UPDATE – OCTOBER 2020: This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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.
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 was new in the last month?
Very little. That’s why this article is tucked away in the third news slot today instead of leading the home page as it usually does!
The major news in September was with Curve Card. This card (which is free – in fact they will pay you £5 for getting one) announced two changes:
Foreign exchange transactions are now free (subject to monthly caps) if made midweek
Your underlying Visa or Mastercard holder can now see when you use the card in an ATM and could charge you a cash advance fee if it wished – although only Tesco Bank is doing so at the moment
You can now use Curve Card to turn ANY Visa or Mastercard into a 0% FX fees card, and you still receive miles and points from that card. Simply pay with Curve, which will recharge the transaction in £ as a purchase to any linked Visa or Mastercard. You can find out more here.
Here are five things which did NOT happen in September:
Not happening #1: No new Marriott Mastercard
The new Creation-issued Marriott Rewards Mastercard was due to launch in August. Nothing has happened and my approaches to people I know at Marriott and Creation have got nowhere.
However, if they simply reopen the old Marriott card – which I still have – to new applicants once again, this is what you will get:
- a Mastercard issued by Creation
- no annual fee
- 1 ‘new scheme’ point per £1 spent
- 10,000 ‘new scheme’ points, worth around £50, as a sign-up bonus
- 2,000 free ‘new scheme’ points annually on your card anniversary
- 10 elite night credits each year
Keep an eye on HFP for news on the launch, but don’t hold your breath.
Not happening #2: Re-opening the Lloyds Avios Rewards Mastercard to new applicants
- the Amex part is going (it will be Mastercard-only)
- the upgrade voucher is going
- the 0% FX fees benefit is going
- the Avios earning rate is improving
The Avios earning rate on the new Mastercard will be:
0.4 Avios per £1 you spend in the UK
0.8 Avios per £1 you spend outside the UK (but with a 3% FX fee)
0.4 Avios per £1 transferred on a balance transfer (this is a new benefit – Lloyds Duo Avios cardholders used to get Avios on balance transfers but Lloyds Avios Rewards cardholders did not)
….. plus a 25% Avios bonus for Club Lloyds current account holders.
Will this card be re-opened to new customers or will it will remain exclusively for legacy cardholders? We don’t know.
Lloyds Bank has set up a special website on the changes and you can find more details here.
Not happening #3: The new Hilton Honors credit card
Hilton is running a few surveys with members as it tries to put together a package for a new UK credit card. There is no time frame for the launch.
Not happening #4: A relaunch of any of the other MBNA credit cards
I had a few chats with industry consultants at the Loyalty Summit conference last month, and there doesn’t seem to be progress on Lufthansa, Etihad, Emirates, United or American relaunching UK credit cards.
There is a real market gap here. After all, the 0.3% interchange fee cap has not stopped aggressive new credit card launches in Europe. There is no-one – literally no-one – interested in stepping into the gap in the UK.
I spoke with someone who was consulting for one of the ex-MBNA airlines and he could not find anyone willing to take them on. I also spoke with someone from a major loyalty programme who had failed to get anyone new to respond to a recent ‘request for proposals’.
With so many fintech companies currently fighting over what may prove to be unfertile ground – with Revolut, Monzo, Starling etc all desperate to provide current accounts for people in their 20s with modest incomes – it is hard to understand why no-one is keen to come into this space.
If you were an ex-MBNA airline cardholder and are looking for:
Not happening #5: Tesco Bank rolling over its sign-up bonus
The offer of 1,000 Tesco Clubcard points (2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles) for taking out a free Tesco Clubcard Mastercard ended in mid September. It has not been rolled over and, knowing Tesco Bank, is not likely to appear again for another year.
What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals for October?
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 offer is a special deal, the Virgin Atlantic cards are new this year 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 / 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 sign-up 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. The application page is here.
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.