Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

UPDATE – APRIL 2024:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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.

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

Better late than never, 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?

As I discussed on Sunday, there is 40,000 points (=40,000 Avios) offer currently available on American Express Platinum if you know where to look.  This offer EXPIRES ON WEDNESDAY so don’t hang about if you’re interested.

MBNA is making another aggressive push for new customers and continues to run good 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.  There is no Virgin or United promotion at the moment.

MBNA has also just launched a new Lufthansa deal and a new American Airlines deal which will run until the year end.

The most interesting MBNA 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 other existing special deals which are still running, the British Airways American Express and British Airways Premium Plus American Express cards are 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.   This is not linked to the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott – whilst the SPG Amex will disappear, it won’t be for at least 18 months at a guess.

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 Amex Platinum, Etihad, Emirates, Lufthansa, American, United and BA offers are special deals whilst the Amex Gold 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 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  However, this is conditional on you applying via this special link – you will NOT find this deal on the American Express website – by Wednesday evening.

Your points can be transferred into various airline and hotel programmes.  You could get 40,000 Avios, 40,000 Virgin miles, 80,000 Hilton points, 120,000 Carlson points, 2,666 Eurostar Frequent Traveller 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. Hilton Gold is due to be added as a benefit soon. 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. However, you will ONLY see the 40,000 point by clicking here to apply and by doing it during the next 48 hours.

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.

Lufthansa Miles & More American Express & Visa

Until 31st December, you will receive 10,000 Miles & More miles when you take out this free card and spend £1,000 within 90 days.  Full details are in this article published today.

One key benefit of this card is that, as long as you use it once a month, it stops the clock ticking on the expiry of your Miles & More miles.  The representative APR is 16.9% variable.

American Airlines American Express & Visa

Until 8th January, you will receive 15,000 American Airlines miles – a big jump on the usual 5,000 – when you take out this free card and spend £1,500 within 90 days.

I will cover this in a full article tomorrow.  The representative APR is 17.9% variable.

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.

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.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – April 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.

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

15,000 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:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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

Get a 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 (21)

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

  • Kipto says:

    Do you lose platinum status at IHG as soon as you cancel the IHG premium Visa card ?

    • James67 says:

      No, it continues to end of year after platinum status is activated by ihg. If you can hold off applying until last few days of the year then there is a chance it will not be applied by ihg until January 16 in which case your status would last through 2017. You might want to consider that platinum may no longer be worth much now that they have spire. That said, you can get awards with the additional 20k points that more than justify the annual fee, particularly during pointsbreaks

      • Sebastian says:

        Do the points earned on the Visa count towards status?

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Not any more, apparently. They used to, until earlier this year. Raffles ran an article about the change some time ago.

          • Leo says:

            Sorry it was just the sign up points that didn’t count wasn’t it? Points you spend on visa do count I think.

          • The Urbanite says:

            Spend on the Visa card definitely counts towards the Elite qualifying points. As Leo says, the sign up bonus does not count towards status.

  • Andy says:

    Applied for the Amex Platinum nearly 2 weeks ago and still not had a decision on the application. Called them and they just said it is sat in a queue and they’ll hopefully look at it this week maybe next! I doubt there is mad rush of people signing up for the Plat for christs sake? You think they would prioritise Plat applications considering the £450 fee.

    • ynot says:

      As much as i like Amex customer services, they are a bit disorganised. Couple of years when i was approved for the Plat card i heard nothing, then the supplementary card arrived. So i called to check and they admitted they hadnt ordered my card, the main card! A couple of weeks later i called to ask about the insurance provided, this time they looked at my account and advised they hadnt sent me a welcome pack! Also, i think it took 3 months before they took the fee. I cancelled the card in month 4, they pro rata’d the fee based on when they took payment, i got almost the entire fee back. Bless ’em.

      Then there’s the one about duplicate MR points transfers 😉

  • simon says:

    was going to apply for IHG card but if you already have a barclaycard partner card – hilton visa, it says you wont get bonus.

    • James67 says:

      Thats’s the official line now but despite this there were many comments in a previous post suggesting some were still applying for and getting both. I was told explicitly only reason my hilton application was declined was because I already held ihg.

  • oyster says:

    My 6 month anniversary from cancellation of my previous Amex plat was exactly 6 months ago today! So great timing.

  • Krys_k says:

    Re. Hilton card. Is it possible to get the award, book it in and then closer to the date use the Hilton Gold benefit from Platinum? I’m traveling to US for three weeks in July and want to get the Hilton card in Jan and I’m eligible for Platinum in March. Also, does the person with the Hilton voucher need to be traveling? Thanks

    • Rob says:

      Apparently if you call Hilton you can book for a 3rd party. If not you book, they check in and you hope it is ok (in most countries it is).

      If you get Gold later the hotel should pick it up – if not, just flash it at check in and ask for an upgrade.

  • Fenny says:

    One of my Accelerate targets is to apply for the IHG visa card (not Black), but it only says 10k points. Can I sign up for the 20k bonus and still have it count towards my Accelerate bonus? I think there are different sign up pages linked to.

    • Rob says:

      Good question …. no idea. Is it covered in the rules for that challenge?

      • Fenny says:

        The rules say “. This Offer will only be rewarded on IHG® Rewards Club Visa® applications through the “Accelerate” Promotion. ” and if you click on the “Apply Now” button, takes you to the Barclaycard sign up page that says 10k points and is different to the one accessed via the link above.

        • Fenny says:

          “For the avoidance of doubt, the bonus points listed above are only available on the Initial Purchase, however, as card holder, you will be entitled to all other benefits associated with the IHG® Rewards Club Visa® credit card pursuant to the respective IHG® Rewards Club Visa® credit card terms and conditions. ”

          I’m guessing that in this instance, the “bonus points” referred to are the ones for the Accelerate programme, as the page says “Apply for the IHG® Rewards Club Visa® and earn 2,000 bonus points.”

  • Brian says:

    Bit disappointed with this new one card Barclaycard rule as would like to apply for IHG (already have Hilton).

    With Barclaycard. how long after you cancel one card do you have to wait before you can apply for a new one?


  • aceman says:

    have asked this a couple of times and keep forgetting the answer! :about to do some fairly heavy, longterm spend and need a non amex card. So, IHG or Hilton?

    • aceman says:

      -oh, redemptions would probably only be for higher level hotels…. -and I never stay in the chains when travelling…

    • Rob says:

      The £99 IHG card, with Platinum status and the free night at £10k (plus 2 points per £1 on your spend, worth 1% back) is about as good as it gets I think.

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.