Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The three different types of loyalty credit cards I own

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

  • Gavin says:

    Tesco CC – extra points for petrol. Use it occasionally as it’s the only non-Amex I carry in my wallet.
    Lloyds Amex – main card. Overseas spending, decent Avios rate (BAPP not suited for me at present), voucher quite handy. They’ve also given me an 18 month interest-free deal which is useful at present due to lots of unexpected expenses.
    IHG Visa – use it to pay my council tax and keep my IHG points alive until I’m ready to use them.

    Long term I’m tempted to get the BAPP for the 241 – should cover the annual visit to inlaws in Korea, and also look at ways to make partner redemptions on Asiana or Korean Airlines (using Amex MR into FB or Lufthansa card). These might be trickier given lack of other earning opportunities.

  • rams1981 says:

    OT any news on Tesco points for gift cards coming back or is that dead?

    • Rob says:

      ‘Resting’ I think! But no proof.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Glad I listened to the ‘scaremongers’ and stocked up

        • Anon says:

          I got a few for giving away for Xmas presents just in case, but I’d be amazed if there’s not a pre-Xmas promo, + hoping the Xmas mag coupons reappear, after all it gets a lot of extra revenue for Tesco.

        • Roger says:

          For GC one can buy Amazon GC from Morrisons and receive bonus points
          First £25 Amazon gift card would earn 3625 points in total worth £3.62, a 14.5% return on spend.

  • the realharry says:

    Got the Halifax Clarity to use abroad for 0% commission purchases; don’t need a card for ATM withdrawals abroad as we have a local bank a/c with good exchange rate given via HIFX or equiv.

    Got the new Tesco purchase credit card – 28 month interest free on purchases with a decent credit limit – useful for building up cashflow. Will come in handy as might need it in March/April – planning on maxing out on my wife’s pension contribution again this year and that is worth a fair bit in tax advantages (= about 3 million Avios @ 1p for the prurient amongst you 🙂 ). Should work on petrol same as the old one.

    Gold card, bit like Raffles in not a massive churner but wife & I refer each other, rinse & repeat.

    Keep the free BA cards for Shop Small.

    • Genghis says:

      I’ll be increasing the number of Amex cards we have for small shop. Already booked my hygienist appt for end of Nov, stock up on meat from butchers, artisan du chocolat at Borough Market (excellent by the way – also in Sloane Sq but not as convenient for me) found splitting payments amusing but were very helpful.

      • Genghis says:

        It’d be good if last year’s Superdrug offer comes back too

        • the realharry says:

          yep we got the family a bunch of new £25 Oral-B TriZone 2000s with the £5 off, sold the rechargers for maybe £10 net each after P&P etc & bob’s your uncle 🙂

          RRP £70 but only a fool would pay that, I prefer £10 lol

    • the realharry says:

      I do sometimes make the point that Avios have monetary value pure & simple – I get occasionally dissed by those who consider the points hobby fun enough without considering money – can’t agree. Eg my strategy on family pensions & understanding how UK pensions work gets me monetary value on tax advantages equiv to 3M Avios (or 4.3M @ 0.7p). Whereas my Avios strategy gets me (I hope) 1M Avios. Which should figure in the old priority list? Ah, I get it – how to get another 2500 Avios with HR lol

    • lucinda says:

      Is there a smart way of making pension contribs from a cc ?

      • the realharry says:

        it would all depend on your pension provider/s

        again – perhaps there is a real use for Curve/ Supercard but it would need testing

    • Talay says:

      FAO realharry

      Care to enlighten me on the Avios for pension thingy ? I could shovel a whack in ours before March but would like some incentive (not just HMRC) !

      • Genghis says:

        @the realharry. I’m interested too in your pension calculations (though at my current life stage I need the money now really rather than in 37 years’ time)
        A £30k tax saving would mean putting into pension around £52k if a HRTP and around £56.5 if a ARTP. Obviously tax needs to be paid on any future income from that pension (apart from the 25% tax free lump sum) but interested in your thinking?

  • Roger says:

    I don’t see anyone mentioning current Etihad offer of 15K miles.

  • BLT says:

    What a well timed article. I have got the regular Amex cards, IHG and virgin MBNA cards but always held the old NAtwest black credit card. For £250 a year you got fully comprehensive travel insurance (no need to declare existing conditions), PriorityPass for me and supplementary holder + green flag and home emergency cover. Anyway got home today to a letter saying all benefits being withdrawn and fee reimbursed from January 17.

    • architect1337 says:

      Yes, I was exactly the same. The card had loads of very useful benefits but now cancelled. I’ll probably have to upgrade to a FlexPlus Account with Nationwide to get the travel insurance and Breakdown cover but not sure what to do about Airport Lounge.

      I was tempted to get the AMEX Business Platinum but trying to weigh up the benefits.

      I have a Hilton CC for Gold status (daily spender) and a Halifax Clarity of overseas spend. With a family of four – a lot of the points based stuff provides little benefit anymore as I can’t get to a level where four of us can travel.

  • Harebell says:

    Quick warning on Amex Plat value if you areUK based. I travel a lot thru LGW and sometimes LHR.
    The Priority Pass card ups currently abut as much use as a chocolate teapot in LGW North Terminal and LHRT5.

    At LGW , BA have taken over all 3 lounges as their defecto Club area while the long rebuild of their facilities gets underway. I have been refused entry 4 of the last 4 attempted visits – overbooked they say. PP just spin you a line about appreciating your concern and do nothing.
    Up at LHR the new Aspire Lounge is often full with daily ticket buyers and PP users get shut out unless willing to pay £5 on top for a reservation. Overseas the card works great but is so poor in the UK that am considering other options. £450 seems a lot for a poor service lounge card and an annual travel policy

    • Rob says:

      BA hasn’t taken over the Aspire lounge at Gatwick North – you can still get in there OK. This problem ends in January when BA moves to South.

      T5 I agree is a mess. There is a new Plaza Premium lounge on the way for next year I understand.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, I head through Gatwick between 3-4 times a month and know what you mean. Last time was the first time I got into nbr1 without booking. Time before I had booked for the £5 fee but didn’t say that before getting out my priority pass and was told “you can only come in if you’ve booked” said I had booked and went in to find the lounge half empty. Definitely felt like it was a scam at that point.

      Most of the time I head straight to the Aspire lounge downstairs which I have only been turned away from once. It isn’t as nice to be honest but these last few months have really made me dislike Nbr1 – ironic that they would treat their long term customers like this for short term customers who will be heading to a different terminal in a few months and will not use them in the future.

  • Peter G says:

    Slightly OT – but hoping the collective wisdom might be able to help out!

    I turn over a very large amount at the bookies each month (don’t worry – it’s profitable!) and I’ve recently discovered this ‘game’ which has led me to wonder whether there’s a way of extracting some cash back from that ‘spend’…

    The problem is that bookies don’t allow credit cards to be used. Even VISA/MasterCard credit cards are recognised and rejected by the card machines.

    Does anyone have a suggestion of a ‘work around’. I thought about 3V cards but at £25 a time in the context of £1,000+ daily transactions I’d be there forever/stand out dramatically.

    Any ideas?! Even if I could get back 0.1% as effective cash back it would be a significant sum and add up fairly quickly…


    • the realharry says:

      you could see if Curve & Supercard are recognised as credit cards?

      if not, link them to a ‘useful’ card you already own or another you might target to acquire

      • Alex W says:

        From several attempted gambling type transactions, curve has declined them all, unfortunately.

        • Talay says:

          Curve even declined FX purchase online at Sainsburys but did once allow it face to face, subsequent attempt declined.

    • Matt says:

      What about the Tesco Bank Debit Card that. comes with their current account?
      1pt for £8 = 0.125% back in Clubcard pts (face value). If converted at 2x – 4x value this goes up to 0.5% Max.

      • The Urbanite says:

        Tesco Debit card won’t award points for gambling, or other transactions recognised as cash like transactions.

  • Roger says:

    OT- Nectar Amex.
    Activated about 10 days but still there are no offers in My Offers section.
    anyone else in similar situation?

    • Mr Dee says:

      Try spending on the card or wait a few weeks.

      • Roger says:

        Already nearly half way through signup bonus spend target but no offers yet!
        I want to bag the bonus and cancel for SPG Amex.

        • Relaxo says:

          You won’t be pleased to hear I have the same issue with the Spg amex.

          • Ro says:

            Had the spg card for a month now and having no problems with getting offers so not sure what the issue is for you?

    • Yagamimo says:

      Yes! And this is just one of many problems I’ve had with the card. At the moment, the main problem is it doesn’t show how far I have to go to reach the sign up bonus (not a disaster, I know, but mildly irritating) or how many Nectar points I’ve earned.

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.