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.
The market is slowly coming to terms with the interchange fee caps and is moving forward. The key news in June was the surprise closure of the Tesco Premium credit card and notification of the official closing dates for the United, Emirates and Lufthansa Miles & More credit cards.
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?
The Tesco Premium credit card was closed
This was a bit of a surprise, especially as the current sign-up bonus – the first for some time – was meant to run until 11th July. It is relevant to HFP because Clubcard points convert into Avios and Virgin Flying Club miles.
The card may be a victim of the closure of Tesco Direct on 9th July. If you spent over £5000 per year with Tesco on this card, including petrol, you received an end-of-year bonus of another 5,000 Clubcard points (12,000 Avios). A lot of people were using spending via Tesco Direct to hit this target.
I have no idea if the card will return in a new guise. It is apparently remaining open for existing cardholders.
The United, Emirates and Lufthansa cards are closing in July (as are the Etihad and American cards)
MBNA has finally announced the closing date for the last three remaining airline cards. All will be gone by the end of July.
You will be swapped onto their Horizon Visa card. This is a surprisingly impressive card to use when travelling as I explained in this article.
If you are looking for:
Some Lufthansa news is coming ….
I had a call with the Miles & More team in Germany 11 days ago. They told me that cardholders would be contacted ‘within 14 days’ (so it should be this week) with news about mileage expiry.
Remember that Miles & More miles expire three years after they are earned UNLESS you have a Miles & More credit card, or have status in the programme. It would obviously be unfair if all UK credit card holders had a huge chunk of older miles expire on 30th September which – under the rules – is what would happen.
I also got a cryptic hint from the Miles & More team that Lufthansa has not necessarily given up on the UK market. It is, after all, successfully running other cards across Europe despite the interchange fee cap. Oddly I think the problem is more about the lack of card issuers wanted to enter this space than the airlines themselves:
American Express is a non-starter due to limited acceptance now that interchange fees are capped on Amex co-brand cards
MBNA / Lloyds is obviously a non-starter
Barclaycard appears to be exiting the reward space, having totally closed its IHG cards and having recently closed the Hilton card to new applicants. Word on the street is that they claim their profitability requirements are not achievable if they are also funding rewards.
Creation is an option but, despite running the IHG and Marriott cards, they have not entered the airline space in a big way – you can’t count the useless Flybe credit card
New Day is the big question mark. They issue a lot of rewards cards, including the new Amazon credit card, but have never operated in the airline space. Would they choose to jump in now?
Other banks, such as HSBC, do not issue cards for third parties
A reminder that the Virgin Atlantic cards close on 6th July
The MBNA Virgin Atlantic cards will switch earlier than the other ex-MBNA cards. Charges must post to your statement by 6th July if you want to earn Flying Club miles. From the 7th, your card will be operating as a Horizon Visa.
This article will help you decide which of the two new Virgin Money issued Virgin Atlantic cards is best for you. The website for the two new cards is here.
You CAN apply for the new 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 on 7th July.
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
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%.
You can still get 2,400 Avios with the FREE Tesco credit card
Of the (few) temporary special offers currently running, don’t forget 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.
Finally, remember that the Marriott Rewards Mastercard is returning in August. We don’t know the terms yet but Creation will be the issuer.
What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals for July?
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 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 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.