Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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UPDATE – JANUARY 2021:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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 Card Offers’ menu above.  Thank you.

It’s time for 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?

Still not much!

MBNA continues to hold back on special offers, presumably until it can work out how it will operate under the new EU interchange fee rules.  Now that the Virgin Flying Club offer is over, they have no cards on promotion.

The news that MBNA is back up for sale – and that Lloyds is an eager potential buyer – is not good news for our hobby.

The IHG Rewards Club credit cards and the Marriott Rewards credit cards both remain suspended for new applications.  I was expecting to have some news from IHG by now but it has gone very quiet.

The only special deal running at the moment is the increased bonus on the two British Airways credit cards which runs until 15th June.

The big announcement in May was the launch of the HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard.  See below for more on that.

Tesco also sent out a ‘teaser’ email for a new £150 annual fee credit card.  The benefits revealed so far are laughably poor so we need to hope there is something being held back for the launch.

Credit cards

What are the best travel credit card 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 and Hilton cards are consistently strong offers.  The HSBC offer is new and worth mentioning.

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.

British Airways American Express

Until 15th June, the bonus on this free card increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios.  My full review of the card is hereRepresentative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Until 15th June, the bonus is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios.  Note that the annual fee recently increased from £150 to £195.  I wrote a full review of the card here.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold and Shangri-La Jade – 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 – 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.

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard

This card is brand new.  The annual fee is £195 but you will receive 40,000 Avios points (or Etihad, Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific miles) for spending £12,000 within a year.  There is also an attractive earnings rate of 1 mile per £1 spent. Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

The ‘added benefits’ also look interesting – these include airport lounge access via Lounge Key.  I haven’t done a formal review of the card yet but my launch article is here.  You must be a HSBC Premier customer to apply which comes with tough financial criteria.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard

This card is less useful than it was following the halving of the earning rate last 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 Visa

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.

Note that Barclays is now only allowing you to earn the free night once, even if you reapply for the card in the future.  Use your voucher wisely!  Remember too that it is only valid for six months.

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.

Comments (30)

  • harry says:

    Interesting little anecdote – thanks!

    • Raffles says:

      How are they making that pay? You’re in profit paying your tax bill (albeit the £500 cap doesn’t help much).

  • mark says:

    With the Hilton card, i wonder if it is true regarding the 1 free night… I cancelled my card some time ago and my 6 month window before re-applying is this August… so i will soon find out i guess…

    I hope not as i gave my free night away to a family who wasted it on bog standard Hilton.

    • RTS says:

      I suspect it probably is true…. but would be interested to find out myself. I just got my first voucher the other month and now using for a Conrad stay in HK next week. 🙂

      • Genghis says:

        I’ve booked to use ours at the Conrad in HK in early Oct. Please report back on how you find it. Cheers.

        • Andy says:

          I used my free night at the Conrad HK last month. Fantastic property. Being diamond I was upgraded to a suite (although I had to wait for it – I checked in at 6pm and they said it wouldnt be ready for half an hour). The lounge was very overcrowded though. They had people waiting for tables and it is too small for a property of this size. Diamonds can take breakfast in the main restaurant which was very good (again you may need to wait for a table

          • RTS says:

            I’m hoping i get upgraded to a suite for the two nights i’m there!

          • Genghis says:

            Cheers Andy. We’ve got one reward night and one cash night there. Being diamond, I also hope for a decent upgrade.

    • James67 says:

      Mark and RTS, I should know within a couple of weeks on receipt of my next statement. Not sure if it will be meaningful though as Barclays are so random.

  • Stuart says:

    I note the Amex Platinum benefit of free visits to the Royal Academy ends this month.
    This benefit along with Accor platinum were the two I used most.
    I wonder what benefit is next to go?!

    • Raffles says:

      Didn’t see that, thanks. I have an Academicians Room membership so I don’t really keep track of that one.

      • Boris says:


        Is that Chinese for ‘Friend of the Royal Academy, or do you get to hobnob with Tracey Eminent on a rumpled bedspread?


        • Boris says:

          And thanks for the tip … I am doing Open Garden Squares this month and will visit.

        • Rob says:

          More the latter – the RA has its own private members club in the Keepers House building.

  • Sideysid says:

    Or 5% up to £100 using Apple pay…

  • RTS says:

    Bit O/T I have a bunch of flying blue miles that are due to expire in Sept 16. I am not due to fly with them at all this year… is there any way I can prevent them from expiring?

    • Rob says:

      Don’t think so. Time to check out their occasional mileage sale deals … not sure if they have a hotel booking service as well which would let you part pay? Re my article this week, you can now spend FB miles with Rocketmiles as part payment for hotels.

      • RTS says:

        I ended up blitzing them on the flying blue store…

        • Charlie says:

          I looked at doing that but the postage charges to the UK were ridiculous!

  • AC says:

    Love my Amex Gold card… I clear the balance every month (charge not a credit card which I like) and stick everything possible onto it (curve did help a bit last month too!!!)

  • Metty says:

    Slightly off topic, but may be of interest to anyone who didn’t know that MBNA won’t approve any new credit card applications if you already hold 5.

    I was a little surprised to find they refused my Virgin Black and White applications, so I did a credit check which came up fine and emailed them out of curiosity. Nice lady said it didn’t matter if you were a millionaire, it’s a 5 account rule, nothing to do with combined ££ exposure or anything like that.

    She said that it was a little known rule because ‘few people have 5 MBNA accounts’. Really? I’d imagine most people on here do! Her advice was to close some accounts before harvesting/churning in the future.

  • Anon says:

    Oops meant to post this here instead of the Tescos CC post..

    Slightly OT…

    Hit my BAPP Amex 241 target sooner than expected. (6months in)

    Can I cancel and…
    1) keep the certificate without redeeming on a flight (waiting til Xmas)
    2) get a pro rata refund