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HFP ‘Credit Cards’ page updated for September – what are the best deals?

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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 dealsOur updated 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.  This article is a summary of the recent changes.

What’s new?

Enhanced sign-up bonuses are back but only with the two usual suspects – British Airways and Virgin.

The issuers of the other 20+ cards on the market continue to sit on their hands, which is not entirely surprising as they are probably losing money at the moment following the cap on interchange fees last December.

The only card which may see a sign-up bonus launched is the new Tesco Premium MasterCard.  It has been trialling a targetted 5,000 Clubcard points bonus

The big recent news, however, was the announcement that the bmi Diamond Club credit cards, issued by MBNA, are to close on 30th September (article).  This is a big blow as they are far more generous than any cards currently available.  My MasterCard earns me 2.5 Avios per £1, albeit with a £60 annual fee.

If you have a Diamond Club card, you should look at this article I wrote on the best alternative Visa and MasterCard products for you.

Credit cards

What are the best travel credit card sign-up this month?

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, Virgin and Tesco offers are special deals whilst the Amex 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.

British Airways American Express

Until 7th February, 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 7th February, 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.  You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

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!).  You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

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.

Virgin Atlantic White and Black American Express and Visa

Until 31st October, the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin White card is more than tripled to 10,000 miles.  The bonus on the £140 Black card is increased from 18,500 to 25,000 miles.  I reviewed the Virgin Black card here and the Virgin White card here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable (White), 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit (Black).

You can convert Virgin Flying Club miles into Hilton HHonors points or IHG Rewards Club points.  This may be a reason for getting a card even if you have no interest in Virgin miles.

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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. AMEX RELATED… I note that the US has an extra bonus when converting Amex MR to both BA and Virgin currentl. I also got an email relating to my Spanish Amex which is also offering a 20% bonus to BA and Iberia. Whats the likelihood of Amex UK doing the same?

    My Spanish email said :-Sea cual sea su próximo viaje, ahora puede despegar más rápido. Porque del 9 de septiembre al 9 de octubre de 2016 conseguirá un 20% extra de Avios al transferir sus puntos MR a British Airways Executive Club y/o a su tarjeta Iberia Plus.

    Google translate :- Whatever your next trip, you can now take off faster. Because of September 9 to October 9, 2016 will get an extra 20 % of Avios when transferring your MR points to British Airways Executive Club and / or your Iberia Plus card.

    • I must admit, the Spanish offer is closer to home which makes you think they may try something here. Amex seems to have pulled back entirely from transfer bonuses however, probably because they worked out it is bad business for them – why encourage cardholders to do something which results in Amex having to write a fat cheque to BA?!

      • Unless the offer comes the other way ie from BA with a discount.

        • I’ve no doubt that BA funds the bonus element, but it still money out of the door today vs money out of the door tomorrow for Amex.

          • Nonetheless, Raffles, for USA Amex

            “Get 50% more Avios when you transfer Membership Rewards points “

          • Note that it was 200 Avios = 250 MR points (USD card)

            With the offer, it is 300 Avios = 250 MR points.

  2. Dave Barron says:


    I totally agree that everyone who collects airline miles should get an Amex and take advantage of Membership Rewards. 6 months ago thanks to this sites recommendation I got the Amex Gold fee free for the first year. I spent £2000 within the first month (primarily thanks to an £1800 spend with BA which also got me 2 points per pound spent) so got the bonus 20k points. Since then I have earned 18k bonus points thanks to the generous friend referral scheme. I’ve now earned an easy 50k points in 6 months and I intend converting to Avios before my fee free year is up. I will then cancel the card avoiding the fee and churn 6 months later, by getting a referral from my wife (who will earn 9k points) who thanks to me has now just got this card too!

    In addition to airmiles this card has saved me money due to the Amex Offers such as a couple of spends with Hilton getting statement credits. A true win win for me and by churning it isn’t costing me a penny. Furthermore because my wife and I have a BAEC Household account, when she earns 22k bonus miles by spending the necessary £2k within 3 months out account will get a further boost.

    Hopefully Amex won’t pull the plug on card churning / generous bonuses anytime soon because at this rate we can look forward to further travels, often in higher class cabins, which otherwise we simply couldn’t afford or justify paying.

    I also recently got the Blue BA Amex getting the higher 9k Avios bonus. I now need to do some referrals on this card too!

    Thanks to Rob and this wonderful site I look forward to future flights where I turn left when boarding!!

    Happy flying folks!

    • Dave, you are also missing a further trick to double your avios use. We really try to be helpful in this site. You said you got the BA blue card. As its fee free, and you hopefully will have spent just under the 10k! This is very important. Stop spending at this point! around month 10 or 11, do apply to upgrade to the fee BA Premium Plus card. It’s worth the couple of months fees, l promise. Once you have upgraded to the BAPP, your spend will go towards a 2 4 1 companion voucher. So then you spend until you go over the 10k, but it MUST be within that one year only. This 241 companion ticket lasts 2 yrs instead of the 1yr that comes with the free blue card, and you only have to spend 10k instead of 20k. It takes very careful planning, but it does work. Read the info Rob has here, and the other threads. Therefore you could both travel club long haul using one set of avios, but both sets of fees, taxes, charges etc, usually around £550 pp.
      You really also should be double dipping in tesco too, by using your clubcard, convert the points to avios, and pay with Amex. Am sure you do that already. Plus if you roll into year 2 with gold, you get those bonus mr pts too, then cancel, and get your pro rata fee back. Worth it.
      Also go easy with referring each other, stick to annual change over for both gold, and BA Amex.
      It’s a fun hobby, but can take a good year or two to build up a stash. Good luck.

  3. OT-Re: Le Club Accor

    I have about 2400 points with Le Club Accor, can I convert this to IB Plus now?
    Or is it minimum 3000 points I need to accumulate before I can change them to Iberia Plus?

  4. Re . IHG black mastercard, I’m a little disappointed with it. Did 3 transactions on line last night with the same website (they don’t have a basket as such so everything has to be paid for separately), the third was blocked so I used a different card, today I used the card a couple of times during the day then in the evening it was declined again. I phoned their customer services was just on hold for 10 mins, got through to someone, then kept waiting for another 10 minutes as to unblock the card needed a supervisor’s intervention! there was no sign of todays transactions other than the failed ones, very strange. Anyway while I was there I asked about when platinum would kick in on IHG, he very quickly responded that it was down to IHG and creation only manage the card! Based on this I don’t have much faith that if I do get to 10k in a year, that the voucher will come through! IHG customer support isn’t very good, and creation seem even worse!

    • I have found the IHG customer service to be ok and the hotels directly are even better but I guess it depends on your issue.

      The creation team really do need to train their staff better, if your card is declined their staff have no idea how to go about fixing it, often they say maybe you entered the address wrong or tell me to use a different card!!! Very odd behaviour, I often feel I have to tell them what they need to do!

      I find its declined with the same merchants so just avoid using the card with them, it doesn’t work well with supercard which is very annoying but supercard could be at fault as well.

  5. Has anyone had/seen a recent link for the Amex Gold Credit card? (i.e. the funny little one not the charge card) I’ve had it a couple of times alongside the MR Gold charge card (and my wife still has one) but I’ve seen no link at the moment – I’m guessing closed to new applications but any intel would be gratefully received.

    • Is this the one Rob shows when discussing the Preferred Rewards card?

      I’ve no idea whether his illustrations are linked if you click. You never know. It may be worth a try. 🙂

  6. OT: Did anyone receive the 500 points for booking a virgin train ticket back in July?

    • nope I think this one is subject to overhead line problems which are causing something of a delay…

      • Don’t know about ‘overhead line problems’ but I thought the bonus was supposed to be paid by 31/8/16 and there was a large uptake on the article here, be interested to know if anyone has seen/heard anything.

        • It was due on that day, and has been mentioned in a number of previous threads, and as far as I am aware no one has received anything as yet.

          • diddly

            not got my Accor conference organiser’s bonus yet, I’ve a good mind to move my conference to Marriott 🙂

        • Oh and if you have travelled on a Virgin East Coast train in the past week you would have appreciated my reference to overhead line delays..

          • Not been on the trains recently just booked the ticket for the points or the missing points 🙂

    • The miles have just posted to my account.

  7. Thanks, looks good.

  8. OT- has anyone had any luck getting the £140 fees waived off on the AMEX Gold card – after the first free year – specifically if you have spent over 15000 pounds in the year triggering the 10000 MR bonus points. Just wanted to check if there is any benefit in speaking to AMEX on this to see if they will waive off the yearly fees. thanks.

    • If that does not work why don’t you get 10000 Miles, Upgrade to Platinum and get extra 20000 miles as fees should/could be used towards platinum and then cancel?

      • Thanks Roger. I am not sure if you get the extra 20000 miles by upgrading to the AMEX platinum from gold card. I thought that was only for new members. If you do then yes that’s probably a better approach as you could cancel after a month and retain all benefits for a year.

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