‘Credit Cards’ page updated for May 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?

Still not much!

MBNA, with one exception, continues to hold back on special offers, presumably until it can work out how it will operate under the new EU interchange fee rules.

The IHG Rewards Club credit cards and the Marriott Rewards credit cards both remain suspended for new applications.  I hope to have some IHG news for you soon but Marriott remains a mystery.

The big news of last month was American Express increasing the fee on the British Airways Premium Club card from £150 to £195.   This was blamed on the new EU regulations, although arguably a hike was overdue as the fee has remained unchanged for over 10 years.

There are only two special deals running at present:

Until 15th June, the bonus on the two British Airways credit cards is increased

Until 31st May, the bonus on the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards is increased

More on these deals below.

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, Virgin and Tesco offers are special deals whilst the Amex 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

Until 15th June, the bonus on this free card increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios.  My full review of the card is hereRepresentative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Until 15th June, the bonus is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios.  Note that the annual fee recently increased from £150 to £195.  I wrote a full review of the card here.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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, 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

Virgin Atlantic White and Black American Express and Visa

Until 31st May, the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin White card is more than tripled to 10,000 miles.  The bonus on the £140 Black card is increased from 18,500 to 25,000 miles.  I reviewed the Virgin Black card here and the Virgin White card here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable (White), 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit (Black).

As I wrote yesterday, you can convert Virgin Flying Club miles into Hilton HHonors points or IHG Rewards Club points.  This may be a reason for getting a card even if you have no interest in Virgin miles.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard

This card is less useful than it was following the halving of the earning rate last 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.

Note that Barclays is now only allowing you to earn the free night once, even if you reapply for the card in the future.  Use your voucher wisely!  Remember too that it is only valid for six months.

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.

LAST CALL - 1,200 FREE Avios points or 1,250 Virgin miles for joining TopCashback!
Bits: British Airways FINALLY signs wi-fi deal, Electric Daisy Carnival on Hilton, Four Seasons in Biarritz
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  1. Sohan says:

    What impact would Brexit have?

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      On what? EU interchange caps? Presumably nothing, since they’ve already been implemented.

    • What impact will brexit have on the fixed price BA redemption fees more to the point?

  2. Imbruce says:

    Does anyone know how long after you ask Amex Platinum Services to join you up to the
    hotel programmes to do you get your new status cards? Also if you have existing membership
    do they upgrade you? It’s been over 3 weeks since I applied and have not heard anything.

    • Genghis says:

      The first usually arrives within a week or so. Perhaps worth chasing

      • If you have an existing membership – and you should ALWAYS join yourself so you know the number and password, rather than letting Amex open an account – it is usually quick. I have heard reports about Shangri-La being slow but I haven’t claimed my status yet.

    • Adrian says:

      My wife had her new card last week and so far Hilton, SPG and Melia have all been set up (all from scratch by Amex as we always travel together so she has never had her own hotel schemes) still waiting for any others. Delighted to get Hilton gold until march 2018!

    • Nick M says:

      Where is the link to sign up for status? – I upgraded from Gold yesterday and want to start the ball rolling asap…! – It has been updated online but I can’t see any obvious links

  3. Tom H says:

    Can you cancel the Hilton visa and retain the voucher?

    • Genghis says:

      Not sure. I’ve just got the voucher myself but not sure why you’d cancel the card straight away. Cannot churn for another voucher, IHG card currently closed for new applications and keeping the card increases overall credit thereby lowering credit utilisation.

    • Yep, no issue with this – voucher is on your HHonors account.

  4. Kipto says:

    Might be worth editing the Hilton Honors Visa card article to say that you can only use the voucher once as barclaycard have changed the rules so that although churning of the card is allowed, the free night voucher is only available for first time users.

    • Fenny says:

      I had the Hilton card when it was still issued by the previous supplier (can’t remember who). I got my free night voucher before they switched to Barclaycard. Any chance I could reapply and get a voucher via Barclaycard?

      • Yes, you’ll be fine – unless you have another Barclays card.

        • Fenny says:

          Excellent. No other BCs at the moment. When I cancel assorted other cards later in the year, I’ll get the Hilton card again. Just got my HH Platinum renewal for another 12 months, so they’ll go together nicely.

    • Kipto – done.

  5. Scottydogg says:

    Just wondering , can the free Hilton Room voucher be redeemed for a family room ? ie 2 adults 2 kids ?

    • You get a standard redemption room, which is usually the cheapest (and occasionally second-cheapest) cash room. Sometimes these can sleep 4, sometimes not. In big cities where rooms are smaller the answer is usually ‘not’. That said, it is possible.

      I did a test for 15 October in London. Of the 42 Hilton hotels, 2 offered a standard reward room for 4 ( Canary Wharf and Gatwick). 15 had a standard reward room for 3 people, including Park Lane.

  6. Mulling taking out the Virgin Options to start building some miles there… How likely do folk think it is that the 31k Black Bonus will return?

  7. Jonathan says:

    Has anyone tried the Amex Gold to Platinum upgrade? https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/upgrade-to-platinum/ I’ve filled the form in numerous times over the past week but get an Error with nothing listed on the submission page every time?

    Also, if I cancel my BA premium card will I get a pro-rated refund or is it non-refundable like MBNA?

    • Genghis says:

      I used the form about 2 months ago and it worked OK then. Try a different browser? Yes – pro-rata refund with BAPP.

    • Adrian says:

      Yes, my wife upgraded last week, no issues, using internet explorer, instant response and cards arrived 2 days later, very impressive. This is a stupid thing to say but she really likes the luggage labels!
      Rob/guys after you hit the £1k spend does it really take up to 60 days for the 20k avios to post? The other cards in the past have been fairly instantaneous. I’m curious as like most people we’ll be looking to cancel straight after these post, for the pro rata refund, thank you Adrian

      • i found it was instantaneous (i.e. posting at the same time as the transaction that took me over £1k)

        • Genghis says:

          The transactions hit the rolling statement a day or two after purchase and then post to the MR statement a day or two later (thereby triggering the bonus)

      • Nick M says:

        Did it take a while for the MR balance to come across from the Gold account? – I upgraded yesterday and it is showing online, but my MR balance seems to have disappeared! – I assume it is in the background somewhere, but would prefer to be able to see it as I want to start making a few transfers out soon

        • Adrian says:

          She transferred out her MR points before upgrading as we weren’t sure what would happen to them!

          • Tom H says:

            Mine posted straight after hitting 1k spend, any one have any experience with downgrading then upgrading again after a few months? I remember someone saying they had managed to do it after a few months rather than cancelling altogether and loosing the MR account?

    • James67 says:

      Is there a closing date for this offer?

      • It isn’t meant to be publicly shared so could go at any time, Amex just takes the page down.

        • James67 says:

          Thanks Rob, best time for me would be end of June. Probably long gone by then but I could always raise it as an issue when cancelling PRG.

  8. Have been trying to register for SPG gold via Amex plat ( as new member , I used to have SPG account before but looks like it got closed for no activity) , have already tried twice in the last 4 months – every time application accepted , but nothing happens after … who should I contact ? Amex or SPG for that ?

    • Peter K says:

      I’d go for AMEX. I recently rang about Accor Plat (still waiting after 5 weeks) and they got in touch with their dedicated team that deals with this who told me all was working through as normal. If it needs chasing then I’m sure Amex will do it for you.

      ( I’ve got my SPG but Accor dragging their feet it seems).

    • NEVER let them open an account. They will have opened an account for you but they don’t bother telling you the number. Always open an account first and get that one upgraded.

      • Genghis says:

        Slightly OT but Amex opened a Eurostar Frequent Traveller account for me and I was told the last few digits of the account number. I called up Amex to ask for the full number and was told that it was policy not to give out such numbers. I instead sent a secure message and got the number that way (I guess it must be OK to give out the numbers if you work at the offshore service centre).

  9. Andrew H says:

    O/T, regarding the Business Traveller offer of free GHA platinum status. Will BT just give you this on request or do you need to have a GHA stay booked?

    • Genghis says:

      You have to request it. Or at least I did

      • Andrew H says:

        Thanks Genghis. I have done so, let’s see what happens. Hopefully it’s just as simple with GHA-> Hilton too.

        • Just remember you need proof of a stay as well as the status

        • Is the Hilton status match still on, I thought it ended a while ago? I have a GHA account that I would like to match.

          • The official match was pulled early. There is still an online form you can submit, not sure if you are guaranteed success. The link is under the Hilton bit of the Hotel Promos page.

          • Shyla says:

            Thank you.

  10. Which card is best to keep for me?

    Let’s say annually I spend £20k for work/pleasure – I’m a fresh out of uni graduate and currently have BAPP + PRG however, can’t afford to pay fees for both

    • Genghis says:

      Amex Gold is good for the sign up bonus. 2k spend in first 3 months (looks like you’d do that in just over a month). Amex gold is free in first year. After you hit the bonus, cancel.

      BAPP good for the sign up bonus (which you would hit in 2 months at your £20k pa run rate) for a cost of £32.50 (£195 x 2/12) (you get pro-rata refund).

      If you have a partner or best friend, might be good to continue to spend the £10k on the BAPP (which you’d hit in 6 months at your run rate) for a cost of just under £100. That way you’ll get a 241 redemption voucher but only good if you already have a stack of avios to apply it to.

      Then churn baby churn…

    • Alex W says:

      If you want a card to “keep” i.e. not churn, with low or no annual fee, I would probably recommend the lloyds avios rewards. But don’t use the Mastercard, link a Curve to the Amex instead. This would be a good complement to your BAPP, which I would also keep.

      Check out the “best cards for long term spend” page.

      • Adrian says:

        Unlike America I’m not sure there is a best card for long term spend. If you can make the minimum spends then churn is the way to go, Amex gold, BAPP, Amex gold 6 months and 1 day down the line. Cancel BAPP and take the pro-rata refund or use that for longer term spend to generate the 2-4-1 voucher if you value it. Churning is even better if you are married and can refer each other.

        • Genghis says:

          Or have a trusted friend and want to partner up and ‘share’ the benefit of referral bonus

      • Alex W says:

        I am not sold on the idea of wholesale churning yet. I am quite concerned that my credit score has gone from 999 to 147 in the space of 3 years!

        • harry says:

          Wholesale churning is for mugs – good luck to you, though :)

          There are plenty of reasons why I don’t go overboard on cards, just a wee bit now & then.

        • JamesR says:

          I wouldn’t worry. The way things are going, the hobby looks like its going down the plug hole for us non-frequent flyers anyway!

  11. ChrisC says:

    I’ve requested the Club Carlson Gold upgrade through my Amex Platinum 10 days ago & not heard anything since the automated email confirming the request. How long does this usually take?

    • Andrew* says:

      Don’t know about Club Carlson but requested upgrade on Hilton yesterday (received confirmation from Amex) and got upgrade confirmation from Hilton today…

  12. Does anyone know if the increased fee for the BA Premium card will apply to everyone on renewal or will it only be for new customers with existing customers remaining on the £150 fee?

  13. The Barclays HHonours really is an amazing steal. I just booked a night at the Conrad Hong Kong (normal price £300+ per night). Hopefully I’ll get an upgrade to executive floor with my Gold status.

    I was worried the voucher wouldn’t arrive in the 3 weeks between triggering the bonus and staying in HK. I called the HHonours line and they put the room on hold, only for the voucher to appear in my email 2 hours later. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence or if the Hilton agent did something (although, he certainly didn’t say he could do anything about it).