For the last 5 months or so, the long-term title holder of the ‘best miles and points credit card for newcomers’ award has been in flux.
Between November and January, I was encouraging people to focus on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. Whilst this card had a £75 fee, it made sense to apply because of the ‘limited time only’ bonus of 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points. That would have got you around £350+ of free hotel stays or 25,000 airline miles.
Once the SPG offer dropped back to its more usual 10,000 points, focus switched to the American Express Platinum charge card. As anyone who successfully applied for that card would receive Cathay Pacific Gold staus – equivalent to British Airways Silver and good enough to get you into BA airport lounges – it became my core focus.
The Cathay Pacific offer has now ended. So, with that deal gone, the natural order of things reasserts itself!
This means that American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is yet again – without question – the best ‘miles and points’ card for a newcomer to this hobby.
The reasons are numerous:
There is no fee for the first year – and even if you forget to cancel in time, your £125 fee for the 2nd year can be refunded pro-rata at any time
You get a whopping 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for signing up! These can be converted into 20,000 Avios, 20,000 Virgin Flying Club miles, 60,000 Club Carlson points, 40,000 Hilton HHonors points, £100 of retail gift cards or many other things.
The Gold card also has a superior earnings rate in some categories:
Supermarket, petrol, travel and foreign spend earns 2 points per £1. That is equivalent to 2 Avios per £1. No other card can beat this earnings rate.
All other spend earns 1 point per £1
You also receive a Lounge Club card when you join, along with two free passes. This will allow you two free visits to over 600 airport lounges around the world (or one visit for you and a guest). There is nothing in Heathrow Terminal 5 but most other airports – and the rest of Heathrow – have something.
All in all, the combination of no fee, a fat sign-up bonus, the ability to transfer your bonus to various different airline and hotel schemes and the ‘2 points per £1’ earnings rate on key spending categories makes it a great card to get started with.
These are the key things to consider before you apply:
Do you understand that this is a charge card and not a credit card? You MUST repay the balance in full every month, without fail.
Do you have HOUSEHOLD income of over £20,000?
Can you spend £2000 on the card within three months, which is what is required to trigger the sign-up bonus? (You can pull some spend forward by, for example, buying supermarket gift cards in advance.)
Have you cancelled a Gold, Green or Platinum charge card with Amex in the last 6 months? If so, you won’t receive the bonus.
For the avoidance of doubt, you WILL receive the bonus if the only other Amex products you have are BA, Nectar, SPG, Platinum Cashback, Blue, Harrods or Costco Amex cards.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – April 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our April 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the other top current deals:
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.