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:
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 James? Conrad 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!
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:
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.