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The top 12 UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value

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What I thought might be interesting to look at today, in very mercenary terms, would be to rank the best UK travel credit sign-up bonuses in terms of cold hard cash. Put simply, if I get this card purely for the sign-up bonus, how much value can I get?

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 15th January 2019 and all of the information is correct as of that date)

These are objective calculations based on the following formula:

The value of the sign-up bonus – see below for my methodology

The annual fee, if any

For Amex Platinum, BA Premium Plus Amex and SPG Amex, the fee refund if you cancel after a typical 4 months

Notes on valuation

The biggest question mark is over the value of the sign-up bonus. For hotel cards, I have valued points based on the number required for a top-end redemption which I value at £250 per night. The exception is Starwood, which makes high category awards disproportionately expensive.

For airline miles, I assume they are worth 1p each.

(Of course, for airlines where short-haul redemptions are bad value, a small amount of miles can be effectively worthless. In some programmes, you would need to already have a decent balance to get full value from the bonus miles.)

I have valued Amex Membership Rewards points at 1p, since they transfer 1:1 into airline miles and I am valuing those at 1p.

The ‘free money’ £ value I quote is therefore calculated as:

‘value of sign-up bonus’ minus ‘annual fee’ (for an Amex, I assume you cancel within 4 months for a 2/3rd fee rebate

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

All of these cards carry a 3% foreign exchange fee when used abroad.  If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  This card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 19.9% variable.

Bring on the winners!

OK … here we go! Remember that full details on all the cards can be found on our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

This analysis does not include cards with no sign-up bonus.

GOLD!  £200 ‘free money’ – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

20,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £200 if turned into 20,000 Avios or other airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) and £0 fee for the first year.  £2,000 spend in 3 months required.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

GOLD!  £205 ‘free money’ – HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

40,000 Avios or other airline miles (£400 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) for spending £12,000 in your first year.  This assumes that HSBC lets you have the full bonus without paying the fee for Year 2, which is still proving troublesome for many people.  £195 fee, non-refundable.  Note that HSBC Premier has strict eligibility criteria. Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

GOLD!  £205 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios points (£250 assuming 1p per Avios achieved), £195 fee but £150 fee refund if cancelled after four months so net cost of £45. £3,000 spend in 3 months required.   Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

SILVER!  £150 ‘free money’ – American Express Platinum

30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £300 as gets you 30,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved), £450 fee but £300 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months, so net cost of £150.

Most importantly, though, you will retain your Starwood Preferred Guest / Marriott Rewards Gold card, Radisson Rewards Gold card, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Jade and Hilton Honors Gold cards for a full 12 months, even if you cancel.  This adds substantial extra value to the package.

American Express Platinum

BRONZE!  £100 ‘free money’ – Amex Rewards Credit Card

10,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £100 as gets you 10,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved), no annual fee.  There are three different versions of this card as this article explains – you only receive 10,000 points with the version here which requires £1,000 of spending within 90 days and has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.

BRONZE!  £100 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 

10,000 miles (£100 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  5,000 miles post with your first purchase within 90 days and a further 5,000 post after spending £1,000.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

BRONZE!  £90 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard 

25,000 miles (£250 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, £160 fee.  15,000 miles post with your first purchase within 90 days and a further 10,000 post after spending £1,500.  Representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

£75 ‘free money’ – Starwood Preferred Guest Amex

30,000 points (valued at £100 as good for at least 10,000 air miles,worth 1p per mile, but worth 1.5p if used for hotel rooms), £75 fee but £50 fee refund if cancelled after 4 months so net cost of £25. £1,000 spend in 3 months required.  Representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

£50 ‘free money’ – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 

10,000 points (20% of a top end £250 night), no fee. Bonus triggers with a £200 spend within 90 days.  Alternatively, the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard comes with £100-worth of points but has a £99 fee.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

£50 ‘free money’ – British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  £1000 spend within 3 months required.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£24 ‘free money’ – Tesco Clubcard Mastercard 

2,400 Avios by converting 1,000 Clubcard points (£24 based on achieving 1p per Avios, bonus runs to 31st January) bonus, no fee.  Bonus triggers with first purchase.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

(The HSBC Premier card currently has no bonus.  The bonus on the Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard is worth less than the £79 fee.)

Summary

If there is anything to learn from this bit of fun, it is this:

If you and your partner took out the best 3 credit cards each, you could get over £1,200 of value between you based on my valuation model. That is certainly nothing to be sniffed at!

Do not underestimate the value of the hotel cards. Whilst a small number of airline miles has little value, a small number of hotel points can get you one night somewhere, and one night is often all you need.

(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.

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Comments

  1. Hi,
    Did Barclaycard change their rule about existing customers applying for the Hilton card? My husband has 2 Barclaycards but his soft search for the Hilton came back negative (credit score high and he gets everything else he applies for) I got it just fine but we were hoping for 2 nights @ Conrad NY. Also with the 6 month expiry on the free night certificate, has anyone had trouble finding availability 6 months from travel date or is it generally ok?

    Also does anyone have experience of reserving hotel rooms (flexible rate) and then calling back and swapping for points at a later date? I asked Hilton advisor and she said it was ok but IHG said only if there is points rooms available at the later date.

    Thank you 🙂

    • I was rejected too saying I had an existing account, even though I didn’t. Called and said they escalate but not heard anything yet.

    • Scallder says:

      You can’t get a Barclaycard product if you have either held one or have applied for one and been rejected in the last 3 months. I got caught out by this towards the end of last year annoyingly.

      • I think in 2016 that was the rule, you can’t get the Hilton if you already have a Barclaycard so we planned to pay off and cancel, then in 2017 they changed it and said that you could have the Hilton card even if you already had a Barclaycard but it looks like that may have changed again. Very annoying! Should be able to do one night on my free certificate and one on points then pay for one, which is still not bad. Would have loved another Hilton though!

        • This is interesting to know. We have Barclaycards that I never use as I hate dealing with their customer service, but have never cancelled (for that very reason).

          We didn’t apply for them, as such, they came as part of the package when Barclays took over our Woolwich offset mortgage.

          Guess I’ll need to cancel them at some point even though I hate dealing with them.

        • wally1976 says:

          I have another Barclaycard but was still accepted for the Hilton card no problem in early January 2018.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          I have another Barclaycard, but I was accepted for the Hilton card in March 2017.

    • I have the problem with Barclaycard’s eligibility checker saying that they can’t find my details, this us despite having a card with them at my current address (where I lived within applied) for almost 3 years and I’ve probably held a Barclaycard account of some kind since the early 2000s.

      I seem to have a similar problem with both capital one (card open since 2004) and virgin money (no credit history)

  2. Get well soon Rob!

  3. Hope you feel much better soon Rob

  4. Get well soon, Rob – will be interesting to hear the what the discussions are like at the conference.

  5. An odd one not publicised much even on Amex site is the Gold Companion credit card if you have a Gold card. Sign up of 5k MR points for 500 spend! Can link MR accounts.

  6. Get well soon Rob!

  7. Joe Caputo says:

    How much does hfp earn when I use your link to sign up for a credit card?

    • None of your business ????

    • How much does it cost you if you use it?
      What have you got to lose by using it?

    • I was more than happy to use Rob as a referral for a previous application. Hardly any extra hassle and more than outweighed by the information I glean from this site.

      Unless you are disadvantaged by using Rob as a referral I find the question quite strange. And even if you were disadvantaged, just apply direct!

    • The Original Nick says:

      I see it as my subscription for all of Rob’s help.

      • Me too, I try to pass Rob a referral each year. Embarrassingly, my 2017 SPG applcation he referred me for was rejected.

        Hope you get better soon Rob.

        .

    • The modal average based on the list above is £0 🙂

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Rob has said Standard referral points just like anyone else would get on AMEX.

  8. Can I get a referral bonus if refer somebody from my AMEX platinum to SPG AMEX or Nectar AMEX?

  9. If you have the Amex gold charge card and you apply for the gold credit card during your fee free period, is it still free or do Amex start to charge the annual fee at that point?

  10. It will be when it starts offering travel rewards!

    • Fair enough. The way I look at it you could say that it provides 3(ish) RFS fees – so it does provide travel rewards – kinda.

  11. Feel better soon Rob! Thank you for this information.

  12. With Hilton card the cards arrived with me just as I was changing my travel plans and wanted to use the free nights later than I originally planned. I called them to ask if the 6 months began once the card was sent or when it was activated. I was told from activation so left until within 6 months of requirement. The target was hit but no email arrived so I chased them. They then said it was from when the card was issued not activated. I gave them the date and time of my call and asked them to check back on the recording and I received a credit for £300 on each of the two cards. Nice, but does not cover a night at the Conrad Tokyo.

    • Voucher is valid for 6 months and issued by Hilton (therefore has nothing to do with when you opened the Barclaycard account). My experience is that it normally aligns with the monthly statement date when you achieved the £750 spend target (for me this is always first statement).

      • Yep, my mistake. I meant to say hitting the £750 spend target within the 90 days. I asked if the 90 days was from activating and they said yes. So I left the activation for a few months, well after the 90 days. They admitted it and gave me the money so cannot really complain too much. Fortunately have enough Hilton points to cover the hotel anyway 🙂

  13. OT – is there a definitive answer to whether I would receive the sign up bonus for Amex gold if I already have the amex gold business charge card?

  14. Slightly OT plat Supp arrived saturday for Mrs W but no 5000 MR bonus for me. It wasn’t an advertised bonus but thought I would get it based on comments on here. Should I wait a bit longer before I contact Amex?

    • Like some other people have mentioned, I think you only get the 5,000 ok the Platinum if you set up a third (paid) supplementary (that is my experience anyway).

    • I referred my gf as 1st supp on my plat and got 5k bonus points almost immediately after the application was accepted as have a few others I think

      Might be worth speaking to CS but as it’s not advertised anywhere they may not agree to give you any points. Worth trying though

    • Yes, as another data point, my wife got the 5k bonus for adding me as a Plat supp last week.

    • Awardwallet was lying to me, I did get the 5k points after all 😀

      • Optimus Prime says:

        How long did you wait before applying for the supplementary card?

        • My wife just upgraded from a PRG to a Plat. I held a supp for her PRG, and they auto-upgraded my supp to a Plat (without asking or giving me the chance to cancel my supp PRG). Should I call CS about the 5000 MR bonus which I missed out on?

  15. Thinking about applying for the HH card as we have one night in Boston this summer and hotel prices are very high. We will have our 12 year old with us though, would this cause a problem when booking the free night stay?

  16. My partner and I used two Hilton Barclaycard vouchers at Conrad Koh Samui last month. Considering the room rates we probably got about £1000 or value (would never have paid my own cash for that room). This voucher is truely outstanding value if used in the best way.

    I did previously have an IHG Barclaycard but had cancelled that about 8 months previously, so didn’t have any problem applying for Hilton card.

    • Realistically the value of the voucher is capped at the value of 90,000 Hilton Honors points bought in a 100% bonus sale.

      • Don’t you mean 95,000 (highest standard reward night possible – e.g. Conrad Tokyo)?

      • True (I did mean about £1000 over two nights, so voucher about £500 value in my case). I see I could buy 95k points for US$530 right now so of course could have got that room for about £380 in real cash – which is still a fair bit cheaper than what hotel was charging.

        I did only manage to get the 2nd reward night about 5 days before the stay (as there was no availability showing) – so definitely worth checking close in for availability opening up.

  17. Credit Card related, but not one on the above list.

    I hold a BAPP card at the moment, am nearing the one year anniversary and have my 2-4-1 voucher. I won’t spend £10k on it this year so have decided that the Lloyds Avios Duo card would suit me more, as someone who generally travels alone and I would hit the £7k target.

    I applied for the card, somewhat stupidly not checking their tool first and was declined, despite a 995 Experian credit rating. Are there any instant red flags for the card that I might have flagged, or is just down to the mysterious black box of credit card approval processes?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Do you bank with lloyds? They seem a very odd lender and I had to send them a letter reminding them of my banking history with them and the fact have a clean credit history. I was then accepted.

      • I don’t bank with Lloyds, my only current CC is the BAPP, but I did have a Amex Gold which was cancelled about 6 months ago.

        Think I’ll just sit it out for a while, get a Halifax clarity card for upcoming TP trips and reassess in the summer

    • I wouldn’t go too much on what their eligibility checker says. They gave me a 90% chance of approval and I got rejected by them. After reading some of the nightmare stories people have had with Lloyds I haven’t tried again, even though it would probably be a better product for me than the BA Amex

      • Terrible nightmare: my wife has been paid £650 compensation for minor inconvenience so far.

  18. RussellH says:

    As to the value of SPG points, I would remind everyone of Anika’s 26 August 2016 reviews of the Aloft Liverpool https://www.headforpoints.com/2016/08/26/review-aloft-liverpool-hotel-part-1/ where she points out that one can, on some Staurdays, get a value of 7p per point!

    We went there last Friday / Saturday for Chinese New Year. I was told that the hotel was fully booked by the time we got there, but even booking around 5 weeks ago I was getting a little over 3p per point; at that rate I am inclined to keep my SPG points for further stays there!

    I have just re-read Anika’s review and there was nothing we would disagree with, even though we are probably significantly older than the target market. I cannot comment on the Gym or the Breakfast, and we did not have dinner there either, though we did have their afternoon tea, enhanced with cocktails. Delighted to get the 20% SPG discount on the Cocktails as well as the food, and no problem getting the excess afternoon tea packed up for us at the end.

    We were in standard rooms which looked very similar to the Savvy room that Anika reported on.

    Only niggle so far is that I have not (yet) received the additional “Make a Green Choice” SPG points – worth £7.50 at 3p per point!

  19. Take care Rob. Get better.

  20. “‘state of the nation’ speech”

    Yes I vote for Rob being our Prime Minister!
    And Anika Minister for the Cabinet office!

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