The top 14 UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value

Our ‘Credit Cards Update’ tab lists all of the card deals currently available. What I thought might be interesting, in very mercenary terms, would be to rank the sign-up bonuses in terms of cold hard cash. Put simply, if I get this card purely for the sign-up bonus, how much value can I get?

These are objective calculations based on the following formula:

The value of the sign-up bonus – see below for my methodology

The annual fee, if any

For Amex Platinum, BA Premium Plus Amex and SPG Amex, the fee refund if you cancel after a typical 4 months

Notes on valuation

The biggest question mark is over the value of the sign-up bonus. For hotel cards, I have valued points based on the number required for a top-end redemption which I value at £250 per night. The exception is Starwood, which makes high category awards disproportionately expensive.

For airline miles, I assume they are worth 1p each. I know that I generally use a 0.75p value for Avios, but you can get 1p easily with, for example, Reward Flight Saver short-haul redemptions.

(Of course, for airlines like Lufthansa where short-haul redemptions are bad value, a small amount of miles can be effectively worthless. In some programmes, you would need to already have a decent balance to get full value from the bonus miles.)

I have valued Amex Membership Rewards points at 1p, since they transfer 1:1 into airline miles and I am valuing those at 1p.

The ‘free money’ £ value I quote is therefore calculated as:

‘value of sign-up bonus’ minus ‘annual fee’ (for an Amex, I assume you cancel within 4 months for a 2/3rd fee rebate)

Travel rewards credit cards have high interest rates and are not suitable for you 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 AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 5.85% variable on purchases and balance transfers.

Bring on the winners!

OK … here we go! Remember that full details on all the cards can be found on the ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

This analysis does not include cards with no sign-up bonus.

GOLD!  £250 ‘free money’ – Hilton Honors Platinum Visa

Sign-up bonus of 1 free night in any Waldorf, Conrad, Hilton etc hotel (easily worth £250 if used well), no fee. £750 spend in 90 days required.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Hilton Visa

SILVER!  £205 ‘free money’ – HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard

40,000 Avios or other airline miles (£400 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) for spending £12,000 in your first year.  £195 fee, non-refundable.  Note that HSBC Premier has strict eligibility criteria.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

SILVER!  £200 ‘free money’ – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

20,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £200 if turned into 20,000 Avios or other airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) and £0 fee for the first year.  £2,000 spend in 3 months required.

BRONZE!  £150 ‘free money’ – American Express Platinum

30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £300 as gets you 30,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved), £450 fee but £300 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months, so net cost of £150.

Most importantly, though, you will retain your Starwood Preferred Guest Gold card, Club Carlson Gold card, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Jade and Hilton Honors Gold cards for a full 12 months, even if you cancel.  This adds substantial extra value to the package.

Amex Platinum

£135 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express Premium Plus

18,000 Avios points (£180 assuming 1p per Avios achieved), £195 fee but £150 fee refund if cancelled after four months so net cost of £45. £3,000 spend in 3 months required.   Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

£110 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic Black Amex and Visa

25,000 miles (£250 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, £140 fee.  This is a special offer which runs until 3rd April.  Representative APR 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

£100 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic White Amex and Visa

10,000 miles (£100 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  This is a special offer which runs until 3rd April.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£75 ‘free money’ – Starwood Preferred Guest Amex

10,000 points (valued at £100 as good for 10,000 air miles, assuming 1p per mile achieved, but worth up to 1.5p if used for hotel rooms), £75 fee but £50 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months so net cost of £25. £1,000 spend in 3 months required.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

£50 ‘free money’ – American Airlines AAdvantage Amex and Visa

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  Bonus triggers with first purchase.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£50 ‘free money’ – Etihad Guest American Express & Visa

5,000 Etihad Guest miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) and no annual fee.  You receive 5,000 miles when you spend £250 within 90 days.  However, it is impossible to get this value from the miles unless you are adding them to an existing balance.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£50 ‘free money’ – IHG Rewards Club MasterCard 

10,000 points (20% of a top end £250 night), no fee. Bonus triggers with a £200 spend within 90 days.  Alternatively, the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard comes with £100-worth of points but has a £99 fee.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

£50 ‘free money’ – Emirates Skywards American Express and Visa

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus with your first purchase.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£30 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express

3,000 Avios (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  £500 spend within 3 months required.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£15 ‘free money’Lufthansa Miles & More American Express and Visa

1,500 Miles & More miles (£15 based on achieving 1p per mile) with your first purchase.  No fee.  However, it is impossible to get this value from the miles unless adding them to an existing balance.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

(I did not consider the Flybe card in this analysis as the value of the ‘free’ flights offered by the card is difficult to calculate.  The United Airlines card, Lloyds Avios Rewards card and Tesco cards currently have no bonus.  The Emirates Elite card has a bonus worth less than the non-refundable fee.)

Summary

If there is anything to learn from this bit of fun, I suppose it is this:

If you and your partner took out the best 3 credit cards each, you could get over £1,200 of value between you based on my valuation model. That is certainly nothing to be sniffed at!

Secondly, do not underestimate the value of the hotel cards. Whilst a small number of airline miles has little value, a small number of hotel points can get you one night somewhere, and one night is often all you need.  If you and your partner both applied for the Hilton Honors card, you would get two free nights which would make a great long weekend.

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: money off Addison Lee, win Qatar tickets, 20% off Airparks
Some interesting insights into how people use their frequent flyer miles
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Comments

  1. nothing comes close to our BA Platinum.
    2 for 1 flight is a massive perk when saving for a big trip & used correctly.

  2. Surprised that you left out the Nectar Amex, with its 20.000 Nectar points bonus worth *at worst* £100 free money, and much easier to redeem in everyday life than Avios (Sainsburys, Cafe Nero, Pizza Express, Argos, Photobox …)

    The 40k points sign up promotion last autumn made it even more compelling.

    • Agree, it was fantastic – I had just closed a 20k account a couple of months earlier when they emailed be about the 40k offer – applied, accepted and received! Now over £350 available to spend on my Nectar card!

      • Ditto here.

        Used some points for Pizza Express when there was offer and bought 6 bottles of Taste The Difference wines for £6 + 4K Nectar points in the Christmas double up. Cheers!

      • Need to draw the line on what you call a travel card somewhere!

        • Haha but you can spend Nectar points on easyJet 😛

        • The Original Nick says:

          Exactly. Nectar points are useless in this game Rob.

          • the real harry1 says:

            People see that (useless reward scheme) but think that getting them free can’t be too bad, there are lots of bonus collection promos @ Sainsbury plus you can then combine that with other bonus spend opps eg @ Ebay – frankly I can’t be arsed but I can see the money for nothing doing activities you’d do anyway argument

          • I’m not against the Nectar card – there are a few deals now and then to get 1p per points of value, often using them for eBay credit which you can use for supermarket gift cards, so the bonus is worth £200 – but it doesn’t have a place in this article.

            I have written about it in the past, we don’t ignore it – and of course Shopper Points covers it too.

        • You can spend Nectar points at Expedia. Though not valid on the “Taxes” portion of an air ticket.

          • Is the Nectar voucher for Expedia, a completely online process? How long does it take to get the voucher?

          • Roger, I had to phone but it was instant, though this was 2 years ago. Voucher code appeared in my Expedia account to spend online. Note though it is not valid on the tax element, so I had a £90 voucher that I wanted to spend on a £110 flight (on Aegean) – it failed as the taxes element of the flight was apparently over £40, so I managed to phone up and cancel the voucher back to Nectar points. Much more of a pfaff than spending on Easyjet flights!

  3. It should be noted that the Amex points appear to be redeemable at a rate of 250 points for 200 Avios.

  4. Anyone know if HSBC keep a check on whether you have £50k of savings or do you think having it at signup is enough? Thanks.

  5. John O'Sullivan says:

    It’s a while since the IHG card has been discussed on this thread but the creation IHG card is incompetent beyond belief. Every month I have to chase them up to eventually add points “manually”. In fairness to the Creation person I’ve been communicating with eventually she sorts it out. Transferring points from acrewsrd credit card to a reward account shouldn’t be beyond the organisational capacity of the company tasked with going this. I’ve worked out that I have now had the points credited in line with my statemented spend big this doesn’t match with the total spend my account summary shows.

    • I had IHG spend that didn’t credit properly. Contacted them via secure messaging, they promised to sort and points have successfully appeared this month. It’s a pain, but at least they credited the extra without a quibble.

  6. OT, but have any lady readers have this problem? Amex won’t let me transfer my reward points because my card is in my married name but my BAEC account is in my maiden name. I still use both depending on whether it’s for work or personal life, and it’s perfectly legal so I can’t understand the problem? My passport is in my maiden name so it seems easier to have that on my BAEC account as well.

    • The best advice i can give is keep your maiden name!

      • I have, for work and travel. It’s never been a problem before. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Amex terms & conditions that the name of the card has to be the same as on the BAEC account.

  7. The Lloyds card has Double Points on Amex spend for the first 6 months. So assuming £1000 of spend per month, = 7500 bonus Avios, worth £75 (less the £24 fee). Not forgetting the referral bonus to the applicant!

    • Noting too that one doesn’t need to be a card holder to do the referring.

      So for his and hers Lloyds cards for £24 x 2 = £48 fees and £7k x 2 = £14k spend (assuming all on Amex and done in first six months – though I’m still getting double avios 9 months or so after applying), the loot is:

      4,500 x 2 x 2 = 18,000 avios
      14,000 x 2.5 = 35,000 avios
      Total = 53,000 avios and two upgrade vouchers. Not too shabby

  8. Do I need to be a UK Resident to apply for these cards? I have not churned my current cards as I was unsure if I can reapply.

  9. And the Platinum winner (for UK residents) is …the EmiratesNBD SPG Mastercard. The card is not “UK” and not in GBP but … (with some efforts it seems) open to non UAE residents. For a 1500 AED fee (325 GBP) spending 10K USD you get 70,000 SPG points (87500 Airmiles). So the value would be 550 GBP (more that the top 3 combined!)

  10. Re Amex Platinum. Does anyone know if you retain the Lounge Pass (Priority Card) if you cancel Platinum card?

    Thanks

    • the real harry1 says:

      do you mean priority pASS? NO – YOU DON’T – BUT IT SEEMS THEIR SYSTEMS ARE NOT PERFECT SO IF YOU CANCEL WORTH Giving it a test as all you’re risking is £15 per entry

      several here have reported it works fine after cancellation of Plat card

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