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

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It is time for our monthly round up of what is new, what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.

What’s new?

Not much, to be honest.  I was expecting a burst of activity last week when the ‘return to work’ rush kicked in but, apart from IHG Rewards Club (which is a good deal) and Virgin Atlantic, not much is happening.

There are three offers worth noting:

IHG Rewards Club is offering a TRIPLED bonus on its two hotel cards.  The free card gets you 30,000 IHG Rewards Club points, the £99 card brings you 60,000 points.  This is an EXCELLENT deal if you are focussed on free hotel nights.  This offer runs until March.

The bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic White card is more than tripled from 3,000 miles to 10,000 miles.  The bonus on the paid Black card increases from 18,500 miles to 25,000 miles.  This offer will run until the end of March.

The higher sign-up bonuses on the British Airways American Express cards continue to run. This offer does not expire until February.

What are the best deals at the moment?

If you are looking to apply for a new card before the year-end, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus. The IHG, BA and Virgin offers 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.

IHG Rewards Club Visa and IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa

The bonus on these cards is tripled until 31st March as long as you apply via special links.  The free card gets you 30,000 points which is worth up to six hotel nights during a PointBreaks promotion – or 6,000 airline miles.  The £99 card is worth 60,000 points which should get around £300 of free hotel rooms – or 12,000 airline miles.  You can find our more in this article from last month.

The representative APR on the free card is 18.9% variable and 42.2% variable on the Premium card, including the fee and assuming a £1200 credit limit.

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

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.

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 is 18.9% variable.

Hilton Visa

Virgin Flying Club White and Virgin Flying Club Black

Virgin has increased the bonus on its two credit card package.  The free White card now offers 10,000 miles (usually 3,000) whilst the Black card offers 25,000 (usually 18,500).  I wrote more about this deal in my article on Friday.

The representative APR on the free card is 17.9% variable and on the paid card 52.0% variable including the fee, based on a £1200 credit limit.

United Airlines MileagePlus American Express & Visa

Finally, United is currently offering 15,000 MileagePlus miles if you take out its cards. It looks like this offer may now be permanent. You should be aware, though, that whilst the headline number of bonus miles is very generous, you will struggle to do much with them unless you already have a MileagePlus balance or can credit some Star Alliance flights to it.

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% variable.

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.)

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  1. Twobfair says:

    For reference, I’m having difficulty getting the IHG bonus points credited. Customer services (by phone and email) of both Barclaycard and IHG were next to useless, however, Barclaycard did respond through twitter and are looking into it.

    • Euflyer Tom says:

      Likewise. Barclaycard responded by referring me to IHG Rewards who (unsurprisingly) referred me back to Barclaycard.

      Latest advice is to wait 6 weeks and then badger Barclaycard. I find the messaging service on mybarclaycard.co.uk works reasonably well.

      • Barclaycard CS are generally dreadful. I’d highly recommend contacting their social media team instead (on FB or Twitter) – they’re far more helpful. If still no luck then lodge a formal complaint. They take a while to resolve but you normally receive appropriate compensation for their dreadful CS in return.

        • Twobfair says:

          I agree. I tried the message option through the Barclaycard website and got told to try IHG. By contacting Barclaycard on twitter they called IHG on my behalf, told me to wait 6 weeks (after IHG initally refused to believe the 60k offer existed!) then and gave some comp. I understand why IHG should be sorting as it’s a referral from their site. Direct through Barclaycard only triggers 20k.

  2. I got the BA Amex Premier with the 18k bonus for £3000 spend which was later increased to 25k. When I called the Amex Member Rewards, they manually added the 7k difference when I had reached the required spending.

  3. I recently cancelled (3 months ago I think) the Amex Gold card.
    How long do I have to wait until I can apply for it (or the Plat card) again and be eligible for the bonus points?

  4. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Should also note the 50,000 MR points currently available for supplemental cards with the AMEX Platinum.

    I am well on my way to 160,000 Avios via this route for a projected cost of £150.

    • How did you manage that many Avios for such a small fee?

      I’m guessing 3 months platinum membership (remember the supplementary cards can take 90 days to add the MR to your account!).

      30k signup
      50k bonus for additional cards

      Am I missing a trick with the rest?

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        From memory:

        Card One
        22k Gold welcome bonus
        15k Gold to Platinum upgrade
        50k Supplementals
        18k Referral of wife
        7-10k for spending

        Card Two
        50k Supplementals

        I doubt we will trigger the welcome bonus on Card Two but if we do that is another 35k + 7-10k for the spend.

        Both cards will be cancelled within a couple of months. AMEX platinum customer service is excellent. I am confident I wont have to wait 90days for the Supplementals to post.

        • Do you need to activate the supplementary cards on the platinum or merely apply for them?

        • I’m hoping just apply as I couldn’t see anything else mentioned in the T&Cs but would be interested to hear what others have done. Of course the points are due to post for a while (?March) so we may not know for some time.

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Why not just downgrade to Gold while waiting the points to post? You obviously need an account that accepts MR points but I don’t see a need to maintain Platinum whilst waiting for AMEX to sort their admin.

      • I’ve been has selling Amex about the points for adding the 5 supp card holders on…. told quite clearly that it will take 90 days…. so you will definitely have to pay for at least 3/12 of the £450

      • I’ve been hasselling Amex about the points for adding the 5 supp card holders on…. told quite clearly that it will take 90 days…. so you will definitely have to pay for at least 3/12 of the £450

        • Any mention from your discussions with them as to whether the card needed to be activated +/- have any spend on them?

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          I still see no reason to hold Platinum while waiting if one doesn’t want to. Maintaining Platinum is not a requirement of the T&Cs but you obviously do need an MR account to accept the points into. Drop to gold to lower the cost.

          The 90 day is admin not a holding period. Upon acceptance of your supplementals the contact is fulfilled.

          I am still working through my spend post successful supplemental application. Upon completion of spend, if points have not posted, I will then follow my own advice above.

  5. Jumble Tales says:

    Same here twobfair.
    No sign of the IHG bonus points on mine either. However when I had the Hilton card a couple of years ago I think the bonus points took 6-8 weeks to post (when they had a sign up bonus.

  6. I called bcard yesterday to ask and they came up with the 6-8 weeks timeframe for both the points and the status.


  7. Which card will people recommend for non Amex spend: free Virgin or Hhonors or ihg?

    • Depends what you’re trying to achieve and how much you spend p.a

      Hilton, free night quickly, gold status after £10k

      Which is completely opposite to IHG platinum status immediately, free night @£10k

      Virgin white card is a cheap way to get vigin miles

      • Thanks for reply. I Have both Virgin white and Hhonors. Last year I was gutted as I spent about 8k on the Hhonors so just missed out. Now I am wondering if I should get the ihg

  8. Hi there, which of these cards are best for overseas spending? Thanks!

    • Lloyds Avios Rewards (£24 fee) as no 3 per cent FX fee and you earn Avios! Or, to avoid annual fee but earn no rewards, Post Office or Halifax Clarity.

      If spending employers money, Amex Gold and IHG a Premium offer double points on FX spend which is effectively 2 per cent of spend back.

  9. Do we know if there is an expiry date on the plat 30k mrs when applying for the card?

  10. If one were to apply for the AMEX Business Plat, does one actually need a business to be in operation for a year as I have a LTD company that hasn’t actually traded in quite a while due to other commitments alternatively would it be better to claim one’s a sole trader?

    • Rules are on the application page but probably easier to apply as a sole trader – if they do an electronic search of Companies House for the company name you give and see it dormant it would presumably lead to instant rejection.

  11. Chewbacca says:

    I’m thinking of reupgrading my BA Amex to crysallise the 241 having spent just over £10k since September. I’m thinking of getting wife to apply for BA PP Amex adding me as supplementary and then spend on the new card going forward. I was thinking of uprading/downgrading over the year as appropriate which would probably average out at one fee. Administratively it’s probably a drag, can you manage all cards in one online account and change Amex Pin to be same as existing card. Anyone do this on a regular basis are there any pitfalls how long after upgrading would you wait to downgrade?

    Can you hold Amex Platinum and Gold at the same time, I’m not sure I would hold either of these long term but not sure I want to get declined in future for churning.

    I also hold a Tesco card which I was always led to believe was best used only in Tesco and that the Amex gave a better conversion apart from being used at Tesco. Is that right never really sure how Tesco converts spend at Tesco/elsewhere into Avios?

    • You can hold Amex Gold and Amex Plat at the same time but you won’t get a bonus if you apply for one whilst still holding the other (or having held it in the last 6 months).

      The Tesco MasterCard is best used for petrol at Tesco because you get double Clubcard points on the petrol (assuming you let them swipe your credit card as a Clubcard and don’t hand over a separate Clubcard). In-store you are best using Amex Gold if you are in the first year and get double points at supermarkets. There is no bonus for using the Tesco card in Tesco shops.

    • Yes with raffles there, but you must make sure you double dip every time in tesco petrol and store, as you get both the Ames pts plus the clubcard pts. Ie ONLY use tesco card for pts then pay with amex…. Golden rule! Make sure you both have a tesco card for this purpose, just named on yours is fine. One of you can have gold, the other plat, refer each other every year so you have the six month wait after cancelling. Complicated but be patient, and it works. So you both get bonus for referring and the spend bonus.

      • Chewbacca says:

        I thought paying with the Tesco Credit card earned more than Amex instore? So you are saying just swipe the clubard or the the tesco credit card (is there a difference and pay with the Amex? I always wonder when I put in my Tesco credit card they ask if I want to pay with the card, which I find very strange as it’s a credit card why would I put in otherwise?

        Anyone had any issues with constantly churning/cancelling amex cards?

        Are the any clever options to generate spend. I thought about Paypal send myself money but it’s 3.4%. Skrill looks to be 1% capped at £10 has anyone tried that or similar?

        • Huge difference. Eg, if you pay with your tesco mc, you only get 1 cc pt per £4 or over spent, ie 2.4 avios. It goes up in £4 chunks. So pay with eg amex gold =3 avios per £ spent, plus swipe tesco mc then you get 4 cc pts = 9.6 avios, so your £4 spend can then achieve approx 21.6 avios as opposed to 2.4 avios for paying with your tesco mc. That’s assuming you transfer out your clubcard pts plus your MRs into avios. So yes, well worth doing. All of us on this site have really gained from this system. Plat and BACC cards give you 1 MR per £. BAPP gives 1.5. You just have to decide which is the best card for your earning needs. Hope that’s clear for newbies!

        • There is ONLY a difference with petrol. A normal Tesco Clubcard earns 1 point per £2 on petrol. A Tesco credit card used as a Clubcard earns 1 point per £1 on petrol.

          Apart from that the earning is the same

          Read this for how the petrol arrangement works – https://www.headforpoints.com/2014/12/28/earning-avios-buying-petrol-esso-tesco-shell/

  12. Chris H says:

    Thanks for the update. Is there any impact on credit rating from applying and churning credit cards to gain the bonus points?

    • Generally not. Some believe that it helps to keep one card long term so show that you are capable of sustaining a long term relationship. If all your cards have been issued in the last 6 months then it obviously sends a different message to someone who has a card going back 10 years and few others just obtained recently.

  13. Out of interest, I currently hold a AMEX Platinum – which I’ve just hit my spend trigger on. What would the next best card be for spending to maximise Avios gain? I did think about the BAPP card but having just splashed £450 on the Plat card, doing £175 or whatever it is on the BAPP just seems overkill (I already have a 2-4-1 voucher from my BAPP card earlier last year).

    • The BAPP fee is refundable pro-rata so you could take it out, cancel after 3 months and get back £50 of the £150 fee. However, logically you should keep the BAPP card long term because of the huge value in the 2-4-1 voucher for Avios redemptions.

      Perhaps try the Hilton card for the free night or the IHG card as the bonus is tripled? The free IHG card’s 30,000 points would be 6,000 Avios, albeit better used for hotel cards. Lets you build up a gap between Amex applications.

  14. With the IHG £99 card, if you cancelled the card, do you get a pro-rata refund?

  15. koroleon says:

    If I google ‘Etihad MBNA’, I can this link for the 20,000 miles signup which I thought had expired:
    Do you know whether I’d get the 20k offer if I applied or the 5k which seems to be the current one?

    • I wouldn’t risk it. The 20k (or at least 15k) offers seem to come around a couple of times a year. MBNA only lets you get the bonus once, ever, so if you only got 5k then you have lost out for good. I just checked on the Etihad website and there is no mention of a higher bonus there so it is definitely an old page they forgot to delete.

  16. Just got a message from IHG saying I need to spend $1000 (sic) and then wait 6-8 weeks in order to get the bonus points and status. Presumably they don’t realise I’m in UK!

    I advised them to read their own T&Cs !!

  17. Out of interest… when you upgrade from Gold to Plat, when does the £450 fee drop in? I have had my first statement for the Plat card but they haven’t dropped in the £450 fee yet.

  18. Having same problem as other with Barclaycard.

    Applied for IHG Premium, made first spend, now have first statement and no bonus points showing. Calls to CS are useless as they just try and fob you off to IHG rewards who tell you to wait 6-8 weeks for points to show on credit card and then 6 weeks fro them to transfer across!

    I’m a bit annoyed that they want tehir £99 upfront yet no bonus points, have tried complaining via mybarclaycard, we’ll see. Might try FB and Twitter.

    All a bit rubbish though compared to Amex.

  19. Ah-ha! I’ve finally found the comment box :-)) I was reading the review on BA Amex Premium and you say “The general American Express rule is that you can hold two charge cards and two credit cards at the same time.”
    My AMEX Gold Rewards is coming up to its first year, and now wondering what next… I’m likely to cancel this once I get my 7.5k anniversary bonus! Given the above, does that mean I can apply for another Gold card with the same address details and get 20k points again?! OR do I have to apply for a different charge card.. e.g. Platinum? There are so many choices, what card shall I go for next? o_O

    • You could apply for either Gold or Platinum if you like but you won’t get the signup bonus for either if you apply within 6 months of cancelling your current Gold card.

    • Must be a 6 month gap between Gold or Plat before you can get Gold or Plat so both your ideas are out. You CAN get a BA or SPG Amex immediately.

  20. Hi, I am a supplementary card holder on my partner’s BA PP AMEX card. Planning to apply myself for the free BA AMEX for the 9000 bonus points, few questions: 1. I believe I can apply regardless of holding already the BA PP as a supplementary card holder, is this correct? 2. Could I add my partner who already holds the BA PP card as a supplementary card holder to this new card? 3. Would I get the bonus points as soon as I have reached the £1000 spending or only after 3 months? Thank you!

    • One final question- could my partner refer me to apply for the BA AMEX card, found this clause on the T&Cs. Does holding another BA card refer to being the main card holder or does a supplementary card holder also count and therefore he cannot refer me?: “f) All introductory offers are subject to change, can be withdrawn at any time and are not available if your friend currently holds or has held any other Avios enrolled American Express Cards in the past 6 months.”

    • Yes, yes, when spend £1000

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