Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Credit Cards Update’, updated for July 2013

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I have updated the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page at the top of the blog for July.

It has been a relatively quiet month, although a number of excellent promotions are still running. You shouldn’t underestimate how good some of the current deals are – you really should be thinking of taking advantage of as many of the current sign-up deals as you realistically can.

The big ‘new news’ in June was the launch of the Emirates credit cards by MBNA. The sign-up bonus is not great, but I expect some better promotions to be launched in the current months.

Last call for the Starwood 20,000 point bonus!

The biggest deal that will be going away (on 29th July to be precise) is the 20,000 points sign-up bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card. This is worth 25,000 Avios, 25,000 miles in 28 other airline schemes or some free hotel nights. My full review of this card is hereThe Amex home page for the card is here.

There are no restrictions on who can apply for the SPG Amex, apart from a £30,000 household income rule. It doesn’t matter what other American Express cards you hold.

You can also freely transfer SPG points between two people living at the same address. This means that your partner could get the card, transfer her SPG points to you and then you could send them off to your airline account.

Last call for the current British Airways American Express bonuses!

It is also worth noting that the current offers on the British Airways American Express cards end on 31st July. The free card (click for review) currently offers 9,000 Avios for signing up – this will presumably fall back to 3,000 Avios in August. The Premium Plus card currently offers 25,000 Avios for signing up – this should fall back to 18,000 points in August.

Here is my advice on the best cards currently available if you are thinking of ‘churning’ the contents of your wallet:

What are the best loyalty credit cards currently available?

1. American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is currently an outstanding deal, which is showing no signs of going away. No fee for the first year and 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 20,000 MR points can get you – 20,000 Avios points for a start!)  My full review of the card is hereThe Amex home page is here.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card

Until 29th July, the sign-up bonus on this card is doubled to 20,000 Starwood points when you spend £1,000. These are worth 25,000 Avios or miles in 29 other airline programmes, as well hotel nights. You can learn more about this deal here and my review of the card is hereThe Amex home page is here.

3. Lloyds TSB Premier Duo and Duo Avios cards

This is good deal and is much improved on the previous promotion. The free (‘Duo’) cards give you 15,000 Avios points for signing-up. The £50 fee ‘Premier Duo’ cards give you 20,000 Avios. You need to spend £500 per month for the first three months on the American Express card to receive the bonus, which may require careful tracking of your spending.

4. American Express Platinum

The card now offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points, worth 30,000 Avios amongst other things.

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, Accor Platinum, Cathay Pacific Gold (= BA Silver) for the rest of the year even after you cancel!

You can learn more about this offer in this post here. My full review of the card is hereAmex’s own home page is here.

5. Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa

You receive a free night in any Hilton Group property for spending £750. That could be worth £250 if spent wisely at a Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria branded property. My full review of the card is hereThe home page is here.

6. Priority Club Black Visa

If you are used to having Platinum status for your Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Indigo, InterContinental etc stays, you will probably have noticed by now that you are very unlikely to requalify in 2013. The incredibly harsh new regime – which means only base points and not bonuses count for status – will see 80%+ of Platinum cardholders drop away, I imagine.

The Priority Club Black Visa comes with Platinum status as a free perk. There is an annual fee of £99 but if you do enough stays at Priority Club hotels then it is a decent deal.

Full details on all of these cards, including links to the application forms, are on the ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

Comments (30)

  • thesaver79 says:

    I’m still working on reaching £10,000 for the 2-4-1 BA voucher ASAP. I’m more than half way through, but I’m really tempted to apply for the Starwood card. 25000 miles for a relatively small spend threshold is too good to be true. Any suggestions on reaching the thresholds more quickly that don’t involve 3V cards which I can’t find anywhere in Central London? 🙁

    • Rob says:

      Supermarket gift cards, buy some foreign currency from Amex Currency Exchange (goes through as a purchase) …

      • thesaver79 says:

        Aren’t Amex exchange rates a bit rubbish though? I could definitely buy Euros for the upcoming holidays.

        What about refundable expenses? I guess I would still get the bonus but will then have a negative points balance?

        • Rob says:

          With MR points, Amex has been taking away the bonus from people who refund purchases.

          Of course, they cannot do this with SPG once the points have been sent across …

        • Rob says:

          Amex Currency Exchange rates when you pre-order for airport collection are OK. Remember you also earn Avios on your order and Heathrow Rewards points if you collect there, plus the credit card points!

          • thesaver79 says:

            Excellent! Thanks a lot! I can earn the Heathrow Rewards simply by presenting the card when collecting?

          • Alan says:

            Yep 🙂 Even if using Travelex (as I did when their rates were much better than Amex) you can get HR points by showing your card when collecting.

          • Rob says:

            Yes. They rarely post, though, so you will end up scanning your receipt and emailing it across.

        • Trevor says:

          Their rates aren’t the best, so if you going to lose out anyway, then no harm in just buying Sterling Travelers Cheques for whatever you need to spend. You can’t earn Avios, but you can get your spend through on it, albeit by paying an extra 1.5% for the privilege. You can then deposit them in your bank account immediate at no charge.

  • Olybeast says:

    Hey Raffles,

    The free BA card is bonus avios for 1000 spend in 3 months, not 500.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks. They changed it a few months ago but I still have £500 in my head. Page updated.

  • Diane says:

    Hi. Are my husband and I both able to apply for a Starwood card and if we meet the spend get the bonus each ? Thanks.

    • Rob says:

      Yes. However, if you both apply same day then Amex will find it a bit odd. Best for one of you to apply now and then the other one applies a day or so before the 29 July deadline.

    • sandgrounder says:

      Yes- apply one at a time so one can refer the other though. Should squeeze in by the end of the month.

  • tangey says:

    SPG can work as a viable conduit between MR and airlines, if you are short miles for a redemption. SPG has 29 airlines as partners, whereas MR only has 11.

    For example, if you are working on the AA card card the moment, and after doing your spend you end up with 40K AA miles, and you need 65K AA for a redemption, you can move 40K MR into 20K SPG, then move the 20K SPG to AA. You’ll get a 5K bonus for moving the 20K, effectively turning 40K MR into 25K AA. It effectively allows you to move MR points to virtually any non-Amex partner airline, at a 1-1.6 ratio. It’s obviously not the very best use of MR, but it could definitely come in handy.

    • Rob says:

      Agreed. I did this myself recently to top off my wifes LH account.

      As you can transfer SPG points between people with the same address, this gives added flexibility as well.

  • thesaver79 says:

    How do Amex take it if you cancel the card straight after receiving the bonus, even after a month?

  • Diane says:

    Hi Raffles, Another question ! I now have successfully applied for a SPG card, and my husband will apply in 3 weeks or so . I am a bit confused as to how I get the SPG points into Avios. I only have a BAEC account at the moment – do I need to open an Avios account, transfer SPG into there, and then move into BAEC using ‘combine my avios ?
    Thanks very much .

  • Zoe says:

    Any idea how long they take to decide if your application is referred? (SPG Amex)

    • Rob says:

      They never tell you that you’ve been approved. First you know about it is when the card arrives, which will be 7-10 working days. Very high chance of acceptance if referred – it usually means they need to verify some data first.

      • Louie says:

        They told me straight off I’d been approved for a SPG Amex only yesterday. First time ever for an Amex application for me; I’ve always assumed I’ve been referred in the past because I’m self-employed. Maybe I have a good enough history with them nowadays.

        • Rob says:

          Sorry, what I meant to say was “if you get referred, Amex never officially tells you later that you’ve been approved”. First thing you know is when the card drops through the door ….

  • Max says:

    Didn’t know I could use my Amex as an Oyster card on London buses.
    Just saw this when I logged into my account today.

    “Use your contactless Card on London Buses and get 40% off the cash fare
    If your American Express® Card has the contactless symbol, just touch the Card you intend to use on London Buses and go.”