £50 they spend. Prizes include signed Manchester United shirts and pennants, as well as limited edition action prints of members of the first team such as Welbeck, Smalling and Macheda.

So what's in it for the team? Purchases also result in the credit card providers making a contribution to the club in question, although they won't reveal how much.

Not the best deal
While supporting their favourite team might be enough for some fans, for many consumers, affinity cards aren't exactly the most lucrative of rewards cards.

"As with any personal finance product, it is important to shop around to find the credit card that best suits your needs," says Gareth Davies, senior manager for credit cards at Nationwide Building Society. "There are numerous cards on the market from which to choose and they all cater for a wide variety of circumstances."

For example, the MBNA football cards all offer three months interest-free on purchases -- but there are much better deals out there. The longest 0% introductory offer on purchases is currently Tesco Bank's 16-month interest-free period. And although 12 months at 0% on balance transfers is pretty good, it falls short of the 22 months currently offered by both NatWest and Barclaycard. It's also worth noting that, if you get an MBNA affinity card, you won't be allowed to transfer balances from other MBNA cards to take advantage of the 0% offer.

As for rewards earnings, one point per pound spent makes MBNA's affinity card rewards scheme competitive with those of other rewards cards. Yet the limited options for rewards redemption make the cards less rewarding for all but the ultimate fan. Instead of cash-back rewards that can be used anywhere, affinity cardholders are generally limited to team merchandise and game tickets.

So, before letting team spirit influence your financial decisions, take a careful look at other rewards cards on the market.

 "... By considering your spending and repayment habits, rather than the name of credit card, you can ensure you are getting the best value from your card," Davies says. "By doing that, any savings made can be put towards the ticket for the next home game."

See related: Are charity cards the best way to give back?, Is the Asda cash-back card a good deal?

Published: 18 September 2012