Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What are the best ‘first’ loyalty credit cards to get?

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Head for Points is featured in The Daily Mail today (click here to read it).  This post originally ran last month but I am repeating it today because I thought it would an interesting introduction any Mail readers who choose to visit today – welcome!  It’s a slow news day, after all 🙂 

The UK loyalty credit card market can be very confusing.  It can also be very lucrative – with some huge sign-up bonuses to earn – but knowing where to start is tricky.

Head for Points publishes the only comprehensive directory of UK travel loyalty credit cards which you can find here.  There are over 20 cards included.

I have also written a number of articles over the last year to help you focus on what might work best for you:

Comparing the 15 credit cards which now earn you Avios

The top 16 UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value

What are the best credit card bonuses for LONG TERM spending?

Which loyalty credit cards are worth keeping just for their benefits?

What is the best Avios credit card?  Part 1 and Part 2

What is the best Visa or MasterCard for earning miles and points?

What are the best credit cards for earning Star Alliance miles?

What is your credit card ‘end game’ strategy?

What is the best credit card to use abroad when someone else is paying?

What is the best use of Amex Membership Rewards points?

For this article, however, I thought I would drill down to basics and suggest two cards which make an excellent starting point if you are looking to get your first loyalty credit or charge card.

Hilton Visa

The first is the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card.  The representative APR on the card is 18.9% variable.

What I like about the Hilton Visa card is that the deal is VERY simple and VERY easy to reach.

Get the card (it’s free)

Spend £750 on it in 90 days, which is not a strain

Get a free night at ANY Hilton Group property, anywhere in the world, as long as you stay at a weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) and within six months of triggering the voucher.

You don’t need to focus on the mid-range Hilton properties, you can also stay at the luxury Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria brands.  Free night at the Conrad Maldives or Waldorf-Astoria Rome? No problem. Conrad New York? Conrad London St JamesConrad Algarve?  You’re in (as long as they have standard award availability). Easy.

The best way to get excited about ‘miles and points’ as a hobby to have a successful redemption under your belt.

What could be better than booking a European weekend away and staying in a top-end Hilton, Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad hotel for free?  We recently reviewed the refurbished Hilton Paris Opera, for example, which is well worth a visit.

And, of course, your partner could get their own Hilton credit card and get their own free night voucher. That would get you a 2-night stay and you could be pushing £750+ of value from your weekend away.

Long term, I don’t recommend keeping the Hilton card unless you are a dedicated Hilton HHonors collector. You only earn 2 points per £1, so you would need a ludicrous £35-40,000 of spending to get one free night at the Conrad New York. If you occasionally need some Hilton points to top up your account from hotel stays, you could transfer American Express Membership Rewards points instead.

The only reason to push spend onto the card is that you receive Hilton HHonors Gold status when you spend £10,000 in a calendar year.  However, you can also get free Hilton Gold as a benefit of American Express Platinum and Hilton is also running status matches at the moment.

As a good ‘first card’ for newcomers to this hobby the Hilton Visa has a lot to recommend it.   The application form for the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa card is here.

Amex Gold crop

My second choice is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.

American Express has a very strong position in UK travel cards, primarily through the two British Airways credit cards.

However, even if you are an Avios collector, I recommend you start with Preferred Rewards Gold.  This is why:

The card is FREE for the first year

The sign-up bonus is huge – 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  These convert 1:1 into Avios points.  You need to spend £2,000 in three months to trigger the bonus.

You get two FREE passes for airport lounge access, giving you a taste of what you can expect once you earn enough miles for Business or First Class flights

It gets you used to how charge cards work (you MUST clear your balance every month, it is not possible to pay interest and roll over your balance)

Even if you do eventually plan to get a British Airways American Express card, picking up 20,000 Avios from Preferred Rewards Gold will give your Avios account a good boost.  It is also possible to have Preferred Rewards Gold and a British Airways Amex credit card.

Whilst American Express Membership Rewards points convert 1:1 into Avios points, you can also do a LOT more with them.  They convert to many other airlines including Virgin Atlantic, as well as Eurostar, Hilton, Starwood and Carlson hotel programmes.  You can even forget about miles and points and convert them into Amazon or other High Street gift vouchers.

This is why it is a good first card.  You don’t need to commit to any particular loyalty programme.  Keep your points inside the Amex Membership Rewards scheme whilst you learn more about the different airline and hotel schemes.  When you are ready to commit, you can move your points over from Membership Rewards.  And, if you decide this hobby isn’t for you, you can cash in your points for a shopping voucher instead!

I do not necessarily recommend paying £140 for Preferred Rewards Gold after the free first year.  You can cancel at any point, however.  Amex will even let you re-apply after a six month break and get the sign-up bonus again!

The application form for American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is here.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2020 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my December 2020 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.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual 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:

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

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.

Comments (87)

  • steve says:

    Please can someone tell me how long the Spg Amex Credit card Bonus takes to post once you spend the 1k?

    Also do the points stay in your acc or do they transfer them at the end of your statement and if so do they post straight away ?

    They say on there website 6-12 weeks for points to post is this correct ?

    Thanks in advance

    • Rob says:

      Same as usual for Amex – shows online 3-4 days after hitting spend target, goes across at month end.

  • James says:

    They’re chatting pony about the Tesco-Lego deal: “You must use the Avios-branded card though, rather than the American Express cards.” Um… wtf?

  • Matt says:

    I was wondering if it was possible to transfer my Amex Membership rewards points which I have accumulated to my son’s frequent flying programme (I believe he uses Virgin). i have them sitting there and have no use for them and would like to send them to him. I know I can’t transfer them directly to his Amex account but was wondering if they can go to his virgin flying club account. We have the same surname.