Our ‘Credit Cards’ page lists 25 different credit and charge cards in the UK which offer travel rewards. For the beginner to this hobby, however, there is one obvious piece of plastic to start with – the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card.
In return for taking out this card (FREE for the first year, cancel at any time) and hitting a £2000 spending target, you will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. These will convert into 20,000 Avios points.
Key facts: No annual fee in year 1 and £140 thereafter, no minimum income requirement, you must pay your balance in full at the end of each month
How do I earn 20,000 free Avios points?
American Express has its own loyalty currency called Membership Rewards points.
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 within 3 months.
This is the most generous sign-up bonus available on any free (or free for the first year) UK loyalty charge or credit card.
Membership Rewards points can be converted 1 to 1 into Avios points. This means that the 20,000 points you receive for signing up to American Express Gold will become 20,000 Avios points.
You aren’t restricted to Avios points. You can also convert to Virgin Flying Club, Emirates Skywards, Hilton Honors (at 1:2), Club Carlson (at 1:3), Starwood Preferred Guest (at 2:1) and many more programmes. Click here to see what other reward programmes are Membership Rewards transfer partners.
About the card
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is issued directly by American Express.
The general American Express rule is that you can hold two charge cards and two credit cards at the same time. You can apply for Gold even if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.
Any American Express cards you may have which are issued by Lloyds, TSB, Barclays or MBNA will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.
The only people who will NOT receive the sign-up bonus are those who have cancelled an American Express Platinum, Gold or Green card in the previous six months.
Note that the Preferred Rewards Gold card is a charge card, not a credit card. You MUST clear your balance in full at the end of each month. It is not possible to pay interest and roll over your balance to the following month.
Any other benefits?
You receive two free airport lounge passes each year with Amex Gold, valid at any airport lounge in the ‘Lounge Club’ network.
Heathrow (including Terminal 5), Gatwick, Luton and Stansted – amongst many others – have participating lounges as do most major airports worldwide. After your two free visits, you can make further lounge visits for a £15 charge. You can see which airport lounges accept Lounge Club cards on their website.
You will receive 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points each year when you renew your Amex Gold membership if you have spent £15,000 in the previous year. These will post one month after your renewal date.
You will receive a 10% discount and free additional driver on Hertz bookings. There are also 350 4-5 star hotels worldwide which offer a $75 in-hotel credit and an upgrade when booked by an Amex Gold cardholder via the American Express travel service.
What is the annual fee?
There is no fee for the first year of Amex Gold.
There is a £140 annual fee from Year 2. However, you can cancel at any time – you won’t lose your bonus points! Even if you do accidentally pay the fee for the second year, you can still cancel and receive a pro-rata refund at any time.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
As well as receiving 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up, you will receive additional points for all of your spending.
You receive 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on the card.
Foreign currency transactions and airline transactions earn 2 points per £1, as do travel bookings made via the American Express Travel website.
What are the criteria for getting American Express Gold?
There is no minimum household income requirement.
As a reminder, you will definitely get the sign-up bonus even if you already have a British Airways, Starwood or any Lloyds or MBNA-issued American Express card. The only people who cannot get the 20,000 points bonus are those who have had an American Express Platinum, Gold or Green card in the last six months.
American Express is happy to issue separate Gold cards to different people in the same household. This means that, if your partner shares a British Airways Executive Club household account with you, you could both receive 20,000 points and so have 40,000 points in your BA household account.
The application form for Amex Gold can be found 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.