‘Credit Cards Update’ updated for December – summary of the current top deals

It is time for our monthly round up of what is new, what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.

What’s new?

Not much, to be honest.  December is never a good month for promotions as it is too late for people to receive a card in order to do their Christmas shopping.  Card issuers also like to save their best deals for the New Year when people make a resolution to finally sort out the contents of their wallet!

The special offers which were running in November for Etihad, HSBC Premier, Emirates and American Airlines have all ended.

There are only three offers worth noting:

The 11,500 miles sign-up bonus on the Lufthansa Miles & More card is still running.  This does not end until 22nd December.

The special 15,000 miles sign-up bonus on the United MileagePlus card may have become permanent.  The offer was meant to end in November but it remains on the United website and now shows no closing date.  This would be a major turnaround if it was the case!  United will have gone from having the worst sign-up bonus in the business (ie nothing at all for 90% of the year) to having the highest permanent bonus of any free credit card!

The higher sign-up bonuses on the British Airways American Express cards continue to run.  This offer does not expire until February.

What are the best deals at the moment?

If you are looking to apply for a new card before the year-end, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.  The BA and Lufthansa cards are special deals whilst Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and Hilton cards are consistently strong offers.

These deals are listed in no particular order and their position on the list is not a sign of how good or bad the offer is.

British Airways American Express

The sign-up bonus on this free card is increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios until 11th February. Full details are in my review of the British Airways Amex card here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

Representative APR 15.9% variable.

BA Amex cropped

American Express Platinum

The card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points, worth 30,000 Avios amongst other things.

You receive a pro-rata refund on the £450 fee when you cancel the card and you will retain most of the benefits – Starwood Gold, Carlson Gold, Accor Platinum – for the rest of the year even after you cancel. The Amex Platinum benefits package is extensive, though, and once you’ve got it you might find the numbers add up for you. I have had one for 15 years.

My full review of the Amex Platinum card is here. Amex’s own home page is here.

Amex Platinum

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

The sign-up bonus on this card is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios until 11th February. Full details are in my review of the BA Premium Plus Amex here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

BA Premium Plus Amex

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is currently an outstanding deal which is showing no signs of going away. You pay no fee for the first year and earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 20,000 MR points can get you – 20,000 Avios points for a start!). If you are new to this hobby, I would make this your first American Express card.

My full review of Amex Gold is here. The Amex home page is here.

Amex Gold

Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa

You receive a free night in any Hilton Group property for spending £750 on this card. That could be worth £250 if spent wisely at a Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria branded property. My full review of the UK Hilton credit card is here. The home page is here.

This remains my favourite promotion for someone new to this hobby. The card is free, you only need to spend a modest amount to trigger the bonus, and you can enjoy a free night in a luxury hotel afterwards (if you pick a decent one!). It will whet your appetite for what miles and points can bring you. The representative APR 18.9% variable.

Hilton Visa

Lufthansa Miles & More American Express & Visa

These cards are free and come with the additional benefit of stopping your existing Miles & More miles from expiring.

The terrible standard bonus of 1,500 miles is increased to 11,500 miles until December 22nd. You need to spend a modest £2,000 within 90 days.

You can find out more in my review of the Miles & More cards. The representative APR is 16.9%. The application form is here.

United Airlines MileagePlus American Express & Visa

Finally, United is currently offering 15,000 MileagePlus miles if you take out its cards.  It looks like this offer may now be permanent.  You should be aware, though, that whilst the headline number of bonus miles is very generous, you will struggle to do much with them unless you already have a MileagePlus balance or can credit some Star Alliance flights to it.

You need to spend £1,800 within 90 days. My review of the United MileagePlus credit cards is here. The representative APR is 18.9%.

Bonus on small business cards

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a very small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card and the American Express Gold Business Card. There is currently a 20,000 points (= 20,000 Avios) bonus on the Gold Business card and a 40,000 points (40,000 Avios) bonus on the Platinum Business card.

In my experience people still receive the sign-up bonus on the small business cards even if they already have a personal Gold or Platinum card. This is technically not what the rules say, however, and you should bear this in mind.

(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)

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Comments

  1. Can you transfer United miles into any other program?

    • You used to be able to but I think it is no longer possible
      Your best option would be to use them for North American flights at 10000 or 12500 miles each and minimal airport fees.
      However, you need some activity in your account every 18 months or it will expire.
      I struggled to get my balance to exactly 12500 but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to use them in time, so I might just get the card for this.

  2. Any idea how long the free Hilton night takes to come through after hitting the £750 spend? Does it come in the form of an email or does it appear once logged in to hhonors?

    • Mine came through pretty quick and I got email notification. The voucher doesn’t come by email but sits on your account. You have to call hilton and make the booking

      • Thanks Stuart. The points haven’t posted yet from this month’s Visa statement so I’ll keep a look out for that – presume it’ll get triggered then.

        • Unless it has changed since they migrated the Hilton card, Barclaycard run a manual process to detect eligibility once a quarter so you could be waiting any time between 0 and 3 months.

        • If you are in a hurry to book, once the points post you could always call HH.

  3. The USA version of the platinum card offers $200 airline credit per calendar year, which helps offset the annual fee. Does the UK card have this feature too?

    • 200USD? You wish. It begins to occur to me why the bonuses are on the lower side, compared to the USA (and AMEX being the most generous issuer!). The numbers of Plat and paying Gold cardholders are simply on the smaller side to support profit margins expected by the global parent company.

      Operations, I would imagine that servicing each additional account adds a very small marginal cost, mostly variable compared to fixed costs of operations.

      • Remember that 70% of ALL credit cards in Europe are held in the UK. Compared to other countries this is nirvana. It is the 2nd best country in the world, after the US, for sign-up deals.

      • Well, the US has 5x the population of the UK, for one thing.

        Deals in China are also not bad but likely inaccessible to 99.9% of HFP readers…

      • The difference is more likely due to the difference in the interchange earned by issuers in the UK and the US. Credit card issuers in the US earn a significantly higher percentage of the transaction than they do in the UK. The amount earned by issuers on VISA and mastercard transactions will reduce to 0.3% on a lot of transactions from 1 Jan, and on all transactions over the next year or so. In the US, the rates are significantly higher. For example, I think Canadian rates are being reduced to something like 1.5% – so Canadian card issues will make 5 times as much as a UK card issuers (on transactions). Therefore they have more to play with when offering points per $ of spending.

    • US Plat cardholders don’t have foreign currency fee. Image how would that impact savings (3% on all spending abroad) and speed of MR points accumulation.

  4. Do you know if you need to continue to spend on the Lufthansa card to ensure that it does its job of keeping Miles & More active?

    • Yes, you need to spend on it every month. I believe the “protection” of your balance only applies after a 3 month probation, and then you need at least £1 every month on the cc to keep the balance safe.

      • Thank you Flood. Having dug further, I have found a site that confirms this (one transaction per month that is not refunded, after 3 months the benefit works). I guess the trick is now to find a monthly recurring fee that I can route through this card and set up a Direct Debit. Maybe LoveFilm or Spotify would do it.

        • £1 charity donation works if you can find one that takes regular payments – and you get the gift aid as well if a 40% taxpayer.

        • Graze box. 1 a month at £3.89 a time would do the trick and at leadt you’d get something edible to show for it.

  5. No SPG 20k bonus for quite some time… hope this pops up in the new year…

    • I imagine it is increasingly unlikely if people keep taking out the card, rinsing the bonus and cancelling.

  6. I had a query associated with the ‘expiry date’ of the Amex welcome offers.
    Does expiry date mean (i) that you have to achieve the spend target by the stated date (for example 11 Feb 2015), or (ii) does it mean that you have to apply and be approved for the necessary card by the stated date (and then have to achieve the spend target).
    Have read the Amex terms and conditions but they didn’t offer any clarity.

  7. Does anyone happen to know if it is possible to earn 2 companion vouchers a year on the BA Amex cards? Spend £10k on the Premium card and earn a voucher, then downgrade to the basic BA card spend another £10k and earn a 2nd voucher?