Which five loyalty credit cards are worth keeping for their benefits even if you never use them?

Links on Head for Points pay us an affiliate commission. A list of our partners is here.

Typically there are three different types of travel loyalty credit cards you can apply for:

Cards you get just for the sign-up bonus

Cards you get primarily for the strong on-going earnings rate

Cards you get but don’t use because they come with generous perks

Head for Points tends to focus on the first two types, but I thought it was worth another look at the five loyalty cards which offer decent on-going perks even if you don’t use them.

For clarity, my list does NOT include perks which require you to hit a spending target each year to receive them such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.  This article (click) looks at the most valuable credit card perks which require you to hit an annual spending target.

The place to turn for full details of all airline and hotel loyalty credit cards is, of course, our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page, which summarises all of the cards currently available.

Credit cards

Looking through the list, these are the four cards you might want to get but keep in your desk drawer gathering dust:

The Platinum Card from American Express (click here for our Amex Platinum review)

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £575 annual fee.  Because you can get a very generous 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.  There is a higher bonus of 35,000 points if I refer you – see my review for details.

Platinum is a charge card, not a credit card.  You need to clear your balance in full each month.

There are a lot of long-term benefits that can have real value:

  • 2 Priority Pass cards, each getting you and a guest into 1,200 airport lounges for free.  The addition of the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5, the Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow T2, the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow T3 and the Plaza Premium and SkyTeam lounges in T4 have made this benefit more valuable in recent years.
  • Access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.  Whilst this lounge is not in Priority Pass, you can get in – with a guest – by showing your American Express Platinum card.
  • Eurostar lounge access (cardholder only, no guests)
  • Lounge access with Delta in the US and with Virgin Australia in Oz.  The latter is an unofficial benefit because it is aimed at Australian Platinum cardholders but lounge staff cannot tell the difference.
  • Access to Amex’s upmarket ‘Centurion’ lounge network at selected US airports
  • Marriott Bonvoy (Sheraton, Le Meridien, Aloft, St Regis etc) hotels Gold status,
  • Hilton Honors (Conrad, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Hampton etc) Gold status
  • Melia Rewards (Melia, INNSIDE, Tryp, ME) Gold status
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle (Shangri-La, Traders) Jade status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Taj InnerCircle Gold status
  • Radisson Rewards (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn) Gold status
  • Travel insurance, subject to enrolment, which is fully comprehensive (some minor benefits such as lost luggage requiring you to pay for your flights and hotels with an American Express card, although ‘big stuff’ like medical cover is covered regardless)
  • Car hire insurance
  • Discounts and/or added benefits in luxury hotels via the Fine Hotels & Resorts programme
  • £10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit
  • $200 cashback on every onefinestay home rental – available unlimited times, no minimum spend

…. plus some other bits and pieces.

A lot of people, including myself, have a Platinum card for the benefits but – because of the weak 1 point per £1 earning rate – do not use it much.  I use mine purely for HFP-related expenditure which gives me the added benefit of being to treat the £575 fee as tax deductible.

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard and IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard  (click here and here for our reviews)

The free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / Hotel Indigo / InterContinental loyalty programme. This is not worth much, frankly, but some hotels do give you a modest gift or some points as a welcome gift.  In the UK you will get the option of a free drink.

The £99 Premium version of the card gives you Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club. The guaranteed benefits are slim, apart from a 50% bonus on base points, but a lot of hotels do offer decent upgrades at this level, especially from the Crowne Plaza brand.  Being able to buy high level hotel status for £99 is a great opportunity.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (click here for our review)

This card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

You receive free airport lounge access at 750 airports worldwide via the LoungeKey programme.  Guests are charged at £15, although if you regularly travel with the same adult it would be cheaper to pay £60 to get them a supplementary credit card on your account.  It is a cheaper way of getting lounge access than buying your own Priority Pass card.

If you get the standard version of the HSBC Premier Mastercard, you also get a LoungeKey card but are charged £20 per lounge visit.  You can also get a free LoungeKey card via the Santander World Elite Mastercard.

It is worth putting airline tickets through this card even if you don’t use it for anything else, since you receive a £20 Uber credit for each £500+ airline charge.

Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard (click here for our review)

The new Lufthansa card – launched in 2018, and which operates as a charge card and not a credit card – has one key benefit.  As long as you charge £1+ per month to it, your Miles & More miles will not expire. 

This is a valuable benefit as Miles & More has a draconian three year expiry policy for non-elite members, irrespective of your account activity.  The card has a high annual fee of £79 per year.

Conclusion

Overall, there are some interesting deals to be had with some credit cards which makes them worth keeping, even if you don’t use them. The most valuable is probably the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard where you are effectively paying £99 to buy yourself mid-tier Platinum status at Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc properties.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, American Express Platinum is worth a look. The generous sign-up bonus (30,000 Amex points is worth 30,000 Avios or other airline miles when transferred), airport lounge access and the free hotel status cards mean that you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try, despite the heavy fee.

(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.

Does the confusing new 'buy Avios' promo for BA Amex cardholders make sense?
Good 2019 business class deals to the US - from £1300 - with BA, Virgin and Star Alliance
Click here to join the 13,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Publius says:

    The £20 Uber credit for each £500+ airline charge on the HSBC World Elite is a bit of a scam.
    The voucher is tricky to use in practise. You can’t apply the credit to your account only to a single trip and the whole £20 will be eaten even if the trip is less than £20.
    So you have to know in advance if your trip will be over £20 and only then apply it to the trip.

    Too faffy for me and I’ve given up.

    • Yeah I find the straight 3x credit with Tesco CC points better (although wish it worked abroad too, that would be amazing!)

    • Thanks, wasn’t aware of that. Although I use Uber to and from the airport when with the family so that would eat it easily.

  2. totaltool says:

    O/T but credit card related. I have now put more than £10k through the HH card so should get Gold Status but I can’t find anywhere on either the Barclaycard or HiltonHonors accounts on line that will confirm I will have the status till March 2020 (I currently am Gold so this will be in place till March 2019). Does anyone know how to check it?

  3. Dave Barron says:

    OT as no bits today – my BAPP card has an offer on this morning “spend £415+ Online at ba.com/purchaseavios by 10/09/18 and get 12500 bonus Avios when buying 25000 avios” – not the best offer if looking for 1p or greater value per Avios but may be good to someone if planning to buy anyway?

  4. There is also a Centurion lounge in Hong Kong for Amex Plat holders. For me it’s better than the Plaza Premium, though The Pier is the best.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      A lot of people agree with you, but I love the new “Deck” lounge. The Cabin was my favourite, was sad CX shut that, although it was basically an underground dungeon, but that was part of the appeal for me!

      • Need an arrivals lounge in HKG…can’t ever get into CX lounge even after travelling in F on BA. Any ideas please? we are Silver cardholders.

  5. If you don’t spend on the Amex Platinum because of the earning rate, which card do you use?

    I’m currently juggling a Gold and BA card to try and hit both the 15k annual and 2-4-1

    • Good options there, noting BAPP is better than the free BA one.
      If you’re still looking for another card then consider the IHG premium – free night anywhere with £10k spend.

    • I was on the MBNA Lufthansa Amex and, now that is dead, I’m currently on the SPG Amex. Both of those are easily 1.5% return vs 1% if I use Amex Plat, based on my relative valuations of the points.

      • OT @Rob, what are you valuing LH miles at these days? Considering purchasing 10k MR points to convert to LH. Seems reasonable for use on F redemption?

        • 1p, but LH First is better than this – BUT it depends how you justify the First Class cost.

          What I mean is …. I can (and have) bought long-haul Business Class tickets for cash so using Avios is a real cash saving. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a First Class long-haul cash ticket so redeeming for those isn’t a “real” cash saving and I tend to value F redemptions at £500 above Business Class return, because I’d probably pay that at check-in if offered it as an upgrade.

          You may treat it differently ….

        • Thanks Rob, interesting thoughts to ponder. For me it boils down to a 1h versus 5h connection in FRA. If I go for the latter to reduce risks then I’d rather spend those hours in FCT. If it had been the short-lived F with bed and chair I would have been sold on it but will never have a chance to try. I will keep my options open on SQ also.

    • BAPP, going for 2-4-1

  6. Creation Marriott Rewards? My wife and I have accumulated 20,000+ points [2x free nights at Courtyard Prague Airport when rates were £100+ per night] over the past five years due to the 2,000 annual top-up. And complimentary coffee and snack due to silver… Not as good as Creation IHG premium – but with that, we have alternated between us, thus receiving the sign-up bonus three times – which for £99 is extremely good value. [20k points plus 20k points on £10k spend plus platinum status].

  7. RussellH says:

    I seem to recall a ‘rule’ that Amex permitted people to have two charge cards and two credit cards. At the time, the PRG Amex was still a charge card – now it is a credit card.
    I currently have a Blue BA Amex and and a PRG Amex. We decided to go on a very expensive holiday early next summer, so to my mind it makes sense to pay at least some of the balance on a new SPG Amex, for the 30 000 points.
    But might Amex balk at giving me a third credit card, especially when the see that I have kept previous SPG cards for no more than 6 months?

    • There has been no such rule like this for years at amex. I have had about 5 or 6 cards in my name at the same time. I was only it with that rule probably over 5 years ago. Also I think SPG was always excluded anyway.

  8. Monkey Business says:

    I’ve just noticed that Creation hasn’t charged my annual fee for my IHG Premium card this year. I’m three months into my second year and no sign of it. Anyone else experienced this?

    Free night credited OK though.

    I also had an situation earlier this year where my bank managed to double charge a payment to the card. I got the money refunded from my bank as they admitted the error. I rang Creation and told them there were two credits on my account, one of which they needed to reverse and send back to my bank. They still haven’t. The bank chased me last week asking if I could speak to Creation again for them, as they weren’t terribly helpful. I have, but I’m not convinced they even understood what I was trying to explain.

    The Premium card is a great product, but I’m not sure Creation’s admin in up to scratch should something go awry.

  9. O/T: I need to call BA to tag on the return leg of a 2-4-1 open-jaw booking next week. Which is the best number to call for this these days? Is it still the US number?

  10. Any hints on when a new Marriott CC will arrive?

    • No, they have gone very quiet.

      • Fingers crossed there will be something by Jan, I need 20k points for a booking in Feb and am hoping to cover it with a signup bonus.

        • Can you use SPG/Gold/Plat Amex intro bonuses instead?

        • No, I’ve been too busy topping up the Avios account. I have the MR points ready to transfer I was just hoping not to.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        I thought they were underwater on the IHG cards as it is…

  11. The Lord says:

    If I update Amex Gold to Platinum today, how long will it take for Hilton Gold to be in place?

    • The first part is on you, it isn’t automatic, you have to ask for it.

      The second part – them actually activating it – is variable and hard to predict. Mine have varied across schemes from 3 days to never.

      • I did it recently and was pretty quick – a few days for Hilton from memory

        • +1, my partner did very recently too and I was surprised to see status update in less than three days.

        • Seems to go much quicker if the Hilton account already exists when you send the request to via platinum

        • It varies. It took a few weeks for me one time and a few days another time.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.