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? – March 2023 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.

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

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £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

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

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus 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:

Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review

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

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 credit card

1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (194)

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

  • Roger says:

    How easy it is to set up recurring charge on a credit card?
    Any examples would be appreciated.

    • Rob says:

      Depends who you are paying, I pay my monthly car charge on my Amex. I just gave them the card details and they charge it!

      • Duncan S says:

        That’s interesting. I lease a car through ALD Automotive but I don’t think they allow payment by credit card unfortunately! Maybe worth calling them to find out…

      • Nick says:

        Anyone use their Amex to charge Audi finance out of interest? Always had set up on direct debit


        • Gavin says:

          VW Finance told me they didn’t take amex when I asked a similar question

          • Lev441 says:

            Do they take Visa/Mastercard?

          • Marco says:

            You can pay by visa or MasterCard as long as you are always just ahead on your payment schedule

          • Gavin says:

            I think so, I was only looking at Amex, but I believe it was possible to make a lump sum payment towards a car if on a PCP or lease.

    • Polly says:

      Sky will do it on mc or visa credit cards.

      Rob, which is your main avios earning card? You don’t seem to be earring avios much anywhere with those cards, apart from the BAPP. Don’t you do a BAPP referral annually for your OH?
      Definitely think the lloyds avios card is a better avios earning option than the post office one. We just did that swop over. Well worth the small £24 fee. Your family must be missing out on a lot of fx avios with that PO card.
      We use plat, may drop that!, HSBC elite, lloyds avios fx , BAPP > BACC once 241 banked.

      • Rob says:

        Now the bmi card is dead my Avios card earning will fall back. I have more than enough for the medium terms and would like some alternative currencies available. With my kids getting bigger – youngest is 5 now – we can start pushing the boundaries a bit on family holidays now after a fairly steady few years.

    • Scallder says:

      Very easy to do for Netflix. Whilst I don’t I would presume Spotify/Apple Music would work the same

  • Mike says:

    Amex Platinum – Have held this card for nearly 10 years. The annual family travel insurance is well worth the fee and claims have been hassle free.

    Amex BA – Used for business travel each year until 2-4-1 triggered

    Hilton hhonours Visa for day to day, because I liked the gold status benefit, but now you get this with Amex Platinum, I need to think about a new day to day card

    Lloyds Bank Avios for overseas use

    I don’t really churn credit cards, I could make for here and may do yah with the hhonours card to trigger the sign up bonus again

    • Paul says:

      Yep 10 years plus with Amex platinum. Don’t leave home without it. My claims in the space of 18 months more than covered the fee for nearly 10 years having got stuck in SFO during the volcano shut down and then stuck in Europe with snow. Lost bags 8 months later and then an overnight delay in HNL. When there are 4 of you having the peace of mind of there insurance goes a long way to justifying the fee.
      They have also just paid out on a purchase protection claim for 700 this summer. Service is very impressive.

      • Andrew M says:

        My experience with the Amex Platinum Card insurance has been different. I was due to fly from Brussels to Hanoi on the 22nd of March this year – the day of the Brussels Airport bombing. Thanks to great support from Amex Travel, who booked the original flight, I was able to get a flight the next day from Paris to Hanoi. Despite encouraging me to claim, Axa refused to pay out on the insurance.

        • Paul says:

          On what basis did they refuse? was it due to act of terrorism? It would be good to know in order to be prepared.

          The volcano delays for my family costs them close to £2000 and it would have been much higher had BA not stepped in and provided hotels and meals. We even splurged on a lavish lunch in Sausalito and they did not quibble.

          The snow was in excess of £1000 to get 4 of us back by car, ship, and taxi from Germany just before Christmas. They paid out before the New Year.

          The bags were delayed 24 hours and we shopped till we dropped with £300 a head… we were in Indonesia and simply could not spend it. I often stand by the carousel now hoping they don’t arrive!!LOL

          The HNL night stop was due to an AA technical delay. We missed our connection to KOA and needed 2 rooms. AA simply refused to assist and so we booked into the Hilton Hawaiian village (a ghastly horrible experience despite being just one night). The two rooms and breakfast costs almost £900 when the transport to the airport was added in. That claim took all of two weeks to settle but was still paid before I got home

          • Andrew M says:

            Yes the reason given for the claim being denied was the fact that the flight was cancelled due to terrorism. I knew there was a possibility that they could use that as a way top avoid paying but I expected a reputable company to do it’s best to help its customers out. There was lots of sympathy from them while I was stranded in Brussels and assurances that the claim would be considered but when it came to paying out, it was a flat no. The actual cost of the claim would have been fairly low – one extra night in a Brussels hotel, the train fare to Paris, the less than £100 difference in the airfare and ONE meal.

          • Alan says:

            Glad to hear they supported you during the AA technical delay when AA themselves were predictably rubbish! Unfortunately on my AA JFK delay they didn’t just announce a 10h overnight delay, they kept announcing 2-3h delays – every 2-3h!

  • Rob says:

    I have the Lloyds Avios card for my travel spend
    Tesco for my in Shop and Petrol Spend
    And Hilton for the free night but as a free card I have never bothered to cancel it.

    For the benefits I have the platinum at £450 fee it is pricey but for me the benefits work well. This year we took a tour of China which included 10 flights so the lounge access on that alone would have cost me £600 (4 people access including my wife’s additional card) not even including at least one international trip a month – including recently travelling with an analyst from work who had never been to a lounge who now thinks I am super generous for paying for him to get in! also thanks to being a gold Melia customer I was able to earn 100k points on a month stay. It probably won’t work for me every year but for now it more than pays for itself.

    • the_real_a says:

      Since you can by an unlimited priority pass for £220 the AMEX plat is very marginal for me. I could probably put together all the benefits for a little cheaper, but the coverage (at least on face value) appears better.

      • rick says:

        Lounge access in interesting.

        What is the most economical way of gaining lounge access for 4 people?
        I am guessing it is Amex Platinum where spouse can have supplementary card and each child can gain access using guest access with each priority pass.

      • Rob says:

        This is true if you travel on your own but with a family of four it would cost 1,000 to all get the access that we get with the Platinum with my wifes free Additional card. Not to mention that the guest access is flexible with the Amex Pass and wouldn’t be if we all got the prestige. So I couldn’t sign in collegues – Whilst trying to sell them the benefits and score myself a referral bonus 🙂 – and my wife gets to treat her Mum which earns me good husband points with bonus Son-in-law points thrown in!

        But in all seriousness the Platinum fee is a large amount but as long as I can justify the cost on the easy to calculate benefits (Lounges, Travel Insurance, Hire Car Excess) then the added benefits (Hotel Status, Hire Car Upgrades, Free Wi-Fi when out and about) are all just extra sweetners, when I can no longer easily justify the cost I will cancel.

  • Mike says:

    Amex Platinum – Mostly for the ancillary benefits (which I split with a family member) although I have spent on it between other cards.

    HSBC World Elite – Every day spending until I hit my 12k spend at least! After that, will probably get the BA card again.

  • Oli says:

    OT Just found out my wife also earned the 18,000 Avios from the BA competition, thanks Rob! Any idea how many HFP readers won in total? We must make a good percentage of the 100 winners

    • Rob says:

      At least 10.

      • Mikeact says:

        I struck lucky. My neighbour won 18k Avios but is not that bothered as overseas travel a no no. Knowing that we’re the exact opposite he’s kindly, in exchange for a few favours, let me have them via my house account.

  • Simon says:

    Amex Platinum for benefits, and BAPP for 241s and day to day Avios earning.
    Cancelled my Tesco MCard in a hissy fit when they killed the earning rate. So now what I really struggle with is a non-Amex card to earn avios/BA miles. Any thoughts on best option with least hassle to transfer miles to BA exec?

  • Dan says:

    Question. Would one not be better off cancelling the BAPP once the 2-4-1 voucher is triggered, getting a rebate on the annual fee, then applying again in 6 months? I reckon I’ll be over the £10,000 spend after having held the card for 4 months. Rather than popping it in the desk drawer until next year?

    • Paul says:

      Yes it is however you need to pay the fees on any 241 ticket on an amex. Doesn’t have to be the same one.
      Others can advise what happens to the voucher if you subsequently cancel a flight booked using it.

      • Jonathan says:

        Do you have to pay it on an Amex card in the name of the voucher holder? Or can it be your wife’s card (also flying)?

    • Genghis says:

      That’s what I do but as Rob gets it free through a legacy Amex Plat benefit, it being free probably wouldn’t be there if he cancelled and reapplied.

    • Simon says:

      I keep mine and my wife’s one permanently…2 x 241s per year. and as many Avios as possible to make the most of the 241s !

      • Genghis says:

        Depends how much you spend but if you churn and divert some of that spend elsewhere to hit other sign ups (convertible to avios) you’re likely to earn much more.

        • Simon says:

          True. But I don’t want to ever be without amex plat due to benefits. and get free BAPP on it. So can only churn for my wife. which I am slowly doing more of… Gold Amex every 6months easy peasy

    • Dan says:

      Thanks all. Good point re paying fees on an Amex – I will be cancelling only after I secure another Amex – e.g. The Gold charge card.

      • Genghis says:

        Or another BAPP (partner?) as paying the taxes will then earn 3 avios / £?

        • Yuff says:

          In my experience if you put a lot of spend through Amex they will have bonus offers on your cards from time to time.
          I haven’t earned less than 2 mr/avios, per £, for a long time since I stopped churning.
          Transfer bonuses have been thin on the ground this year but I have got more back with the bonus mr/avios and transfers over the last year than I would have done through churning.
          The platinum card has interested me as I think the insurance from the HSBC elite is pretty good.

          • Yuff says:

            “Hasn’t” interested me

          • Andrew M says:

            I don’t think the HSBC World Elite has any insurance benefits. Travel insurance is provided to holders of the Permier bank account, whether or not that have the World Elite Card. Lounge access and (surprisingly) free worldwide WiFi are the main benefits of World Elite for me.

      • Michael says:

        Careful. If you cancel your BAPP completely and have not used your voucher I believe you lose your voucher – check Rob’s review. Best to book your 241 flight before cancelling.

  • Paul says:

    I was able to get the IHG fee waived last year and should be able to do so again this year having gained Spire Status purely on spend.
    I also have Amex platinum with BAPP free under the grandfather rights.
    I dumped curve when the lost Amex but have supercard linked to IHG. I also have a halifax clarity for overseas spend but when it was needed it failed to operate so not actually used it in 6 months.
    I churn my wife’s cards when ever possible especially Amex as she did not have the grandfather BAPP rights.

    • Chris says:

      Interesting! I’ve also got Spire the same way, is it an easy conversation to get them to waive the fee?

      • Paul says:

        I found it very easy as I simply said that the fee was a blocker to me retaining the card. Like all negotiations you need to have your bottom line and that was mine. Given the amount that went through last year I would have been stunned if they said no. I will be equally stunned if they say no in December.

        • Leo says:

          Even now that Barclaycard have stopped new IHG applications? I don’t know how these things really work but I sort of thought that now that IHG has decamped from Barclaycard to Creation they (Barclaycard) wouldn’t care much if someone was volunteering/threatening to give up the card? Very happy to be told I’m wrong and even happier to be proved wrong when you try this is December. Will you come back and tell us how you get on? I might try it myself if you manage it.

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