The top UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value

(EDIT:  This article was updated in July 2016)

Our ‘Credit Cards Update’ tab lists all of the card deals currently available. What I thought might be interesting, in very mercenary terms, would be to rank the sign-up bonuses in terms of cold hard cash. Put simply, if I get this card and cancel it quickly, how much value can I get?

These are objective calculations based on the following formula:

The value of the sign-up bonus – see below for my methodology

The annual fee, if any

For Amex Platinum, BA Premium Plus Amex and SPG Amex, the fee refund if you cancel after a typical 4 months

Notes on valuation

The biggest question mark is over the value of the sign-up bonus. For hotel cards, I have valued points based on the number required for a top-end redemption which I value at £250 per night. The exception is Starwood, which makes high category awards disproportionately expensive.

For airline miles, I assume they are worth 1p each. I know that I generally use a 0.75p value for Avios, but you can get 1p easily with, for example, Reward Flight Saver short-haul redemptions.

(Of course, for airlines like Lufthansa where short-haul redemptions are bad value, a small amount of miles can be effectively worthless. In some programmes, you would need to already have a decent balance to get full value from the bonus miles.)

I have valued Amex Membership Rewards points at 1p, since they transfer 1:1 into airline miles and I am valuing those at 1p.

The ‘free money’ £ value I quote is therefore calculated as:

‘value of sign-up bonus’ minus ‘annual fee’ (for an Amex, I assume you cancel within 4 months for a 2/3rd fee rebate)

Bring on the winners!

OK … here we go! Remember that full details on all the cards can be found on the ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

This analysis does not include cards with no sign-up bonus.

GOLD!  £250 ‘free money’ – Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa

Sign-up bonus of 1 free night in any Waldorf, Conrad, Hilton etc hotel (easily worth £250 if used well), no fee. £750 spend in 90 days required.

Hilton Visa

SILVER!  £200 ‘free money’ – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

20,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £200 if turned into 20,000 Avios or other airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) and £0 fee for the first year.  £2,000 spend in 3 months required.

SILVER!  £200 ‘free money’ – HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard

40,000 Avios or other airline miles (£400 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) for spending £12,000 in your first year.  £195 fee, non-refundable.  Note that HSBC Premier has strict eligibility criteria.

BRONZE!  £150 ‘free money’ – American Express Platinum

30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £300 as gets you 30,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved), £450 fee but £300 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months.

Most importantly, though, you will retain your Starwood Preferred Guest Gold card, Club Carlson Gold card, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Jade and Hilton HHonors Gold cards for a full 12 months, even if you cancel.  This adds substantial extra value to the package.

Amex Platinum

SILVER!  £135 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express Premium Plus

18,000 Avios until 15th June (£180 assuming 1p per Avios achieved), £195 fee but £150 fee refund if cancelled after four months. £3,000 spend in 3 months required.

£75 ‘free money’ – Starwood Preferred Guest Amex

10,000 points (valued at £100 as good for 10,000 air miles, assuming 1p per mile achieved), £75 fee but £50 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months. £1,000 spend in 3 months required.  If you have been targetted for the current 20,000 points offer then I would increase the value to £225  (20,000 SPG points = 25,000 airline miles = £250 – £25 fee for 3 months card fee).

£55 ‘free money’ – Marriott Rewards MasterCard (temporarily suspended for new applications)

10,000 points (22% of a top end £250 night), no fee. £200 spend within 6 months required.

£50 ‘free money’ – American Airlines AAdvantage Amex and Visa

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  Bonus triggers with first purchase.

£50 ‘free money’ – IHG Rewards Club MasterCard 

10,000 points (20% of a top end £250 night), no fee. Bonus triggers with a £200 spend within 90 days.  Alternatively, the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard comes with £100-worth of points but has a £99 fee.

£50 ‘free money’ – Etihad Guest American Express & Visa

5,000 Etihad Guest miles and no annual fee.  Miles post with first purchase.  However, it is impossible to get this value from the miles unless you are adding them to an existing balance

£50 ‘free money’ – Emirates Skywards American Express and Visa

5,000 miles (£120 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus with your first purchase.  No fee.

£45 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic Black Amex and Visa

18,500 miles (£185 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, £140 fee.  Bonus posts with first purchase.

£30 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express

3,000 Avios (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  £500 spend within 3 months required.

£30 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic White Amex and Visa

3,000 miles (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  Bonus posts with first purchase.

£21 ‘free money’ – Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

4,500 Avios points are available if I refer you, you otherwise you get nothing!  £24 annual fee.  Email me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk and I will send you a referral link.

£15 ‘free money’Lufthansa Miles & More American Express and Visa

1,500 Miles & More miles.  Valued at £15 assuming 1p per mile achieved.  No fee.  However, it is impossible to get this value from the miles unless adding them to an existing balance.

(I did not consider the Flybe card in this analysis as the value of the ‘free’ flights offered by the card is difficult to calculate.  The United Airlines card currently has no bonus.  The Emirates Elite card has a bonus worth less than the non-refundable fee.  There is no bonus on the TSB Avios cards.)

Summary

If there is anything to learn from this bit of fun, I suppose it is this:

If you and your partner only ‘churned’ the best 3 credit cards each, you could get over £1,200 of value between you based on my valuation model. That is certainly nothing to be sniffed at!

Secondly, do not underestimate the value of the hotel cards, especially for churning. Whilst a small number of airline miles has little value, a small number of hotel points can get you one night somewhere, and one night is often all you need.  If you and your partner both applied for the Hilton card, you would get two free nights which would make a great long weekend.

Representative APR rates for the cards above can be found on our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

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.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

TODAY ONLY: Win a return luxury London airport transfer with REAL Transfers
Redeem Accor points for events at the Paris AccorHotels Arena and in London
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. I currently have the Black BA Amex. If I cancel my card – what happens to my 241 voucher. Do I have to downgrade to the free blue card to retain it or i can simply cancel?

    • Your voucher will remain even if your card is cancelled, Amex may try and tell you differently on the phone.

      Just be aware that you will need a valid Amex to pay your carrier charges/tax when making a booking using the voucher. No other card type is valid.

    • Amex itself advised clearly not to close the account but just downgrade to the blue as they insist you need to pay the taxes with that card. Though, i remember many quoting any Amex issued directly from Amex would be ok (you may not have one). On the other side why missing out on a 3x avios, specially if you are booking a business or first redemption and pay a bigger amount of taxes.i am keeping my Prem for the third year, i need to fund my balance for 2 vouchers as i regularly find huge value in RFS that gets reduced from time to time,

      • Any Amex whatsoever is fine. I paid the taxes on my 2for1 redemption using my Lloyds Amex.

        Having said that it’s not worth the risk. Just downgrade to blue.

    • The only factor not to downgrade to Blue is that I understand it’s another application and hence another credit check on your file.

      If you’re likely to be reliant on a solid credit rating anytime soon (for example applying for a mortgage), then you may want to hold the black until you spend the voucher then pro-rate rebate & cancel. btw applying for the Blue isn’t going to horrendously damage your credit rating, but could give the impression to some entities you’re after lots of credit / debt at the same time as applying for a mortgage.

      • no it is not a new application and credit check Amex told me, anyone can confirm?

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          The downside of applying for Blue is that it doesn’t start the 6 month clock ticking and you means you won’t be able to reapply and earn a new sign-up bonus.

  2. Hi,
    Would you know if Amex enforce the limit of 90,000 point which can be earned from the refer a friend scheme per calender year and if yes is there any way round it?

  3. Does BA Amex PP not require £3,000 spend in first three months rather than £2,000?

  4. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Very useful. I currently have Amex Plat, Hilton, and Tesco.

    – Amex is part of a churn strategy
    – Hilton used occasionally drip feeds point into my account to keep it alive
    – I can no longer see any value at all in the Tesco at 1point (aka, pence) per £8 so I’m going to cancel if for no other reason than getting it off my credit report. To be honest, I don’t see a lot here to replace it with so I’m going to investigate cashback cards.

    • The AmEx cashback have been very good to me with 5% cashback in the first 3 months I got about £230 cashback last year excluding the fee. Perhaps I could have gotten more out of it using the BAPP since we went over the magical £10K but companion voucher is not convenient when having 1yo baby.
      My semi-churning strategy is one year Gold and one year Cashback. I have a BA Amex but I simply keep that one for AmEx offers e.g. shop-small, etc.

      • Going off on a tangent, but if you were happy to take your infant on a long-haul flight, are you able to use the 2:1 voucher on two adults and get the infant cash fair alongside? I’m guessing you can’t book a cash infant ticket without the accompanying cash adult tickets, which would limit the benefit of the 2:1 voucher.

        • Infant gets an Avios ticket at a cost of 10 per cent of taxes and Avios for an adult.

        • Indeed, an under 2 years ‘lap infant’ is the golden age! We used the VS premium economy upgrade voucher from the VS black Amex with sale Economy rewards for the adults and then booked the infant as a miles ticket (10% miles/’taxes’).

  5. One thing I want to know is do miles have to be posted to an account in the same name.

    I have a Virgin flying club account if I open a card get the sign up bonus and my wife does too can we have the miles posted to one flying club account rather than individual ones?

    • you can use each others miles with Virgin

      • Dont you have to transfer them though at a cost?

        • Stuart Fortune says:

          No need to transfer them at a cost if you have enough miles for the purchase in one account or the other.

          For example:
          Husband has 40,000 miles
          Wife has 40,000 miles
          You can buy 2 economy tickets to Atlanta (35,000 miles each)
          You can buy an economy ticket to Atlanta (35,000 miles from 1 account) and upgrade it to upper class (20,000 miles from the other account)
          You CANNOT buy an economy ticket to Las Vegas (42,500 miles) because neither account can fully fund the transaction. In this case you would have to either earn the missing 2,500 or pay to transfer some from one account to the other.

  6. I gather from the Tesco Clubcard deals page on HotUKDeals that there is an extra 1000 points offer which is stackable with Raffles’ deal described above – so you’d get 2000 points.

    http://www.hotukdeals.com/deals/tesco-clubcard-megathread-earn-1000-s-points-worth-up-4-times-rewards-2136602

    Here’s what it says:

    – Comparethemarket: 1,000 points for taking out a Tesco 0% for 17 months purchase card + access to 2 for 1 cinema tickets applying via comparethemarket http://www.comparethemarket.com/credit-cards/rewards/ *** note there are different variants of Tesco credit card – choose the one with 1,000 points – is 22nd in the list on the meerkat site ***

    – Tesco credit card refer a friend 1,000 points bonus for the you and your friend – this stacks with with above offer. You can recommend up to 10 friends or family members
    https://www.tescobank.com/assets/sections/credit-cards/pdf/tesco-credit-cards-recommend-friend.pdf

    Can anyone confirm?

    • The OP is reliable, but there’s really not much point taking out a Tesco credit card vs the alternatives (unless you are refuelling a fleet of lorries, I guess lol)

      • I’d just like the sign-up bonus. 1000 clubcard points is nice – 2400 Avios – but 2000 points is 4800 Avios. 4800 avios just for signing up, not even a spend, sounds great. Just wondered if anyone has ever got it.

        • I’ve known the OP online for about 4 years and he is usually not just 100% accurate but gets there earlier than most others, you can probably trust the stacking bit, though I agree, if you go through CTM it seems slightly odd that it would stack with refer a friend – you could always PM him on HUKD…

          • http://www.tescobank.com/credit-cards/offers/purchases/purchases-offer-2.html?cmpid=agg/acq/cc/pr2/Aggs_MSM%2520Purchase%25202%2520CC%2520Placement%25203/Msm_Placement_3

            same offer through MSM

            I really doubt you’d get both referral bonus + 1000 via MSE, but stranger things have happened

            I got 3000 points just for cancelling 1 Tesco car insurance policy & taking out another pretty much identical 1 with Tesco instead

            • Raffles, you’d have thought Tesco might offer HFP the same 1000 point deal + refer on top?

            • I’m running the MSM one tomorrow as it happens.

              I don’t have a deal with Tesco Bank. In theory I could have one now I have my FCA licence but I’m no longer sure it is worth it.

              The other thing worth knowing is that Amex is very flexible with what you say. In theory, Tesco Bank will (unless I got a special exception) only allow me to promote them if I lay out the information as you see it on MSM – in a table and, more importantly, with the data in that table provided in a feed from Tesco so there is no chance of it being out of date. That clearly would not work for any content site (which, in the trade, is what HFP is seen as).

          • Tesco has run 1,000 point bonuses a few times before and I have never had problems referring people afterwards. Things may have changed in the last 18 months of course since there was last such a deal.

  7. Do you receive any Hhonors points if you use the reward voucher you receive via the VISA card? I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam last weekend using mine but haven’t received any points for the stay. I thought I had read previously that you do receive them but now thinking I may have been mistaken.

    • I used my Hilton free night voucher two months ago at Conrad in St James and haven’t received any points for it if any help.

    • Hi Jim. No, you don’t receive HHonors points for the room itself when staying with a free night certificate, although are entitled to receive them on any incidental charges. The confusion may have arisen as you DO receive a stay credit even when using the voucher (this counts towards status acquisition/maintenance). Also HHonors Diamond members receive 1,000pts for the stay, as usual.

      As an aside – the only type of Hilton free night voucher that is awarded points is a ‘Be My Guest’ certificate – these are only dished out by Hilton customer care in Dallas though, when particularly bad service has been experienced!

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Generally, only on incidental spend, I think. A recent voucher stay at Conrad Tokyo did trigger the Conad-specific bonuses though.

    • You don’t receive points for the stay paid with points, but you do receive 2500 points for each of the first four stays with the Hilton credit card. You need to make a purchase at the hotel to trigger the points. If the stay is in UK they post quickly; overseas they can take longer (in my, obviously limited) experience.

  8. Don’t forget the substantial additional points that a couple can get by referring each other.

  9. can you please clarify for me, is the refund of fee obtained if you cancel before or after 4 months, thanks

    • The refund is available at any time during the year and is pro rata for the unused portion of the fee period.

      ie if you cancel after 4 months you get 8/12ths back. If you cancel after 10 months you get 2/12ths back etc.

      Raffles has just assumed 4 months as equivalent to 3 months to hit the spend target plus another month for the points to be recorded & then transferred to Avios.

    • You can cancel whenever you want. I just picked 4 months as an example.

      • SoloFlyer says:

        Yeah I cancelled my SPG card after receiving the bonus within just a month and they refunded me the whole fee back! Bit naughty j know and I think I may have rubbed Amex up the wrong way so wouldn’t suggest it

  10. One quick question. I have the lloyds duo. Can I be referred for the TSB Avios American Express and MasterCard? Thanks

  11. Thanks for replies.

  12. I have the Virgin white cards (have done since 2007) and also just recently got the United MP cards to get the 12K bonus. What are MBNAs rules for earning bonuses/churning? I am not currently using the Virgin so thinking to cancel and sign up again mid next year to earn another bonus and possibly do the same with United MP too.

  13. I’ve just taken out the Hilton credit card in my husband’s name as I have the IHG card. I just got upgraded to Hilton Diamond via the recent status match. If I book 4 stays next year under my Hilton Diamond account and pay with the credit card which is linked to my husband’s now Silver Hilton account, will we still benefit from the 2500 bonus pts for the first 4 stays in the first year? Do we have to book via the account which is linked to the credit card ie. my husband’s Hilton account or can we book via mine but the bonus points credit to my husband’s? Not sure how it work’s across the two accounts. We want to get the benefit of the Diamond status. I did try to get the card in my name to make life easier but got declined.

    • It doesn’t matter who books the stay for the 2500 bonus points. All that matters is if the card is used to settle a Hilton folio within 90 days. My wife took the card out and I booked a stay on my points. We deliberately took a chocolate bar from the fridge so we would have some room spend and paid using her card. She got 2500 points. When we triggered the free night we did the same again with another chocolate bar for another 2500 bonus points. Nicest Yorkie bars I ever had….

      • Thanks Stuart – so the free night counts as a stay as long as you credit something to the bill you will get the 2500 bonus?!

  14. Hi everyone, I have a few questions regarding some of the above cards.

    Has the American Airlines AAdvantage Amex/Visa 15,000 miles offer been withdrawn early? I clicked the link and it says 5,000 for the first purchase. Would I be able to get this card and bonus if I already have an Amex British Airways card?

    I was also looking at the Hilton HHonors card but would like to know if I’d still get the free night certificate if I already have a Barclaycard. I would like to take advantage of the IHG Rewards Club Visa too but it says I can’t apply if I already have a Barclaycard. Does anyone know if cancelling my current card would be enough or would I have to wait 6 months?

    Thanks
    Craig

  15. Ian Robinson says:

    My wife and I are on our third churn of the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card. It really is a great offer – we have used our recent pairs of free nights at Waldorf AMS and Cavalieri ROM. We were significantly upgraded in Rome so a conservative estimate of the room rate value for two destinations at 2 nights each is in excess of GBP1400 combined. Conrad Maldives is often touted as a benchmark but there are now some very decent European properties.

    Cancel the card as soon as the trigger is hit and the voucher issued and then reapply after the statutory period. There seem to be various thoughts about what this period is – not even sure that Hilton (or their card issuers know). As a footnote we both churn the IHG Reward Visa cards in tandem and Barclaycard have never challenged an application although it is often mentioned that the issuing bank does not let the two run alongside each other – an experience we are yet to suffer!!

  16. I thought you had to keep the cashback card for a year to realise the cashback?

  17. My first year of the Amex Gold runs out in February, ideally I would like the BA Premium Plus Card after this. I am looking to move house in the first half of next year, so don’t want any new credit card applications affecting my mortgage application chances. Do you know if it is possible to convert from a gold card to a BA premium without a new application or impact on credit score? Will sign-up bonus still apply? If not, what are my other options as I don’t want to renew gold at current fee or be without a points earning amex card until then.

Trackbacks

  1. […] money or obtain employment. What many people fail to realize is that while installment loan debt or credit card debt can be wiped out through filing for bankruptcy, […]