Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Credit Cards Update’ updated for December – summary of top deals and recent changes

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

Apart from the big changes to the Starwood and BA cards, which I summarise below, the other points worth noting are:

Tesco has brought in a 1,000 point sign-up bonus for the Tesco MasterCard.  This may or may not be combinable with the ‘refer a friend’ bonus.  The bonus runs to December 15th.

I had confirmation from two readers during the month that the 40,000 points sign-up bonus link for the IHG Rewards Club Black Visa card is still working.

The additional 10,000 miles sign-up bonus (taking the total bonus to 11,500 miles) for the Lufthansa Miles & More cards is still running, but only until 15th December.  My review of the card is here.

United Airlines relaunched its MileagePlus UK credit card, issued by MBNA.  Until December 31st, the sign-up bonus has jumped from nothing to 12,000 miles, which is not bad for a free card.  However, if you don’t have an existing MileagePlus balance you are unlikely to earn enough miles purely from card spending for a worthwhile redemption.

We learnt that the FREE Cathay Pacific Gold status card, that comes with American Express Platinum, will not be issued after February 15th.  This gives almost all of the benefits of British Airways Silver status, including BA lounge access.

Emirates joined the American Express Membership Rewards programme as their latest airline transfer partner

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. Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

It is debatable whether this offer is better than Amex Gold or not.  The Starwood / SPG Amex offers you (if you transfer the 20,000 points to Avios) 25,000 miles for signing up!  You pay a £75 annual fee, but this is refundable pro-rata when you cancel.  Amex Gold, in contrast, offers you 20,000 Avios for £0 fee.

However, you don’t need to choose, as Amex will allow you to have both cards and to earn both bonuses!  (Don’t apply for both at once, though – you should leave 2-3 months between applications).  As the Starwood offer is only available until 30th January – at which point the bonus will drop back to 10,000 points – I am prioritising that at the moment.

You can get this card even if you already have a BA Amex, Amex Gold, Amex Platinum or indeed any other Amex card.  My full review of the card is here and my initial post on the 20,000 points promotion is here.  The official Amex page for the SPG card is here.

2. 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 here. The Amex home page is here.

3. American Express Platinum

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

TYou 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!

The key benefit of this card – the Cathay Pacific Gold card, which gets you the same benefits as a BA Silver card, including BA lounge access, is going away on February 15th.  You need to have received your Platinum card by that date.

My full review of the card is here. Amex’s own home page is here.

4. Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa

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

This remains my favourite promotion for someone new to this hobby.  The card is free, you only need to spend a modest amount to trigger the bonus, and you can enjoy a free night in a luxury hotel afterwards (if you pick a decent one!).  It will whet your appetite for what miles and points can bring you.

5. British Airways American Express

The sign-up bonus on this free card is increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios until February.

Full details are in my review here.  The Amex home page for the card is here.

BA Amex cropped

6. British Airways Premium Plus American Express

The sign-up bonus on this card is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios until February.

Full details are in my review here.  The Amex home page for the card is here.

BA Premium Plus Amex

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

Comments (42)

  • Jphn says:

    I just got an email ad for the Luma

  • John says:

    12500 UA miles is pretty useful for a domestic (North American) redemption. I am not getting the card, but I will be using my 12500 miles for a one-way YYZ-YVR – $340 paid vs $20 taxes

  • James67 says:

    Does anbody kniw if the Hilton free night is restricted to the card holder or can we use it to make a reservation for family or friends? Thanks.

    • Rob says:

      Booking will be in the name of cardholder. Best thing to do usually is book for 2 people and add the name of the 2nd person (who will be a guest) in the notes and say that they will check in first.

      You may have a bit more trouble if you are booking for a country which insists that all hotel guests hand over their ID at check-in, eg Spain.

  • Macca says:

    Raffles – I’ve just seen the weekly MSE newsletter which got me thinking. Do you have any of these 0% exchange rate cards in your wallet, or do you use one of your reward cards overseas and just suck up the exchange fee in exchange for the miles? I’m thinking less about paying for a hotel and more about paying for small transactions like lunch.

    • Rob says:

      I do not have a zero percent card. I tend to use my Priority Club Black Visa, which gives double points abroad, so about 2p of value. Still worse than the 3 per cent fee, but not by enough to make me get a new card.

      However, I am considering the Lloyds Avios card, as that would earn miles AND has no fx charge. Fee is £24 per year but if you spend over £1000 abroad it would be profitable.

  • Tim says:

    When you apply for a supplementary card on Amex cards such as BAPP, are the transactions for the other person shown separately or on another statement? Basically, can you hand them this without showing details of the birthday/xmas presents you have bought with your card? Any help really appreciated from those with secondary cardholders!

    • Alan says:

      They all show on the main cardholder’s statement, separated by section (paper one) or with a notation in a column (online one) to identify which cardholder made the charge.

    • Trevor says:

      Forget paper statements… When you login, as the main card-holder, you can see all transactions, and it shows who’s card made the transaction. You could then sort by that column and just copy/paste or screenshot those transactions relevant to a specific card-holder.

      Alternatively (and better), if the secondary card holder has their own Amex login, then they will only see their transactions listed for any secondary cards associated with and added to their login.

    • Rob says:

      Same statement, but broken out separately.

      Last year my Mrs bought me a present using her supplementary BMI card, which was generous of her!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the replies and clarifying this.

  • Deeno says:

    What happens if a spend on your card when trying to hit the spending/bonus threshold is refunded? I’m going to apply for the Gold Amex and put some flights on the card to go towards hitting the £2000 mark but these are refundable so if I need to cancel the flights do the points get taken away from you?

    • Rob says:

      It depends. The bonus points are ‘attached’ to the transaction that takes you over £2,000. If that transaction is reversed, then the bonus gets taken back. It therefore helps to make sure that the exact transaction that takes you over £2,000 is ‘normal’ spending.

      However, this is still not guaranteed – I know people who have still had the bonus removed even when it wasn’t attached to a refunded transaction. It is less common though.

      The best thing to do is to move your MR points across to Avios or wherever before you do the refund. Then you are safe, as Amex cannot reclaim them.

      • Deeno says:

        Thanks. So hard to hit Amex spends here as only Tesco and Boots take it. Don’t spend much online and now without 3v there is no (“free”) way to get amex spends for council tax.

  • Fido says:

    I just recently got a Platinum card for the Avios bonus plus some of the other little sweeteners. Having failed to get some highly demand and over-priced concert tickets for my wife the other day I thought I’d give the concierge service a try. Although they only had higher price tickets I took the plunge as at least they will be able to see the performer rather than rely on screens to watch anything at all. My question is though if i cancel my card once I hit £2k will I lose these tickets or is the sale still valid? Can’t seem to find anything until now. Cheers.