‘Credit Cards’ page updated for January 2016 – what are the best deals this month?

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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, Apple News or mobile readers – by clicking here.

What’s new?

Rather worryingly, not much.

I have been running this feature for a couple of years now.  I don’t think I have ever seen it so barren.

Apart from the current offer on the British Airways American Express cards, which runs until 10th February, there is nothing going on.

No special offer on any of the MBNA credit cards.

No special offer on any of the Barclaycard credit cards.

No special offer on any of the Lloyds or TSB credit cards.

And the Marriott card, run by Creation, is still suspended to new applicants, five months after being withdrawn.

You can’t help thinking that this is all connected to the new European Union rules which have sharply reduced the fees that Visa and MasterCard, as well as Amex cards issued by third parties, can charge to retailers.

Is this just a temporary hiatus?  We need to wait and see.

In the meantime, here is a summary of what I consider to be the best deals available at the moment.

Credit 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 BA and Tesco 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.

American Express Platinum

The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.

Your points 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, 2,000 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 – this also includes details of the additional refer a friend bonus. 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.

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

The sign-up bonus on the fee-paying British Airways card is currently 25,000 Avios until 10th February 2016 compared to the usual offer of 19,000 Avios.  The bonus on the free card has been tripled from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios.  Read my review of British Airways Premium Plus here and my review of the free British Airways Amex here to decide which is best for you.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard

This card is less useful than it was following the halving of the earning rate in December.  However, it remains the most generous non-Amex card unless you meet the strict criteria for HSBC Premier.

Some comparison sites are currently offering a 1,000 point bonus with this card as I wrote here.  My full review of the Tesco Clubcard MasterCard credit card can be found here.  The representative APR is 18.9% 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.

Hilton Visa

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.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. Can one get bonuses on both business and Personal cards without 6 months gaps?

    • No, because they use the same MR account for you and it requires a 6 month gap with no MR account at all.

      • I’ve had a 7 month gap since I closed acc but in approx the 3rd month I received a refund into the account. Does that ‘reset’ the clock on the 6 months, or will I be ok to reapply?

        • Kinkell says:

          Should be OK. Same happened with me Aacount closed April, refund in July, but nice Amex CS lady confirmed acc was officially closed in April, so OK to churn

        • Thanks!

    • I’d better check I understand this correctly.

      My limited company has a Gold Business Amex and I added this card to my online Amex account. If I cancel this card do I have to wait 6 months before I can get a welcome bonus on a personal Gold or Platinum Amex card?

      Worried Blue Eyes

      • Yes – you need to go 6 months without a Membership Rewards account.

        • I actually have two separate Amex accounts (different login IDs and passwords) as I didnt realise at first that you can add extra cards to the same account. Does this get me off the hook?

        • I’m in a similar position, except I have a corporate Amex (with a separate login ID) which gives me MR points. Will that affect my access to the introductory offers on my personal account?

        • Yes.

          The only way to get around it is to not declare your business card on your personal application (fair enough, it is your company card and not yours) and hope Amex sets up a new MR account for your personal card. If they do this, you get the bonus.

        • I actually have this situation – I have a corporate Amex and did declare it on my application for the BA Amex in Dec – and I still got the 9k Avios. I now have 2 online accounts because they couldn’t link the corp and personal card.

  2. Andrew (U) says:

    Tesco card, when used as a Clubcard, seems to generate 1 pt / £ on fuel too…

  3. No news about the SPG targetted offer of 20k will be extended?

    • No, spoke with Amex last week but no news.

      • Does the Hilton voucher holder for the free night need to be the one staying at the
        free night?

        • Not necessarily, unless you book in a country where the first named person is legally obliged to check in. Book for 2 people on your account then ring Hilton and get the 2nd person (who arrives) listed as 2nd guest.

  4. Mikeact says:

    Can I ask how many times you have manged to churn your Amex Platinum in 15 years ?

    • Never, because if I do I will lose my free BAPP which is a grandfathered deal.

      • if you didn’t have the grandfathered BA card would you churn the platinum card?
        Although I suspect that’s dependant on how much you need MR points 🙂

        • The other downside to churning Amex charge cards is you lose your nice pluripotential MR points and get forced to lock them in with a transfer out – I like mixing my usage of them between different programmes.

        • Probably not, as I actually use the benefits and not having them for 6 months would be tricky.

        • Enigma368 says:

          In theory if you have a partner, you can both churn the Platinum card and never have any benefits gaps. You also get to keep referring each other.

  5. Johnnycl says:

    The Amex Gold CREDIT Card offer of 3,000 MR points when you spend £500 is still working. Deadline for applications is 31st January.


    • Johnnycl says:
      • Do you know if this is a targeted offer?

        If you cancel the charge card does the credit card get cancelled too?

        • I cancelled the gold charge card and still have the gold credit card. Handy for me as I would have lost 450 points otherwise. Planning on getting my MR balance up to 1000 using the credit card, then transfer and close it so I can start the 6 month wait.

      • Is anyone else having trouble filling in this application form? It won’t let me confirm the changes so I can’t go any further than the main application page. I’ve tried Chrome, Firefox and IE 🙁

    • Are these a new offereing from AMEX? I couldnt find them listed on their website. Could having this card be an alternative to not transferring MR out since I wont be renewing my Gold charge card ?

      • I have just cancelled my Gold charge card and the credit card still seems to be there.
        I had previously removed the MR points from both of them.
        Asking to have MR points transferred from charge to credit MAY draw attention and cause the credit card to be cancelled too.

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Seems impossible to apply for, the application form keeps asking me to confirm changes, but there’s nowhere to do so?! The button at the bottom just stays greyed out.

    • There was talk of this not working if not targetted which is why I pulled it from our promos page.

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        That seems to be the issue with the BA supplementary card offer too – neither myself, nor my OH, who both added supplementary cards for the other, received the bonus 500 Avios – OH had 500 added as a goodwill on querying it, I’m still waiting on a response, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be automatic.

    • Jumble Tales says:

      Is the Amex Gold credit card available only to Gold chargecard holders or also to holders of other Amex credit cards?

      • Johnnycl says:

        My understanding is that you have to have the corresponding charge card first.

    • Johnnycl says:

      It will be a shame if the offer does not work but I’m sure Amex wolud honour it as there’s nothing in the T&Cs that suggest any restrictions.

      The form wouldn’t work for me on Chrome but was OK on IE on my laptop.

  6. I got 22,000 for gold application this week.

  7. Amex have brought forward the closing date of the BA offers from the 16th Feb to the 10th Feb. I need to refer my husband for the BAPP card after 6th Feb and I made a diary note to make sure I did it before 16th Feb to get the enhanced bonus. The article says 10th Feb as does the T&C’s. Just pointing out the change in case others were thinking of applying by the old deadline of the 16th.

    • Tilly71 says:

      Typical, I was just going to scrape in after collecting my annual bonus on gold rewards by the 16th, then take out the fee free ba card for 9k. Looks like I will have to rethink my strategy going forward.

  8. I asked my wife to stop using our tesco cc last month, due to the reduced rewards and had put a fair bit of spend prior to the reduction. Went to pay the bill yesterday and noticed I was way over my credit limit. Paid the bill and called tesco to explain what had happened. I also asked why the payments kept getting allowed, when I was over my credit limit,and he said it was due to the retailer not checking if there are enough funds on the card before requesting payment! Is that correct?
    Anyway he kindly said he would refund the overly it fee on my next statement and that it doesn’t affect my credit score!

    • If you use your card at a merchant which has no phone line then transactions may not be authorised instantaneously. Even if it’s a debit card. This is why you need a credit check to open certain current accounts even if there is no overdraft. Some cards are only approved for online use and these don’t have raised (embossed) digits

      If your wife can’t keep track of a credit limit then she shouldn’t be using a credit card.

    • They’re kind enough to refund any fees, but the fact you breached your credit limit (at the statement date) will be shared and reflected on a credit report

  9. olireaction says:

    Does anyone know and any non-amex small business cards that offer rewards?

  10. Tilly71 says:

    Help needed, I need to hit 1k spend on new amex plat ASAP. Are Amex sterling travellers cheques still the cheapest and easiest way of hitting 1k spend in days, I don’t fancy buying 1k worth of Tesco GC’s just hit spend target and like the idea of paying straight back into a bank account,
    Thanks in advance for any advise.

    • Hi Tilly, personally I find it is easiest.
      Considering other popular methods will often incur more than 1.5% you will lose on the TC’s it’s a pretty quick and easy method of getting it back to your bank account.
      And esp if you don’t want to go down the gift cards route….
      Unless of course you can bring forward a genuine 1k bit of spend.

      • Tilly71 says:

        With a brand new amex plat, will I get any problems purchasing say £900 worth as have read some stories of not being agreed by amex, it’s definetly a purchase if I go through that ba travellers cheque site – travel money now. Com delivered to home and paid into a lloyds?

        • Guesswho2000 says:

          I bought £700 worth on a 1 month old Gold, paid them into NatWest with no issues. They cleared in the same cycle as a normal cheque. This was in December, paid in on Xmas eve. They counted as a purchase, I got MR points, and they counted towards the minimum spend.

          I was glad of this, as the targeted 20k SPG offer, being too good to refuse, all of a sudden meant I had a fair bit of minimum spend to hit all at once, with PRG, SPG and the Etihad cards all at once!

        • Definitely a purchase, yes.

          Amex can be a bit funny about ‘pseudo cash’ transactions on new cards though. You need to try and see.

      • Do all banks accept the sterling travelers chequers ok? Was going to use Lloyds, but have Hsbc and Santander current accounts as well

        • Guesswho2000 says:

          HSBC definitely don’t, that was widely advertised (they stopped last year/year before I think). NatWest do, so I assume RBS will too. Haven’t tried anywhere else. I didn’t bother checking first, I figured somewhere would accept them eventually!

        • So that means First Direct don’t too probably. Closes off another option for me.

        • RIccati says:

          There was a note that HSBC stopped accepting Travellers Cheques. Check with your bank and specific branch if they are happy to do it.

        • The note was still up, 6 months on, in Kings Road the other week.

  11. Tilly71 says:

    Can anyone confirm this detail, I have my gold rewards annual bonus of 7500 mr points due to be applied in the next month. I have been sent the email offering to be upgraded to platinum for the 20k bonus, can I apply for amex now but keep the gold card open until the bonus hits then cancel.

    • Seems risky. I would wait a month unless the Platinum offer has a time limit.

    • To confirm, are you about to hit your Gold anniversary in the next month or has it already passed?

      I only ask ss the 7500 annual bonus doesn’t post until a month or so after the card anniversary date so I wouldn’t want you to be delaying applying for plat on the basis the 7500 MR will post on the anniversary date.

    • don’t think so, they transform your account.

  12. Raffles, just to let you know I just got approved for the Hilton Visa and I already have a Barclaycard.

    • Thanks. I was told last week that the policy has changed AGAIN (I tweeted this and asked for examples) and you can now have 1 Barclaycard and 1 partner card. The Barclays website still says you can’t, however, so I am not writing about it until it does.

      • this is good news! maybe they realized they are loosing grounds vs MBNA?? in my case it is absolutely true! my one visa cards are the ones from the dual packages! 🙂

      • RIccati says:

        Looks like they got a scare from a wave of cancellations.

  13. I need to spend about £1000 on Amazon.
    Is Morrison’s still the best avenue for Amazon gift cards?

    • Tilly71 says:

      If your doing it for petrol coupons otherwise just buy evouchers directly.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      So I’ve never tried it and wondering if anyone else has but currys/Argos etc sell Amazon gift cards. Would they let you buy them with branded gift cards purchased at Tesco (150 clubcard for £50)

      • Tilly71 says:

        Yes, you need to register your visa card as a payment method in your amazon account then purchase an amazon evoucher to your own email address.
        Word of caution, I read that amazon sometimes carry out tests with newly registered cards so try splitting your evoucher purchases into small amounts like 2 × £25 if wanting £50 or £10 versions if using a £25 visa card. The £1.00 test can take up to two weeks to be refunded.

        • Yes, but there is a ‘top up your account’ transaction under gift cards which is slightly quicker.
          I have just added two £50 gift cards with no problems, but that means nothing!

  14. I have another barclaycard so can’t apply for a hilton Visa. If my wife applies for one, anyone know if we could book the free night in my name to use my HH diamond benefits?

    • Yes. The best way to do it will be asking your wife to call Hilton CS to book it under your name/account.

    • Hi Dave, I also have another Barclaycard but I was approved for Hilton Visa earlier this evening. Worth applying if you want the card too.

  15. update from my end – I closed my standard barclaycard last week, so that I could open the Hilton one….my new application was denied yesterday as they told me you cant open a new Barclaycard if you have held one in the last 6 months…mighty p~*^ed off as you can imagine….hoping raffle confirms soon that they have changed the rules officially….how a for-profit business can turn away new business from good credit customers in this way beggars belief….

  16. Shayele says:

    Just a general question. If I book tickets on an amex plat and cancel the card do I still get the travel insurance?

  17. Can I sign my wife and I both up for the Hilton card and link them both to the 1 honours account? Looking to earn 2 free nights for a weekend in Paris.

    • very unlikely, but just book two consecutive nights and ask to keep the room.
      I have done this and had a paid booking at the beginning i.e. 1 night paid, wife’s free night, my free night. I did have to book back in for each but a minor irritation.

    • No but you can book back to back free nights, one in each name, which you link at check in.

  18. Missed the boat on the IHG credit card bonus that ended last month. Do they bring out their bonus offers regularly? If so when in the year do they usually do that?

  19. There have been posts previously about being able to change amex cards as an “upgrade” rather than new application (eg BA blue to BA black, or Gold rewards to Platinum rewards). However all previous instuctions (from here and other sites) on how to do this don’t work. Is this no longer possible?

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