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:

UK Rewards credit and charge cards

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.

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.

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? – September 2022 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.

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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 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 & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of 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:

American Express Business Platinum

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

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus 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

50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company 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 and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (87)

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

  • Christian says:

    Please don’t support the Daily Mail. Thanks.

  • Dan says:

    Urgh. Could you not find another newspaper to write for?

  • Mike says:

    Please no mention of the Daily Mail here

  • Sean Chiang says:

    Daily mail, seriously??? Nothing to be proud off

    • Rob says:

      If I only did stuff for pro-EU, liberal publications not controlled by foreign billionaires, I would be left with the occasional mention in The Guardian and little else ……

      • Alan says:

        Lol you don’t need to restrict yourself to just those ones, but avoiding hate-filled xenophobic rags like the Mail would be worth considering! You’ll get lots of Trump supporters though! 😉

      • Jason says:

        It doesnt really matter what newspaper its covered in. If it means that some people end up here, increasing views, then we are all helped out. Well done Rob and wife.

      • Dan says:

        Your knowledge is wasted on the readership of The Daily Mail, Rob – reading the comments on the Mail website, they just don’t get it.

        “So he has collected 10.000.000 points and you get 1.5 points for every £1. He basically got a few free flights for spending £6.7 million on a credit card.”

        • Rob says:

          You know how it is, if I pick up 100 new long-term readers from it then it was worth the trouble. The backlinks from the website are also valuable for improving my Google ranking and it may lead to other stuff.

          Remember that HFP has no PR function at all. Everything that is ever written about us usually comes from a journalist who already knows the site from his or her personal use. Whilst there has been a bit of a jump recently I don’t think I had a single mention in national print media in H1 this year.

  • Genghis says:

    The US might soon be “non-diverse” enough for the DM reader so they’ll enjoy using the Hilton voucher at the NYC Conrad.

  • Rob says:

    My wife is going to go bonkers when she sees the close-up of her in the main paper 🙂

    We had a Mail photographer in the office for an hour taking about 100 shots across four different locations, half of me and half of me and Anika together. And then they use an old holiday snap of me and my Mrs!

    • AviosNewbie says:

      so then your attempt at keeping people from linking your wife to you will be lost? 🙂
      the maiden name strategy will not working any longer? 😉

      • Rob says:

        Not only does she use a different surname at work, she doesn’t even use the same first name as used in the article!

        • Temp says:

          Oh dear, what did you expect from the Mail Rob? ‘Candid’ shots are their only currency. I must admit I did learn something from the article… I honestly never knew this:

          “BA has a last-minute section on its website, typically offering 50 per cent off for Avios”

          • Rob says:

            That is news to me too ….. I never wrote that bit!

          • Rob says:

            Obviously I gave them the picture so I knew they might use it, I just thought one of 100+ shots they took of us looking like tech start-up kids would have been more interesting.

          • AndyR says:

   used to have discounted last minute availability, maybe they mean that? I thought that was canned though?

          • Temp says:

            Ha! I did wonder how they got it!

            Found a last min availability page but no magical half-price discount. Wouldn’t be surprised if they are assuming the avios listed for ow are for a return.

          • Nick M says:

            Ah – I was just going to ask if you could direct me to this page as I wasn’t aware either….

  • Genghis says:

    Shoddy journalism:
    “the Burgess family have not spent a penny on air travel since 2011”. I’d love to know how not to pay the taxes…
    “The 20,000 points can be converted into 40,000 Hilton points — this means a free eight-night hotel stay.” True but very liberal with this statement
    “Another way to boost points is to shop with Avios partners such as John Lewis and Tesco. So, if you buy £75 of Lego at Tesco you get a 3,600 boost. You need to use the Avios-branded card, though, rather than the American Express cards.” Really not true

    • Rob says:

      I didn’t write it and my request to fact-check it was rejected (as it always is).

      You need to accept that any press article on miles will always have errors because it is a massively complex topic.

      I have just written something for Family Traveller which, whilst 100% accurate, ended up very long because of the need for accuracy.

      • Genghis says:

        I completely understand. It’s no fault of your own Rob, just DM not properly listening / understanding you.

      • Alan says:

        Haha it’s not THAT complicated, they’ve just got ‘journalists’ that don’t have any time for experts such as yourself so decide to make up whatever they want 😉

    • David P says:

      Genghis: it’s always helpful to read the entire sentence before having a pop at the journalist.

      “But apart from unavoidable flight taxes, the Burgess family have not spent a penny on air travel since 2011.”

  • Andrew Clayfield says:

    Daily Mail is very good at hate, and then it is nearly as good at a lot of amazing marketing. It is by far the best paper in the UK for free circulation and for advertising (BA gets paid for stocking it) and it is the best paper for hating people. Please don’t be associated with a hateful organisation.

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

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