Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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

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? – August 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our August 2021 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. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee 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 offers.

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

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)

  • mart says:

    anyway of finding out when you cancelled a American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card?
    should really write this down

    • Rob says:

      If you call they can tell you. They are used to such calls ….

    • The Urbanite says:

      Noddle isn’t bad for approximating the date of account closures.

    • mark2 says:

      I go a confirmation letter when I cancelled mine.

      • Genghis says:

        I keep the cancellation letters in soft copy so I can refer to them to make sure I’m ready for my next churn…

  • IHATEtheDailyMail says:

    If I click on the link, does the Mail get any money or benefit? I won’t click on that rag.
    Maybe if more people who had the opportunity to do so, actually worked ethically instead of for the cash and publicity, we’d all be better off.

  • Andrew Clayfield says:

    Rob do you get enough benefit from Daily Mail for people clicking a link to the Daily Mail? Your mention definitely helps the Mail to have more visitors when they market their website to advertisers. Does the benefit to global travel and understanding from your website outweigh the journalistic hate to a lot of people from the Daily Mail?

    • Rob says:

      That is obviously true, but 500 clicks from HFP readers is not going to move the needle of the biggest online news site in the world.

      Money Mail, if we separate out the finance section, is very well respected.

      Those who know me know that I am the archetypal London metrosexual liberal with the European wife, bilingual kids and a payroll 100% made up of EU nationals, but refusing to work with anyone except The Guardian doesn’t get me far …..

  • Corrine says:

    Sorry not sure if this is the correct place to ask this ?? Churning … I’m about to cancel my IHG and both mine and hubbys Hilton cards, both of our BA cards & Virgin Cards. Yes I know we have a lot of cards! How long til we can re-apply for these ? (we have the amex gold churning down to a ‘t’ now) lol

    • Rob says:

      BA – 6 months
      Virgin – no limit
      IHG – may not be churnable, unclear
      Hilton – rules say bonus is once per lifetime

      • Ben says:

        So just to clarify if I cancel my Virgin alantic white card and re apply in a weeks time, I will get the sign up bonus?

        Thanks

        • Rob says:

          Let’s put it this way.

          MBNA used to specifically state that the bonus was ‘once per lifetime’. They then removed this wording and HFP readers have been able to reapply. The shortest period I have heard of is a 3 month gap but that doesn’t mean a shorter gap wouldn’t work.

          You clearly can’t reapply in a week because your old card won’t be closed in a week – they always wait a while to see if there are any charges in the pipeline, and of course if you have a balance that needs to be cleared.

  • Julia says:

    The comments section makes for interesting reading. Perhaps what isn’t pushed enough is that collecting enough points for these types of experiences is an accumulative process; none of us started with large point’s balances.

    I coulld write more but I’ve got a free night voucher at a top end Hilton to book (partner and I took CC’s out Aug) and return Club tickets to book (paid with avios – probably earned in 2015).

    • Rob says:

      Couldn’t face reading the comments!

      • Keith says:

        They managed to get one about your hair!

        • Rob says:

          ?

          (I am genuinely not reading them.)

          • Genghis says:

            For your benefit Rob, “Strange that with all that money saved, he still has to cut his own hair”.

            Some of the comments make sense but others just don’t believe you can get something for nothing (yes you have to be “well off” enough to get the cards in the first place and spend money you would naturally spend…)

          • Rob says:

            I had actually been too busy with HFP to get my haircut before that particular holiday! It is in better shape at the moment 🙂

  • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

    Why did I just look at the Daily Mail comments section?

    I’m not sure what I expected, really…

    • Toby says:

      Either the message hasn’t sunk in yet or people didn’t read the article:

      “Been collecting points for years. The best that we’ve managed to date is a short haul upgrade and some free excess baggage. Impossible to get long haul free flights on days that you want to fly.”

      “Absolutely right. It is a con.”

      “It’s a joke right!!!”

      “But you have to spend to get the points – so the flights aren’t ‘free’.”
      etc

    • Toby says:

      This is my favourite!
      Princess1971, Wales, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago
      1. April 2011 NYC upgrade 1 way to Business from Premium Economy 2. Oct 2012 Dubai in Premium Economy 3. Aug 2014 A380 Johannesburg in Business 4. April 2016 A380 Hong Kong in First out & Business return 5. Dec 2016 A380 Johannesburg in Business All with points. Simples!!!

      Foto, Omaha, United States, 9 hours ago
      Stop lying.

      • Temp says:

        Haha, yes, brilliant. This simple maths lesson is also quite amusing…

        “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.”

      • Genghis says:

        🙂

    • Russell Gowers says:

      Reading Daily Mail comments is like rubbernecking at a car accident. You know you shouldn’t… you know you’re not going to like what you see. But you can’t help yourself.

  • Julia says:

    You know, the scary thing about these comments is that their owners – should they start collecting points – could one day be sitting right next to you on a long haul flight. 13 hours to Japan with the ‘Princess’ could curb me of saving points for life.

    • John says:

      Then choose an airline which has 1-2-1 seating or better 🙂

      If people don’t want to believe it then it leaves more redemption seats for us.

  • Mike says:

    Articles like this one concern me as we are a tight bunch when it comes to sharing our secrets in regards to points collecting. Personally, I don’t think we should be shouting from the rooftops about how easy it is. However, I appreciate Rob is trying to promote his business. BA and Amex will no doubt be reading this article and they will continue to make it harder to collect and redeem in the future. As everyone will be aware, we’ve had increases in card fees and increased avios redemption costs and this will continue to rise in the future. That said, the feedback on the article is quite negative so far, so I’m not too concerned at the moment. Good publicity for you Rob.

    • Rob says:

      BA / Avios co-operated with the article and put forward an Avios member (who ironically was also a HFP reader) to be included in the piece.

      The article has a full page in the main paper and that is a totally different audience to the website.

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.