Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

HFP ‘Credit Cards’ page updated for May – what are the best deals this month?

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With a new bonus on the Virgin Atlantic credit cards launched over the weekend, I thought it was time for our monthly round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.

Our updated directory of all 23 UK travel credit cards can be found by clicking the ‘Credit Cards’ tab at the top of the site or – for email, Flipboard, Apple News or mobile readers – by clicking here.  This article is a summary of the recent changes, and will hopefully be a useful starting point for new readers.

What’s changed this month?

Virgin Flying Club brought back the increased bonus on its two Virgin Atlantic cards over the weekend.  You will get 10,000 miles on the free card and 25,000 miles on the £140 Black card.  Virgin is even happy for you to apply for both cards!  More details on this below.  The offer runs until 28th June.

British Airways is still running an improved sign-up bonus on its two British Airways American Express cards.  No closing date has been given for this deal.

There is a slight tweak this time.  The Premium Plus card is back to 25,000 Avios for signing up.  The free BA Amex, however, is only up to 5,000 Avios from the usual 3,000 Avios – this is usually increased to 9,000 Avios.

I would guess that Amex is trying to encourage more people to take the Premium Plus card by widening the gap in the sign-up bonus.  Frankly, you shouldn’t get the free BA Amex if you are planning to earn the 2-4-1 Avios flight voucher – this article explains why.

Emirates and Etihad also launched enhanced bonuses last month.  Details are below.  These are both good deals in terms of the number of bonus miles you receive, but unless you are already collecting Emirates or Etihad miles, or have a lot of Amex Membership Rewards points you could transfer, you are unlikely to get enough purely via card spend for a good redemption.

best travel credit cards

What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals this month?

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus. The Virgin, Emirates, Etihad and British Airways offers are special deals whilst the Amex and Hilton cards are consistently strong offers.

These deals are listed in no particular order and their position on the list is not a sign of how good or bad the offer is.

British Airways American Express

For an unspecified period, the bonus on this free card increased from 3,000 Avios to 5,000 Avios.  My full review of the card is here.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

For an unspecified period, the bonus is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios.  Note that the annual fee increased last year from £150 to £195.  I wrote a full review of the British Airways Premium Plus card here.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Virgin Atlantic White Amex and Visa

Until 28th June, you will receive 10,000 miles with the free Virgin Atlantic White cards.  3,000 of these come after your first purchase within 90 days, the remainder after spending £1,000 within 90 days.  My full review of the Virgin White package is here.  The standard offer is just 3,000 miles.

You can apply here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Virgin Atlantic Black Amex and Visa

The Black cards also have an improved bonus.  Until 28th June, you will receive 25,000 miles with the £140 Virgin Atlantic Black cards.  You receive 18,500 miles with your first purchase within 90 days and the remainder after spending £3,000 within 90 days.  My full review of the Virgin Black cards is here.  The standard offer is 18,500 miles.

You can apply here.  Representative APR 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

American Express Platinum

The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

Your points can be transferred into various airline and hotel programmes.  You could get 30,000 Avios, 30,000 Virgin miles, 60,000 Hilton points, 90,000 Carlson points, 2,000 Eurostar Frequent Traveller points etc etc.

You receive a pro-rata refund on the £450 fee when you cancel the card and you will retain most of the benefits – Starwood Gold (which you can instantly match to Marriott Gold), Carlson Gold, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold and Shangri-La Jade – for the rest of the year even after you cancel. The Amex Platinum benefits package is extensive, though, and once you’ve got it you might find the numbers add up for you. I have had one for 15 years.

My full review of the Amex Platinum card is here – this also includes details of the additional refer a friend bonus. Amex’s own home page is here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is currently an outstanding deal which is showing no signs of going away. You pay no fee for the first year and earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 20,000 MR points can get you – 20,000 Avios points for a start!).  You need to spend £2,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

If you are new to this hobby, I would make this your first American Express card.  One benefit of earning American Express points is that you only need to transfer them to an airline or hotel scheme when you are ready to redeem – there is no risk of being caught out by devaluations!

My full review of Amex Gold is here. The Amex home page to apply is here.

Emirates Skywards Elite Amex and Visa

The premium version of the Emirates credit card is currently offering 25,000 Emirates Skywards miles as a sign-up bonus.  The deal runs until 30th June.  The usual offer is 15,000 Skywards miles.

The annual fee is £140 and this is non-refundable if you cancel.  You can get both this and the free card (see next entry) as MBNA treats them as separate products.  My review of all the card benefits is here.  At 2 miles per £1 on the American Express card, it is a very interesting card if you have very high levels of credit card spend.  Representative APR 60.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Emirates Skywards Amex and Visa

The free version of the Emirates credit card is currently offering 12,000 Emirates Skywards miles as a sign-up bonus.  The deal runs until 30th June and is a major improvement on the usual 5,000 miles.  My full review of the card is here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Etihad Guest Amex and Visa

The free version of the Etihad Guest credit card has an even more generous sign up deal.  It is offering 15,000 Etihad Guest miles as a sign-up bonus.  The deal runs until 31st May and is triple the usual bonus of 5,000 miles.  My full review of the card is here.   Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Hilton Honors Platinum Visa

You receive a free night in any Hilton Group property for spending £750 on this card. That could be worth £250 if spent wisely at a Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria branded property. My full review of the UK Hilton credit card is here. The home page for applications is here.

This remains my favourite promotion for someone new to this hobby. The card is free, you only need to spend a modest amount to trigger the bonus, and you can enjoy a free night in a luxury hotel afterwards (if you pick a decent one!). It will whet your appetite for what miles and points can bring you. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

Note that Barclays is now – in theory, not always in practice – only allowing you to earn the free night once, even if you reapply for the card in the future.  Use your voucher wisely!  Remember too that it is only valid for six months.

Hilton Visa

Whilst it has no sign-up bonus, the Tesco Clubcard MasterCard remains the best free Visa or MasterCard for earning Avios for 95% of people (the HSBC Premier cards are better but this has very strict criteria for signing up).  You receive 0.3 Avios per £1 if you convert your Clubcard vouchers into Avios.  There is also the potential to use the points for Virgin miles or a totally different Clubcard Boost deal.

0.3 Avios per £1 is still not great unless you assume that there will be occasional conversion bonuses – and the nasty ’rounding down per transaction to nearest £8′ rule means that you will get less than 0.3 Avios is reality.  They are a good bet if you want a long interest free or balance transfer period however.  There are various versions of the Tesco card but the best are:

Low rate card (representative APR 5.9% variable) or

28 months interest free period on all purchases (representative APR 18.9% variable) or

0% interest on balance transfers for 40 months (representative APR 18.9% variable)

Bonus on small business cards

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a very small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card and the American Express Gold Business Card. There is currently a 20,000 points (= 20,000 Avios) bonus on the Gold Business card and a 40,000 points (40,000 Avios) bonus on the Platinum Business card.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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 (48)

  • Jason says: long does it normally take for SPG to confirm account number with AMEX so I can start to move so points?

    • Rob says:

      Did my wife the other week and it took 3-4 days I think. If you link online you need to add 3-4 zeros at the front or it may be rejected.

      • Jason says:

        if i need to buy points are they instant?if i need to buy points do they credit instantly

        • Roger says:

          IIRC it is 0000 followed by your account number (4 leading zeros).
          I have done this in the past and it goes through fine.

  • Jason says:

    cheers Rob that is why i couldn’t get it to work!

  • Jay says:

    Hi All

    I’m very new to the world of collecting miles/Amex points and wanted a suggestion on what to do from you experienced heads 🙂 I’ve got the Amex Gold card and have hit £15k spend for the year (5 months until I would have had it a year). I’ve referred my father and use that for most of expenses now to get the 20k points. Should I cancel my card now and wait 6 months or upgrade to Platinum first and get the additional spend points triggered and then cancel?

    • Wally1976 says:

      Assuming you can do the spend requirement quickly definitely upgrade to the platinum. Bank the hotel statuses, transfer points out then cancel ASAP to minimise the fee.

  • Mark says:

    As a result of a recent telephone conversation with Barclaycard, I can report that, if you already hold two credit cards issued by Barclaycard, then an application for Hilton Honors Platinum Visa will be refused. Also, the credit limits on other, perhaps unused, credit cards from other providers will be added up, and the total amount used to decide whether you already have sufficient lines of credit for your needs. Of course, one could cancel one of the two Barclaycard credit cards, reduce the credit limit on other cards that are held, and then try for Hilton again. However, that will not guarantee that the application will be successful.

  • Will says:

    After reaching £10k spend on hilton barclaycard, how long before you actually get goldbenefits? And how long do you remain gold if you cancel the card?

    • Rob says:

      Note the £10k must be done in a CALENDAR year.

      You’d get status for all the current calendar year, all the next calendar year and until March the next year. Triggering it today would last until March 2019.

      No idea how long it takes to process.

  • Jake says:

    I could do with some advice, if anyone can oblige.

    I’m going to be spending some money on new furniture over the next few months, over £2000. This would do nicely to hit a spend target on a reward credit card – but which card should i go for?

    I’ve already got the Virgin Atlantic Black Card and have qualified for the 2 upgrade vouchers this year. The BA card looks attractive, but i’m not confident in earning enough Avios to make decent use of the 2-4-1 voucher. The Amex charge cards look ok, but i’m weary of the Platinum fee of £450, although i think i might be able to make good use of the Priority Pass. None of the hotel cards appeal ,other than the £99 IHG card as I tend to spread my hotel spend.

    If you were in my shoes, what would you do??

    • Genghis says:

      Amex Plat. Be referred, spend £2k, bish bash bosh 35k MRs for say £10 card fees (week and a half) if it gets charged straight away, potentially zero.

      • Genghis says:

        Ah. Just seen you’ll be spending £2k over the next few months. If so, the card fees might stack up. Gold?

      • the real harry1 says:

        depends if you have enough trips lined up to justify the Plat, after the Gold

        don’t forget you get the fee cancelled pro rata

        you could get the free Gold, trigger the bonus, upgrade to Plat, get 40K MR points total/ Avios, PLUS use a few lounge visits, first with Lounge pass on the Gold then with PP on the Plat

        let’s say you had 3 trips lined up – you could easily get 6 lounge visits for free (= c. £120?) ie keeping the Gold long enough to trigger the bonus, upgrading to Plat – then out for maybe a Plat fee of £25-50 depending on your trip timings

        • Jake says:

          Thanks guys for your advice.

          I think i’ll plump for the Amex Plat but will cancel it once I’ve hit the £2k. I’ve got 4 trips over 5 months but the first one isn’t until October and i’d rather not keep the Plat card for that long.

          Thanks again