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 deals.
Our updated directory of all 23 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, and will hopefully be a useful starting point for new readers.
What’s changed this month?
The increased bonus on two Virgin Atlantic cards ends tomorrow. More details on those below.
British Airways has brought back an improved sign-up bonus on the two British Airways American Express cards, just a month after the last offer ended.
There is a slight tweak this time. The Premium Plus card is back to 25,000 Avios for signing up. The free BA Amex, however, is only up to 5,000 Avios from the usual 3,000 Avios – this is usually increased to 9,000 Avios.
I would guess that Amex is trying to encourage more people to take the Premium Plus card by widening the gap in the sign-up bonus. Frankly, you shouldn’t get the free BA Amex if you are planning to earn the 2-4-1 Avios flight voucher – this article explains why.
That’s about it …. except that there is a targetted bonus for holders of the old Barclaycard IHG Rewards Club credit cards if they apply for the new Creation-run version. We don’t yet know if the offers works for non-targetted people who use the relevant link – once I have some evidence I will let you know. The offer runs until June so there is no rush.
What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals 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 Virgin and British Airways offers are a special deal 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.
For an unspecified period, 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 British Airways Premium Plus card here. You can apply here. Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.
Until 3rd April, you will receive 10,000 miles with the free Virgin Atlantic White cards. 3,000 of these come after your first purchase within 90 days, the remainder after spending £1,000 within 90 days. My full review of the Virgin White package is here. The standard offer is just 3,000 miles.
The Black cards also have an improved bonus. Until 3rd April, you will receive 25,000 miles with the £140 Virgin Atlantic Black cards. You receive 18,500 miles with your first purchase within 90 days and the remainder after spending £3,000 within 90 days. My full review of the Virgin Black cards is here. The standard offer is 18,500 miles.
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 (which you can instantly match to Marriott 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.
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!
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 for applications 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 – in theory, not always in practice – 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.
Whilst it has no sign-up bonus, the Tesco Clubcard MasterCard remains the best free Visa or MasterCard for earning Avios for 95% of people (the HSBC Premier cards are better but this has very strict criteria for signing up). You receive 0.3 Avios per £1 if you convert your Clubcard vouchers into Avios. There is also the potential to use the points for Virgin miles or a totally different Clubcard Boost deal.
0.3 Avios per £1 is still not great unless you assume that there will be occasional conversion bonuses – and the nasty ’rounding down per transaction to nearest £8′ rule means that you will get less than 0.3 Avios is reality. They are a good bet if you want a long interest free or balance transfer period however. There are various versions of the Tesco card but the best are:
28 months interest free period on all purchases (representative APR 18.9% variable), or
0% interest on balance transfers for 40 months (representative APR 18.9% variable)
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.
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.