Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What are the best credit card deals for March? – plus a news round-up

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UPDATE – OCTOBER 2020:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.  We produce a monthly directory of the top UK travel credit card offers – please click HERE or use the ‘Credit Card Offers’ menu above.  Thank you.

It is time for our regular round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.

To be honest, there is more ‘going’ than ‘coming’ at the moment …..

Our directory of the 14 main 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.

What is new?

The market took a couple more blows during the last month:

The Hilton Honors Platinum Visa was closed to new applicants.  This was my key recommendation to newcomers to miles and points, since the sign-up bonus (a free night at any Hilton Group property for spending £750 on the card) was ludicrously good.  You could get a successful redemption under your belt quickly and see the real value that is out there.  My article on the closure is here.  Hilton is working on a new card, with a totally revised benefits package, but I doubt we will see it before 2019.

The Lloyds Avios Rewards cards were closed to new ONLINE applicants.  For a limited period, you CAN still apply by telephone or in-branch – although I should warn you that one in-branch applicant was forced to sit through two Lloyds Bank videos before they agreed to process the form!  As I explain in this article these cards are particularly good for foreign spend (0% fee and you earn Avios) and for solo travellers who value the upgrade voucher higher than the BA Amex 2-4-1.

If you are interested in the Lloyds Avios Rewards card you should move quickly.  It is very unlikely that in-person and phone applications will continue indefinitely when online applications have been stopped.

We have covered two major bits of credit card news in the last month:

‘Challenger bank’  Tandem launched its first real product – a Mastercard offering 0.5% cashback and with NO foreign exchange fees.  The Tandem press office got grumpy when we suggested in our article here that they couldn’t make any money on this, but I doubt they can.  That’s not your problem though!

The Curve Card added a new rewards scheme, paying you 1% cashback for your first three months at three retailers of your choice (from a selection).  Curve Card is a debit card that recharges all your purchases to a Visa or Mastercard credit card.  This has huge potential for earning points when paying HMRC, council tax etc.  Curve is free and, even better, they will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use a referral code.  Full details, and a referral code, are in this article.

What else is going on?

There is still no public word on the new Virgin Atlantic credit card.  Virgin Money will be the issuer and the 2017 Virgin Money accounts confirm a H1 2018 launch date.

HSBC Premier is giving away a free hotel night if you move your current account over to them before 25th March.  This would allow you to take out the HSBC Premier World Elite credit card which is the most generous Avios Mastercard or Visa product.  Details are in this HFP article.

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.   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.

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.  Do note, however, my comment above about the new Amex Rewards Credit Card which may be a better choice for many people.

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.

Amex Plat

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 Club Eurostar 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. 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.

Amex Gold

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

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 (click here) 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.

The Tesco Mastercard is currently offering:

  • 0% interest on purchases for up to 20 months from account opening (you may be offered 16 or 12 months instead depending on your individual circumstances) and
  • 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 3 months with a 2.9% balance transfer fee. You can transfer up to 95% of your available credit limit.

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 (click here) and the American Express Gold Business Card (click here).  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 (109)

  • Dan says:

    Just cancelled my AMEX Gold card (was about to hit the 365 day anniversary, and fell agonisingly short of triggering the additional 10k bonus, oh well), and the nice lady on the phone stated that it would only be six months to wait until I could re-apply for the Gold or apply for the Platinum. Is there any update on when or if they may extend it to two years or do away with it altogether?

    • Rob says:

      No. According to emails I get from readers some agents are still people it is going to move to 2 years, so who knows?

      • RTS says:

        Under GDPR, I just don’t know how they are going to police this?

        • Rob says:

          GDPR is trumped by regulatory obligations, in this case the need to keep bank records for a number of years.

    • Polly says:


      You could have bought the required amount of supermarket and petrol gift cards to get the bonus. Tesco or whoever. Or even prepaid your mobile phone or BT bills. Or other utiluties. And theres Billhop to pay yourself a few £100. What a shame.
      If a newbie maybe read up some of the avios series.
      Dont miss out next time.

  • Will says:

    I’ve referred my girlfriend for an Amex gold and received 18,000 points (I have amex platinum). If I now refer her for the premium ba amex will I get the same referral bonus again?

  • mark2 says:

    Can anyone tell me please how long it takes the points for spending on Tesco debit cards to hit the ClubCard account?

    • NIck_C says:

      Within three days. A transaction I did on Monday left my current account on Tuesday, and the CC points are now in my account.

    • Rob says:

      With the credit card (not sure about debit card) they used to go on transaction by transaction, so a few days later. It wasn’t a once per month transfer.

  • Alexey says:

    re SPG AMEX :
    how quickly do spg points are posted after required spend on the card ? I need to book some starwood hotel soon but haven’t got the points yet even as reaching required spend few days ago , do I need to wait for nearest DD or pay in full ? any ways to speed up the process of getting points ?

    • Lee says:

      Don’t think you can speed the process, it will always post to you SPG account abound 5 days before the bill date

    • Andrew S says:

      Points are transferred to SPG once a month. My statement date is the 19th and my points just transferred today.

      • mark2 says:

        It is the same procedure with BA and probably other credit cards. You only have control over when to use MR points.

  • Kevin says:

    Sorry for this question again and those answered before but I can’t find it.

    Does Lloyd Avios Amex also 0% FX fee for abroad spending?

  • Anon says:

    I’ve called up to try and apply for the Lloyds Avios Rewards card and was told my application was unlikely to be successful. This can’t be due to my credit score as I’m debt free and have an Experian rating of over 980. The lady I spoke to on the phone suggested it may be due to having too much credit available.

    What are other’s experiences on this? If I cancel all credit cards I’m not using regularly (hotel ones etc.) and bring myself down to £5-7k worth of credit would that help? I can also write a letter appealing the decision but unsure if that would achieve anything.

    • Rob says:

      Lloyds has generally looked for people who are average credit risks for this card. They want you to pay interest. People who they think will never pay a penny of interest are encouraged towards the BA Amex.

    • Genghis says:

      It’s been said before but Experian credit scores don’t mean. Credit institutions do their own assessment of you based on information available and what is attractive to one institution may not be attractive to the next.

  • James W says:

    OT – new to all this but are there ever any bonuses or promotions for transferring Amex MR points to BA Avios. A google search suggests it’s happened before but not very frequently, is that about right?

    • Rob says:

      A couple of years ago someone at Amex UK decided to de-emphasise airline mile transfers. This is because Amex is paying close to 1p per airline mile whilst non-travel redemptions, eg shopping gift cards, only cost them 0.5p per point redeemed. Transfer bonuses, even if the airline funds the bonus element, are still unattractive.

      The only Amex transfer bonuses we have seen in recent years have been ‘unofficial’. Etihad does this – it emails members occasionally offering a bonus on Amex transfers BUT Amex itself will not promote the offer because it wants to keep costs down.

  • London Traveller says:

    I have a SPG Amex (for the points, will cancel in due course) and wonder when the SPG points are transferred from the Amex to my SPG account or do I have to do it manually on the Amex site (can’t see readily how to)?