Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Credit Card Offers’ updated for January 2015 – summary of the current top deals

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UPDATE – MAY 2024:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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 Cards’ menu above.  Thank you.

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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.

UK Rewards credit and charge cards

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.

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.

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.

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.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2024 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

HUGE 60,000 POINTS BONUS UNTIL 3rd JULY and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend 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 offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback Business Credit Card

1% cashback uncapped* on all your business spending (T&C apply) Read our full review

Comments (60)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Polly says:

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

  • Scotty says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • 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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

    • Polly says:

      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?

        • Polly says:

          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!

        • Rob says:

          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://headforpoints.com/2014/12/28/earning-avios-buying-petrol-esso-tesco-shell/

  • 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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • RT says:

    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).

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • Aimvpr says:

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

  • Rob says:

    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.

  • Dale says:

    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 !!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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