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 updated 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. This article is a summary of the recent changes.
Enhanced sign-up bonuses are back but only with the two usual suspects – British Airways and Virgin.
The issuers of the other 20+ cards on the market continue to sit on their hands, which is not entirely surprising as they are probably losing money at the moment following the cap on interchange fees last December.
The only card which may see a sign-up bonus launched is the new Tesco Premium MasterCard. It has been trialling a targetted 5,000 Clubcard points bonus
The big recent news, however, was the announcement that the bmi Diamond Club credit cards, issued by MBNA, are to close on 30th September (article). This is a big blow as they are far more generous than any cards currently available. My MasterCard earns me 2.5 Avios per £1, albeit with a £60 annual fee.
If you have a Diamond Club card, you should look at this article I wrote on the best alternative Visa and MasterCard products for you.
What are the best travel credit card sign-up this month?
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.
Until 7th February, the bonus on this free card increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios. My full review of the card is here. Representative APR 22.9% variable.
Until 7th February, 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.
The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.
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.
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!). You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.
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!
Until 31st October, 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).
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.
This card is brand new. The annual fee is £195 but you will receive 40,000 Avios points (or Etihad, Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific miles) for spending £12,000 within a year. There is also an attractive earnings rate of 1 mile per £1 spent.Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.
The ‘added benefits’ also look interesting – these include airport lounge access via Lounge Key. I haven’t done a formal review of the card yet but my launch article is here. You must be a HSBC Premier customer to apply which comes with tough financial criteria.
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.
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.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the 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.