Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

I’ve launched a new credit cards update page

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The eagle eyed will have noticed a new page at the top of the blog called ‘Credit Cards Update‘.

There are a lot of good UK credit cards available which offer benefits in various airline and hotel loyalty schemes, but there is no single, regularly updated, list of cards and promotions as far as I know – not even on Flyertalk.  It is, admittedly, difficult to keep track of all of the different promotions, but I will update this page at the start of each month and discuss new details in the main blog.

There are three types of loyalty credit card:

  • The card you actually use day-to-day because of its good earning rate in a programme you value
  • The card you get purely for the sign-up bonus, and cancel immediately afterwards
  • The card you keep for the ancilliary benefits such as hotel status but do not use for daily spending

Credit cards

What is best for me may not be best for you.  However, this is what I currently have:

The day-to-day spending card – currently the Lloyds TSB Avios card due to its crazy 12.5 Avios per £1 bonus for the first three months (offer no longer available, sadly).  When my three months is over next week, I will be back to the BMI Mastercard, a card no longer available to new applicants but which offers 2 BMI miles (so 2 Avios, post 3rd July) per £1 spent.  I only put the BMI card away when my new BA Amex year comes around, at which point I put my next £10,000 of spend onto that to trigger my next 2-4-1 voucher.

The card you get for the sign-up bonus –  currently, the SPG Amex in my wife’s name, as I had my own SPG card last Autumn.  20,000 SPG points was too good to resist, that is worth 25,000 airline miles or some good hotel redemptions.  Once I have done the £1,000 minimum spend I will cancel the card.  Before this, I had the Hilton HHonors Visa, on which I spent the required £750 to get the free night certificate before cancelling.

The card you keep for ancilliary benefits – for nearly 15 years, this has been the American Express Platinum card for me.  I get my BA Amex fee-free for holding this (a benefit no longer offered to new applicants) which saves £150, and I value the travel insurance, hotel statuses and other perks.  However, they will raise my fee to £450 from early 2013 so I will need to reconsider whether the benefits are worth £300 (the net cost after the £150 saving on the BA Amex fee).  I probably will keep it, despite the insurance benefits also being downgraded this year.

How many cards can I get?

There is no correct answer to this question.  It will vary by income, your credit history and whatever scoring system the card provider uses.  Whether or not you already have a card from that issuer is not a major factor – an issuer with whom you don’t have a relationship may be willing to give you a card despite your many other cards to win you over.  However, if, say, Barclaycard initially refuse to give you another of their cards when you already have one, they will usually reconsider if you call and offer to split the credit limit on your existing card across the both – they have no increased risk this way.

The one thing to avoid is too many applications in a short period of time, as this looks like desperation and will set off warning bells.  There are also no firm guidelines on when you can re-apply for a card you have had previously and receive a second bonus.

Remember that you can also apply in the name of your partner (get a supplementary card in your name if you do most of the spending).  Your parents may also be willing to let you apply on their behalf if you ask nicely!

Of the firm rules out there, I know that Amex has a limit of two credit and two charge cards per person at the same time, and the MBNA is very flexible about opening new cards if you move credit from an existing MBNA card.  American Express has strict rules about receiving referral bonuses if you are an existing cardholder, and you should look at the small print carefully

Out of the cards featured, you can collect Avios directly from the British Airways Premium Plus Amex, BA Amex and Lloyds TSB Avios card.  You can also collect Avios indirectly (by converting the reward offered into Avios) from the Hilton, Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Platinum and American Express Preferred Rewards Gold cards.  AAdvantage miles from the American Airlines card can also be redeemed for BA flights.