‘Credit Cards Update’ updated for September – summary of top deals

I have updated the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page at the top of the screen for September.

There is a sense of deja vu in the market (again) with the current special offers being focussed on the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic cards.  American Express Preferred Rewards Gold remains, in my view, the best all-round offer on the market.

Three cards are (still) unavailable:

The IHG Rewards Club / IHG Rewards Club Black cards were meant to relaunch in June – and have done for existing cardholders – but the cards are still not available to new cardholders.  This is disappointing as the Black card offers instant Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club and has a decent sign-up bonus.  They do not seem totally dead as Barclays just wrote to me saying that the Black card is getting a change of name ‘in a few months’.

The Ryanair credit card has disappeared from the website although, as it is still referenced, this may be just a temporary halt

What are the best deals at the moment?

If you are looking to apply for a new card today, here are my top recommendations based on the sign-up bonus.  The BA and Virgin cards are special deals whilst Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and Hilton cards are consistently strong offers.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is currently an outstanding deal which is showing no signs of going away. You pay no fee for the first year and earn 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.

 British Airways American Express

The sign-up bonus on this free card is increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios until 30th September. Full details are in my review here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

Representative APR 15.9% variable.

BA Amex cropped

American Express Platinum

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

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 – for the rest of the year even after you cancel.  The Amex Platinum benefits package is extensive, though, and once you’ve got it you might find the numbers add up for you.  I have had one for 15 years.

My full review of the card is here. Amex’s own home page is here.

 British Airways Premium Plus American Express

The sign-up bonus on this card is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios until 30th September. Full details are in my review here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

BA Premium Plus Amex

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.

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.

Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club White and Black cards

Virgin Atlantic has started to match promotional activity on the British Airways credit cards.  Last week they increased the bonus on the free White cards to 10,000 miles and on the £140 fee Black cards to 25,000 miles.

You can find full details on the Virgin credit cards bonus and links to the application forms in this article from earlier in the week.

The representative APR on the White card is 17.9% variable.  The representative APR on the Black card is 52.0% variable including the annual fee.

Bonus on small business cards

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a very small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card and the American Express Gold Business Card. There is currently a 20,000 points (= 20,000 Avios) bonus on the Gold Business card and a 40,000 points (40,000 Avios) bonus on the Platinum Business card.

In my experience people still receive the sign-up bonus on the small business cards even if they already have a personal Gold or Platinum card. This is technically not what the rules say, however, and you should bear this in mind.

(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.)

Update on the Zipcar / Avios relationship
Earn 700 Virgin Flying Club miles for £3
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. BA Premium Plus Amex:
    The sign-up bonus on this card is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios until 21st May
    TYPO – its until 30th September
    (Sadly, I couldn’t sleep!)

  2. I have a new amex pref gold (thanks Raffles) but if using it on hotels abroad how much more would I pay than with my clarity?
    Are the extra points with the gold worth the investment?
    Not good at maths. Any help appreciated!

    • 3 per cent more. At 2 points per pound you are ‘paying’ 1.5p per Amex point which is not good. However, if it helps hit the £2k spend target then it may be worthwhile.

    • In your first year, and possibly after that, you get a bonus point per pound for foreign spending AND a bonus point per pound for travel. I actually find that I get 2 bonus points per pound for most hotel chains, for some reason. So you’re actually getting 3 points back per pound. If you value a point at 1p, that covers your foreign spending fee. So you’re not ‘losing’ anything and, as Raffles points out, it will help to meet the spending target.

      • or if you are using it abroad for and work is reimbursing you after (like me currently) then its a new brainer to always use it for 3x the points!

  3. Slightly OT, but does anyone know the best way of tracking when you closed an Amex CC? I had the Amex Gold at one point this year, however I am not certain when I cancelled it. I’m looking to get the bonus points so I need to make sure I’ve waited over 6 months.

  4. I’m looking at the best way to pay for foreign hotels too.

    On the Amex Gold its 3 points per pound from Amex. I dont think the hotel points count as an advantage as you get these points however you pay.

    So if you have a 100Pound hotel bill you will pay 3 more Pounds on the Gold Card compared to the Post Office FX free card to get 300 Avios – which is a penny a point and not so good.
    I guess the only way to change this equation is to use the Lloyds Amex

  5. My 1st year with the Amex preferred rewards gold comes to an end in Nov’14 and so I’m sizing up whether to ditch the card (after transferring my MR points) or to hold on and swallow the £125 fee. Unfortunately I’m very unlikely to make the £15k threshold on my first year spend and so won’t receive the 7500 bonus on my 1st anniversary – having spent £10k, I still have £5k to go.

    I understand from reading HFP that I can have 2 amex charge cards at the same time but I’ve also read that if I cancel one card I have to wait 6 months before applying for another.

    Having read that the free ba amex is not the best card to apply for, I’m still wary of paying a £150 fee for a new ba premium plus card.

    Can I have a preferred rewards card and premium plus at the same time?

    Can anyone advise me as to the best Amex strategy to maximize the current offers. Thanks

    • Yes you can have PR Gold card & BA Prem Plus at the same time.

      If you have a partner, you could always refer them for the Gold before you cancel yours and add yourself as a supplimentary card holder.

      That way you get the 9,000 MR points for the referral, your partner gets the 22,000 MR points interoductory offer and they get the first year fee free while you cancel your original Gold card.

      Should you wish to, when that “new” first year comes to an end they could refer you for an Amex Gold (to get the 9,000 referal points) and you then get the intorductory offer again…

      • Thanks. However, my wife is a full time mum, but it’s a good strategy nonetheless.

        Would I still get the BA PP card sign on bonus even though I already have the PR gold card?

  6. Off topic but Shell have been giving me x4 points for petrol. Also I had a service on my car and was very surprised to get x2 points.

    • I too also get x4 points at Shell as long as I don’t use pay at the pump as then it is x2 or x3….can’t remember which!

  7. That’s on the Gold Amex card

  8. I was wondering – I already have my BA Companion voucher which expires in 2016. I haven’t used it yet and downgraded my BA Plat card to the freebie one.

    Can I cancel this card altogether now and still be able to use the companion voucher? Or must I hold a BA Amex in order to use it?


    • When you book you must pay the tax on an Amex but any Amex will do.

      I have never got to the bottom of what happens a) if you cancel the card (I am pretty sure you retain the voucher) and b) what happens if you subsequently cancel a redemption (does the voucher come back to you if you no longer have a BA Amex?)

    • I called them and asked this question. They informed me I would lose my companion voucher if I cancelled my BA Amex

  9. Hmm actually under the TC it states this:

    All British Airways American Express Credit Cards
    15.The Member is responsible for paying any Taxes, Fees & Charges relating to their Companion Voucher booking. All Taxes, Fees & Charges must be paid for using the Member’s British Airways American Express Credit Card.

    • Doesn’t mean that is what happens in practice though!

    • …. which is nonsense. Any Amex is fine. What happens is that ba.com is programmed to grey out all of the payment options except Amex. Any Amex which is normally accepted by ba.com will work.

      • Bugger. wish I’d known that earlier! My BA Amex has been sitting in my drawers doing nothing for the last 6 months! Could have applied for a new one today for more points! d’oh!

  10. Hi, does anyone know if you cancel you Platinum card whether you lose the priority pass instantly, or does it last to the end of expiry? Thanks

    • It’s no longer valid once the linked credit card (in this case the Amex Plat) is cancelled. Some folk report still being able to use it OK for a short time after, others have reported being able to use it but at a cost of £15pp

  11. Commenting to subscribe

  12. I have the hilton card. Just wondering if I cancel it, how long do I have to wait to get the sign up bonus again?

    • ComeFlyWithMe123 says:

      Nathan – How long after you spent the £750, did you get the free night voucher. I am trying to book a trip for mid November using it but no sign of it yet :(.

      With Barclaycard, I am not sure of the churning rules. They are not widely advertised.

      • I got the voucher as soon as I hit the £750 spend. I did phone them and ask for them to send it however.

    • Nothing official, people have found in the past that a one year gap seems to be OK.

  13. I currently have the Amex green card, could I upgrade to this card and get the bonus MR too, I used to have the gold card and downgraded last year in December


  14. Re spend on foreign hotels when abroad:
    I’ve just spoken to Amex. Person had to check but assures me it’s 2 points per £ for travel PLUS 2 points using it abroad
    ie 4 points per £.
    Can anyone confirm???

    • There are some errors with the points system for example if you fill your car up at Tesco you get double points for spending on fuel and another bonus for spending at a supermarket (I spent £63 on petrol and it gave me £189 so 3 points per £1)
      When I used my card to book flights through a Australian company I got 3 points per £1 (2 bonuses, one for foreign spend and 1 for travel booking)
      There are occasions where this doesn’t happen however so don’t count on it!

    • No, that is not how it is meant to be. You may get it but it is meant to be capped at 4. A reader once tried to claim for both and Amex slapped him down.

      • Hi
        I’m getting more confused by the minute – and still trying to work out whether to use
        the Gold abroad for hotel spend or my clarity card.
        I might have to buy points at some stage but I think using the gold abroad is better value than buying?.
        That’s assuming amex is correct and I will get 4 points in total per pound

        • I would use Clarity. Even if you did get 4 per £, which is not guaranteed by a long way, you are still paying 0.75p per point which is OK but not lifechanging. Take the money in your pocket.

  15. Raffles,

    My wife’s gold card is about to come up for renewal after the first year. I won’t be cancelling my Platinum for another few days though.

    Question is, instead of her renewing, and paying so she can refer me for gold in 6 months time, could she downgrade to green, pay nothing, then refer me in 6 months time (or do green not get referral points?)

    Thanks 🙂 – hope that makes sense!!

  16. Noticed the bonus on the Emirates card has been increased, free one is

    5,000 miles on first purchase plus another 7,000 miles when you apply by 30 November 2014 and spend a total of £1,000 within 90 days of your account opening.

    The one with a fee is

    10,000 miles your first purchase plus another 15,000 miles when you apply by 30 November 2014 and spend a total of £2,000 within 90 days of your account opening.