Which loyalty credit cards are worth keeping for their benefits even if you don’t use them?

(EDIT:  this article was updated in April 2017)

Typically there are three different types of travel loyalty credit cards you can apply for:

Cards you get just for the sign-up bonus

Cards you get primarily for the strong on-going earnings rate

Cards you get but don’t use because they come with generous perks

Head for Points tends to focus on the first two types, but I thought it was worth another look at those loyalty cards which offer decent on-going perks even if you don’t use them.

For clarity, my list does NOT include perks which require you to hit a spending target to receive them such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.  This article (click) looks at the most valuable credit card perks which require you to hit a spending target.

The place to turn for full details of all airline and hotel loyalty credit cards is, of course, our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page, which summarises all of the cards currently available.

Credit cards

Looking through the list, these are the eight cards you might want to get but keep in your desk drawer gathering dust:

Lufthansa Miles & More American Express and Visa Cards (click here for review)

Holding this card and charging something to it each month (even a £1 recurring charity donation) stops your Miles & More miles from expiring. Miles & More has a very nasty expiry policy if you do not have Silver (Frequent Traveller) or Gold (Senator) status – your miles expiry 36 months after earning them, even if you have other activity on your account. Holding this free card will therefore save you from a potentially expensive bit of mileage expiration.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Hilton Honors Platinum Visa Card (click here for review)

Hilton gives you Silver status in Hilton Honors for as long as you hold the card, which is itself free. Silver isn’t worth much, though – 15% bonus on base points is the key benefit. It does push you off the bottom of the list when the hotel is deciding who gets the room over the air conditioning unit, though!

Having status also means that you qualify for ‘5 night for the points of 4’ when booking reward nights.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (click here for review)

Starwood gives Preferred Guest Plus status to holders of its UK credit card. This gives you guaranteed late check-out and an upgrade to a ‘preferred’ room (ie higher floor). It is debatable whether this makes it worth the £75 annual fee, however.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Emirates Skywards Elite American Express and Visa  (click here for review)

This card provides an odd mix of benefits – £150 discount on a Business Class or First Class Emirates ticket (a one-off), 25% off purchases of Skywards miles and check in at Business Class desks at UK airports when flying on Emirates. These are unlikely to justify the £150 fee, however.  Representative APR 60.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

American Express Platinum (click here for review)

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £450 annual fee.  Because you can get a very generous 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.  There is a higher bonus of 35,000 points if I refer you – see my review for details.

There are a lot of long-term benefits that can have real value:

  • 2 Priority Pass cards, each getting you and a guest into 700 airport lounges for free.  The addition of the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5, the Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow T2 and the Plaza Premium and SkyTeam lounges in T4 have made this benefit more valuable recently.  A large Plaza Premium lounge is opening in Heathrow Terminal 5 later this year.
  • Eurostar lounge access – we also managed to get the Paris lounge to allow us to bring in our (obviously non-Platinum card holding) children last year although I don’t know if this is official policy or not
  • Lounge access with Delta in the US and with Virgin Australia in Oz.  The latter is an unofficial benefit because it is aimed at Australian Platinum cardholders but lounge staff cannot tell the difference.
  • Access to Amex’s upmarket ‘Centurion’ lounge network at selected US airports
  • Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, W etc) hotels Gold status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Marriott Rewards Gold status via the Marriott website
  • Hilton (Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Waldorf-Astoria, Hampton) Gold status
  • Melia Rewards (Melia, INNSIDE, Tryp, ME) Gold status
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle (Shangri-La, Traders) Jade status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Taj InnerCircle Gold status
  • Club Carlson (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn) Gold status
  • Travel insurance, which is fully comprehensive (some minor benefits such as lost luggage requiring you to pay for your flights and hotels with an American Express card, although ‘big stuff’ like medical cover is covered regardless)
  • Car hire insurance
  • Discounts and/or added benefits in luxury hotels via the Fine Hotels & Resorts and UK Hotel Collection programmes

…. plus some other bits and pieces.

IHG Rewards Club Visa and IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa  (click here and here for reviews)

The free IHG Rewards Club Visa card gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / InterContinental loyalty programme. This is not worth much, frankly, but some hotels do give you a modest gift or some points as a welcome gift.

The £99 Premium version of the card gives you Platinum status. The guaranteed benefits are slim, apart from a 50% bonus on base points, but a lot of hotels do offer decent upgrades at this level, especially from the Crowne Plaza brand.


Overall, there are some interesting deals to be had with some credit cards which makes them worth keeping, even if you don’t use them. The most valuable – assuming that it remains a benefit when the card is relaunched soon – is probably the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa where you are effectively paying £99 to buy yourself mid-tier Platinum status at Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc properties.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, American Express Platinum is worth a look. The generous sign-up bonus and the free hotel status cards mean that you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try, despite the heavy fee.

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.

Bits: Finnair Edinburgh service launched, I get a good value Marriott redemption, Euro 2016 travel guide
Bits: Tesco Bank interchange fee profit hit, new Avios hotel deals, £50 credit at Radisson Blu Edwardian
About Head for Points

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  1. The Platinum card also gives you access to the Centurion lounges in the US. I’ve made a couple to trips to the states recently and used the lounges at Dallas, Las Vegas and San Francisco and been very impressed, the food selection was good, especially for vegetarians and I can’t complain about the drink selection. After visiting the lounge in Vegas I had a few minutes before my flight to London so checked out the lounge BA used which made the AMEX lounge seem even better!

    I’m going to Australia next month and based on one of the comments from another reader I’ll be able to use the Virgin Australia lounges for the flights I’ve got booked with them.

  2. James67 says:

    IIRC Hilton silvers also qualify to book the 5 for 4 reward night stays which is a decent benefit worth up to 90k points per stay just for holding the card

  3. If you have the platinum card and are hiring a car always check the price with insurance too. Booking car hire for my South Africa trip yesterday. Quote from Hertz 9,400 ZAR ( I have all preferences set to decline insurance because of plat card). I went on a comparison site and hertz was quoting 6,100zar, when I clicked through this was the price with insurance when not logged in. Feeling angry I was being charged extra as a 5* member I tweeted them. They advised me to change my profile to accept insurance, and sure enough when I did this quote when logged in was 5,400zar.

  4. Did I dream it or does the Tesco card as a Clubcard give double points on fuel?

    • You get one c/c pt per £1 for buying Tesco fuel. If you use your Tesco credit card you get an additional 1 c/c pt per £2. I never use my Tesco credit card (only as a club card) now but I noticed on my last quarterly statement that I had 41 club card points sitting in the Tesco Bank section which kept carrying forward to the next statement. It needs to be rounded up to 50 pts before it can convert to vouchers so this quarter I spent £18 on fuel and paid it with my Tesco card to give me the 9 extra club card pts to round up to 50. Hopefully this will convert this quarter and zero out the Tesco Bank part of my statement.

      • This doesn’t sound right to me, thought it was 1 CC per £ for using as a clubcard, and 0.25 CC per £ for using as payment card in Tesco.

        Do you have a grandfathered card?

        • Mikeact says:

          Wasn’t it 2 x cc points per pound, regardless of whether you use it for payment as well ?

        • I tested it out and got 9 club card points for my £18 credit card spend for petrol at Tesco and showing separately 18 club card points for the £18 spend. Not tried it in store. Still better off using my BAPP for the credit card spend normally. Just did it for this one transaction.

          • Just have the old world finest card.

          • I got a Tesco credit card for this purpose late last year. I get 1 Clubcard point / £1 when I use it as a clubcard at the pump, then pay with a better earning car.

            Sometimes I use it for work expenses when they don’t take Amex (e.g. professional memberships)

    • Fuel from tesco is normally 1 cc point per £2 spent. If you use the tesco cc credit card you get 1 point per £.
      Note this also works if you don’t actually use the tesco card to pay.
      Simply insert it to get the point to and then pay with another card.
      Good if you want to use another card or are buying fuel on a company fuel card.

  5. James67 says:

    Anybody know if the hilton card is still crediting the 2500 bonus points for paying an IHG stay now that Barclays no longer have the IHG cards? My new card is on the way apparently but I’ll believe it only when I see it.

    • Any news on whether you can have the Hilton card whilst holding the IHG card again since the Barclaycard/IHG split?

    • It should be as the IHG cards already issued are still active and it is an IT bug that triggers the points.

    • I did not get them, but it was in Canada and I did not get the points for Hilton stays automatically.

      • James67 says:

        Thanksfor update guys, I’m likely at CP ABZ next weekend so I’ll judt credit t to my avios duo as I work towards my first voucher.

    • Charlie says:

      No they seem to have sorted that one out to our (mine at least) detriment

  6. Just for info

    I have a barclaycard platinum and applied for the Hilton card. I was accepted and now have both cards.

  7. The Ebbsfleet Eurostar lounge wouldn’t let my children in (2 and 1) in a pushchair despite being empty. Was a bit silly of them really.

    I can be silly too, so helped myself to much wine and beer to to take out to the main concourse.

    • Genghis says:


    • I commuted to Brussels for a while and initially didn’t realise that the lounge at Ashford was a lounge… I thought it was a bit odd that the toilets were so far out of the way! Given the size of the station I guess they didn’t think there was much point in having people on the door at 6.30am!

    • You mean, you left your children out on the concourse while you were in the lounge and then took them some wine and beer? :))

    • James67 says:

      LOL I thought you were going to say “take it out to the kids”

  8. Have you heard anything more about the Marriott credit card?

    I actually find the (few) benefits of Marriott Silver quite handy (late check out, bonus points, etc), but this month I was been suddenly downgraded to standard membership. Does that mean that the Marriott card and/or benefits are no more?

    • Silver status is still a benefit as far as I know. My understanding, which could be wrong, is that Marriott was found out for advertising credit cards without FCA authorisation and had to withdraw. Getting a licence is painful (I should know, and I was already authorised by the FSA from my previous City career) and slow, with a minimum of 6 months needed and possibly 12 months.

      That wouldn’t have stopped the card still being sold by intermediaries (in theory I could advertise it because I am licenced) but Marriott does not appear to want that, which is why the card also never appeared on comparison sites.

      • I could be totally wrong but surely Creation the card issuer is still allowed to issue the cards even if Marriott can’t advertise them?
        Those benefits are extremely handy for me as well and I have been trying to get this card since last. A bit frustrated with them ‘temporarily not accepting applications’.

  9. Flightdoctor says:

    I’ve had AMEX Platinum for many years and my wife has a supplementary card and we both have the complementary Priority Passes. We’ve just got back from our annual family skiing jaunt and made use of the No.1 traveller outbound at Gatwick and the Swiss lounge return at Geneva. I was surprised to be charged £30 for each visit for our 3 children – I seem to recall each card allowed one complementary guest. Has the policy changed?

    • You get one guest each, so if they charged 3 people to your card the fee would be £15 for you, and if the other 2 children were charged to your wifes card there would be no fee. You were overcharged by £15 on that basis.

      However, the lounge may have charged 4 people to your card and just 1 person to your wifes card, which would lead to a £30 fee. You need to examine receipts carefully with PP.

      Another common problem is confusion over the word ‘Guests’ on the receipt. This means ADDITIONAL guests but it easy to assume it includes yourself and sign it off, potentially triggering extra charges.

      • I also just got caught out with a £15 charge per guest thinking my priority pass through Amex Platinum meant a free guest entry to the lounge.

        My mistake was that the Business Amex Platinum does not have the free guest benefit, though the priority pass though the personal Amex platinum card does.

  10. OT: I am off for a 5 star weekend in a couple weeks after the Hilton Flash Sale.

    I need a one night hotel nearer the airport for the last day.

    Will I be better off booking now, or waiting until a couple of days before the time – there are half a dozen Hiltons which would be suitable. It will be a Hilton to trigger one of my 2500 bonuses on the HH Visa Plat.


  11. Chris Jones says:

    Doe anybody know if you can book a family room as part of the hilton honors credit card?

    • Do you mean the free night certificate after spending £750?

      I think they can only be used for “standard redemptions” – when looking for availability look for a round number of points (ie 80k)… You might then be able to upgrade (for points or cash) to get a suitable room

    • Needs to be a standard points redemption, not a premium room reward – some hotels will get 4 in a standard room and some won’t.

    • I have used the vouchers at two separate hotels in USA and had a family room in both.

      • US hotels = big rooms! Do a search for London for a room for 4 for a reward night and only a handful show, although of course you only need one.

  12. On the subject of Hilton free night certificate, i phoned Hilton last week to clarify how I could tell in advance if there was availability using the free night certificate. The agent said it was not about reward night availability but whether the hotel had used its quota up of free night certificate redemptions. I then gave her a number of hotels requesting availability and all had availability with only a few of them showing reward points night availability. So it appears like a bit of a lottery involving phone calls to check availability.

    • I have used the certificates 4 times now. You can check availability online and as long as the hotels have standard reward rooms showing, you should be able to call up and book them.

      • Thanks for your inputs, I’ll be claiming my certificate this summer so this has been useful.

  13. The £150 fee on the Emirates is easily justified if you’re booking a business or first class flights, I don’t see how it isn’t as when you throw in the earning potential when using the card, it works out well.

    OT: Hilton Germany have changed the earnings on their German credit card and it now earns 1 point per euro compared to 2 per euro for general shopping and 2 points per euro compared to 3 points per euro at Hilton properties. Could this be a sign of things to come?

    That said the new sign up is 20,000 HHonors rather than. 10,000. You still get Gold status thankfully. If you’ve got a German account it’s worth the sign up and same goes for Lufthansa if you fly with them.