“What is the best credit card for someone who is new to all this and has no particular loyalties?”

Over Easter, I will be answering a number of the reader questions that were submitted via this article.  If you didn’t take part this time, don’t worry as I will be re-running this feature in the Summer.  Feel free to expand on or critique my answer using the Comments section below!

Today’s question is from James who asked:

I’m a total newbie to all this at a ripe age of 25, and wanted your advice on what card actually is the best for someone that has no loyalties to airlines yet and eligible for all of the credit cards you mention in your posts.

Credit cards

Firstly, you need to have a goal in mind.  Either a specific flight you want to take, or a place you would like to visit where you fancy a free hotel room.  Or indeed both together!

You also need to consider where else you can collect points, since credit card spend alone will not get you too far.  I assume you are not travelling a lot for work.  In this case, your non-flying collection options are mainly restricted to Tesco Clubcard (which will get you Avios points and Virgin Flying Club miles, plus some opportunities for direct hotel redemption deals) plus whatever you can earn from the credit card.

There are other things you should consider:

Would you be travelling with someone else?  It will increase the number of miles you need.

Could you get enough miles together to fly Business or First Class?  Do you see this as a way of getting an aspirational reward (say, First Class to California), or are you happy with cheap economy redemptions to Europe?

Where do you live?  If you are in the regions, you may want to focus on free hotel nights and use budget airlines from your local airport.  This may be more convenient than flying BA using Avios, which often involves a Heathrow transfer.

However you cut it, you are likely to end up deciding that Avios is the way forward for an airline card.  Short-haul flights are a good deal because of Reward Flight Saver, economy long-haul flights can be a good deal using Aer Lingus or airberlin (minimal taxes, do a search for my articles on those) and there is a good long-haul network if you want to fly Business or First Class.

To build up some Avios, the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card is a good first Amex choice.  No fee for the first year, and 20,000 Membership Rewards points.  See here for what you can do with Membership Rewards points.  20,000 would get you 20,000 Avios points.

Once you’ve got the Amex Gold, keep an eye for a good sign-up bonus on the BA Amex cards and / or the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex.  Both of these – on a good day – offer 20,000 Avios or more as a bonus, although at the moment the offers are worse.

You should also take a look at the Lloyds TSB Avios cards.  The new bonus, which I wrote about yesterday, is worth 15,000 Avios points on the free card and 20,000 points on the £50 fee card.  It is not as good a deal as Amex Gold, but it doesn’t matter as you can apply for both!

You should also get a non-Amex card.  The Hilton Visa is a good Visa card to start with.  You get a free night when you have spent £750.  If you use that somewhere suitable posh and suitably expensive (Hilton Venice, the new Conrad in New York etc) then you will have got a great deal and it will open your eyes to the potential of this hobby.

(If you have a partner, get a Hilton card each.  You would then have 2 free nights which you could book back-to-back in the same hotel.)

I just want to give you one warning.  Do NOT apply for a large number of credit cards at the same time.  Try to leave it a month between applications, as a sudden attempt to get a lot of cards at once looks like a sign of panic to raise some cash, and you are likely to be declined for everything.

(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

How to get 5,000+ EXTRA Avios when applying for the Lloyds TSB Avios cards!
Credit Card Reviews 2013 (14): Ryanair MasterCard
About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. When the SPG Amex bonus points is running the 20,000 points converts up to 25,000 airline miles. This is very useful if you convert over to Emirates (who fly from the regions, unlike BA!) as it will help towards upgrades (you can upgrade sector by sector on Emirates website) or use towards flight redemptions.

    Also i guess you would be able to convert Amex rewards points to SPG points, and then over to Emirates! Its a poor ratio though as its 2 Amex points to 1 SPG point.

    • Yes, its not great. However, with the 20k to 25k bonus you effectively get 0.625 miles per 1 Amex point via Starwood. This is, of course, far from great, but it is probably still a better deal than buying a chunk of miles for cash.

  2. Hi

    We got the Hilton credit cards and next month will be staying at the Beverly Hilton for 2 nightfs for free just for spending £750 on each card – brilliant. My question is can we cancel this cards and repeat this after 6 months? Has anyone got this offer more than once?

    • You should be OK to churn it, yes. I intend to reapply next year, although that will have been an 18 month gap. I will get one for my wife this year once the Priority Club card is chopped.

  3. If your completely new to this game, I would always suggest you start with any cards that allow you to have flexibility. By flexibility, i mean something like the Amex MEmbership Rewards program or Starwood Preffered Guest cards. This way, until you figure out what you want, you can build up a decent pile of points and the transfer them over to the program of your choice. Once you have made up your mind, you need to focus on how to achieve maximum points for that program. I use the BA Amex premium card to get the 2-4-1 voucher and the. Any excess spending goes on the Amex charge cards or SPG cards. I also believe in diversification. Do not put all your eggs in ne basket. If your program suffers a massive devaluation, you will be kicking yourself.

  4. Yes, it will be fee free. That is a great offer, well worth jumping on.

    • Trickster says:

      Do you reckon it’s s better deal than a referral from my wife – hence two sets of points? I guess the answer, as always, is in valuing points vs cash.

  5. Surfnode says:

    Slightly Off topic: got the Amex platinum credit card on the strength of my German amex platinum charge card, thinking that would be the ideal combination of earning MR in the uk and retain unadulterated insurance benefits. Cool that that worked, but now discovered that the German offering is going to be revitalised shortly, ie fee increased to 600 eur and insurance benefits tied to spend and with excess as well. And they will not issue any more Cathay Marco Polo gold cards (instead !? Access to aa and delta lounges ha ha), which was disappointing. Hm, should have signed up to the uk Amex plat when I had the chance.