It is 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?
The big story was the mainstream launch of the American Express Rewards Credit Card (ARCC).
ARCC is a standard Amex-branded credit card. It has no annual fee and no substantial benefits, except for the ability to collect Membership Rewards points at 1 point per £1 spent.
There are three versions of the card available:
The first two cards require a £500 (5,000 points version) or £1,000 (10,000 points version) spend within three months to trigger the bonus. You won’t get a bonus if you’ve had a Gold, Green or Platinum Amex in the last six months.
There are two reasons why you should consider getting an ARCC card:
As I wrote in this article, it is your solution if you are planning on cancelling a Gold or Platinum Amex to avoid the annual fee, but do not want to cash in your Membership Rewards points just yet. The free ARCC card keeps your Membership Rewards points alive.
As I wrote in this article, the ARCC card is BETTER than the free British Airways Amex card if you don’t plan on spending £20,000 to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher.
The usual ‘back to school / work’ rush of new offers failed to appear this year. It seems that MBNA is sitting on its hands – there are rumours that its Amex licence ends in February and of course it appears to be losing the Virgin cards to Virgin Money – and they are the main drivers of special offers.
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.
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. Only the British Airways offers are special deals whilst the IHG and Amex 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.
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. Do note, however, my comment above about the new Amex Rewards Credit Card which may be a better choice for many people.
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.
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.
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!
This is my preferred Visa / MasterCard because of the strong overall package. Whilst there is a £99 annual fee, this is offset in Year 1 by the 20,000 bonus IHG points you receive. You get IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you hold the card. You will also receive a voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you spend £10,000 per year. Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.
The Tesco card is also an option
Whilst it has no sign-up bonus, the no-fee 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. There are various versions of the Tesco card but the best are:
Low rate card (representative APR 5.9% variable) or
30 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.