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.
‘Stuff’ is still going on after a relatively dull period. The market is slowly coming to terms with the interchange fee caps and is moving forward. Below you can read about:
- A new bonus worth 2,400 Avios on the free Tesco Clubcard Mastercard
- The upcoming closure of the MBNA Virgin Atlantic cards
- The return of the Marriott Rewards Mastercard and
- The overnight change of Amex Gold from a charge card to a credit card!
Our directory of the 16 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 in the last month?
Get 2,400 Avios with the FREE Tesco credit card
The newest new news is the 2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles sign-up bonus on the FREE Tesco Clubcard Mastercard.
The bonus is actually 1,000 Tesco Clubcard points but that converts into Avios or Virgin miles at the rates above.
We rarely see a bonus on this card. You don’t even need to hit a spend target – you get the bonus as soon as you make your first transaction. The representative APR is 18.9% variable. My full article on the deal is here and you can apply here.
The Tesco Clubcard Mastercard is the most generous free Visa or Mastercard for earning Avios unless you have a £75k+ salary and qualify for HSBC Premier.
The Tesco Premium card is still offering 12,000 Avios
The Tesco Premium credit card is offering a sign-up bonus of 5,000 Tesco Clubcard points until 11th July. This means that the bonus is worth 12,500 Virgin Flying Club miles or 12,000 Avios.
There is no spend target. You simply need to make one purchase in Tesco within the first two months.
The snag is the £150 annual fee, which basically nets off the bonus. This means that whether you get the card depends on how you value the other benefits, including free travel insurance and a strong (for Avios) earning rate which works out at 0.6 Avios per £1 spent.
If you spend over £5000 per year with Tesco on this card, including petrol, you receive an end-of-year bonus of another 5,000 Clubcard points. This does make it a decent proposition but clearly not many people spend that much.
The Marriott Mastercard is coming back!
Marriott has announced that the free Creation-issued Marriott Rewards Mastercard will return in August.
If the package remains unchanged, this is an OK card. You earn 1 Marriott Rewards point per £1 spent, which I value at 0.5p.
Existing cardholders, from before the card was withdrawn two years ago, get two good extra benefits. You receive 2,000 Marriott Rewards point for free, every year, as a gift. You also receive 10 nights credit towards elite status which gives you Marriott Rewards Silver automatically. It isn’t clear if these benefits will remain.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold became a credit card!
With absolutely no notice at all, American Express turned its Preferred Rewards Gold charge card into a credit card overnight.
This has no impact on existing Gold charge card holders. However, I would stress a couple of points:
If you have Gold charge, you are allowed to apply for Gold credit. You won’t get a sign-up bonus but you would get another ‘free first year’ and another two Lounge Pass vouchers. This is a tempting idea if you are currently paying for Amex Gold charge.
It will no longer be possible to get a bonus for upgrading from Gold to Platinum, as you cannot upgrade a credit card to a charge card – they are totally different products from a regulatory standpoint
My full article on the change is here. Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.
MBNA is closing its Virgin Atlantic White and Black cards – apply for the new ones now
In April we saw the welcome launch of the two new Virgin Atlantic credit cards. As these are brand new, you should – if you haven’t read my recent articles – read these three pieces: one, two and three. They will help you decide which card to get.
If you don’t have any existing Virgin Flying Club miles, I wrote this article to help you decide if the new credit cards were a good excuse to start collecting.
Last week, MBNA wrote to all existing Virgin Atlantic credit card holders telling them that ‘changes were coming’. The letter was purposely vague, but I am treating it as the official ’60 days notice of closure’ which means that you should expect the cards to be turned off at the end of June or thereabouts.
To summarise the key facts about the new Virgin Money-issued Virgin Atlantic cards:
You CAN apply for these cards – and get a sign-up bonus – if you already have the MBNA Virgin Atlantic credit cards. You don’t need to wait for your MBNA cards to be closed.
The free Reward card has a 5000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 0.75 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 per year
The £160 Reward+ card has a 15000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 1.5 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year
The cards are issued by Virgin Money so it is very unlikely that you will be conflicted due to having any other cards from the same bank
Frankly, as long as your credit is excellent, picking up 5000 miles from the free Virgin Reward credit card seems a no-brainer especially as there is no minimum spend threshold.
Legal stuff: I need to tell you that the free Reward card has a representative APR of 22.9% variable. The Reward+ card has a representative APR of 63.9% based on a notional £1200 credit limit and the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 22.9%.
What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals for May?
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. The British Airways and Tesco offers are special deals, the Virgin Atlantic cards are brand new 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 is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios. I wrote a full review of the British Airways Premium Plus card here. You can apply here. Representative APR 76.0% variable including the £195 annual 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 Honors points, 90,000 Radisson Rewards 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), Radisson 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!
Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.
This is my preferred hotel 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 two new Virgin Flying Club credit cards are the most generous Mastercard or Visa cards for day to day spending. The free Reward card (with a 5,000 miles sign-up bonus) earns 0.75 miles per £1 whilst the annual fee Reward+ card (with a 15,000 mile sign-up bonus) earns 1.5 miles per £1. There is no spending target to hit to receive the bonus. Reward: representative APR 22.9% variable. Reward+: representative APR 63.9% variable including £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.
There is a very rare sign-up bonus on this FREE card at the moment. Apply via this special link and you will receive 1,000 Tesco Clubcard points with your first purchase. These convert into 2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles. This is a quick and easy return on a card with no annual fee. 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 (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.