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.

  • TGLoyalty says:

    Current Cards

    Halifax Clarity – Lets say I’m relatively far too late to this points game. Had this card for years and it was my go to card for day to day spend for a while. £5 for £300 spend was good plus free FX abroad which I still enjoy when Supercard doesn’t work.

    AMEX Plat – Churning this atm upgraded all my hotel status and hit my bonus but will give it till after small shop before I cancel, then sign up again for next summer I suspect

    BAPP – Just about to hit my £10k for companion voucher but as above will go after small shop

    Virgin White Card – Cancelled the black recently as my year was up so thought I’d take advantage for £10k and a decent free Visa option

    IHG Premium – Could be decent long term as gives me status at IHG, which I also matched to Hilton Diamond

    I’m thinking SPG AMEX next and maybe as a keeper for as long as it exists for the decent earning rate and SPG/Marriot link

    • TGLoyalty says:

      How Could I forget Lloyds Avios Card £24/year – maxed out the double points for 6 months and now keeping it for the general offers and high earning rate on AMEX for foreign FX fee free spend

  • Doug M says:

    Lloyds Avios Amex for daily, still in the 6 month 2.5 per £1, and have triggered the upgrade voucher, more useful to me as a solo traveller. Got Amex Gold and Free BA Amex, both for sign up bonuses, both triggered, and just received the Nectar Amex, will trigger the bonus on that too. Like the Lloyds for no foreign trans fees, will definitely keep that, most likely remaining the daily card. Considering doing the Amex Gold to Platinum for extra (likely) bonus, but seriously question the worth at £35/month, may just cancel and come looking for a referral on another Gold in 6 months. Previous to Lloyds used SAGA VISA as overseas card, which I’ve kept as backup.

  • Steve says:

    No love for the John Lewis Partnership card? In effect 0.5% back, on a fee free MasterCard, in the form of JL / Waitrose vouchers.

    Lastly Santander Zero Mastercard for overseas spend with no fx spread, fee free overseas cash withdrawals and no annual fee.

  • David says:

    Question on the Lloyds Avios upgrade voucher – if anyone knows: would it be usable combined with the 2-4-1 companion voucher? i.e. booking 2 WTP return tickets using companion voucher then upgrading one leg for each person using the Lloyds voucher to Club World… I presume there’s a clause prohibiting this but I can’t see it.

    • Lev441 says:

      not possible as its more of a discount voucher. You pay the miles required in the cabin below. E.g. You pay PE miles for CW cabin

    • Genghis says:

      No. the upgrade voucher is via, the 241 via BAEC

  • David says:

    Use BA Amex for all UK spending if possible and if not use Lloyds Avios.

    Travel is mainly outside of Europe so gave up on metro card for this and now use Caxton fx as many countries I go to in Asia don’t accept western credit cards so you get free cash withdrawals. Not found the Supercard or whatever it’s called from travelex that useful. Use Lloyds avios Amex if travel is North America but outside of that hard to use.

    Seen the comments about dropping BA Amex after getting voucher and interested to know what people use to get good avios earning instead? I’m not bothered about hotel points just want avios so can’t see a better way of doing it.

    • Genghis says:

      In past year or so, avios from credit card spend approx as follows:
      – churn Amex Plat with wife referrals 92k x 2 = 184k. Just starting another churn
      – SPG with wife referrals 29k SPG (which stayed there but = 34k avios)
      – BAPP with some BA spend and wife referral 94k
      – Lloyds Amex with wife referral – about 52k I reckon so far as still spending on this as within 6 months for 2.5/£
      – DC (RIP) around 20k

      • Ro says:

        Excuse my ignorance, but how do you get 92k from amex platinum? Isnt it 35k sign up bonus after referral, plus 18k from referring someone?

        • Genghis says:

          All the calcs include wife and I doing it. e.g. For Amex Plat, this is I spend £2k and wife spends £2k for 35+2+18+35+2=92k. Likewise with SPG: I spend £1k and wife spends £1k for 11+1+5+11+1=29k.

          • Ro says:

            Ah ok cool I get you…. thanks. But then how come you doubled the 92k to make 184k? Is that for conpleting the cycle twice a year?

          • Genghis says:

            Yep. Apply and get card. Spend £2k in a couple of weeks and refer wife who spends £2k in a couple of weeks. Set up the link to transfer out asap. As soon as all your points have posted, transfer out then when the transfer hits BAEC (for instance) with a sweep of the point remnants to Nectar, cancel for the prorata refund and repeat in 6 months’ time.

          • RoC says:

            yeah awesome that’s what I was planning to do with my girlfriend… but plans scuppered now that she is going to the USA for 5 months :-/

          • Genghis says:

            Depending how far your relationship is advanced (joint finances and that) she could still apply for the card and have you as a supplementary card holder to allow you to spend on the card and then get the points.

  • Chris says:

    BAPP is never churned, but other Amex’s are and timed for maximum cards for shop small. This year we should have 9 of them in time.

    Means we can have a £90 xmas turkey this year rather than the £70 one with only 7 cards last year.

    May need to find an oven suuplier who takes Amex though for a bigger oven!

  • Vijay says:

    Can you use a CC to pay stamp duty when you are purchasing a BTL using a mortgage? Did a quick bit of research but I’m sure someone on here will have the answer! Many thanks

    • Charlie says:

      Short answer is yes, you can pay Stamp Duty Land Tax yourself via HMRC:

      But I assume your solicitor will need assurance that you have the funds to pay up!

      • Charlie says:

        I couldn’t find the credit card fee, but I assume it’s inline with the rest of HMRC, e.g. approx 0.4%

    • Genghis says:

      I looked into this last year and our solicitor wanted us to pay funds to them and they pay HMRC with no exceptions…

      • Vijay Odedra says:

        Was that more to do with them wanting to make money from dealing with the SDLT? Or is that how it legally has to be done? It’s a bit confusing from other answers I’ve read up on…

  • rams1981 says:

    why would you use supercard to top up pension and pay the 1% UK fee?

    • Rob says:

      Because you recharge to a Visa or MasterCard where the rewards are worth more than 1% …..

      • rams1981 says:

        true Rob, but post diamond club are any worth more than 1%? I only have IHG premium, HSBC premium mastercard and Virgin which are decent earners and not sure they are worth 1%. Which ones do you have in mind?

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