The UK Airline & Hotel Credit Cards Directory (February 2017) Part 1

This page contains the UK’s only comprehensive and regularly updated guide to credit and charge cards offering airmiles or hotel loyalty points.

I know that there is a lot of information here! I summarise the top deals below. For extra guidance, this article compares all 13 (!) of the credit cards which earn Avios points.  I also recommend this article on the best cards for long-term spending. This article looks at which cards are worth keeping for their benefits, even if you never use them. This article ranks all of the airline and hotel cards in terms of the most valuable sign-up bonuses, adjusting for fees.

I am happy to refer readers for the special referral bonuses on the British Airways, American Express Platinum, American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, Lloyds Avios Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest cards. Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk with the name of the card for which you would like a referral. The bonus points I receive for referring you help to cover the costs of running the site.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Equifax credit report and score.  Your first 30 days are free then it’s £14.95 per month.  You can cancel at anytime.

This page was correct as at 7th February and will next be updated on 1st March – see the main site for any new promotions.

The following cards currently offer the largest or most interesting sign-up bonuses (see the full entry for summary terms and conditions):

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is the most generous card which has no fee in Year 1.  You receive 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 20,000 Membership Rewards points can get you 20,000 Avios points for example!)  You can earn an extra 2,000 points if I refer you, see below.  My full review of American Express Gold is here.  Having a British Airways Amex does not stop you from receiving this bonus – you are OK to apply.

American Express Platinum

The card now offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points, worth 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things.  You earn an extra 5,000 points if I refer you – see below for details.  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, Carlson Gold, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold, Shangri-La Jade, Eurostar lounge access – for the rest of the year even after you cancel.  My full review of American Express Platinum is here.

Virgin Atlantic White Amex and Visa

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.

Virgin Atlantic Black Amex and Visa

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.

Hilton Honors Platinum Visa

This is an excellent card for a newcomer to the hobby.  Spend just £750 and you receive a free night in any Hilton, Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria etc hotel.  This is easily worth £250 if used well.  It will open your eyes to the great deals this hobby can offer.

American Express Membership Rewards cards:

American Express Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin Flying Club and various other loyalty programmes

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: free for first year, then £140 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  The standard offer is 20,000 Membership Rewards points (= 20,000 Avios etc) when you spend £2,000 in the first three months.  A higher bonus of 22,000 Membership Rewards points (= 22,000 Avios) is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a Platinum, Gold or Green Amex charge card in the last six months. You are OK if you have a BA, SPG, Nectar or similar Amex. Note that this is a charge card and your balance must be cleared in full each month.

On-going benefits:  Double points on all airline and foreign spend, double points on all spend on the Amex Travel website, 10% Hertz discount, $75 in-hotel credit with 350 selected hotels worldwide, two free airport lounge passes each year.  You receive an annual bonus of 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points if you spent £15,000 in the previous year.

American Express Platinum

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £450 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  The standard offer is 30,000 Membership Rewards points (= 30,000 Avios etc) when you spend £2,000 in the first three months.  A higher bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points (= 35,000 Avios) is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a Platinum, Gold or Green Amex charge card in the last six months. You are OK if you have a BA, SPG, Nectar or similar Amex. Note that this is a charge card and your balance must be cleared in full each month.

On-going benefits: Starwood Preferred Guest Gold, Club Carlson Gold Elite, Hilton HHonors Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status, Melia Reward Gold, two Priority Pass cards for airport lounge access, Eurostar lounge access, Delta lounge access, travel insurance for your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders.

Airline cards (Part 1: Avios and Virgin Flying Club):

British Airways American Express

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 3,000 Avios points when you spend £500 within 3 months.  A higher bonus of 4,000 Avios points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

On-going benefits: Free companion voucher for an Avios redemption when you spend £20,000 each year. The voucher is valid for one year, taxes still apply.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £195 / Earn rate: 1.5 miles per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 18,000 Avios points when you spend £3,000 within 3 months.  A higher bonus of 19,000 Avios points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

On-going benefits: Free companion voucher for an Avios redemption when you spend £10,000 each year. The voucher is valid for two years, taxes still apply. Double miles on BA flights and holidays booked at ba.com.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

Issuer: Lloyds / Annual fee: £24 / Earn rate: 1.25 miles per £1 Amex, 0.25 miles per £1 MasterCard / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: No sign-up bonus

On-going benefits: Double miles on the Amex card for the first six months, no foreign exchange fee when using the card abroad, voucher to upgrade a reward flight by one class when you spend £7000, 0% interest on purchases for 24 months.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Lloyds Choice Rewards American Express & MasterCard

Issuer: Lloyds / Annual fee: £24 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 Amex, 0.2 miles per £1 MasterCard / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: No sign-up bonus at present

On-going benefits: Double miles on the Amex card for the first six months.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Virgin Atlantic White American Express and Visa

Issuer: MBNA / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 Amex, 0.5 miles per £1 Visa / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 10,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.  You receive 3,000 miles with your first purchase within 90 days and 7,000 miles after spending £1,000 within 90 days.

On-going benefits: Double miles for spend on Virgin flights and holidays, Premium Economy reward upgrade on an Economy redemption after spending £10,000 per year (two can be earned per year), companion voucher (valid only on a paid flight in a flexible booking class in any cabin) when you spend £15,000 in a year.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Virgin Atlantic Black American Express and Visa

Issuer: MBNA / Annual fee: £140 / Earn rate: 2 miles per £1 Amex, 1 mile per £1 Visa / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 25,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.  You receive 18,500 miles with your first purchase within 90 days and 6,500 miles after spending £3,000 within 90 days.

On-going benefits: Double miles for spend on Virgin flights and holidays, Premium Economy reward upgrade on an Economy redemption after spending £5,000 per year (two can be earned per year), companion voucher (valid only on a paid flight in a flexible booking class in any cabin) when you spend £7,500 in a year.  Representative APR 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

Airline cards (Part 2: other airlines) :

Click here for Part 2 which covers American Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Flybe, Lufthansa Miles & More and United Airlines.

Hotel cards :

Hilton Honors Platinum Visa

Issuer: Barclays / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 2 points per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: Voucher for free night at any Hilton Group property when you spend £750 within 90 days, 2,500 bonus points for your first four Hilton stays in your first year of membership.

On-going benefits: Hilton Honors Silver status for as long as you hold the card, upgrade to Gold status after spending £10,000 in a calendar year, 3 points per £1 spent on the card at a Hilton property.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club MasterCard

Issuer: Creation / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within 90 days.

On-going benefits: Double points on spending at IHG Rewards Club hotels and abroad, IHG Rewards Club Gold status.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard

Issuer: Creation / Annual fee: £99 / Earn rate: 2 points per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within 90 days.

On-going benefits: Voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you spend £10,000 per year, double points on spending at IHG Rewards Club hotels, double points on foreign spend, IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £75 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 10,000 SPG points when you spend £1,000 within the first three months. This is convertible into 10,000 Avios or a number of other airline schemes.  Pro-rata fee refund received when card is cancelled.  A higher bonus of 11,000 SPG points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

On-going benefits: Voucher for a free weekend night (Fri, Sat or Sun) in an SPG Category 1-4 property when you spend £25,000 per year. Immediate upgrade to SPG Preferred Guest Plus, benefits outlined here. Upgrade to SPG Gold status when you spend £15,000 in a card year.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Other cards :

HSBC Premier MasterCard

Issue: HSBC / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 0.5 miles per £1 in four airlines including Avios / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: None at present. Note that this card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and that a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard

Issue: HSBC / Annual fee: £195 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 in four airlines including Avios / Article / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 miles) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 miles) for spending £12,000 within twelve months.  Other benefits include airport lounge access.  Note that this card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and that a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard

Issuer: Tesco Bank / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 Clubcard point per £8 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  None at present, although you will receive 17 months of 0% interest on new purchases.  The earning rate of 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent is equivalent to 0.3 Avios points per £1 or 0.312 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

The Tesco card is the highest paying Visa / MasterCard on the market if you want to earn Avios, unless you meet the stringent requirements for HSBC Premier or are willing to pay the £150 fee for Tesco Premium.

Tesco Premium MasterCard

Issuer: Tesco Bank / Annual fee: £150 / Earn rate: 1 Clubcard point per £4 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  None at present.  The earning rate of 1 Clubcard point per £4 spent is equivalent to 0.6 Avios points per £1 or 0.625 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1.

On-going benefits:  full travel insurance for you and your immediate family, 5000 bonus Clubcard points when you spend £5,000 in Tesco, including fuel, during your card year.  Representative APR 56.5% variable, including the fee, assuming a £1200 credit limit.

Cashback cards:

Whilst Head for Points focuses on cards which earn miles and points, you should also remember that cashback cards can be a good alternative, especially for Visa and MasterCard.

My default comparison card is the AA FuelSave Credit Card.  This card is free in the first year and offers 0.5% cashback on all spending, 2%-4% cashback on fuel purchases and – in year one – free AA breakdown cover.  The representative APR is 22.4% variable.

Another good option is the ASDA Cashback Credit Card which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback.  The representative APR is 19.9% variable.

Small business cards:

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a 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.

The Platinum Business card offers different benefits to the standard Platinum card.  The travel insurance is better, as there is no age limit and no requirement to pay for your flight or hotel with an Amex card.  The hotel status benefits are also slightly different.

The not-so-small print:

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.