Romanians are very reluctant when it comes to cards and banks, but that’s not surprising when you look back in history. I’ve never used credit cards in Romania and even after moving to the UK, it took me a while to understand what they are about. There are many types of credit cards, but I’m particularly interested in how they can help me to save some travel money. So I will explain more about Air Miles Rewards credit cards in Romania.

View from the plane

View from the plane

Rewards credit cards

The main point of these credit cards is that they give you some sort of rewards, which usually translates into loyalty points. The more you use the credit card, the more points you earn. Then you can use these points to buy products.

What you need to look for:

– The conversion: How many points you get in exchange for the money you spend. For example, most programs offer 1 point for every 4 or 5 RON spent.

– Annual fees: In my view, there shouldn’t be any annual fees for a basic program. If you haven’t used rewards credit cards before, my recommendation is to start with a program without an annual fee (or the smallest one). If you then like it and you find it useful, you can upgrade to a paid one (which usually offers you a better conversion).

– Payment deadline and interest rate: As with any credit card, you will need to use your debit card to pay it. Each month, you need to pay the total amount due within their timeframe. This is the only way to avoid interest charges. To remember, this credit card is not for overspending, it’s for earning points. I use the card’s app and check my spending each week and pay it in full. But if you are not confident with this practice, you can also set up a Direct Debit, which means you allow it to take the full amount from your debit card, before the deadline. This way you avoid any interest.

What you need to be careful with:

Credit limit: All credit cards come with a generous credit limit. I would encourage you to not even think about it as an option. If you start spending more than your regular spending, this card won’t be your friend anymore, but your enemy. Using a rewards credit card can bring you advantages but requires some sort of financial discipline.

Cash withdrawal fees: You shouldn’t use your credit card to withdraw cash. Credit cards use virtual money (money available for you to borrow), and there are high fees to convert them into real money (cash). You should always use your debit card for cash withdrawal, money that you actually have, and it’s usually free to do so.

Some benefits not mentioned above:

– Credit card for deposit: Car rental companies and some hotels require a deposit when you check in. This amount is either frozen on your credit card (you can’t use that amount) or taken and given back to you at the end of your stay/service. Using a credit card for this situation is the best because they froze/take an amount of money that you weren’t planning on using anyway. You need to make sure it’s returned within the timeframe, to avoid interest.

– Purchase/payment protection: It’s different from company to company, but there should be some sort of purchase/payment protection. For example, I accidentally paid for a product twice, in an online transaction. The retailer said they refunded it, but I never got it. I used their email confirmation to open a dispute with my credit card company, they investigated and I got my refund. Another situation would be if the product/service you buy is a scam, you will most probably be able to get your money back.

Safer online: As we all know the virtual world is a bit of a grey area sometimes, better to be safe than sorry. It’s safer to use a credit card for online transactions and save your card details on websites. If there is a security breach on a travel website and they get your credit card details, you are still safe. I mean, whoever takes them may want to pay for your credit due! Or not, probably not.

The catch

So if you follow the guidelines, using a rewards credit card is basically free and you still earn points. Why do banks and companies insist for you to use them though? Your data, of course. You get to earn points in exchange to access to some information. The company will have access to information about how much and on what you spend your money. Of course, this is not nice, but remember that all the devices and websites you use record your personal information. Until the recent scandals, many people were not even aware of it.  But there you go.

Let’s go back to the nicer stuff though.

Flower bouquets

Flower bouquets

Air Miles Rewards

Most airline companies have rewards programs and you earn points when you fly. But if you don’t fly so often, it doesn’t help much. So these rewards credit cards will help you boost your points. Realistically, if you use the credit card for most of your shopping, it will add up to a free flight ticket, at least once a year. To note is that the air miles points don’t cover for the ticket taxes, so there is always a small fee you will pay when buying a rewards ticket. For example, I buy my flights home, London – Bucharest return, with air miles. So instead of, let’s say £200, I usually pay £40 (twice a year).

Air Miles Rewards credit cards in Romania

I’ve reviewed the Air Miles Rewards credit cards offers in Romania and here are some notes:

Tarom BT Flying Blue Classic/Premium Card

Bonus Miles when joining: 1,000 Miles / 2,000 Miles

The conversion: 1 Mile per 4 RON / 1.5 Miles per 4 RON

Free travel insurance

Access to airport lounges in Bucharest and Cluj

Credit limit: 22,000 RON / 44,000 RON

Card issue fee: 50 RON / 150 RON

Annual card fee: 50 RON/ 200 RON

*Miles can be used on Tarom, Air France and KLM products

My thoughts: It’s quite a modest offer from the big alliance. It’s almost like they are not trying to sell, but they “had to” add something on the website. But that’s ok, there is hardly any competition in the market. The credit card looks ok, and for first-timers, the Classic one would be the best. The 50 RON Annual fee is small, you would probably spend it on travel insurance anyway (which is covered by the card). The benefit is that you can use the Miles on any of the Alliance members. For long distance flights, especially towards Africa and Latin America, KLM has good offers.

Lufthansa UniCredit MasterCard Gold Miles & More

Bonus Miles when joining: 2,000 Miles

The conversion: 1 Mile per 5 RON

Free travel insurance

Credit limit: 4,000 up to 45,000 RON

Card issue fee: None

Annual card fee: 200 RON

*Discounts from the MasterCard Elite Program

My thoughts: This credit card looks great, as a credit card, not so much for the Air Miles. It’s pricey though, 200 RON is the same as the Tarom Premium one. The conversion is considerably less than Tarom’s Premium one. MasterCard Elite Program has good stuff though, and the program is very reliable. So if safety and customer experience are your biggest concerns, I think this is the best one. You can spend your earned points on hotels and experiences, so you still save holiday money.

WIZZ Bancpost Credit Card

Free access to WIZZ Discount Club Group membership

Free access to Mastercard Business Lounge in Henri Coanda Airport, SKY Lounge and Jet Lounge in Vienna Airport

Bonus Miles when joining: Not mentioned

The conversion: 2 Points per 1 RON*

*Once you accumulate at least 2,000 points, you need to call Bancpost customer service to convert them into credit on Wizzair.

Credit limit: Not sure

Card issue fee: None

Annual card fee: Not sure

My thoughts: It looks like there are some good benefits, but the process seems as messy as the information on the website. I have many question marks and the way it’s presented is very misleading. There is a lot of basic information about the credit card not mentioned or within easy access. Unless you are a WIZZ Club fan, I wouldn’t even bother.

Monaco train station

Waiting for the next ride

These are the only options I found for Air Miles Rewards credit cards in Romania. If you have experience using them, tips or know of any others, please comment below. Hope you found my short guide and reviews useful 😊

Still not convinced about Air Miles Rewards credit cards? Then you should check my guide for hunting cheap flights.