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.)
(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.)