HFP ‘Credit Cards’ page updated for September – 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 dealsOur 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.

What’s new?

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.

Credit cards

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.

British Airways American Express

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 hereRepresentative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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.

American Express Platinum

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.

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!).  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!

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 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.

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard

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.

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.

(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.

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  1. So basically the points game is dead as we can excpect no more big sign up bonuses?!

    • You could never churn the MBNA cards anyway. Even if Etihad decided to offer 30,000 miles for getting their free card tomorrow, the changes to their reward chart last year still wouldn’t give you many options beyond a one-way in Business to Abu Dhabi, and even that would require a fair bit of card spend before you had enough.

      I think it will cycle. Why would MBNA want to encourage you to take out a card which loses it money?

      However, in 2 years time the Etihad card (for example) will probably be:

      MasterCard only
      £99 fee
      Come with Etihad Silver status
      Earn 0.5 miles per £1

      That is probably sustainable as a model and MBNA would be prepared to put a big sign-up bonus behind that.

  2. Tesco premium mastercard:
    I always used the amex Fx, because they did not charge the tx as a cash advance only as a purchase. I always checked the fx calculator on money saving expert, and although amex wasn’t the best rate the US$0.01 difference paid for the 1.5 avios.

    Always near the top was Tesco (order online, not in store), and they still are.
    Robs hint a couple of months ago that DC was closing, led me to get the Tesco premium.

    Looking into the t+c’s tesco bank also treat Fx tx’s as a purchase when paying with tesco card. Oddly this is not in the card t+c’s. but actually on the fx site:
    Tesco Credit Cards
    If you pay with your Tesco Credit Card, there’s no cash advance fee (excluding Tesco Business Credit Card) or card handling fees. Buying foreign currency with a Tesco Clubcard Credit Card from Tesco Travel Money will count towards a customer’s cash limit but will be treated as a purchase transaction and will still be charged interest at the purchase interest rate.

    Whilst this does not count toward you £5000 spend, i believe you still get the £4/1cc as a purchase. still 0.6 avios on a very good fx rate

  3. Catherine O'Donnell says:

    Does anyone have a link to the 10,000 point White Virgin card offer, when I click on the link it still shows the standard 3,000 points?


  4. OT but credit cards: some new offers on amex this morning including 1000 extra avios on BA cards used at TfL, and £20 of £60 at eurostar.

    • Has anybody actually been able to register for the TFL offer? I can’t on either of my cards…

      • no

        • Same here. Looks like the lonk is still not live. may be try later today or tomorrow and it should work.

          Happened similar to this in one of previous offer which worked on the following day.

      • Yes, and my offer is 10 extra MR points per £ when used as contactless on buses, tubes, trains, etc, capped at 1,000, so UP TO 1,000. :)

        • You sure it isn’t 10 mr per £2?

          • Mine is 10MR per £2 via contactless, wonder if topping up the Oyster might work £30 at a time, I’m there a few times over the next few weeks but can see me not getting full value from the “per £2” element just using it as a payment card

            • Hi guys

              Do you know if this offer applies only one time or you will receive the extra avios or MR points for all your spend during the promotional period until the end of November?

  5. Slightly OT but I referred someone for the Lloyds Avios card last week and they have not yet received the referral email. I know there have been reports of it taking 6+ months at the extreme for the email to arrive, but how long does it generally take?

    • It’s a lottery, ranging from days to never according to previous commentsbon HFP. If nothing ithin two weeks just try it again or get in touch with CS. If the person you referred has any orevious business with Lloyds then they will likely not get it.

      • They only arrive on Mondays now so today may be your lucky day.

        Unless Lloyds recognises the email, in which case you’re blocked. Or the recipient has an avios.com account set to ‘no marketing email’, in which case you are blocked. Or your email service blocks emails which sound like sex spam (’I have a secret to share with you ….’ headline) in which case it will be blocked.

        Of all the people I try to refer, I get the bonus on 1 in 3. The rest give up or are thrown out for one of the reasons above.

    • John, my referral for my OH took 4 mths. Almost gave up. But since got it and getting our double pts posted for our first six mths currently.

      Mr bridge, that’s a very useful tip re the tesco currency on line purchase. A new one for most of us l would guess.

    • similar experience my friend just applied and then chased them later, it did turn out the reason was he was set to ‘no marketing emails’. But after a msg on twitter it was sorted within a week.

    • It’s a totally broken system TBH. However as long as you and the person being referred both use the same email address (to refer and to apply) then you should still get the bonus, as long as they aren’t a preexisting customer of course.

  6. Re. the Hilton Visa – it’s been a while since I’ve had one so I hadn’t noticed (or don’t remember) the ‘once only’ rule – how long has that been a rule for, and does it only count from a certain date or does it count for anyone that’s ever had one?

    Apologies for what is almost certainly a stupid question.

    • About a year IIRC, but the matching to previous customer profile is imperfect.

    • I had the Hilton Visa for the first time last year, and cancelled in January ’16, having used my free night voucher. Re-applied August this year, and have earned a 2nd free night certificate without any issues. They may not be enforcing the “only once” reward to fiercely, or perhaps i just got lucky. Only thing I can think of that may have gone in my favour was a change of home address?

      • I’m going to try and get the HH card again Christmas as I cancelled the card in July this year. I’m going to use a different email address and see what happens..

  7. Rob, the World Elite card gives 40,000 points for spending £2000 in the first 3 months, and an ADDITIONAL 40,000 points when spending £12,000 in a year.

  8. Is it now possible to get the Hilton card alongside the grandfathered IHG Barclaycard? I presume not…but I’d like to! Not keen on ditching my current IHG card for the Creation one.

    • Not clear, they may treat the IHG card differently now that it is ‘dormant’.

    • Exactly the same boat here. If anyone tries please share

    • Applied for Hilton Card first time last Wednesday (still keep my Barclays IHG), received a letter today – “Sorry, we can’t accept your application…”

      • It could be worth emailing them and asking if they will reconsider if you reduce the limit on your existing card. I did this and never got a reply but then they sent the HHonors card in the post.

  9. O/T slightly. If I cancel my PGR card do I lose the lounge access passes I have? Thanks

  10. Slightly O/T.

    I currently have Amex Gold and want to upgrade to Amex Platinum in advance of a Eurostar trip in a few weeks. When I go through the Amex portal there is no mention of the 30k points for upgrading, and in fact the only notice is that I may not get the signup bonus as an existing customer.

    Anyone know the current position with upgrades?

    • When I rang Amex a few months ago I was told the 20k upgrade offer was on till Jan but others have reported differently. I will call them and ask if the link/offer is still on before applying.

      • I phoned Amex a few days ago and the call centre staff member confirmed there were no offers to upgrade to from gold to platinum. They mentioned the usual cancel and wait 6 months rule.

        Also there doesn’t seem to be a way to find this link from the standard amex website, whilst logged on or not logged on to my account.

        Has anyone used this recently with points posting?

        • Works for some, not all – which is why I haven’t written it up, because you are stuffed if it goes wrong.

          • Sussex Bantam says:

            I’m thinking by “stuffed” you just mean that there is no way to chase the 20K points ?

            I’m planning on churning my gold card soon anyway so thought I would try this upgrade first and see if it works. If it doesn’t – no real loss.

            Am I missing something ?

            • There is a loss because a) you are paying £38 for Plat per month whilst you chase the 20k and b) you cannot downgrade back to Gold because the £140 fee is applied immediately, there is no longer a free first year.

          • Another bonus given to some is the remainder of the free first year for the Amex Gold retained post upgrade to Plat.

            I was not charged happily but I understand this erratic in application.

          • Wouldn’t the website be updated to take note of the offer and if not, just cancel the card immediately to avoid the fee?

            • and by website I mean your online account page…

            • No, it doesn’t show there. If it takes you 5 weeks to spend £1,000, only to find the bonus doesn’t post, you are down £80 in Amex Platinum fees and you can’t downgrade back to the free Gold. You need to start paying the £140 fee immediately.

  11. OT – there is a Heathrow Express offer on the Amex Connect site – £10 back on £50 online spend.

  12. AMEX RELATED… I note that the US has an extra bonus when converting Amex MR to both BA and Virgin currentl. I also got an email relating to my Spanish Amex which is also offering a 20% bonus to BA and Iberia. Whats the likelihood of Amex UK doing the same?

    My Spanish email said :-Sea cual sea su próximo viaje, ahora puede despegar más rápido. Porque del 9 de septiembre al 9 de octubre de 2016 conseguirá un 20% extra de Avios al transferir sus puntos MR a British Airways Executive Club y/o a su tarjeta Iberia Plus.

    Google translate :- Whatever your next trip, you can now take off faster. Because of September 9 to October 9, 2016 will get an extra 20 % of Avios when transferring your MR points to British Airways Executive Club and / or your Iberia Plus card.

    • I must admit, the Spanish offer is closer to home which makes you think they may try something here. Amex seems to have pulled back entirely from transfer bonuses however, probably because they worked out it is bad business for them – why encourage cardholders to do something which results in Amex having to write a fat cheque to BA?!

  13. Dave Barron says:


    I totally agree that everyone who collects airline miles should get an Amex and take advantage of Membership Rewards. 6 months ago thanks to this sites recommendation I got the Amex Gold fee free for the first year. I spent £2000 within the first month (primarily thanks to an £1800 spend with BA which also got me 2 points per pound spent) so got the bonus 20k points. Since then I have earned 18k bonus points thanks to the generous friend referral scheme. I’ve now earned an easy 50k points in 6 months and I intend converting to Avios before my fee free year is up. I will then cancel the card avoiding the fee and churn 6 months later, by getting a referral from my wife (who will earn 9k points) who thanks to me has now just got this card too!

    In addition to airmiles this card has saved me money due to the Amex Offers such as a couple of spends with Hilton getting statement credits. A true win win for me and by churning it isn’t costing me a penny. Furthermore because my wife and I have a BAEC Household account, when she earns 22k bonus miles by spending the necessary £2k within 3 months out account will get a further boost.

    Hopefully Amex won’t pull the plug on card churning / generous bonuses anytime soon because at this rate we can look forward to further travels, often in higher class cabins, which otherwise we simply couldn’t afford or justify paying.

    I also recently got the Blue BA Amex getting the higher 9k Avios bonus. I now need to do some referrals on this card too!

    Thanks to Rob and this wonderful site I look forward to future flights where I turn left when boarding!!

    Happy flying folks!

    • Dave, you are also missing a further trick to double your avios use. We really try to be helpful in this site. You said you got the BA blue card. As its fee free, and you hopefully will have spent just under the 10k! This is very important. Stop spending at this point! around month 10 or 11, do apply to upgrade to the fee BA Premium Plus card. It’s worth the couple of months fees, l promise. Once you have upgraded to the BAPP, your spend will go towards a 2 4 1 companion voucher. So then you spend until you go over the 10k, but it MUST be within that one year only. This 241 companion ticket lasts 2 yrs instead of the 1yr that comes with the free blue card, and you only have to spend 10k instead of 20k. It takes very careful planning, but it does work. Read the info Rob has here, and the other threads. Therefore you could both travel club long haul using one set of avios, but both sets of fees, taxes, charges etc, usually around £550 pp.
      You really also should be double dipping in tesco too, by using your clubcard, convert the points to avios, and pay with Amex. Am sure you do that already. Plus if you roll into year 2 with gold, you get those bonus mr pts too, then cancel, and get your pro rata fee back. Worth it.
      Also go easy with referring each other, stick to annual change over for both gold, and BA Amex.
      It’s a fun hobby, but can take a good year or two to build up a stash. Good luck.

  14. OT-Re: Le Club Accor

    I have about 2400 points with Le Club Accor, can I convert this to IB Plus now?
    Or is it minimum 3000 points I need to accumulate before I can change them to Iberia Plus?

  15. Re . IHG black mastercard, I’m a little disappointed with it. Did 3 transactions on line last night with the same website (they don’t have a basket as such so everything has to be paid for separately), the third was blocked so I used a different card, today I used the card a couple of times during the day then in the evening it was declined again. I phoned their customer services was just on hold for 10 mins, got through to someone, then kept waiting for another 10 minutes as to unblock the card needed a supervisor’s intervention! there was no sign of todays transactions other than the failed ones, very strange. Anyway while I was there I asked about when platinum would kick in on IHG, he very quickly responded that it was down to IHG and creation only manage the card! Based on this I don’t have much faith that if I do get to 10k in a year, that the voucher will come through! IHG customer support isn’t very good, and creation seem even worse!

    • I have found the IHG customer service to be ok and the hotels directly are even better but I guess it depends on your issue.

      The creation team really do need to train their staff better, if your card is declined their staff have no idea how to go about fixing it, often they say maybe you entered the address wrong or tell me to use a different card!!! Very odd behaviour, I often feel I have to tell them what they need to do!

      I find its declined with the same merchants so just avoid using the card with them, it doesn’t work well with supercard which is very annoying but supercard could be at fault as well.

  16. Has anyone had/seen a recent link for the Amex Gold Credit card? (i.e. the funny little one not the charge card) I’ve had it a couple of times alongside the MR Gold charge card (and my wife still has one) but I’ve seen no link at the moment – I’m guessing closed to new applications but any intel would be gratefully received.

    • Is this the one Rob shows when discussing the Preferred Rewards card?

      I’ve no idea whether his illustrations are linked if you click. You never know. It may be worth a try. :)

  17. OT: Did anyone receive the 500 points for booking a virgin train ticket back in July?

    • nope I think this one is subject to overhead line problems which are causing something of a delay…

      • Don’t know about ‘overhead line problems’ but I thought the bonus was supposed to be paid by 31/8/16 and there was a large uptake on the article here, be interested to know if anyone has seen/heard anything.

        • It was due on that day, and has been mentioned in a number of previous threads, and as far as I am aware no one has received anything as yet.

          • diddly

            not got my Accor conference organiser’s bonus yet, I’ve a good mind to move my conference to Marriott :)

        • Oh and if you have travelled on a Virgin East Coast train in the past week you would have appreciated my reference to overhead line delays..

    • The miles have just posted to my account.

  18. OT- has anyone had any luck getting the £140 fees waived off on the AMEX Gold card – after the first free year – specifically if you have spent over 15000 pounds in the year triggering the 10000 MR bonus points. Just wanted to check if there is any benefit in speaking to AMEX on this to see if they will waive off the yearly fees. thanks.

    • If that does not work why don’t you get 10000 Miles, Upgrade to Platinum and get extra 20000 miles as fees should/could be used towards platinum and then cancel?

      • Thanks Roger. I am not sure if you get the extra 20000 miles by upgrading to the AMEX platinum from gold card. I thought that was only for new members. If you do then yes that’s probably a better approach as you could cancel after a month and retain all benefits for a year.