Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Credit Cards’ page updated for October 2015 – summary of the top deals

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UPDATE – DECEMBER 2023:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

Keep up to date with the latest UK credit card bonuses by signing up for our free daily or weekly newsletters.

It’s 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’ tab at the top of the site or – for email, Flipboard or mobile readers – by clicking here.

What’s new?

MBNA is making another aggressive push for new customers and has launched some new deals on its most popular cards.

The Emirates Skywards card (free) has the bonus increased from 5,000 to 12,000 miles.  The £140 Emirates Skywards Elite card has the bonus increased from 10,000 miles to 15,000 miles.  The bonus on the United Airlines card is increased from nothing (!) to 12,000 miles.

The most interesting deal is the Etihad Guest card.  The bonus is increased from 5,000 miles to a whopping 25,000 miles – an exceptional deal for a free card.  Whether you can put those miles to good use is a different question.

IHG has also launched a special offer on the two IHG Rewards Club cards.  These deals are only available via the links here.  The free IHG Rewards Club Visa has the bonus doubled to 20,000 points.  The £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa has the bonus doubled to 40,000 points.

Of the existing special deals which are still running, the British Airways American Express, British Airways Premium Plus American Express, Virgin Atlantic White and Virgin Atlantic Black cards are also offering enhanced sign-up bonuses.

The Marriott Rewards MasterCard is still ‘missing in action’.  Marriott has removed it from its website and you can no longer apply.  As an existing cardholder, I haven’t heard anything about changes to the card.

I expand on all of these offers below.

UK Rewards credit and charge cards

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 Etihad, Emirates, United, Virgin and BA offers are special deals whilst the 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.

Emirates Skywards and Emirates Skywards Elite American Express & Visa

Until 30th November, the bonus on the free card is increased to 12,000 miles from 5,000 miles.  You need to spend £1,000 within 90 days to receive the full amount.  The bonus on the £140 Elite card is increased from 10,000 miles to 25,000 miles.  A £2,000 spend within 90 days is required.

This article discusses some of the pros and cons of earning and spending Emirates miles.

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

Etihad Guest American Express & Visa

The bonus on this free card is now exceptionally generous – 25,000 Etihad Guest miles.  This is easily the most generous offer available on a free card this year.

It isn’t that straightforward, of course, because 25,000 miles are of little use if you cannot spend them effectively.  I discussed your options in this article.

The representative APR on the free card is 18.9% variable.

American Express Platinum

The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  These can be transferred into various airline and hotel programmes.  You could get 30,000 Avios, 30,000 Virgin miles, 60,000 Hilton points, 90,000 Carlson points etc etc.

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.

United Airlines MileagePlus American Express & Visa

Until 15th November, United has brought back a 12,000 mile sign-up bonus on this card.  The bonus is usually nothing at all so this is a major improvement!  The card is free.

This article discusses some of the pros and cons of United miles.  The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

Virgin Flying Club American Express & Visa

Until 27th October, Virgin has brought back its highest ever sign-up bonus on its credit cards.  The free White card is increased from 3,000 miles to 10,000 miles.  The Black card, with a £140 fee, has increased from 18,500 miles to 32,000 miles.  You need to spend £1,000 and £3,000 respectively within 90 days to trigger the full bonus.

My article on this bonus is here.  My reviews of the cards are here (White) and here (Black).

Representative APR 17.9% variable on White and 52.0% variable including fee on Black 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. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.

Comments (83)

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

  • Rob says:

    Yes, works fine

  • VNS says:

    Hilton card, can I cancel the card as soon as I get the voucher? Or wait till voucher has been booked?

    Also on Barclays, the two hotel card rule isn’t in place yet, I opened my Hilton a few weeks ago, early September and my IHG 2nd October, both went through just fine! Worth a shot of anyone was wondering.

  • Roger says:

    Six months after closing my AmEx PRG account, I had a £30 refund. The statement arrived yesterday, nil balance as it was transferred to my BAPP account.

    Just a little confused re the timing of my next PRG application – will that credit be deemed as reopening and immediately closing the account, thus delaying my next application? Thanks.

  • DaB says:

    Entercard, the issuer of the Swedish BA VISA co owned by Barclays*, blaming the new EU legislation just cut Avios earnings with 50% and increased the spending level for the 2-4-1 voucher from 200.000 SEK to 500.000 SEK.
    Coming soon to a card issuer near you?


    • Nick says:

      Thanks – do you have a reference for this? I can see the new rates on the BA website, but I can’t find any English-language articles on the interchange angle. Please can you point me in the direction of any Swedish articles on the subject? Thanks!

      • harry says:

        It’s a Visa card. Amex not yet affected the same way. I’ll be disappointed if the BMI Diamond Club Amex & Visa duo cut the earnings rate on the Visa, currently £1 = 1 Avios for me.

        • Nick says:

          Amex is not directly affected, but it will be indirectly affected. Merchants have driven down interchange for Visa and Mastercard, which just increases the gap between what they pay for Visa/MC transactions and Amex transactions. Pressure on Amex rates is inevitable, or we will see far more “we don’t accept Amex”.

          Anyway, if anybody has a link to an article in English or Swedish regarding the Entercard change and, ideally, the bit where they blame it on the VISA commitments or the MIF regulations, I’d really appreciate it.

  • Helen says:

    How quickly after a successful application for the AMEX Gold card does it arrive?

    • Rob says:

      Card arrives in around 7 days if you accepted immediately or 10 days if you get the ‘we are considering your application and will be in touch’ message. The Lounge Club cards come separately, about a week later.

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

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