‘Credit Cards Update’ updated for February – summary of best deals

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

The big event during January was the launch of the temporary sign-up bonus on the Virgin Flying Club credit cards.  At 10,000 miles for the free card and 25,000 miles for the £140 fee paid card, these are the highest bonuses that I have ever seen. 

I ran through the Flying Club bonuses in this post.  Remember, if you need more Virgin miles, that Tesco Clubcard is also offering a 30% bonus on transfers to Flying Club at the moment.

The other changes during January were:

MBNA removed the 1,500 mile sign-up bonus on the Miles & More credit card!  1,500 miles was hardly anything to get excited about, but the decision to remove it entirely still seems a little odd.

The 20,000 point sign-up bonus on the Starwood American Express card ended.  This is now back at 10,000 points which converts to 10,000 airline miles.

Finally, remember that we are now into the final few weeks of being able to claim a FREE Cathay Pacific Gold card when you apply for American Express Platinum.  This gives almost all of the benefits of British Airways Silver status, including BA lounge access.

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 here. The Amex home page is here.

2.  Virgin Atlantic Flying Club American Express and Visa

It is rare that you see an offer on the Virgin cards – the last one was 18 months ago.  This is the best offer ever seen on these cards – 25,000 Virgin miles with the £140 ‘Black’ card and 10,000 Virgin miles with the free ‘White’ card.

Note that you CANNOT cancel the £140 paid card and receive a refund of your annual fee.

You can find full details on the Virgin credit cards bonus in this post.

Virgin White

3.  American Express Platinum

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

There is a lower bonus of 30,000 points if you apply directly.  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!

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 March 31st.  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 May.

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 May.

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.

What is the best hotel scheme? - Hilton HHonors - The Opinion
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  1. Frenske says:

    If you cancelled the free BA AmEx less than 6 months ago would you still be eligible for the sign up bonus of the BAPP?

    • No, you would have to wait the full six months before re applying, as you would have already earned the smaller bonus when you took the free BACC.

  2. guesswho2000 says:

    The MBNA website is still showing 1,500 miles on the M&M credit card as of just now? With or without it, it’s hardly a reason to apply, but still!

  3. James67 says:

    I am surprized you are not recommending IHGblack visa given it’ integral part of many big win targets. With 50k points that’s 10 points breaks nights or 5 nights Wembley for example for £140 The potential value to most people will far outweigh the hilton cards free weekend night within 6 months.

    • Fair point. This list is meant to be the best special offers currently running, which means that technically Hilton should not be on it. However, I have a soft spot for the card (and I don’t earn anything from pushing it!) as I think it works well for beginners.

      I try not to link PointBreaks to the IHG bonus. Unless you want to visit a HI in Barnsley they are often less than useful.

      Wembley is good. On the offchance Rotherham Utd make the playoff final, I have booked 4 nights in late May for 40,000 points. Cash price was £1,196!

      • James67 says:

        Good one and good luck 🙂 it always surprizes me they have availability on these high value nights. Your comment on pointsbreaks a little harsg though; while they are not as good as they once were you can still pick up a gem at times.

  4. I had some recent joy with the Virgin black card. Over the last year i havent used the card much but i am a long term holder. Whilst i was reluctant to get rid of it, i couldnt justify the fee. I called them up just after the fee had been applied and explained that whilst i wanted to stay with them, i couldnt justify the fee. After chatting with a manager, they refunded the fee for the year. They did stress it was a one year only deal. Worth a try if your in the same situation

    • Pay the fee next year and then try again the year after, maybe half price is worth it

      Wonder if this works with Amex

  5. You haven’t mentioned Lloyd’s they are not the best but…. Got a small cash back on applying for the lower cost card no foreign transaction fee attracted me to it. Instead of a joining bonus they offered double points 2.5 for the first 6 months, depending on your spend that could be a lot more than any bonus. No foreign transaction fee could be a good saving also. Just a thought.

  6. When do you think the next conversion bonus for Amex MR to Avios will be? I’ll wondering whether to hang on for a few more months or cancel now!

    • Last year they launched very early Feb, so I would imagine next fortnight if it happens

      • James67 says:

        I am guessing it will not be until option to transfer to another member ends. When I transferred a few thousand on Monday I was informed the trafers were ending because amex were fed up with massive transfers only to take advantage of promotions as opposed to small transfers to top up accounts.

        • Ha. If that is true, then its Amex fault for having transfer bonuses with only certain people targeted! If everyone was offered the same bonus then you wouldn’t need to transfer to your partner!

    • I thought that you will retain your points even after you cancel. No?

      • I’m not sure you do, plus the earlier you cancel, the earlier you can get the 6month blackout period out of the way

        • ok thanks. Btw, i don’t really intend to be blacklisted by Amex by doing this continuously

        • Raffles says:

          If you have another Amex card, you are meant to get a six month grace period to empty your MR account. This is in the T&C’s but I don’t know anyone who has ever done it.

          If you have no other Amex cards, you must empty your account before you cancel.

        • thanks

  7. Does anyone know how soon you can expect to receive the Cathay Gold card after applying for it through the Amex Plat benefits site?

    Does anyone have experience of cancelling the card before actually receiving the Cathay and other status cards?


    • It comes from HK, generally 10-21 days after filling in the online form.

      In theory, once the Cathay website shows you as Gold, you can cancel Plat.

  8. Hey Raffles, how quickly do Tesco clubcard points transfer to Avios/Executive Club? Need to make a last minute booking and seeing if they’d transfer quicker than AMEX. Thanks.

  9. I’m mulling over the 15,000 MR upgrade offer from Gold to Platinum in order to get Cathay status before it is pulled.

    I’ve had the Gold over a year so am paying the annual fee and am about half way through my current membership year. I’m assuming that will be recognised in some way. Does anyone know if they charge the fee difference pro rata up front for the remainder of the current year or if the renewal date is reset?

    • I expect you will be refunded half the gold fee and then charged £450

      • Agreed

        • Yes my wife did this, She had just paid the £125 Gold fee renewal. When she upgraded later that month to Platinum she got the £125 fee credited back and then the next statement the £450 Platinum fee was applied

  10. I took out the platinum for the CP Gold Card (thank you for the reminder!), but can the platinum easily be downgraded to the gold whilst i work out what to do with my MR points or will i need to apply for the gold and then cancel the platinum?

    • You can ring to downgrade if you want more time to decide about the points. Gold fee may kick in immediately though (£125/yr) – I think you don’t get the first year free.

      • Jfduncan says:

        I downgraded my Platinum on Monday night by calling Amex. The Gold Fee does kick in immediately – so i downgraded to Green (£60 annual fee) which i will cancel as soon as the next conversion bonus kicks in…

        • There is an annual fee (£36?) for Membership Rewards access if you are Green and this is presumably not refundable, so Gold may have been the better deal.

        • The Green card at £60 includes Membership Rewards with no additional fee to pay.

          I’ve downgraded from Platinum to Gold and now to Green while I wait for a transfer bonus (sat on about 120k MR points) although I’m not convinced one will ever arrive!

        • That is absolutely NOT what the MR rules say. Fee for Green is £24 plus VAT per year.

        • Agreed but I’ve had the Green card since October and Membership Rewards is definitely included – I clarified this before downgrading.

          Apparently there is another version of the card with a lower annual fee that attracts that charge – the ‘Green’ card you can get now is actually called ‘The American Express Card’ and is a different product. Very confusing!

        • Wow. The green card in fact comes with a £60 fee/year.

  11. Hello Raffles,

    Am new to o/seas points use particularly in US. Use Advantage plus here in Australia and it is GREAT, for AUD$280 you get one free night at a 4 or 5 star hotel eg Sofitel Wentworth, dining 2 for 1 all year round and available at most Accor hotels in Asia Pacific!! Unfortunately not recognized in USA. I am traveling to San Fran in June and and seeking a program to join that will help the budget and give us a good holiday. 7 nights planned. Tips ??

    • Did the Omni last time I was in SFO which had just opened. If you could push some nights to Carlson soon their 38,000 bonus points promo is generous and would be handy in SFO. A Carlson Gold match would also let you book their ‘4 for 2’ rates to cover part of your stay cheaply.

  12. Malibu Stacey says:

    Amex Platinum Card holders applying for Gold status need to have RECEIVED their Marco Polo membership cards by 1 March. They need to APPLY to Cathay Pacific by 15 February. Too late if you don’t have an AP in hand already.

    • Thought this had been changed to end of March? It’s been updated, I think there were a couple of mentions regarding this on a different post.

    • No, they’ve changed it. It is now 30th March. Amex (for once) is even printing this on your statements this month.

  13. Jimmyjimmy says:

    When you cancel a fee card that gives pro rata return of the fee, ie SPG. Do they send you a cheque for the amount?

  14. Slightly off topic, I have a question about manufactured spend. I noticed on my Amex Platinum when I received a refund from SVP Gift cards (failed Amex House of Fraser venture), the refund did not deduct my original spend amount for MR points. Therefore I got to my £2k target much quicker than I should have. My question is this; has anyone found a way of using refunds on purchases in a consistent way to manufacture spend?

    I imagine there are many retailers out there offering high value items for sale although it is not in stock. Therefore one could buy an item , have the transaction registered and points target added and then promptly cancel the order for a full refund. I am not sure this is a scenario covered with the cards terms and conditions?

    Anyone know a suitable retailer or product this could be tested on?

    • Normally a refund should trigger a deduction. What you actually want is a retailer who will refund to a different card. Costco used to, may still, be happy to do cash refunds for card transactions.