Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

“What is the best credit card for someone who is new to all this and has no particular loyalties?”

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Over Easter, I will be answering a number of the reader questions that were submitted via this article.  If you didn’t take part this time, don’t worry as I will be re-running this feature in the Summer.  Feel free to expand on or critique my answer using the Comments section below!

Today’s question is from James who asked:

“I’m a total newbie to all this at a ripe age of 25, and wanted your advice on what card actually is the best for someone that has no loyalties to airlines yet and eligible for all of the credit cards you mention in your posts.”

Firstly, you need to have a goal in mind.  Either a specific flight you want to take, or a place you would like to visit where you fancy a free hotel room.  Or indeed both together!

You also need to consider where else you can collect points, since credit card spend alone will not get you too far.  I assume you are not travelling a lot for work.  In this case, your non-flying collection options are mainly restricted to Tesco Clubcard (which will get you Avios points and Virgin Flying Club miles, plus some opportunities for direct hotel redemption deals) plus whatever you can earn from the credit card.

There are other things you should consider:

Would you be travelling with someone else?  It will increase the number of miles you need.

Could you get enough miles together to fly Business or First Class?  Do you see this as a way of getting an aspirational reward (say, First Class to California), or are you happy with cheap economy redemptions to Europe?

Where do you live?  If you are in the regions, you may want to focus on free hotel nights and use budget airlines from your local airport.  This may be more convenient than flying BA using Avios, which often involves a Heathrow transfer.

However you cut it, you are likely to end up deciding that Avios is the way forward for an airline card.  Short-haul flights are a good deal because of Reward Flight Saver, economy long-haul flights can be a good deal using Aer Lingus or airberlin (minimal taxes, do a search for my articles on those) and there is a good long-haul network if you want to fly Business or First Class.

To build up some Avios, the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card is a good first Amex choice.  No fee for the first year, and 20,000 Membership Rewards points.  See here for what you can do with Membership Rewards points.  20,000 would get you 20,000 Avios points.

Once you’ve got the Amex Gold, keep an eye for a good sign-up bonus on the BA Amex cards and / or the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex.  Both of these – on a good day – offer 20,000 Avios or more as a bonus, although at the moment the offers are worse.

You should also take a look at the Lloyds TSB Avios cards.  The new bonus, which I wrote about yesterday, is worth 15,000 Avios points on the free card and 20,000 points on the £50 fee card.  It is not as good a deal as Amex Gold, but it doesn’t matter as you can apply for both!

You should also get a non-Amex card.  The Hilton Visa is a good Visa card to start with.  You get a free night when you have spent £750.  If you use that somewhere suitable posh and suitably expensive (Hilton Venice, the new Conrad in New York etc) then you will have got a great deal and it will open your eyes to the potential of this hobby.

(If you have a partner, get a Hilton card each.  You would then have 2 free nights which you could book back-to-back in the same hotel.)

I just want to give you one warning.  Do NOT apply for a large number of credit cards at the same time.  Try to leave it a month between applications, as a sudden attempt to get a lot of cards at once looks like a sign of panic to raise some cash, and you are likely to be declined for everything.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

SPECIAL OFFER: Capital On Tap has increased its sign-up bonus to points worth 30,000 Avios if you apply by 4th February. This is exclusive to Head for Points readers. Click here to apply.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 30,000 points bonus, worth 30,000 Avios, until 4th February 2023 Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (8)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Colin says:

    When the SPG Amex bonus points is running the 20,000 points converts up to 25,000 airline miles. This is very useful if you convert over to Emirates (who fly from the regions, unlike BA!) as it will help towards upgrades (you can upgrade sector by sector on Emirates website) or use towards flight redemptions.

    Also i guess you would be able to convert Amex rewards points to SPG points, and then over to Emirates! Its a poor ratio though as its 2 Amex points to 1 SPG point.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, its not great. However, with the 20k to 25k bonus you effectively get 0.625 miles per 1 Amex point via Starwood. This is, of course, far from great, but it is probably still a better deal than buying a chunk of miles for cash.

  • Ant says:

    Hi

    We got the Hilton credit cards and next month will be staying at the Beverly Hilton for 2 nightfs for free just for spending £750 on each card – brilliant. My question is can we cancel this cards and repeat this after 6 months? Has anyone got this offer more than once?

    • Rob says:

      You should be OK to churn it, yes. I intend to reapply next year, although that will have been an 18 month gap. I will get one for my wife this year once the Priority Club card is chopped.

  • Dev says:

    If your completely new to this game, I would always suggest you start with any cards that allow you to have flexibility. By flexibility, i mean something like the Amex MEmbership Rewards program or Starwood Preffered Guest cards. This way, until you figure out what you want, you can build up a decent pile of points and the transfer them over to the program of your choice. Once you have made up your mind, you need to focus on how to achieve maximum points for that program. I use the BA Amex premium card to get the 2-4-1 voucher and the. Any excess spending goes on the Amex charge cards or SPG cards. I also believe in diversification. Do not put all your eggs in ne basket. If your program suffers a massive devaluation, you will be kicking yourself.

  • Rob says:

    Yes, it will be fee free. That is a great offer, well worth jumping on.

    • Trickster says:

      Do you reckon it’s s better deal than a referral from my wife – hence two sets of points? I guess the answer, as always, is in valuing points vs cash.

  • Surfnode says:

    Slightly Off topic: got the Amex platinum credit card on the strength of my German amex platinum charge card, thinking that would be the ideal combination of earning MR in the uk and retain unadulterated insurance benefits. Cool that that worked, but now discovered that the German offering is going to be revitalised shortly, ie fee increased to 600 eur and insurance benefits tied to spend and with excess as well. And they will not issue any more Cathay Marco Polo gold cards (instead !? Access to aa and delta lounges ha ha), which was disappointing. Hm, should have signed up to the uk Amex plat when I had the chance.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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