‘Credit Cards’ page updated for February 2016 – what are the best deals this month?

It’s time for our monthly round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.  Our directory of all 25 UK travel credit cards can be found by clicking the ‘Credit Cards’ tab at the top of the site or – for email, Flipboard, Apple News or mobile readers – by clicking here.

What’s new?

Rather worryingly, not much.  The impact of the new EU interchange fee rules appears to have led to the whole industry sitting on their hands whilst they decide how to react.

There are only two key things to be aware of:

The current special offer on the British Airways American Express free card (9,000 Avios instead of 3,000 Avios) and the Premium Plus £150 card (25,000 Avios instead of 18,000 Avios) ends on Wednesday night

The refer-a-friend bonus on the £24 Lloyds Avios Rewards card has been increased from 4,500 Avios to 5,500 Avios each, until the end of March

And that, I’m afraid, is it.

If you didn’t read HFP over the weekend, it is also worth pointing out that:

American Express Platinum has added Hilton Gold, Melia Gold and Shangi-La Golden Circle Jade status to its list of benefits, but is dropping Accor Platinum (click to see the full article)

Here is a summary of what I consider to be the best deals available at the moment.

Credit cards

What are the best travel credit card deals at the moment?

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus. The BA, Lloyds and Tesco offers are special deals whilst the Amex Gold 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.

American Express Platinum

The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.

Your points can be transferred into various airline and hotel programmes.  You could get 30,000 Avios, 30,000 Virgin miles, 60,000 Hilton points, 90,000 Carlson points, 2,000 Eurostar Frequent Traveller points etc etc.

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, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold and Shangri-La Jade – 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 – this also includes details of the additional refer a friend bonus. Amex’s own home page is here.

Amex Platinum

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.  One benefit of earning American Express points is that you only need to transfer them to an airline or hotel scheme when you are ready to redeem – there is no risk of being caught out by devaluations!

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

Amex Gold

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

The sign-up bonus on the fee-paying British Airways card is currently 25,000 Avios until Wednesday 10th February 2016 compared to the usual offer of 19,000 Avios.  The bonus on the free card has been tripled from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios.  Read my review of British Airways Premium Plus here and my review of the free British Airways Amex here to decide which is best for you.  Move quickly if you want to jump on this.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard

This card is less useful than it was following the halving of the earning rate in December.  However, it remains the most generous non-Amex card unless you meet the strict criteria for HSBC Premier.

Some comparison sites are currently offering a 1,000 point bonus with this card as I wrote here.  My full review of the Tesco Clubcard MasterCard credit card can be found here.  The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

Hilton Visa

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 is 18.9% variable.

Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

I have become more keen on this card over the last year.  The Avios devaluation last April increased the value of the upgrade voucher.  With no other cards following its lead of dropping foreign transaction fees, it remains a good choice for spending abroad.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including the £24 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

More importantly, with most Visa and MasterCard cards looking unexciting these days (eg Tesco cutting its earning rate by 50%), the ability to use MasterCard spend on the Lloyds card to count towards your upgrade voucher is valuable.   My full review of the card is here.  Until 31st March, the refer-a-friend bonus is increased from 4,500 Avios to 5,500 Avios for both of you.

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.

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.

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2,000 Avios points when you join Zipcar
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Comments

  1. For the BA Amex can I get the bonus again as soon as 6 months is up since closing my last one? I closed the account (had the letter giving the account closure date) on the 5th of August. Am I safe to apply now to get the increased bonus while it’s on?

  2. Just to note, I think the Gold upgrade to Platinum bonus points deal has finished as well. The splash page isn’t there anymore.

    Shame… I wanted to do this as well!

  3. Just on the Lloyds card, if I were to cancel mine and re-applied, would I still receive the benefit of the double avios, upgrade voucher at 7.5k spend?

    • You have the old style card? Yes, if accepted you will get all that. Perhaps easier to call them and try to upgrade although I believe they can be awkward!

  4. Do you think the BA Amex cards will likely repeat these sign up bonuses this year? Not really in a position to get one yet as trying to meet spend on other cards. Thanks.

    • They had the bonuses late 2014, then for a period of months from last year until now, so I’d reckon they’re likely to be repeated later in the year.

      • Agreed, very high chance we will see it again. However, as it has run for 5 months (!) at this level, they will have problems with the advertising people if they don’t run it at the lower level for a while.

  5. Wife just been rejected for Hilton HHonors card again. Neither of us have been able to get our hands on this card, despite good credit rating, and not too much card churning. If they would just tell us what their criteria is, we could probably take steps to meet it.

    • The_Real_A says:

      Have you checked your free credit report from Noddle or even taken the free Experian trial? I was very suprised when i looked at mine – it transpired problems i encountered were down to too much available credit (but not taken up).

      • I had 1/5 on my noddle credit report and hit the submit button, on every card application, with trepidation, however have only been rejected once by mbna ( Etihad) 3 weeks after receiving the premium IHG visa. Both my wife and I( same applications) appealed they gave her the card but not me. She is employed, I’m self employed :(
        I recently received the Hilton card with a 1/5 score having only cancelled the IHG premium the previous month.

  6. How long does it take for the Hilton Honors voucher code to be send after the spending the required amount?

    • Mr Cinnamon says:

      Hopefully many weeks as I have hit the target too early, thinking the voucher was valid for 12 months but in fact it is 6 months. Darn it.

    • Ages in my experience. But I got caught in the transfer over to Barclaycard site and they lost view of my transactions/spend!

    • I had the Hilton card a couple of years ago and my voucher was emailed pretty much as soon as I hit my spend. That was before the switch to Barclaycard.

      • I am holding my spend back as I don’t want to tempt fate and miss out on getting the voucher for use on 21/8 – just hope it comes through fairly quickly after I do hit the spend though. It seems to be mixed – some get it quick others can take weeks from what I’ve seen on here.

    • Mrs Funtime hit her £750 spend target on 27/01/2015 and her voucher was emailed 01/02/2015.

      She’s since hit her £10000 spend (self assessment tax bill paid) and now waiting for Hilton to upgrade to Gold.

      Had hoped the free night voucher would have taken longer to process so that we could use on USA road trip during August (Route 66 at long last). Never tire of London though so will use there instead.

      • Hey we are doing Route 66 next May/June time ! We want to use our free night voucher on 21/8 in Chicago – this year driving to Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Houston! I was tempted to hit my limit this week to speed up the voucher but after seeing your post I will hold back till 21/2!

    • 2-6 weeks, they seem to be done in batches.

    • My wife’s took 7 days from getting the card,spending the £750 the day it was received and voucher being emailed.
      I git my card last Tuesday and didn’t the £750 on Tuesday. No voucher yet.

  7. Andrew H says:

    I see from this thread on the V-Flyer forum that many people received the bonus without even knowing about the promotion.

    http://v-flyer.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&p=916916“]http://v-flyer.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&p=916916

  8. I made a purchase on my account on 25/11 and got the 1000 pts over the weekend – I didn’t register for it – only heard about it on here. I also did a purchase on my husbands account on 24/11 but he hasn’t received anything so far.

    • Andrew H says:

      I suspect there has been a massive cock-up down at Virgin Flying Club.

      • I’ve transferred more than 20k from Tesco to Virgin more than a week ago and nothing has reached any of the accounts so far. Never had this issue before. It usually takes a couple of days? Does anyone know how long it takes to transfer from Amex to Virgin?

        Regarding the Gold upgrade. I’ve reached my target now. Is it better to upgrade to Platinum or cancel the gold and apply for a Platinum?

        Thanks.

        • There as a case once where Tesco misformatted all the account numbers so the transfers could not be completed, may have happened again.

        • Amex to virgin is immediate.

        • This happened to me last year. I made a transfer to each of Avios and Virgin. Normally, my Tesco transfers go through within a couple of days, but with Virgin, the miles hadn’t hit my account some time later. I rang Tesco and they had to put it through again. It’s worth ringing the Clubcard number and asking them to check.

          • I think I’m going to give them a ring. Thanks.

          • This also happened to me, maybe at the same time as you.

            I emailed Tesco about a month after conversion, and they replied the next day, saying they had “immediately and manually” sent the miles to Virgin, and true enough they were there.

        • I have also made a transfer from Tesco to Virgin a week ago with nothing appearing in my Virgin account .

    • Hmm, I finally had the points for a purchase post on 16th Jan, but no 1000 point bonus. Will have to chase for it.

      • Andrew H says:

        @Kathy, if you’re referring to Virgin, the promo closed on 20th Dec.

      • I had similar. Transaction on 25/11/15 didn’t show up until 23/1/16 & is dated as being outside of the promotion period. No 1000 points for me either. I have emailled CS to ask about missing bonus points.

  9. Andrew H says:

    If anyone else is in the same boat as me, email customer.services@fly.virgin.com – the more the merrier!

  10. barry cutters says:

    raffles – you say you have had the platinum for 15 years, out of interest how has the fee increased over time? – cant imagine it was £450 15 years ago

    • It was £300 for 12 years and then jumped to £450 a couple of years ago ….. if you search HfP you will find the articles on the fee raise.

      • Raffles am I right in thinking you don’t have to pay the full Amex Plat fee (either it’s wholly waived, or reduced) thanks to a grandfathered arrangement based on having another Amex card?

        I was thinking of it as I tried to get it at the time but just missed out after they changed that rule, and since then the Plat fee has been too rich for my blood!

  11. off topic

    for anyone interested Qatar have just launched another massive sale (ex-eu included) for 2 people travelling together..

    check it out

    • Dates are very limited. Just been trying various dates for Edi to Doha / Dxb but all showing in excess of £5400 for 2 biz fares

      • just bagged osl-doh-syd-doh-fra for 1,400 each for the wife and I in business for my march dates…cant go wrong…combination of 777 and 787 too…

      • Fly from Brussels, Oslo, CPH etc

  12. The TSB cards give double Avios on foreign spend. I’m interested to know what TSB view as ‘foreign’ spend – is it only on transactions in a foreign currency – or are some Sterling transactions doubled? Thanks

    • The_Real_A says:

      I know what you are referring to, some credit cards count the location of the merchant (rather than non-sterling spending) as a foreign transaction. TSB use the phrase “Foreign Exchange Transactions” whilst Lloyds use the phrase “Non sterling transaction” – since TSB use the same backend systems as Lloyds i strongly believe it would need to be non-sterling transactions for the double points. On my Lloyds card i can confirm i did not receive any bonus on foreign merchants priced in sterling.

  13. Nick Haley says:

    Tried to buy a ticket at a London Overground office on Amex today (have bought there before) – no dice. Worrying as a season ticket was going to be a fair chunk of my qualifying Platinum £2k!! Wonder if I can go to Victoria or similar… anyone happen to know *for sure* any NR season-ticket issuing stations that will accept Amex?

    • Nick Haley says:

      (in London).

    • I buy my rail tickets almost daily on Amex, usually from Victoria, sometimes London Bridge or Charing Cross. Never had an issue but not bought even a monthly season ticket for ages. IT can be temperamental. Just bought my Network railcard on Amex however.

    • TfL have always taken Amex, but they don’t have any more ticket offices…

  14. Sorry OTT… does anyone know what time IHG rooms for the next available day are loaded?

  15. I emailled CS this afternoon enquiring about my missing 1000 miles and I’ve just checked and found they have magically appeared!

    Top customer service!

  16. Chelseafi says:

    With the hotel status you get from the cards, does your account just get upgraded online or do you get an actual hotel status card? Thanks

    • Depends on the chain. Starwood and Hilton have smartphone virtual cards so you don’t need a plastic one anyway. Starwood sends one on request but only on request. Accor has always sent me a plastic card.

      • Chelseafi says:

        Thank you, what about IHG do I get a card? I have IHG £100 Barclaycard, I have booked IC NY TS (before I got card but think I don’t get anything from IC anyway from what I read here?) & need to book a few nights at double tree, so looking at upgrading my Amex gold to Plat, so I should get something when I book doubletree is that a good option?

  17. Raffles
    As to your previous comment about Lloyds card, i still have the old style Lloyds duo card. You question seemed curious; are they not meant to exist anymore?

    • They exist, but are no longer being issued to new cardholders. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to upgrade anyway and get better benefits.

      • Haven’t used it in a while, due to double and triple points on Amex gold. Hit the spending target for the bonus and am looking to get the 20000 MR on upgrade to Platinum (via target email). As its just passed my free fee year, do I need to wait for the gold fee to kick in before upgrading to get the bonus 7500 MR from gold? Will look into upgrade on Lloyds as i did not know about add benefits til now thanks to you.

  18. Amtexfly says:

    I’m keeping my Amex gold card to get the 10,000 points for spending £10k in a year; if I upgrade to platinum for the 20,000 points I assume I will forfeit the 10,000 bonus?

  19. I’m thinking about cancelling my Tesco Credit Card because I don’t use it anymore and have switched over to the Hilton hhonors visa card whenever Amex isn’t accepted.

    Is there any worth/benefits in keeping the Tesco card if it’s not being used sitting in a drawer? I would like to have have one less credit card on file in my credit score.

    • Not really’

    • Bear in mind though that it can be worthwhile for your credit score having non-fee credit cards at low/nil balances as it decreased your credit utilisation.

      • Yup sure, but its credit limit also contributes to my maximum low-term debt. Just not sure which has more impact on the credit score, credit utilisation or low-term debt amount.

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