Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Why American Express Gold is back in the No 1 spot for sign-up bonuses

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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.

You will find full details here – and the application form – on the American Express website.


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 card

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

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

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

Nectar American Express

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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:

Amex American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

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 card

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.

Comments (32)

  • andy stock says:

    Used my 2 lounge passes at No 1 Gatwick North and Plaza Premium HK (make sure you try the HK fish ball Noddles)

  • Anonymous HFPer says:

    Is it possible to ask Amex at the end of the first year to put you down to a fee-free card? I’m not sure I could justify the fee after the first year is up, but I would love to continue having an Amex.

  • Simon says:

    It’s a pity the double points for supermarket spend is only in the first year. I’d keep the card for long term spend if it was for the duration of the card but for my spending habits I’m not sure it’s worth £125 a year after the first year,

  • Adam says:

    I think I will get this card when i trigger the 2-4-1 on the BA card. It will give me a bit of a boost in avios to use with the 2-4-1.

  • Jack says:

    Perhaps something worth bearing in mind if you do plan to keep the card past year 1 – I have had mine about 16 months or so (wasn’t going to pay the fee for year 2 but they comped me £100 and 5000 MRs due to many issues!) and I decided I did want to cancel after all just a few days ago. The chap in cancellations offered me three months double MRs to stay, then upped this to 6 months of double MRs and reminded me that I could apply for the Gold Credit card and get an extra 3k MRs that way. So may be worth playing the “I want to cancel” card and see if they offer you any retention bonus. As yet unsure if this is in addition to the ongoing double points on travel but crossing my fingers for 3x on travel and 2x on everything else.

  • ts77 says:

    Big fan of the card here too – whether I could be convinced to run it past 12 months I’m not so sure of…

  • Londonbus says:

    Unbeatable. Unless you have one of the Amex Diamond Club cards (not available to new customers).

  • Tony says:

    Seriously considering this now… I have a corporate card enrolled in MR, would I still get the bonus?

    • Rob says:

      That should be fine because it is a separate account. If it is a corporate card given to you via your employer, do not mention it on the application form (the card is not registered to you anyway) just to be safe.

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