Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The three different types of loyalty credit cards I own

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18 months ago I ran this post on ‘What is your credit card ‘end game’ strategy?‘.  This was fundamentally about which cards you should, long term, end up keeping in your wallet and generated a lot of discussion.  I will run an updated version soon.

If you look at the full range of ‘miles and points’ credit cards, you can generally break them down into three categories:

UK Rewards credit and charge cards

  • The card you actually use day-to-day because of its good earning rate in a programme you value (which was the focus of the ‘end game’ post above)
  • The card you get purely for the sign-up bonus, and cancel soon afterwards
  • The card you keep for the ancillary benefits such as hotel status but do not use for daily spending

What is best for me may not be best for you. However, I thought it might be interesting to look at what is currently lurking in my wallet (or my desk drawer).

The day-to-day spending cards I use 

Until three weeks ago, this was the good old bmi Diamond Club Mastercard which has just been closed down.  I was very lucky to still have this card, which had not available to new applicants for about four years.  I got a whopping 2.5 Avios per £1 spent on it which made the £60 per year fee great value for money.  Paying the 0.38% credit card fee to HMRC when settling tax bills was always a pleasure knowing that I was buying Avios points for 0.15p each.

I have just replaced the bmi card with the Lufthansa Miles & More cards (review).  I will get one mile per £1 spent on the Visa card for the first six months and that will take me through the January tax bill.  The ONLY reason I got this card is that I have a soft spot for Lufthansa First Class which is a truly excellent product – here is my review of the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.  Lufthansa First reward availability is only made available to its own Miles & More members unless you book at very short notice.

My British Airways Premium Plus American Express (review) 2-4-1 voucher has been triggered for the year, so that card is back in the desk drawer.  It will be coming back into the light in February when my new card year starts.

I also have, in both my own and my wife’s name, the IHG Rewards Club Black Visa card (this card is now called the Premium Mastercard, review).   As well as earning two IHG points per £1, we also both receive a ‘free night’ voucher for spending £10,000 each year.  We try to use these at a decent InterContinental somewhere.

For overseas spend, I currently have a Metro Bank debit card on the Head for Points bank account which has no FX fees in Europe.  My wife also has a Post Office Mastercard which has no FX fees anywhere.  A better choice would be the Lloyds Avios Rewards Card (review) as this has no FX fees and earns Avios.

If you don’t want to take out a separate credit card purely to use overseas, look at the free Curve and Supercard products.  Curve is currently paying you £5 to take out their card as I wrote here.

PS.  My wife also has a House of Fraser Mastercard.  It isn’t a bad product offering 0.5% cashback in House of Fraser vouchers.  It also has no fee.  She uses the BA Amex or – until cancelled – the bmi Mastercard for what she considers general household spending which I settle.  She charges her clothes, haircuts etc to the House of Fraser card and settles that herself.  We have never had a joint bank account but only because it seemed unnecessary.

The cards I got for the sign-up bonus

I am generally NOT an aggressive credit card churner, tending to open only one or two new accounts each year. This year, the offers have been particularly poor.

Before applying for the Miles & More card with its limited time 10,000 miles bonus, the last card we got was when my wife was sent a targetted 20,000 point bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express last Winter.

I am unsure whether I should get the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard.  I (article) already have a HSBC Premier current account so I qualify automatically.  £195 is a big fee but 40,000 Avios / Etihad / Singapore / Cathay Pacific miles is a big bonus.  My gut feeling is that I will wait until next year.

The cards I keep for ancillary benefits

For 17 years, this has been the American Express Platinum card (review) for me. I get my BA Premium Plus Amex fee-free for holding this (a benefit no longer offered to new applicants, unfortunately) which saves me £195, and I value the travel insurance, hotel statuses and other perks.

Note that I very rarely spend anything on my Platinum card, unless there is a promotion going on.  1 Membership Rewards point per £1 is pretty poor to be honest.

I will also probably keep the IHG Rewards Club Black and Lufthansa Miles & More cards even if I move my spending elsewhere.  My £99 fee for the IHG card buys me a free upgrade to IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.  IHG Rewards Club benefits are, to put it mildly, variable, with many hotels offering nothing at all.  Many do take it seriously with the occasional decent upgrade or gift.

The Lufthansa card stops my Miles & More miles from expiring as long as I use it once a month.  This is a very handy feature because Miles & More miles, for non-status members, have a ‘hard’ three year expiry from the date you earn them which cannot be extended.  I would move one of my monthly recurring charges onto the card and ensure the bill was paid by Direct Debit.

So, that is the current content of our credit card drawer.  How about you?


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our June 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending 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.

Amex American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Comments (195)

  • rams1981 says:

    and curve doesn’t charge for UK transactions right so if you find someone willing to take it you could use it.

  • Dina says:

    We have the Amex platinum and still question it’s value for the annual fee. You also say above that 1 MR per £1spend is poor. Is it? Which would be a better option from Amex?? Confused.com. We used to have BA premium but switched to platinum with joining offer.

  • Chewbacca says:

    Does anyone know what happens with HSBC Premier if you temporarily met criteria to get HSBC Premier current account e.g. through savings in HSBC. If you got the current account but then moved the savings I understand you would be downgraded on the current account but what about the credit card or is it only worth holding for the initial bonus anyway, would they cancel the card and would that affect credit rating as always better to cancel your own cards in my opinion.

    Also HSBC advised that Premier criteria was only salary income i.e. would not include salary and say gross investment income anyone know if that’s true I can imagine many people meeting their criteria through income but not necessarily salaried and their criteria sheet only mentions income not salary.

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