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

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.

SPG Amex

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.

600 bonus Avios on 'airport hotel with parking' deals via Holiday Extras
Avios South Africa increases its Reward Flight Saver fee - no arbitrage any longer!
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Grantyboy says:

    Thanks Raffles. Why did you recommend leaving 2-3 months between spg and gold card apps? I ask as I have just done this within 1 month! Will they reject the bonus?

    • No, you’re fine to get the bonus. Its just that the longer the gap you leave, the more chance you have of being accepted the second time. This mainly applies to new Amex customers, as they don’t know how good a credit risk you are until you start spending.

      • Hello Raffles,

        I applied for the SPG card and have hit the spend threshold before the first statement date. I emailed Amex about the missing 20k bonus and have been advised that they will be applied within 30 days after 3 months membership. They rep said that if he manually added the points they risked a double entry. I recall having the bonus applied as soon as the target was achieved?

        • It should be, and it usually is. Sometimes Amex sets up the card wrong and there is some sort of manual process at the end of the bonus spend period when they get added later.

          There is also anecdotal evidence that regular churners are getting the bonus given to them later to increase the fee they pay, although there is no proof of that!

  2. phreegreens says:

    Random SPG card question. I have been approved, waiting for my card to be delivered, anyone had one issued recently and is is “contactless”?

    • phreegreens – I’ve had one for a fortnight or so. It took 7-10 days from application (which was immediately approved) to receipt – sorry I can’t be more precise. It’s not contactless either.

      Just £300 short of my target now though!

    • sandgrounder says:

      I didn’t get online approval but it was with me last Friday after a Sunday application, so 5 days. My wife got the recommend a friend 5k on the Tuesday. No contactless sadly.

      • New Gold Charge cards do now seem to support contactless though, so I guess that is gradually being rolled out…

        • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

          My Gold issued a year ago was contactless, it’s not new! I think my oldest contactless Amex is from 2011.

  3. needroos says:

    Anyone who has applied and received AMEX Plat recently? How long before you received your Cathay Gold card? I completed my enrollment but no updates or confirmation since.

    • Go to the Cathay website and do ‘Forgot username?’ using the email you gave Amex. When you get the username email, go back and do ‘Forgot password?’ using the username. You can then log in to the Cathay site and see if you are Gold yet.

      Just seeing that Cathay recognises your email means it is in progress.

      Cards come from Hong Kong and take 10 to 20+ days.

  4. Raffles, I cancelled my Plat Amex last day of May. Will I be ok to apply now for a new one or should I wait till January?

    • Should be fine. My wife cancelled her Gold in early May and reapplied in late Nov. I got my referral points immediately as usual and her online account is showing progress towards qualifying for the sign-up bonus (a recent addition to the site along with progress towards annual spend bonuses such as the BA Amex 2for1).

  5. Jeremy I says:

    Hi all. Re the UA Mileage Plus card. I have the existing card (which has worst earning rates and no visa card; only amex). If i apply for the new card will i get the 12k bonus do you reckon?

    Extract from terms below – am I a “first-time Cardmembers with new accounts”? Any advice greatfully received.

    Loving the website, by the way rob. Thanks for everything you do. Anything aimed at the lower end of the market (low hanging economy earning and redemption opps) always appreciated!


    With this offer you will receive 12,000 bonus miles after you make a minimum qualifying card spend of £1,000 on either card within 90 days of the account being opened. . This one-time bonus offer is valid only for first-time Cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing Cardmembers are not eligible. Offer expires on 31st December 2013. Offer subject to change without notice.

  6. My last SPG was cancelled in April new one accepted online within 3 mins, will be referring the mrs for hers too!

    My platinum was taken out in June, I wonder if they will make all CX cards inactive from Feb 16, or use the annual anniversary dates to kick out membership?

    I only use the cx card to precook seats for free, and for lounge access in t5!


  7. Hi raffles,

    First of all – great site, I am finding it really useful!

    The Starwood card is top – you get 25,000 Avios for a £75 fee – but the BA premium plus is only 6th even though you get 25,000 Avios for £150 and a companion voucher for £10,000 spend.

    If collecting Avios is there any reason you rank the SPG card much higher than the BA+ card? Or would you say the BA+ card is the better bet if I can spend £10,000 on it in a year? The BA card seems much better to me but wondered if there was something that I was missing?

    • This is a ranking of the best current special offers, not the best cards overall. If you look at my review of the BA PP Amex, you’ll see it gets 10/10 for the sign-up bonus and 10/10 for the return on your long term spend, as long as you can hit the £10k.

  8. Frenske says:

    Mmm I would put the AmEx Gold Reward in first place, since it gives you 2x MR points on Travel and Supermarket spend and also on any foreign spend. This should easily bring the total points earned over the ones earned on SPG.

    • PRG: You can get 20,000 sign-up, possible transfer bonus (only if you hang around long enough, paying for your card in the meantime, and are lucky), extra 2,000 for referral and you’ll get 2,000 for the £2k spend required to trigger the bonus. If you happen to spend all that in places that qualify for double points, you’d get a further 2,000 (though you’d be very lucky to). That totals 26,000 Avios if you are lucky. The card is free initially, but you’ll be paying to keep those points after a year if awaiting a transfer bonus. Having this card also means you don’t qualify for the Amex Platinum.

      SPG: You can get 20,000 sign-up, 5,000 transfer bonus to Avios, extra 1,000 for referral and you’ll get 2,000 for the £2k spend required to trigger the bonus. That totals 28,000 Avios for £2k spend. The card has a £75pa fee, but refunded pro rata, and you don’t have to immediately transfer or lose the points when you cancel the card. Furthermore, it doesn’t affect your qualification for any other Amex sign-up bonus.

      For £2k spend before moving on to churn the next card, you get more from the SPG. Any further spend on the PRG to try gain double points is money that isn’t earning you a sign-up bonus elsewhere which is far more lucrative. I know which one I rate top.

      • Of course if you can combine double/triple points on the qualifying spend that helps. Over half the qualifying spend on my wife’s card achieved so far with a booking on hotels.com which got us triple points, and we’ve got some more to book in the near future. With my referral points, the qualifying spend should net us 9K referral+22K referee+6K triple points (on £2K) = a potential 37K total for a £2K spend with no fee. Plus the Lounge Club membership is worth something….

        She only cancelled her SPG card in September so doesn’t qualify for another bonus on that yet, though I should be able to in the new year. Does anyone know when the current offer ends?

    • It isn’t strictly about the ‘best’ card, though. I put SPG top because it is a limited time offer and its better for people to focus on this now whilst they can.

  9. I just got an email ad for the Luma

  10. 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

  11. 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.

    • 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.

  12. 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.

    • 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.

  13. 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Same statement, but broken out separately.

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

    • Thanks for the replies and clarifying this.

  14. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  15. 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.