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

The majority of the credit card posts on Head for Points are focussed on exploiting sign-up bonuses.  Get a card, spend the minimum required to trigger the bonus, cancel the card, move on.  After a couple of years, you can re-apply for the first card you got and claim the bonus again – it is a virtuous circle!

However, if you are a high to medium spender then the few thousand pounds of card spend required each year to hit your sign-up bonus targets will not be a stretch.  You need to consider where to put the rest of your annual spend.

In an effort to cut down on card churn, many issuers are now offering incentives for spending £10,000+ per year on their cards.  The value of these perks is often underestimated – they are often worth far more than the points for your normal spend.

It is 18 months since I last looked at this topic, so I thought it was worth another look today.

In order of value, lets take a look at what is out there.  This analysis ignores the value of any sign-up bonus or ‘first year free’ deal – I am looking for the best long-term solution.

The results summary is, based on spending just enough to trigger the relevant long-term bonus:

  • BA Amex Premium Plus – 10.1% back on first £10,000
  • BA Amex – 6.1% back on first £20,000
  • Lloyds Avios Rewards Amex & Visa – 4.9% (if all Amex spend) on first £7,000
  • Virgin Atlantic Black Amex & Visa – 3.1% back (if all Amex spend) on first £10,000
  • IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard – 2.3% back on first £10,000
  • Hilton Honors Visa – 2.25% back on first £10,000
  • ASDA Cashback Credit Card – 0.5% cashback (1% in ASDA) paid in ASDA vouchers

I will explain the basis of my calculations below.

Our base comparison –  The ASDA Cashback Credit Card

This is the best free Visa or MasterCard cashback card currently available against which I am comparing the others.   The ASDA Cashback Credit Card is free in the first year and offers 0.5% cashback in ASDA vouchers on all spending.  If you are heavy spender, there is a 2nd version with a £3 per month fee and 1% cashback.  If a loyalty card can’t beat the best cashback card, you should take the cashback and book your flights and hotels directly!

Representative APR 19.9% variable.

The winner British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

This is not exactly a surprise.  Spend £10,000 on this card and you get a voucher which gives you 2 Avios redemptions (on BA planes, ex-UK only) for the miles of one.  On an average redemption (2 Club World tickets to San Francisco on a peak day, say), this saves you 150,000 Avios points!

Based on my very conservative 0.75p per Avios point valuation, the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ £1,100.  You also earn 15,000 Avios for spending £10,000 (worth £110 assuming 0.75p per Avios) with an annual fee of £195.  The net benefit for spending £10,000 = £1,015 (£1,100 + £110 – £195) or 10.1% of spend.

Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

BA Amex - NEW

Runner-upBritish Airways American Express card

The standard, free, British Airways Amex gives you a 2-4-1 voucher when you spend £20,000, and a lower 1 mile per £1 on your spending.  Using the same maths as above, £20,000 of spend gets you £1,100 of 2-4-1 benefit plus 20,000 Avios for your £20,000 of spending, worth £150.  There is no fee.  The net benefit for spending £20,000 = £1,250 or 6.1% of spend.

However, if you plan to earn the 2-4-1, the British Airways Premium Plus Amex is more attractive.  The card has a higher earnings rate and the 2-4-1 voucher lasts for two years instead of one.

Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Honourable mention, airline category Lloyds Avios Rewards Avios American Express and MasterCard

This is a tricky one to value.  You earn 1.25 Avios per £1 on the American Express but only 0.25 Avios per £1 on the MasterCard, so your spending mix is key.  There is a £24 annual fee.

The Lloyds Avios Rewards card comes with an upgrade voucher when you spend £7,000.  This allows one person to upgrade a return Avios reward flight by one class.  I am assuming that the upgrade voucher is used to upgrade a World Traveller Plus ticket to New York to Club World on a peak day, saving 40,000 Avios.

You would earn 8,750 Avios, worth £65, for the £7,000 spend.

That means you will receive 40,000 Avios of value from the upgrade (£300 value) plus £65 of Avios for spending £7,000 on the American Express card.  Deduct the £24 annual fee and the benefits are worth £341 on £7,000 of spending, or 4.9%.

Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Honourable mention, hotel categoryIHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard

The premium version of the IHG Rewards Club card gives you a voucher when you spend £10,000 for a free night in ANY IHG Rewards Club property.  I am assuming you use this somewhere expensive, such as the InterContinental in London, Paris, Hong Kong, New York etc for a £250 room.

In addition, you would have earned 20,000 points from your £10,000 of spend which I value at £80.  The card fee is £99.  The net benefit for spending £10,000 = £231 or 2.3% of spend.

Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Honourable mention, hotel category – Hilton Honors Platinum Visa

This one really depends on your hotel stay pattern. Spend £10,000 on the card in a calendar year and you are given Hilton Gold staus for a year. Hilton Gold gets you free breakfast and a guaranteed upgrade, but this is still achievable for free via occasional promotions.  And, fundamentally, if you stay enough at Hilton properties to get real value from this then you probably stay enough to earn a Gold card.

Assuming that you and your partner spent 5 nights a year at a Hilton then the breakfast benefit is worth £125+.  Add in £100 of value from the 20,000 Hilton points earned from your £10,000 spend to achieve Gold and the £0 card fee, and you’d have a net benefit of £225 or 2.25% of spend.  This is VERY dependent on your Hilton stay pattern, though.

Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Honourable mention, airline categoryVirgin Atlantic Black American Express and Visa cards

The Virgin Black card comes with two benefits which may or may not work for you.  The one I do not value is the ‘free companion ticket’ voucher for spending £7,500.  This voucher is ONLY valid when the other person buys a full (or almost full) fare flight for cash.  It is generally only beneficial to someone travelling on business on a refundable ticket who wants to take their partner along.  Very few people will have the flexibility or lifestyle to do this.

The other benefit does have value.  For spending £5,000 you receive a voucher for an upgrade to Premium Economy when you book an Economy redemption flight.  A 2nd voucher comes at £10,000, which you would need if not travelling alone.

On a route such as UK-Los Angeles, the miles saving (based on the cost of Premium Economy versus Economy) would be 22,500 miles per ticket.  Assuming you can find availability (and Premium Economy is a small cabin), the value you get for £10,000 of spend is 45,000 miles which I value at £300.

You would also earn 20,000 Virgin miles for your £10,000 spend if it was on the Black Amex, worth £150.  The card fee is £140, so the net gain is £310 or 3.1% of your spend.

Representative APR 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

I also considered the value of the long-term spend bonuses on these other cards, but dismissed them as poor value:

Starwood American Express – upgrade to SPG Gold status for spending £15,000 and free weekend night for spending £25,000.  SPG Gold has only modest benefits and is often available for free, eg as an Amex Platinum benefit.  The free weekend night is valid only at Category 1-4 hotels, which limits its use considerably, and the value of such a free night (generally sub £100) is a small reward for such substantial expenditure.  The card has a £75 fee.

Virgin Atlantic White American Express & MasterCard – free economy to PE upgrade for spending £10,000 and a companion ticket for spending £15,000.  The high spend level required does not reflect the modest value of the rewards.  The ‘Economy to Premium Economy’ upgrade voucher on a redemption IS good but the Black card has a stronger benefit of two upgrade vouchers for spending £10,000 (and one for spending £5,000).

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £15,000, paid when you next renew.  I would value the 10,000 points at £75 (assuming you transfer to airline miles and achieve 0.75p of value).  You also receive two additional Lounge Club vouchers with each renewal.  Given the £140 annual fee after the first year, your net return is low.

Tesco Premium MasterCardyou receive 5,000 Clubcard points – worth 12,000 Avios – when you spend £5,000 in Tesco during the year.  This includes fuel which might make it easier.  If you can easily hit this target then the card, despite the £150 annual fee, may be worth a look because it has decent benefits such as free travel insurance.  The earning rate is also good at 0.6 Avios per £1 before rounding.  If you don’t spend £5,000 per year in Tesco, however, I would give it a miss.

Emirates Skywards Elite American Express & Visafree companion ticket when you spend £10,000.  However, you need to buy a full-fare ticket to receive your companion ticket, and even then there must be reward availability on the flight.  Unless you regularly buy full-fare tickets you would not be able to benefit from this.

I am happy to hear arguments for and against my views here – many of these rewards are subjectively valued, dependant on your travel patterns.

PS.  Most rewards cards are not suitable products if you do not clear your balance in full every month.  You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the Tesco Clubcard MasterCard Low Rate card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 5.9% variable – and you can transfer your Clubcard points into Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles.

(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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Comments

  1. BlueHorizonUK says:

    Hiya,

    Does anyone have any insight into when Creation and Curve will activate Apple Pay?

    Thanks

    • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

      I’d love Creation and Curve to get their finger out on this too. In fact given Amex Apple Pay acceptance is so awful and inconsistent among retailers, I’d love a card I could get excited about for Apple Pay transactions that was a Visa or MC.

  2. Our best long term ‘earning’ cards are free – the myWaitrose card. I’m saving/earning more on that than any of my credit cards. My partner and I have four free cappuccino’s a week between us and the money we would have paid goes into a separate account. The ‘cappuccino account’ pays for points when bonuses are released so double dip really.

  3. Hi Guys, the IHG Premium, is 20,000 bonus as good as it gets or do they occasionally do more?I’m trying to work out whether to wait or jump in, we already churn AmEx gold x2 and BAPP x2, but having just cancelled my Hilton card we need a non AmEx card.
    I’m of the opinion, that based on our incomes and the wonders that Rob has shown us that there isn’t any long term spending. I guess we are lucky that the AmEx x2 and the BAPP x2 takes almost all of our income, so for now unless things change we are happy bunnies, thanks as always.

  4. Joseph Heenan says:

    Does anyone know how long the free night voucher from the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard is valid for? Struggled to find an answer via google etc.

    • the_real_a says:

      Its valid for a BOOKING 12 months from the date of issue. The stay can be in theory a further 12 months after the booking.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        Excellent, thanks the_real_a! That’s a real plus over the Hilton card.

        • Plus remember it’s valid for any night, not just weekend nights as is the case with Hilton…

  5. Is it OTT that I have 5 of those 7 credit cards? 😎

  6. Can someone confirm that applying for an SPG card whilst holding an Amex Plat card is OK and they will receive to signup points.

    Thanks

    • Yes

      • Thanks. Did I read on here a few days ago that it’s now possible to refer someone for the SPG card from an Amex plat or gold card. i have just checked our gold and plat accounts and I can only see plat to plat or gold to gold.

        • rams1981 says:

          it was me. From the link emailed you click in and it gives you the option of changing card to SPG

          • No it doesn’t! See http://amex.co.uk/refer/corneun1qO – only options are to toggle to Platinum or Green. (Do NOT use this link to apply, it is just a test.)

          • Thanks, I have sent the referral email from mrs xcalx to me, not received as yet but that’s not unusual for amex emails, will wait a few days then give them a nudge.

          • rams1981 says:

            it does Rob. That’s the charge cards available. Credits are also listed but you need to click on it specifically.

          • Indeed it does. Now this makes things very interesting indeed…

          • So have you received any points yet rams1981? I.e. would an SPG referral pay 5,000 MRs if referred from a Gold (as there is no linked SPG acct?)?

          • xcalx – you don’t need to nudge Amex for referral email, just use the referral link which comes up on your own screen when you send a referral email. It works just as well – links the application back to you for bonus. :)

          • rams1981 says:

            yep Genghis as per my post yesterday. My wife was credited 9000 points on her gold card for me getting an SPG card

          • Cheers rams1981. I’ll be trying it out next time. Also brought it to the attention of Amex who will probably shut it down.

          • I have just read the referral that arrived. when you look at the “view other cards ” as Rob says it shows the green card . However if you click on the apply now “button” the screen shows yet another “button” that says “return to view all cards” and from there you can link to the SPG card(as rams says)

            I will give it a go and see what happens.

          • I just tried this but the only options it gives me via the generated link for a referral are other charge cards or business cards (unlike the link Rob posted above which also has credit cards listed if you click the other cards link)

        • Doing it through mrs xcalxs plat referral so she may get 18000 for referring me the SPG here’s hoping.

          • Thanks for this tip Rams 1981 ( Derby or St Louis btw?) – I sent myself a referral from my wife’s Amex Platinum and have just signed myself up for the SPG.

            Cheers also for the fuller explanation xcalx..

            Every day is a school day…

      • this will be a massive game changer if true

        I think we are all going to have to totally rethink our churn strategies

        I think we will have to all put our heads together to come up with the best way of doing things if one can refer any amex from any amex

  7. rams1981 says:

    OT Tesco. I spent £1 in tesco on chocolates the other day and it gave me a coupon to get 150 clubcard points on my next spend even if it was only 1p. Did anyone else get this?

    Redeemed it today spending 99p and it gave me 150 clubcard points and the voucher again! I then spent £1 and it credited me 151 clubcard points but no 3rd voucher. amazingly easy for 300 clubcard points.

    • I have often had £15 off £100 coupons issued at the till after small purchases. I immediately used it to buy Waitrose or Amazon gift cards!

      • I used to get quite a few of them (and postal vouchers too for bonus points/cash off) – sadly don’t seem to get any of them now.

        • Self serve tills don’t give you anything. Yes, it’s convenient but it’s at a cost. Any time I’ve visited a standard checkout I get a voucher of some description.

          • Interesting – although I actually received this 150pts free from a self-service till!!

            I did use manned checkouts more in the past as I was buying gift cards, haven’t since they removed the bonus points (much quicker as the Dundee one has the portable readers so you don’t even need to scan at the checkout)

          • the_real_a says:

            I Can confirm i also got this from self service tills

          • Perhaps they’re experimenting at giving them out via those tills now?

          • I’ve had vouchers from self service tills

          • Based on all your replies, I should have said “self serve tills don’t give me anything” that’s interesting to hear. Honestly, I’ve never received one till spit in over 2 years. Any time I visit a checkout I receive a voucher of some description. Suppose it’s not an exact science. My mother, who is a light Tesco user, recently received 3 vouchers via club card all for £12 off £60 spend

          • I used to get loads of vouchers via Clubcard but none at all now – some folk that still receive them say they do home delivery, I’ve never done that. Frustrating as they were pretty good. Plus I didn’t use them for a year when I was abroad, so it’s not like it could have been from being an over-frequent customer!

    • ankomonkey says:

      I had the 150 points one last week, but only once. I redeemed it buying 4 pints of milk for £1.

    • Yes – finally had one of these vouchers – not had anything from Tesco in ages!! Would love to get a 2nd voucher when I use it – we will see :)

  8. My yearly biz expense is about £3-4m. What I normally do is to put £1m on Amex platinum (coz of high credit limit, saving time to keep repaying credit card every week), 500k on BAPP (for the use of 2 companion tickets and some short-haul flights in US), then the rest of them I put through on SPG amex. At the moment I feel like SPG amex is much better than the platinum coz of more airline transfer partners, and better for holiday use when booking resorts. I don’t do much EU flights and most of my travel are long-haul & to Asia.

    • Lucky you. I wish I could have that much expenditure!

    • The charge cards are usually the best for big spending especially as Amex doesn’t like people making too many payments to the card in a month.

      The SPG is a good card if their travel partners are of use, may consider using it some more.

      • I thought Amex prefer regular payments if the spending is big? I’m not quite sure abt this but from time to time when my platinum hit 300-400k within the month they call me up for some repayment before keep using it.
        SPG amex is really great regarding transfer partners, covering all of the flights I need (mostly use AA to book Emirates, Tahiti Nui, JMB to book Etihad) except the down side is I have to build up the credit limit over long term, considering its just a credit card with fixed credit limit.

        • I meant specifically for the credit cards and too many payments I don’t think they like it when people spend and pay off their whole credit limit too much in a month, thats what they told me.

          Its different for the charge cards as the limits especially for business are a lot higher like you mention, so there isn’t such an issue with a fixed credit limits and its more beneficial for them to get paid earlier to limit their liability.

    • The Original Nick says:

      Wish I was in the same boat.

  9. Slightly OT: can you pay off BA Amex mid cycle. Just got a BA Amex and only got 1.5k limit, already hit that in first few days. Can I pay off and spend again so I can hit my £3k target quicker.

    • De facto I believe so but de jure shouldn’t you not spend more than your credit limit in a month even if you pay it off?

    • Yes, they gave me that limit too so I would pay it off and then spend some more. They increased the limit a few months later! Make sure you give it a couple of days after paying some money in before spending again at the weekends or you will go over the limit.

    • Yes, that’s fine.

    • Yes that’s fine. Alternatively, In the first few months of getting my BAPP I needed to book 6 flights but didn’t have the limit so phoned up and they authorised a one off higher limit for my purchase.

    • Yes although I have been told not to make too many payments to the card and don’t exceed your credit limit with pending transactions or let the account go into credit.

      • We use my husband’s BAPP for business spend. I make payments to it every day online and never had any issues – if anything they just increase his limit periodically. But we do clear it every month though. Was it AMEX themselves that told you about making regular payments?

        • Yes been told by Amex due to making too many payments on the account it may get flagged negatively for future applications of course the person could have been wrong.

    • Your BA Amex will update instantly if you pay on their website with your debit card.

      I do this periodically if flying out or needing to put very large amounts through intra month.

      They’ve never bat an eyelid.

  10. Has anyone upgraded AMEX Gold to Plat recently and managed to get a bonus? They pulled the 20,000 for £1k spend last November and I haven’t seen anything resurface yet?

  11. I have an Amex Gold card and I’m surprised to see the negative mention. One of the key advantages is that Membership Rewards are very flexible. I don’t have to spend them with BA or one of its partners. The Avios scheme looks good – and so does the Amex Platinum Plus Avios card – but you need to factor in that BA/partners will not always be the best option for a given trip.

    • Johnny_c-l says:

      +1

      I’ve decided to hold on to my PRG and hit the £15k for 10k MR this year, keeping my MR balance alive and transfer options open. Will also go back to Lloyds for the £7k upgrade voucher too, then will pick and choose which others to churn as and when bonuses are offered.

  12. Poor calculation of BAPP being the miles outright winner as it “saves” you 150k miles on a SFO return. Where are the taxes and fees accounted for ?

    For sure, the headline “saving” is 150k Avios but only against buying the same ticket with full Avios, which I guess the vast majority of people simply don’t do. To be fair, if you and a partner both have BAPP and use for long haul, then you need circa 300k Avios per year for 2 x 241 redemptions alone. Few people will have another few sets of 150k Avios per year lying around.

    The true comparison of worth is against the cash alternatives, often on better metal.

    I won’t reiterate my figures here but for us, it is very marginal though on an alternative route which has first class then it might well be the best deal.

    • BAPP def the best card around if you can bag 241 in F as we do manage every year, usually HKG or KUL so yes, free avios as it were. We have to pay fees and taxes regardless. And yes we would NOT be paying for that ticket in real life. So it is a bonus whatever way we look at it, well worth every penny getting that card. And usually we speed up our payments to 10k all on that card, in the drawer. Or get the first bonus, downgrade immediately to BACC, then just before we hit the 10k spend, say month 11, upgrade again, get the BAPP 241 voucher. The two yr voucher is much more valuable. Very strict planning involved in this.

      • @ Polly,

        I think you hit the nail on the head when you say “we would NOT be paying for that ticket in real life” whereas we would, either as a matter of choice or necessity.

        The other specific problem for us is the fact that we are a family of 3. I have BAPP CW Amex 241 over Xmas and NY 2017/18 on LHR-BKK but the child quote is £2567.27 !

        So for us, we are in £1050 or so taxes and 150k Avios plus potentially £200 (chauffeur costs), £2567 of our child, possibly £500 from loss of points which would be accrued on another airline (Etihad would be circa 65k points or around 1/3rd of a business class redemption) = £4317 plus 150k Avios (say 1p valuation) = £5817 which is way OTT for BA metal with 8 across business class.

        I guess I cite with you on the aspirational redemption being good value and the replacement redemption being poor value or marginal at best. Now if we were talking F to KUL on the 787/9 :)

  13. jonboy73 says:

    I like my bapp, but.. i’m not using the 241’s I think I lost the last 2 or 3. I like the credit limit and don’t want to dump it entirely. If I downgrade it for now, can I re upgrade it at some point in the future? will the credit limit etc stay the same? tia.

    • Yes Johnboy you can upgrade at any point, and be recharged the fee, if you wanted to appoint your spend to getting the BAPP 241 at any time. We have done that annually.

      • @ Polly,

        If you downgrade the BAPP, which is a new application and new credit scoring, have you ever seen a change in credit limit ? I am reluctant due to the large limit which even for business use, sometimes requires intra month clearing. I certainly wouldn’t want to get a single digit credit limit as it would be pointless.

        Secondly, where are you crediting the spend after £10k ? We tend to continue with BAPP as we need to generate Avios but I am looking at alternatives, particularly SPG.

        Thanks

        • Hi I regularly upgrade to BAPP and downgrade after getting voucher, my credit limit – approx 15k stays the same

  14. I think that you have missed the HSBC card from your list as it does offer the best value for non AMEX cards.

  15. This blog overvalues Avios too much.

    Sure, if all the planets line up and you get an exact redemption with a ton of surcharges and taxes then you can make it look like you get a 10% (and feel good about it), but there is no way that sort of ticket would’ve been bought with cash otherwise.

    • But for many that’s the point.

      Ie being able to travel BA Club World to the Maldives for Avios + £600, when a cash ticket can be £3k.!!!

      • the real harry1 says:

        just on RFS redemptions in Europe I reckon I save over £2000 pa by sourcing cheap / free Avios (40 flights)

        • Wally1976 says:

          On a single family-of-4 trip to Cyprus this year we’ve saved about £1600 by using 80k avios + 4x£35 rather than the £450+ return fare each (that’s calculating the avios at 0.1p each which is actually more than it cost me to earn them) at the end of August. Admittedly we could’ve got flights a bit cheaper and from a more convenient airport but still a substantial saving.

    • James Hadley says:

      Yes! The scheme and card are good but that 10% number is not realistic. To play devil’s advocate, consider that I want two holidays in a year, one to Europe and one further afield. The saving on the Eurotrip is small and I might have to consider a much more expensive and inconvenient trip to use Avios.

  16. 00alesmi says:

    It’s mentioned above that you can apply for the BAPP card, hit the £3k spend, immediately downgrade to the standard BA Amex to save on fee, and then upgrade to BAPP again later when getting close to the £10k companion ticket spending trigger. I’d always assumed that upon upgrading again they would reset the spending count from that point, so you wouldn’t get the benefit of the spend on the standard BA card – but sounds like this is not the case? Just want to make sure in haven’t misunderstood!