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New year, new credit card? The best bonuses and market gossip

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It is three months since I last did a round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.  The reason for the delay is that things got a little quiet.

Since October, we have had ‘MBNArmageddon’ with EIGHT airline credit cards taken off the market on the same day.  The following cards are no longer available to new applicants:

Lufthansa Miles & More

Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards Elite

Virgin Flying Club White

Virgin Flying Club Black

Etihad Guest

United Airlines MileagePlus

American Airlines AAdvantage

Our updated directory of the 15 remaining 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.

Don’t forget that 13th January is the last day to pay HMRC tax bills with a personal Visa or MasterCard credit cardLearn more in this article.

What is new?

The market has been very static since MBNA culled its line up in October.

The one bit of news on the horizon is that Virgin Atlantic will be back in the market with a new product within the next two months.  Virgin Money will be the issuer.

I know a little more about this than I am allowed to reveal, but not much.  I don’t know about sign-up bonuses or what the long-term spend incentives will be.  I hope to have early access to the information when it is ready to go.

Are any other ex-MBNA airlines ready to launch a new card?

No, not as far as I know.  I know from discussions with two of the airlines on the ‘ex MBNA clients’ list that they are virtually nowhere in terms of discussions with new providers.

It could be that their contracts with MBNA stopped them from talking to other issuers whilst MBNA was still accepting new applicants.  It is also possible that MBNA pulled the rug suddenly and took the airlines by surprise.

It seems that Lloyds Bank, the new owner of MBNA, was not keen to operate rewards cards long term.  Look at the American Airlines card – the new version, only launched this year, was not an American Express and had a high annual fee.  It should have been workable even under the new EU interchange fee rules.  Lloyds / MBNA still decided to pull it.  I know that Lloyds / MBNA has no interest in launching new products, without an Amex, for Lufthansa, United, Emirates or Etihad.

We still don’t know when Lloyds Bank is going to pull the plug on the Lloyds Avios Rewards card.  The plug has to be pulled, because American Express has withdrawn all of its licences.

This is the end of the gossip and speculation paragraphs!

American Express Rewards Credit Card

What else is going on?

If you don’t follow HFP closely, you may have missed the mainstream launch of the American Express Rewards Credit Card (ARCC) in the Autumn.

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:

LOW RATE – 5,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 9.9% variable (click here)

or

BASIC – 10,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 22.9% variable (click here)

or

PURCHASES – NO sign-up bonus but 0% APR on purchases for 18 months and a representative APR of 22.9% variable beyond that (click here)

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.

Starwood Preferred Guest:

In the US, American Express has signed a deal with Marriott – who now own Starwood – to become a Marriott credit card partner.  This makes it more likely that the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card will remain in some form if Amex can make the interchange fee sums work.

It is worth taking a look at the Starwood Amex if you have never had it.  My full review is here.  The key point is that you will get the sign-up bonus of 10,000 SPG points – worth roughly £150 of hotel stays or 10,000 airline miles or Avios – irrespective of whether you have the BA, Gold or Platinum Amex cards.  You can learn more here.

Representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Other 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 offering 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.

best travel credit cards


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2020 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our December 2020 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.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual 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:

American Express Business Gold card

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

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 (50)

  • EwanG says:

    Alan

    If you upgrade from Gold to Plat using https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/platinum-charge/upgrade/ you will get 20,000 MRs for a £1k spend.

    It has been reported here that a Plat can refer someone who can then take Gold. The referrer gains 18,000 MRs. Not 100% clear what the recipient gets – suspect it is 21,000 MRs for a £2k spend (against 20,000 if not referred).

    If you were to stay Gold and refer to Gold, you’ll miss out on a good chunk of points. If you upgrade to Plat and refer to Plat, the £450 fee is due at the outset and whilst your wife will get a pro-rata refund when downgrading to Gold, she will continue to pay for the Gold.

    If I was you I would upgrade to Plat and refer your wife for Gold then get her to upgrade at some point.

    Ewan

    • Alan says:

      Thanks Ewen, I was confused about whether she would be charged for Gold for downgrading (which you have now confirmed) so it doesn’t make sense to refer her to Platinum.

      Just refer her to Gold and get her to upgrade shortly before referring me I guess.

    • Alan says:

      Just thought of another question, sorry. If you upgrade do you have to pay anything for any supplementary cards you hold on the account (wife has a supplementary card to my Gold Card)?

      • EwanG says:

        On the Gold card:
        Your first Supplementary Card is complimentary; each additional Supplementary Card will be charged at £45 per year.

        On the Plat:
        Extend your benefits to those closest to you and earn points for their purchases with up to five complimentary Supplementary Cards (one Platinum and a combination of four Gold or Green Cards).

        If your wife is already a Supp on your Gold card, when you upgrade to Plat she will continue to be a Supp on your account. This means she will automatically be sent her (supp) Plat card including her own Priority Pass card (so you can each take yourself +1 into a lounge i.e. good for a family of 4!

    • Alan says:

      Just running the numbers and the upgrade would cost £37.50 per month. I would need at least 2 months to do the spend for the upgrade and then to get my wife’s referral sorted so that would be £75 (at least). The benefit (Over remaining Gold) would be 20,000 + 9,000 (extra for wife’s referral over a Gold referral).

      So, 29,000 MR points would cost me (at least) £75 which is equivalent to 0.26p per point. If I can’t get it done in 2 months then I’m looking at 0.39ppp. I know these valuations are far less than the point’s suggested value and many on here would jump at the chance of buying points at these levels, but I’m not sure that it would actually make economic sense to me, personally.

      Probably stick with Gold for now.

      Thanks for your input though Ewan, it helped a lot.

      • EwanG says:

        Alan – remember that Amex charges are refunded pro-rata, so if it’s 2 months and one day which it takes to make that spend on the Plat, you won’t be charged for a full 3 months. That’s if you do indeed get charged for holding the Plat when after the upgrade (might be lucky).
        Ewan