HFP ‘Credit Cards’ page updated for July – what are the best deals this month?

It is 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?

There’s a lot going on at the moment, and it gives you a sign of how the industry is changing.

The big development is that, overnight, MBNA scrapped its existing American Airlines cards (free, a dual Amex / Visa package) and replaced them with something completely different.

The American Express card has gone.  You now have a package which looks like this:

  • £70 annual fee
  • 15,000 American Airlines miles for signing up by 22nd August
  • an excellent 1.25 miles per £1 spent
  • Visa only

Full details, and my view on whether to apply, are in this article here.

MBNA American Airlines credit card

In other news:

Virgin Flying Club dropped the increased bonus on its two Virgin Atlantic cards as scheduled.  The bonus is now back down to 3,000 miles on the free card and 18,500 miles on the £140 Black card.

The special deal on the two Emirates credit cards has also ended.  The bonus is back to 5,000 miles on the free card and 10,000 miles on the Elite card.

British Airways is still running an improved sign-up bonus on its two British Airways American Express cards.  No closing date has been given for this deal.

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.

Tesco is offering a £50 Tesco gift card if you sign for the Tesco Premium Credit Card before the end of August.  My review of the card is here.  If you convert your Clubcard points from purchases into Avios it works out at 0.6 Avios per £1 which is very good for a Visa or MasterCard.  My full article on the deal is here.

best travel credit cards

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 American, Tesco and British Airways offers are special deals whilst the Amex 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.

British Airways American Express

For an unspecified period, the bonus on this free card increased from 3,000 Avios to 5,000 Avios.  My full review of the card is here.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

For an unspecified period, the bonus is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios.  Note that the annual fee increased last year 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.

Tesco Premium MasterCard

Until 31st August, you will receive a £50 Tesco gift card for signing up.   Other benefits include full travel insurance for you and your immediate family and 5000 bonus Clubcard points when you spend £5,000 in Tesco, including fuel, during your card year.  You earn 0.25 Clubcard points per £1 spent which means 0.6 Avios or 0.625 Virgin Flying Club miles.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 56.5% variable, including the fee, assuming a £1200 credit limit.

American Airlines AAdvantage Visa

This new card, launched in June, carries a £70 annual fee but earns a whopping 1.25 American Airlines miles per £1. There is a sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles, triggered when you spend £1,500 within 90 days.  This is a special offer which runs until 22nd August. Representative APR 38.4% variable including fee based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.

Amex Platinum

American Express Platinum

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.

My full review of the Amex Platinum card is here. Amex’s own home page is here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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!

My full review of Amex Gold is here. The Amex home page to apply is here.

Amex Gold

Whilst it has no sign-up bonus, the no-fee 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:

Low rate card (representative APR 5.9% variable) or

30 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.

(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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  1. Another Phil says:

    I know AMEX points can be moved to Avios. Can I also move Avios out of BA Exec or Avios account and into AMEX?

  2. Amanda says:

    Hi Rob, we’ve booked a round the world Qantas ticket for early next year and are now ready to book the hotels (30 nights worth), we think that using Hilton would work best for us but are struggling to get our heads around whether it’s worth us getting a Platinum card for the HH benefits (and lounge access). I’m not sure whether we should book the hotels now and apply for the card a couple of months before we go or wait until we have the HH Gold membership via the Card as we’re not likely to use any of the benefits until we go…any thoughts would be appreciated. (and I’ll be after a recommendation code from you when we’re ready!)

    • Amanda, have you considered doing the Hilton diamond status match (considering you will be staying a lot of nights). This way you would also have Hilton diamond for all your stays as well.

    • Gold status will run until 3/18 irrespective of whether you get it now or in December.

      If your trip is after 31/3/18 you want to hold off getting Plat until January.

      If the 90 day status match is still running that would also do the job if you had something else.

      You need Diamond for lounge access, Gold is free brekky and a limited upgrade.

      • Amanda says:

        Thanks Rob sorry, didn’t see your reply! Sorry, I meant AIRPORT lounge access as we’ll be doing 12 flights in the month (We fly out on Mar 6). So is it best to wait until we have the Card before booking the hotels or is it what status you are when you check out that makes a difference? Apologies for the 20 questions!

        • Alex W says:

          I would wait to get the Plat card until later. You can email the hotels before arrival to let them know of your gold status. Also if you’re hiring any cars you get the free insurance with the plat card. You can then cancel the card after your holiday after you get the signup bonus and get a pro rata refund on the £450 fee.

  3. Nishant Tharani says:

    Semi OT: two questions regarding churning the Amex cards
    1) do I get a pro rata refund of the annual fee for a card each time I cancel it? If not then churning doesn’t look so good..
    2) if I cancel the gold card, do I have to transfer the points into a specific programme at the time of cancellation? Or can I keep the balance in my Amex account even with the card cancelled?


    • 1) Yes to pro-rata (unlike with MBNA or Creation)
      2) No to keeping in your MR account – you need to pick where you want to transfer them to before closing account. It’s the MR account being shut for 6/12 that lets you reapply for the card.

      • Genghis says:

        2) I thought officially you have 28 days to transfer out the points after card cancellation? Nevertheless I always transfer out, make sure points got, then cancel.

        • Agreed, I was just trying to keep things simple 😉 Plus delays resetting the clock for next card application… 😛

        • Genghis says:

          You sure it delays resetting the clock? As after cancellation I always receive a letter with the official cancellation date, even if I have left a handful of points there which theoretically I could still transfer within the 28 days?

        • Hmm interesting, my understanding was always that it was timing of closure of MR account that counted – hence why keeping it open with Plat CC (assuming offered) didn’t help as MR still not shut, but maybe cancelled accounts dealt with subtly differently. TBH I’d be worried about their system not doing things correctly and thus would prefer to have them switched. No personal experience though as I’m up past 450k MR so would be really stuck working out where to transfer and have just kept Plat open instead – had enough deals/good CS from Amex to feel it’s still been an OK deal.

        • Genghis says:

          I’d rather have the 184k MRs every year 🙂

        • Haha – I don’t have a partner to swap referrals with so lower MR earning potential (although obviously lower burning cost too!)

      • Nishant Tharani says:

        Thanks! About to start churning, can’t wait for the business class upgrades :p

  4. I recently closed my Amex Plat charge card 3 months ago. I understand it’s possible to apply for both the plat & Gold charge cards. My last Gold charge card was closed over 6 months ago. Will I recive the 20,000 MR sign up bonus if i apply for the Gold Charge Card?

    • No Adam, you won’t get a bonus until your last charge card cancellation is at least 6 moths out. Sorry….they will happily give you the card. But best wait. get the BAPP for I between times, 26 k bonus if referred, small spend.

  5. Any Amex transaction processing experts out there? I’m having difficulty obtaining a refund from Amazon/Amex. The original purchase transaction was with Amazon UK – and Amazon have refunded as expected….except the original amex card used is since cancelled. Not usually a problem (when this has happened before, Amex have written to me telling me they have a credit and how would I like to receive it, usually by cheque), but on this occasion Amex are not being helpful at all. Amazon have provided a refund reference number (is this 8-digit number the Acquirer Reference Number per chance? Do Amex use this in the same manner as Visa & MC? as this apparently allows any transaction to be tracked & found) but Amex say it means nothing to them (so presumably have not attempted to trace the refund transaction). Either way, Amazon won’t (or say they can’t) do anything more until they receive confirmation from Amex that the funds have not been received – but Amex oddly won’t supply this for whatever reason. So Amazon say refund has been actioned (8 weeks ago) and Amex say they haven’t received the funds but won’t provide confirmation of this to assist Amazon to help me further so I’m currently $cr3wed.

    Any help/advice welcome.

    • ankomonkey says:

      I’m going through similar right now. Got a letter saying I have credit balance on cancelled PRG. It’s £5.25 from Tesco Direct. I called and they said cheque is easiest way to give me the credit. I agreed. Then got letter saying I need to send them a receipt of the payment made with Tesco Direct. The only strange thing is that is was part of a larger order, so there was never a £5.25 debit on the card from Tesco Direct, but there was for £11. I’m most surprised that they can be bothered to delay processing of this and assign a resource to review what I send them, all for the sake of £5.25. Never had this before and have had refunds to cancelled Amex cards a few times.

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      I had a credit for about £75 on my old BAPP card. Called them up to ask and they just moved the credit to my PRG card. I then got a statement in the post a couple of weeks later with all of the transactions…

  6. Oh! Matron! says:

    Just been sent an Amex / BA Premium offer (The day I cancelled my Play Amex)

    30,000 / £3K spend…

    • Same here. The email subject says “Mr AVM, an exclusive 30,000 Avios bonus just for you”. Not so exclusive and not just for me, it appears. Another BA IT failure ? 😉

    • Assuming this won’t double up with usual referral bonuses given you need to apply through link in email. Assuming that’s the case, if referring other half still better off with current raised (26k) offer then.

    • Andrew says:

      I just received the same offer. Given I only have 500 at the moment, not sure it is worth it!

    • Me too offered 30K – don’t feel so special either! Thought it was because they lost my bag on the PMI-STN flight on Saturday 🙂

  7. Just had an email from BA offering 30k bonus to sign up for the BAPP, assume a targeted offer.

    • But that would still be less than 9,000 + 26,000 if a partner referred you?

      • But yes, just checked and I have the email!

        • Also 10,000 bonus for the free card which might be a better deal.

        • Thanks, had not clicked the link so not seen the 10k offer for the free card which would work better for me.

  8. Will I receive a sign up bonus for AMEX Gold Charge Card if i cancelled my Plat Charge Card 3 months ago?

    • momomo says:

      No, you need to go six months without a Membership Rewards earning card to be eligible for an MR intro offer again.

      On a related note, does anyone know if Amex is offering any deals for Gold charge card holders looking to upgrade to Plat?

  9. Slightly off topic getting a few good offers in Amex member offers today, thistle and gourman hotels..

  10. Louise says:

    OT – If I apply to upgrade my free BA to the PP card do my amex offers remain on card? I have a 2.9% purchase interest offer which runs to next April that I am currently making use of. Reason I want to upgrade is I have spent 9K so want to trigger 2 for 1 voucher.

    • You can always ring them up and ask. Some folks here have got offers added before. Good planning. Probably better to reverse it next time, and get the referral points, plus bonus spend pts, drop to bacc once the 241 is banked…just a thought.

      • Hi Polly, Genghis told me you are the one to ask on the BAPPC!
        My Partner downgraded the BAPP card to the free one when she triggered the 241 voucher, there was minus points on the card so we never cancelled. She is away to refer me for the BAPP card so as I can hit the 25k bonus and then I will cancel as we are a family of three. What I need to know is when do I upgrade again so as she can work on year 2 241 voucher? Is it right that I can keep the free card going and start spending on that for year 2 and then upgrade when I am close to 10k? Be great to hear your strategy on this one! Regards Grimz

      • Louise says:

        Reporting back ; I upgraded to the BAPP (Just applied online – no instant decision) next day i logged in and confirmed card upgraded to BAPP. Logged in today and My free BA card offers still showing in account 🙂

  11. I have the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, am I able to get the standard HSBC Premier Card and therefore hold both at the same time?

  12. I have had VIRGIN white cards for well over a year now. Thought of signing up to Amex Gold to get the bonus. My credit score is excellent and even my pre-application check revealed I would have a 9.5/10 chance of being successful! Went through the whole process, only to be told they cannot decide my application right away, and I would receive an email/letter within 10 days. Anybody had the same issue?

    • roberto says:

      Its not uncommon. Happens to me mostly on amex (not on visa/MC) and always comes back with a yes..