What are the best ‘first’ loyalty credit cards to get?

Head for Points is featured in The Daily Mail today.  I have pinned this recent article to the home page because I thought it would an interesting introduction any Mail readers who choose to visit today – welcome!

The UK loyalty credit card market can be very confusing.  It can also be very lucrative – with some huge sign-up bonuses to earn – but knowing where to start is tricky.

Head for Points publishes the only comprehensive directory of UK travel loyalty credit cards which you can find here.  There are over 20 cards included.

I have also written a number of articles over the last year to help you focus on what might work best for you:

Comparing the 15 credit cards which now earn you Avios

The top 16 UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value

What are the best credit card bonuses for LONG TERM spending?

Which loyalty credit cards are worth keeping just for their benefits?

What is the best Avios credit card?  Part 1 and Part 2

What is the best Visa or MasterCard for earning miles and points?

What are the best credit cards for earning Star Alliance miles?

What is your credit card ‘end game’ strategy?

What is the best credit card to use abroad when someone else is paying?

What is the best use of Amex Membership Rewards points?

For this article, however, I thought I would drill down to basics and suggest two cards which make an excellent starting point if you are looking to get your first loyalty credit or charge card.

Hilton Visa

The first is the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card.  The representative APR on the card is 18.9% variable.

What I like about the Hilton Visa card is that the deal is VERY simple and VERY easy to reach.

Get the card (it’s free)

Spend £750 on it in 90 days, which is not a strain

Get a free night at ANY Hilton Group property, anywhere in the world, as long as you stay at a weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) and within six months of triggering the voucher.

You don’t need to focus on the mid-range Hilton properties, you can also stay at the luxury Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria brands.  Free night at the Conrad Maldives or Waldorf-Astoria Rome? No problem. Conrad New York? Conrad London St JamesConrad Algarve?  You’re in (as long as they have standard award availability). Easy.

The best way to get excited about ‘miles and points’ as a hobby to have a successful redemption under your belt.

What could be better than booking a European weekend away and staying in a top-end Hilton, Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad hotel for free?  We recently reviewed the refurbished Hilton Paris Opera, for example, which is well worth a visit.

And, of course, your partner could get their own Hilton credit card and get their own free night voucher. That would get you a 2-night stay and you could be pushing £750+ of value from your weekend away.

Long term, I don’t recommend keeping the Hilton card unless you are a dedicated Hilton HHonors collector. You only earn 2 points per £1, so you would need a ludicrous £35-40,000 of spending to get one free night at the Conrad New York. If you occasionally need some Hilton points to top up your account from hotel stays, you could transfer American Express Membership Rewards points instead.

The only reason to push spend onto the card is that you receive Hilton HHonors Gold status when you spend £10,000 in a calendar year.  However, you can also get free Hilton Gold as a benefit of American Express Platinum and Hilton is also running status matches at the moment.

As a good ‘first card’ for newcomers to this hobby the Hilton Visa has a lot to recommend it.   The application form for the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card is here.

Amex Gold crop

My second choice is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.

American Express has a very strong position in UK travel cards, primarily through the two British Airways credit cards.

However, even if you are an Avios collector, I recommend you start with Preferred Rewards Gold.  This is why:

The card is FREE for the first year

The sign-up bonus is huge – 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  These convert 1:1 into Avios points.  You need to spend £2,000 in three months to trigger the bonus.

You get two FREE passes for airport lounge access, giving you a taste of what you can expect once you earn enough miles for Business or First Class flights

It gets you used to how charge cards work (you MUST clear your balance every month, it is not possible to pay interest and roll over your balance)

Even if you do eventually plan to get a British Airways American Express card, picking up 20,000 Avios from Preferred Rewards Gold will give your Avios account a good boost.  It is also possible to have Preferred Rewards Gold and a British Airways Amex credit card.

Whilst American Express Membership Rewards points convert 1:1 into Avios points, you can also do a LOT more with them.  They convert to many other airlines including Virgin Atlantic, as well as Eurostar, Hilton, Starwood and Carlson hotel programmes.  You can even forget about miles and points and convert them into Amazon or other High Street gift vouchers.

This is why it is a good first card.  You don’t need to commit to any particular loyalty programme.  Keep your points inside the Amex Membership Rewards scheme whilst you learn more about the different airline and hotel schemes.  When you are ready to commit, you can move your points over from Membership Rewards.  And, if you decide this hobby isn’t for you, you can cash in your points for a shopping voucher instead!

I do not necessarily recommend paying £140 for Preferred Rewards Gold after the free first year.  You can cancel at any point, however.  Amex will even let you re-apply after a six month break and get the sign-up bonus again!

The application form for American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is here.

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: 20% bonus converting Marriott to American, 25% hotel to United bonus, Hilton / Flying Blue bonus
How to use SPG and Marriott points for a cheap African holiday
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Daily Mail readers?!

    We are all doomed……

  2. Welcoming Daily Mail readers? Have some dignity!

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I’m not sure “read” is the right word. Welcome Daily Mail picture lookers?

      • As I sit here, eagerly awaiting the paperboy’s delivery of my Daily Star, I imagine that there are many a HFP’er weeping over their bowl of cereal with this news :) .

  3. To be fair, pretty much all of the British media options have gone so far downhill in recent times – I don’t think readers of the Telegraph or Independent, for instance, can look down on the Daily Mail any more, to cite two examples.

  4. Wow! The last time I bought or read a paper it had my chips in.

  5. Paul Dacre really isn’t a nice man Raffles!!

  6. Daily Mail? You didn’t feel like telling them to go away?

    • I originally thought it was Mail on Sunday to be honest. As no-one has mentioned seeing it, though, it may have gone back to next week.

      Shame as I was looking forward to all the ‘how dare you employ an EU national’ comments :-)

      • Surely the Mail readers won’t be interested in going abroad anyway with all those nasty foreigners…

      • Yes, get your Armadillo skin out. DM did an article on Nomadicmatt in March and there seemed to be many borderline abuse/sceptical comments. Admittedly, not of the usual ‘go back to your own country’ or ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ variety.

  7. If you’ve a couple of minutes, and in need of a laugh, have a look at:


  8. Slightly taking liberties here with an OT.

    But I wonder if BAPP is seeing an impact on card holders since the BA downgrades and hikes in annual fee??

    I’ve cancelled mine.

    More dire downgrades this time…

  9. Slightly OT – called Hhonors last night to redeem two free night vouchers. Disappointingly they didn’t have any standard rooms available at the WA Amsterdam, just the level up – which as a Diamond I would presumably be upgraded to on arrival anyway. Has anyone ever had any success in convincing them to just book you that room using the voucher? I assume not, but you can’t win a raffle without buying a ticket!

    Also, where else in Europe would anyone recommend (based on quality/’value’) for a redemption? Considering Venice and Rome.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      The Venice hotel is excellent. I was there in July this year. If you are ‘pool people’ await the good weather because the views from the rooftop pool are exceptional. As a Diamond I was treated well and upgraded to a room with a view over the canal.

    • I can strongly recommend the Stucky Molino in Venice. As Diamond we were upgraded to a room with an amazing view. In our view the breakfast was superb but others have disagreed.

    • Thanks! Sadly, for various reasons we’ve got to go in about three weeks – so no sun for us. I think that we’ll end up there.

      Does anyone recommend any other Hilton property?

      • We really liked the Hilton Malta.
        Pretty much a ‘new’ property – Booked an exec room, received a Suite with 3 terraces as a diamond.

    • We tried the WA in Amsterdam using the voucher too and were basically told it’s impossible. I checked every weekend using the website for the 6 month period and there was nothing. There are only 3 qualifying rooms by all accounts. Possibly the hardest hotel in the Hhonors portfolio to book for. It’s meant to be a fantastic property too. We ended up in the Conrad in London, which hopefully will be alright.

      • Thanks for the advice everyone. Funnily enough the place I’d originally looked at was Malta, but there are no flights that work for us.

        I’ve booked Venice – got a perfect RFS from City on the way out then paid £45 to get back to Gatwick, also with BA – a £63 weekend away!

  10. I’m obviously the only one, married 46 years,and reader of the Daily Mail for same time !

    • I admire your bravery to admit it. I only read it by accident in BA planes (it was free and I was young and innocent).

      • ps And I voted ‘Remain’!

        • I don’t get why people read the likes of The Daily (hate) Mail, The Telegraph, The Express, The Sun etc anymore. They just seem to be political pamphlets to further the interests of the multi billionaire owners. The news content is simply spun to further the aims of Murdoch, Lord Rothermere or Richard ‘porn’ Desmond. If you want a free press, buy one. ‘On topic’ but completely off topic for avios hunting.

    • Since Waitrose have increased the spend needed for a refund of the newspaper cost to £10 from 1/11 my wife will be reading fewer Daily Mails.

      • Then get The Guardian. Much better for free with a £10 spend. 😀

        • I believe the Mail more than the Guardian.

          • This article will be an interesting test of that, because you will be able to spot quickly how many mistakes are in the text when discussing loyalty points. You can then extrapolate that to the rest of the newspaper :-)

          • Let me guess, purely coincidently, your views align more closely with the Mail?

            While the Guardian has a heavy liberal bias, I rarely see them lying, unlike the Mail…

          • Let me guess, purely coincidently, your views align more closely with the Mail?

            While the Guardian has a heavy liberal bias, I rarely see them lying, unlike the Mail… They also don’t have an unhealthy obsession with stalking women celebrities to denigrate their weight or outfits which is always a plus.

        • Better to get a free Metro from the train station than the Guardian.

      • Sarah Murray says:

        Happily the min spend does include the cost of the newspaper and the cost of a coffee. So it’s less than you might think.

  11. I defintely recommend the AMEX gold. A good thing is that it isn’t a credit card so it doesn’t encourage debt. £2000 in 3 months is not really that hard to hit and 20000 points is a good chunk and you can do it every 6 months. The points can also be transferred to a number of schemes.

  12. This sums up the Daily Heil quite well:

  13. Got the Hhonors card because I was in a pinch and needed a card in hurry, but really need to check into Visa spend more. Putting large amounts through for the next few months (my first month is 12k so far) I’m a bit miffed that the points dont go further, and status is only gold which I have anyway.

    £30,000 spend is needed on the IHG premium card to get an intercontinental in NYC, so it appears there aren’t as many decent opportunities with hotel cards. Having said that I might just switch because it would give top status and one free night a year as opposed to just first year.

    The onyl

    • I currently use the IHG card and put my HMRC payments through it – thing is Spire doesn’t get you much if anything, and I can’t say I’ve felt any benefit at ICs although I am an ambassador and to be fair I have used the Spire 25K points to buy ambassador status. I think the free breakfast with Gold status and potential exec lounge at Hilton is a real benefit. I’m thinking of getting the Hilton card once my Diamond status runs out precisely to get Gold. In some respects you could say the “freebie” for spending 10K is either a free night or a few free breakfasts depending on the card. Whichever way you look at it you are paying the £99 for the IHG “free” room though.

      • The Hilton card (free) really is great but the free hotel night is a one off. Spend £10k pa and get Hilton Gold (valuable if don’t have it) and 20k Hilton points valued at £60 using Raffles’ 0.3p value. For the IHG £99 premium card, however, 10k spend gets you 20k IHG points valued at £80 using Raffles’ 0.4p value but also a free night in IHG, year after year (but you’ve paid £10k for privilege). Which is better really depends on circumstance.

        • So on free IHG card as long as you hold the card do you receive free night every year?
          i.e. if you have spent required points to generate free night in first year do you have to spend the qualifying amount the next year too?

          • No you need to spend £10k in every 12 month period in order to get the voucher at the end of the 12 month period

          • Phew.
            Not worth the effort. Having gained Platinum can’t really see the good use of status.
            Perks like Complimentary Car Parking and Breakfast should be thrown-in at this level and above.

  14. OT: Avios.com has a current ‘headline’ on their homepage advertising that you can collect avios points on Pizza Express purchases (3 or 6 points per £1 depending on which day you visit) when you link your payment cards (currently excluding Barclays and Barclaycard) to the Bink app. This appears to be a ‘wallet’ app for loyalty cards. Looks interesting and might be worth covering (unless I’ve missed the article)? I’m not sure if other shops/restaurants also offer points, or may do in the future?

  15. OT: currently in Concorde Room (1st time) waiting to board a 789 (1st time) in F (1st time) using 241 – thank you Raffles and HFP community for your help in getting here! :-)

  16. OT – TC just paid out for using their link to downgrade BAPP to blue. I sort of feel guilty for trying it!

    • That would have been good to know 3 days ago!!

    • How do you do that? I wouldn’t feel guilty, with the amount of TCB that goes awry. Also the BAPP fee has been hiked by a substantial proportion… and arguably doing this is better than churning from Amex’s point of view.

  17. Quite a bit more OT – I’m still finding my feet with this merry-go-round so apologies if I come across a little ‘green’ on this: I’m about to apply for the Nectar Amex (for the 40K points for spending £2k; Can I manage an Amex account online and make payments to my A.N.Other Mastercard to quickly boost ‘spending’ on the Amex card? My heaviest outgoings are normal shopping and car fuel. Any other novel suggestions to hit my spend within the required 3 months? Same thing applies I suppose if I opt for the Amex card suggested in the main article. Thanks all. Rob.

  18. Have the BAEC Amex and use the 2-4-1 each year for long haul CW flights. Once I’ve hit the spend to get the voucher the rest of spend is wasted. Any advice on a good second card to have? (avios rich due to BA flights, so sign up bonuses not that attractive) and not one for churning.
    Was thinking of the Lloyds card for the upgrade potential. Does that require reward availability in the higher class and lower one?

  19. Would be nice wouldn’t it!
    Maybe a council tax bill through a Coop store with Paypoint?

    • Guy, pay as many of your bills at a co op pay point. It’s a bit of a faff asking bt, and utility companies for paypoint cards. If you have a council tax bar code, try it at your co op too. My council make it impossible for me to do this. Have to use my MasterCard, but that’s fine. Our routes are reducing, but am sure we will find out the odd tip here.
      And we can always hope for a tesco gift card points bonus at certain times of the year!

  20. Does the 6 month break also mean the Gold Charge card is free again for a year or is that only the first time?

    • Yes it is free if you reapply after 6 months and you get the lounge passes

    • Yes, free again.

      • Its been well over a year since I cancelled my Gold charge card but it still appears in my Amex account online (albeit with a red exclamation mark over it). Is this normal, and will I still be classed as having cancelled in more than 6 months ago, or is there something amiss with my account?


  21. Does anyone have any recent experience of churning the Hilton card?
    I seem to remember that they changed the T&Cs so that only first-time applicants now get the free night but would be nice to know if it is actually enforced that way.
    I’ve already had two free nights in the last couple of years by churning it.

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