Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Credit Cards Update’ updated for November – summary of the current top deals

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UPDATE – OCTOBER 2020:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.  We produce a monthly directory of the top UK travel credit card offers – please click HERE or use the ‘Credit Card Offers’ menu above.  Thank you.

I usually run a post at the beginning of the month focussing on the top credit card deals currently available.  With new offers appearing every couple of days in early November, I felt it best to hold off for a couple of weeks this time.

The market has now settled down so we can get a good look at the current situation.

What’s new?

There were three long-term developments over the last month which are worth noting if you missed my original articles.

The good news is that the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa is now available again.  Whilst there is a £99 fee, you will receive top-tier Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club, valid at Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Indigo and InterContinental hotels.  There is also a 20,000 point bonus for signing up.

The bad news is that the Flybe card has been sharply devalued.  With Flybe scrapping its frequent flyer scheme and issuing Avios points instead, it has been forced to invent a special scheme – Spend & Fly – just for its credit card customers.  As you can no longer top up your points by flying on Flybe this now looks even more unattractive than it did.

Lloyds has launched a refer-a-friend bonus on its Lloyds Avios Rewards card.  My article includes a list of HFP readers who can refer you.

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, Emirates, American, United, Lufthansa, Etihad and Virgin cards are special deals whilst Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and Hilton cards are consistently strong offers.

These deals are listed in no particular order and their position on the list is not a sign of how good or bad the offer is.

British Airways American Express

The sign-up bonus on this free card is increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios until 11th February. Full details are in my review of the British Airways Amex card here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

Representative APR 15.9% variable.

BA Amex cropped

HSBC Premier MasterCard

This is the highest earning Visa or MasterCard you can get if you want to earn Avios points, at 1 per £1 spent.  HSBC has tough application criteria as you can read in my review.

Until November 30th, you will receive 2,500 HSBC points – equivalent to 12,500 Avios, Asia Miles, Krisflyer or Etihad Guest miles – for taking out the card.

There is no annual fee.  The representative APR is 11.9% variable.  You can apply here.

Emirates Skywards (click on the box at the top of the link page to see the special offer)

The sign-up bonus on the free Emirates credit card is currently increased from 5,000 to 12,000 Skywards miles. Full details are in my review here. Representative APR 17.9% variable.

If you are happy to pay a fee, the bonus on the Emirates Elite card has also been improved, from 10,000 to 25,000 Skywards miles. If you are an existing Skywards collector – because you need a lot of Emirates miles for a decent reward, more than you can get from a credit card alone – then this is something to consider seriously.

My full review of the Elite card is here. Representative APR 55.1% variable including the annual fee, based on a £1200 credit limit.  Both offers run until November 30th.

American Airlines American Express & Visa

The sign-up bonus on the American Airlines cards (a double pack of an American Express and a Visa) has been increased from 5,000 miles to 15,000 miles until November 28th.

You need to spend £1,500 within 90 days to receive the bonus.  My full review of the American Airlines card is here.  You can apply here.

There is no annual fee.  The representative APR is 17.9%.

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 Amex Platinum 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 11th February. Full details are in my review of the BA Premium Plus Amex here. The Amex home page for the card is here.

BA Premium Plus Amex

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!). If you are new to this hobby, I would make this your first American Express card.

My full review of Amex Gold is here. The Amex home page is here.

Etihad Guest American Express & Visa

This is a very aggressive offer.  Etihad is currently offering 20,000 miles (the usual offer is 5,000 miles) if you take out its free credit card before November 30th.

The spending target may seem tough at £4,000 but you do have a whole six months to achieve it.  Spending on both the American Express and Visa cards counts as you receive a double pack.

The representative APR is 18.9%.  My review of the Etihad credit card is here.  The application page is here.

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 UK Hilton credit 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.  The representative APR 18.9% variable.

Hilton Visa

Lufthansa Miles & More American Express & Visa

These cards are free and come with the additional benefit of stopping your existing Miles & More miles from expiring.

The terrible standard bonus of 1,500 miles is increased to 11,500 miles until December 22nd.  You need to spend a modest £2,000 within 90 days.

You can find out more in my review of the Miles & More cards.  The representative APR is 16.9%.  The application form is here.

United Airlines MileagePlus American Express & Visa

Finally, United is currently offering 15,000 MileagePlus miles if you take out its cards.  The usual sign-up bonus is nothing!

The cards are free and the offer runs until 30th November.  You need to spend £1,800 within 90 days.  My review of the United MileagePlus credit cards is here.  The representative APR is 18.9%.

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.)

Comments (51)

  • Mark2 says:

    I have just referred a couple to Amex and the welcome is even warmer if you are referred e.g. 26,000 BAPP and 10,000 for BA, 22,000 for Preferred Rewards and 35,000 for Platinum.
    If you refer your other half you share 53,000.
    Has anyone heard anything from Lloyds on the 4,500 referrals yet? I was refereed by another member and my wife last week. They must be printing out a list and giving it to someone else to type back in!

    • peter says:

      …or of you have no-one to refer you and would like the higher bonuses then Raffles is always happy to refer you (and gain a little bonus himself to help keep the site with running).

    • Rob says:

      Did you actually get the referral email to work? I tried it over the weekend and nothing turned up.

      • richie says:

        Same. 2 or 3 people referred me and still no email

        • Simon says:

          Same for me, referred two people and they have not received an e-mail at all. They’ve now gone for BA Amex, which means no referral points for me as I don’t have it (yet!)

          • Tom H says:


          • Roy says:

            I also had this while referring someone about a month or so ago. Amex advised that they should check their marketing preferences (Although they had an alternative AMEX card, they may not have had one at all – so that didn’t make sense!). But even so, they never did get the referral and ended up applying direct.

      • James67 says:

        I recall there being a similar issue a few years ago. It had something to do with email accounts and/or browsers used. Those affected could solve the problem by sending and/or receiving the referrals vis different browsers and email accounts.

        • Rob says:

          I got one to trigger yesterday but – now you mention it – I did put in a different email address to the one I tried on Saturday.

      • Scottnothing says:

        Had the same problem – referred two colleagues who both ended up applying directly.

        I gave my colleagues my Amex-registered email address and the last 4 digits of my card – they called Amex customer service who have agreed to manually award the referral bonus … let’s see if Amex follows through!

  • Tess says:

    Still have the Hilton card. Does anyone know the churning rules for it?

  • Al says:

    I had Amex gold and cancelled more than 6 months ago. However, a few months ago a charge was put through in error on my account (even though it was closed).

    Is there any way to know that I’ll get the bonus points if I apply again?


  • Simon says:

    Gold card is great. I have mainly used this for places where you can get bonus points (travel, supermarket etc), had a few referrals and got over 100k points. Will be bagging the 7,500 for spending 15k and cancelling it. Great card for beginners!!

    • phil says:

      I was tempted tp cancel mine after the first year but they gave me additional point bonus and since then the points have been coming thick and fast (business trips abroad and travel etc mean i rarely get less that triple points on most big transactions – sometimes its quadruple.
      I’d consider a negotiated deal like this…it might more than cover the fee over the course of yr 2.

  • James67 says:

    Rob, is there still something special on virgin someplace? I think it is just showing standard again at mbna.

    • Rob says:

      No, back to normal (oddly, given how hard it has been pushed this year).

      • James67 says:

        Thanks, perhaps they will get another plug in early new year when offers mpre common. Aftera 3 year break Im considering Hilton card again. Any referal bonus in that for you? I’m guessing not as you never mention one. Best ever offer on Hilton was the free night plus 10k points iirc.

  • Waribai says:

    Sorry, slightly OT but are 3V cards still doing the rounds in Tesco?

    • James67 says:

      Yes but of little value now except as a payment card because options to pay into NS&I have been closed. Still, you could amass a fair amount of points buying them to do online Christmas shopping, transferring any small residual values to amazon.

    • Mark2 says:

      I have accumulated 32,000 Avios from Tesco since the changeover on 18/10 (one month) and I have only bought £200 or so of groceries.

      • Mark2 says:

        As well as many £5 off vouchers and today received one £15 and two £19 for the next three weeks. Also this week spend £40 and get a voucher for £5 to spend next week.
        It appears that the new management are not rowing back on promotions, not yet at least.

      • richie says:


        • Mark2 says:

          by buying 3V cards to pay our utilities, Waitrose and Sainsbury gift vouchers, other shopping and a few extra Tesco offers

          • Tariq says:

            Me too! Bought £150 yesterday to pay water bill and got two £5 off £40 vouchers valid for next week as split into two transactions. Although the bonus points for £50 off gift cards no longer on the POS in our local store, they still were awarded at the checkout.

          • Tariq says:

            Above should read ‘£50 of gift cards’ – there’s no £50 discount LOL!

  • Polly says:

    Yes but you hve to search them out!

  • flyforfun says:

    I currently have a BAPP card. but I have a 2-4-1 voucher for 2015 (travel booked) and one that expires in 2016 (travel not booked). I have a BMI card that gets me 2 Avios per £ so I’m thinking of cancelling my BAPP card.

    I know I need an Amex for redemption*, so I was going to go for the fee free BA Amex card. Can just downgrade or do I need to apply for it? Can I get the bonus points? 🙂 And when I’m ready for the BAPP card can I get the signup bonus again or do I need to wait 6 months from cancelling the standard card.

    * Does the Amex Card used for redemption have to be mine (as opposed to a joint BAEC family member that will be travelling with me)? Can it be any AMEX card, like my Lloyds one?

    • Rob says:

      Any Amex is OK. In theory it has to be in your name but as Amex does not do name verification any card will go through even when your name is hard-coded in the payee box. (PS. Not 100% sure this trick work with non-Amex issued Amex cards like Lloyds. For safety assume a non-Amex Amex should be in your name.)

      If you go for the free BA card you need to ring to downgrade. No bonus! You would need a 6-month gap to get the full bonus when going back to the BAPP.