The top 9 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 21st March 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 used my standard valuations (0.5p per Marriott point, 0.4p per IHG point)

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 Marriott Bonvoy 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!  £125 ‘free money’ – Starwood Preferred Guest Amex

30,000 points (valued at £150 as I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.5p each), £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.

£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.

£50 ‘free money’ – Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus, no fee.  Bonus posts with your first purchase within 90 days.  Representative APR 22.9% 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.

£40 ‘free money’ – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 

10,000 points which I value at £40, 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.

(The HSBC Premier card and Tesco Clubcard Mastercard currently have no bonus.  The bonuses on the Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard and Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard are worth less than the annual fee.)


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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. RussellH says:

    As to the value of SPG points, I would remind everyone of Anika’s 26 August 2016 reviews of the Aloft Liverpool 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!

  4. Take care Rob. Get better.

  5. “‘state of the nation’ speech”

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

  6. For the HH Barclaycard, is the 6 month voucher validity to use the use and stay somewhere or just to make the booking for it? i.e. would I need to make the a booking to stay in a hotel within 6 months, or can I make a booking within the 6 months for a stay after the 6 months?

  7. Was wondering what their changes were in the t’s and c’s in the email this morning.. couldn’t be bothered to read through it…

  8. OT but card related. We recently upgraded from Gold to Plat but after a week still have not received our new Plat cards. Just called Amex who said you don’t get new cards – just continue to use the Gold ones. We Upgraded a couple of years ago and got new cards automatically. He has now issued new cards but wondered what others have experienced when upgrading.

    • You do get Platinum cards but the golds work as the plat until they arrive – a week sounds similar to what we experienced about 3 months ago.

      • Thanks Harpo. The guy we spoke to insisted you don’t get new cards and that new cards had not been issued. All a bit weird I thought!

        • Graham Walsh says:

          When I upgraded BA Blue to BAPP, I was able to use the blue card until the black card arrived. As long as your online account is upgraded, you are good to go. I would have thought Amex would want to send you a new card so it is seen in shops etc when paying.

        • Well yes that’s what I thought – I said the Platinum card has upgrade benefits etc when you hand it over or access to lounges etc but he was adamant you don’t need a platinum card. I was adamant I wanted one!

        • Liz
          My wife has more recent experience than Harpo given she upgraded at the end of last month. New Platinum cards were issued – took about a week for them to arrive. PP cards arrived separately a few days later.

        • He was just being a PITA, call again later.

        • @James – we did call again as we realised we wouldn’t have the pack and the insurance documents. Got someone who knew what they were talking about the 2nd time. Will probably end up with 2 sets of cards now!

        • New cards issued within a week.

    • I upgraded PRG to plat last week Monday and waiting for my new plat card to arrive but been using my gold card until then. It’s all upgraded online and on the app. PP card arrived very quickly, within 3 days. Hoping it’s in my porch when i get home tonight.

    • I just upgraded as well. Got a new card a couple days after applying.

  9. OT but Amex related – is the 90k referral points limit on Plat per card year or calendar year?

  10. TGLoyalty says:

    Sneaky! Buried that rather than pointing it out in the actual email.

    Looks like amazon top up in the future.

    • Hsergio10 says:

      @TGLoyalty Nice.

      How do you top up your amazon account for curve rewards? have £35 ready for Amazon gambling 🙂

  11. That is annoying as I was saving for the next 19 Euro Groupon Avios voucher. Only got about £15 at the mo!

    • Why not use that money towards something else you need to pay, like your council tax (my preferred choice) or utilities bill etc so you can use up the full amount. Then make a note of that amount and use it towards the €19 Avios later.

  12. Get well soon Rob!!

  13. KBuffett says:

    I have the Platinum card and wanted clarification on referrals.. If I give my referral link to someone, and they opt for the PRGC, will I still get a referral bonus? The link suggests that I am only referring them to a Platinum Card.

  14. Assuming a 2 night stay in europe, which would be the best hotels to use the free Hilton nights?

  15. Isn’t the fee refund on BA AmEx Prem+ £130 leaving a net cost of £65 rather than £45 (£65 being 4/12 of £195)?

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