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.
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)