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

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After a break in February – because there was nothing new to write about – it is time for the return of our monthly round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.  Our directory of all 25 UK travel credit cards can be found by clicking the ‘Credit Cards Update’ tab at the top of the site or – for email, Flipboard or mobile readers – by clicking here.

What’s new?

Not much, to be honest.  Apart from IHG Rewards Club (which is a good deal) and Virgin Atlantic, not much is happening.  The only new offer is from Emirates and that is a repeat of one they ran twice last year.

These are the three offers worth noting:

IHG Rewards Club (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental etc) 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 – you even get Gold or Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club thrown in. This offer runs until March 31st so you only have two weeks left to apply.

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 – again, you only have two weeks left.

The higher sign-up bonuses on the two Emirates credit cards are back.  This offer runs until early April.  The bonus on the free card is doubled to 10,000 miles whilst the bonus on the paid cards is doubled to 20,000 miles.  MBNA is happy for you to apply for both cards.

I expand on all of these offers below.

What are the best deals at the moment?

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus. The IHG, Emirates 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 December.

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.

Emirates Skywards and Emirates Skywards Elite

The sign-up bonus on this free card is increased from 5,000 Avios to 10,000 Skywards miles until 12th April. The paid card has its bonus doubled to 20,000 miles albeit with a £150 non-refundable fee.

My review of the free Emirates credit card is here.  My review of the Emirates Skywards Elite credit card is hereMy original article on this promotion is here.

The representative APR is 17.9% variable on the free card and 54.9% variable on the Elite card, including the £150 fee and assuming a notional £1200 credit limit.

Emirates Elite cards

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.

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.  One benefit of earning American Express points is that you only need to transfer them to an airline or hotel scheme when you are ready to redeem – there is no risk of being caught out by devaluations!

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 packages. 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 here.

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.

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.

(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. The Hilton honours card is excellent. I used the free night for a £500 pound night at the Conrad koi samua. Best credit card deal by far!

  2. CliveJ says:

    I really should cancel my Amex Gold or SPG soon, with a view to a churn.

    Typo on the Emirates review Rob. I think 12th Feb should be 12th April.

  3. Am I right in saying that applying for the IHG Premium card is basically equivalent to paying £99 for platinum status for 2 years and 60K points? (as the spend requirement is probably 1p, and there are better rewards for spending £10k elsewhere)

    • Globetrotter7 says:

      JQ that’s my thinking too. I’ve already bagged 60k from the card and 50k from my SYS offers which (added to my balance) have given me 9 FREE nights for our upcoming holiday in Spain (August). Plat status has already proved its worth… thru a room upgrade (yes, already!). So now, I’m better off spending £10k on my new BAPP card and earning a companion voucher instead.

      • sandgrounder says:

        Depends how many 10k spends you have to play with really. BAPP is a no brainer for your first 10k, but the IHG 10k gets you 20k points plus a free night, even deducting the £99 that is 2p in value if well spent.

    • Raffles says:

      Spending the £10k is not a bad deal if you have done your BA Amex 241. You would get 20,000 IHG points fo £10k spend plus a free night that could be worth £200 if used well. That is a 3 per cent return on your £10k.

      This card will also work well with Supercard I think.

    • Raymond Hennessy says:

      I got the free card and 30000 points.Combined with SYS ,I get another 55000 points,which if I read it right,means automatic Platinum status.

  4. Do the IHG points count towards status? I have reached gold through stays and wonder if the 30k points with the free card will help towards platinum.

    • I can confirm they do. On the tracker under ‘your elite qualifying points and nights’ I have now blasted past the 60k threshold for platinum thanks to this 🙂

  5. Am I likely to be upgraded on my completely free “into the nights” stay at Hotel Indigo, Rome if I get platinum status via the premium IHG card?

    • Peter – we are booked into the same hotel with the ITN free nights and are already platinum. Our reservation has been modified but the room type is unchanged. Some hotels will only assign the upgrade shortly before the stay so I haven’t given up hope yet. However, this is a fairly small property and we are going in a peak time of the year so my expectations are fairly grounded.

    • In theory but there are no guaranteed upgrades. You can ask at check in and push.

  6. flyforfun says:

    Just been conducting a review of my cards after reading this and given the impending reduction in points on my classic MBNA Diamond Club MC.

    I’ve got a Lloyds Avios card from when they were still with the TSB. I’ve not used the card much since the 10X promo ended. I now notice as just Lloyds, its a Premier Card, There apparently is a £140 fee for this card and I’m pretty sure I’ve not been notified about it. I’ve not received anything either. I want to use this card next month when go overseas to avoid the FX transaction fee. I’m wondering if this will trigger the annual fee and if so can I contest it. Amex were very reasonable in removing fees when downgrading cards.

    • The former fee-free LloydsTSB Duo cards are still no-fee but are not promoted as they are not available to new applicants.

      I still have mine and used it in the recent small business promotion.

      • flyforfun says:

        Great! Do they have the same benefits as the paid card, ie 1.5 Avios per £ with Amex, 1.5 per £5 on MC, Flight Upgrade/Companion Vouchers at £5000/£12000 spend respectively?

        • No, just 1 Avio per £ on the AmEx. The MC offers 1 per £5, I think, but I’ve never used it. AFAIK upgrades are only available with the fee-payable cards.

          Altogether pretty useless, which I guess is why it’s not offered to new applicants.

    • The Avios Duo card, as was, is NOT FX free.

      • flyforfun says:

        Urrgh! Is that why I’ve seen people since saying they were trying to swap over to the new card and having the same issues we all seemed to had when the card came out originally, like lost applications forms, needing to go into the branch with id. They were so shocking I think I’ll try the new Travelex card!

        • flyforfun says:

          Just seen the summary box details on my “premier” card. Yes, there is a FX fee and also a £50 annual fee if I don’t hold a Lloyds Premier Current Account. Time to do a swap and hope for the best.

        • callum says:

          If you swap to the new basic one (£24 a year) you’ll get the same earning rate as your current card – 1.25 per £1. Instead of a companion ticket for spending £15k you’ll get an upgrade voucher for spending £7k, and you’ll also get no FX charges.

          For me the new card is better, I don’t know if it is for you though. If the new Travelex card turns out to be as good as it sounds, I might get rid of the Lloyds card and get the free TSB card – using it via the Travelex card when abroad.

  7. Why can’t I put my business expenditure through a personal card? What would be stopping me?

    • sandgrounder says:

      Your accountant?

      • flyforfun says:

        My accountant doesn’t care, as long as I can show him that it’s a business expense.

        • Indeed – presumably the difference is that with a personal card you need to then make a transfer from your business bank account to cover the cost of any items that fall under business spend, whereas with a business card the full amount just comes out your business current account?

  8. Nathan says:

    What’s the churning rules for Barclay cards (IHG and Hilton)

    • Not publicly stated but experience from HFP readers is that a 6 month gap is OK.

      Note that Barclays also stops you applying for 2 cards in a 3 month period so you can’t get Hilton and IHG at the same time.

  9. I have only just clicked that Virgin points can be transferred to IHG, so have applied for Virgin White for me and wife to go with the points from IHG card (which does not require spend). Also can do Tesco > Virgin > IHG.
    Five nights very easily.

  10. I’m assuming that we have killed the SPG Amex promos. Shame as I could do with another 24k points to get 5 nights in Hong Kong next year.

  11. I went to apply the other day, got as far as the end and it said please wait for you decision. Anyway, it stayed like that for ages and it never went through.

    I’ve come to apply today and now it says only 10,000 points on offer? I thought we had till 31st… 🙁

  12. Last week my wife received, activated and spent a nominal amount on the ihg premium card. when can she expect the 60,000 points to lands at ihg.com?

  13. mark t says:

    An unexpected treat I had from my BA Prem Amex yesterday was access to the Amex Lounge at SYD. It’s not listed as a valid CC, but they were more than happy to accept (not sure if the same would apply to BA Basic Amex / Lloyds Amex). Better than nothing if you’re travelling economy, actually i was pretty impressed considering it’s free(ish).

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