What are the best credit card sign-up deals for January? – plus news round-up and a look ahead

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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 and charge 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 December and early January?

HSBC launched a sign-up bonus for its HSBC Premier Mastercard

This week HSBC launched a 10,000 point sign-up bonus for its free HSBC Premier credit card.

This is worth 5,000 Avios.  You could also credit it to Asia Miles, Singapore KrisFlyer or Etihad Guest.  The deal runs to 2nd March.

The snag is that you need to have a HSBC Premier current account to get the HSBC Premier credit card.  Full details of the tough eligibility criteria are in our article here.  The upside is that you have a free Mastercard earning 0.5 miles for every £1 you spend.

HSBC Premier credit card Avios sign-up bonus

You have three weeks to get a sign-up bonus on the free Tesco credit card

Until 31st January, you will receive 1,000 Tesco Clubcard points if you apply for this version of the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard.  This converts into 2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles.

Whilst there are many different versions of this card – different interest rates, balance transfer periods, interest free periods etc – you only get the bonus via the one I link to above.

My full review of the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard is here.

The sign-up bonus dropped on the Miles & More Diners Club / Mastercard

The bonus on the new £79 Lufthansa Miles & More Diners Club and Mastercard charge card package dropped to 5,000 miles on 1st January.

This will be the long-term bonus.  The 10,000 points offered in 2018 was only designed an incentive to promote its launch.  I now have this card and, whilst it is odd, it is working OK.  You can find more thoughts about the Miles & More Diners Club card in this article.

Lufthansa Miles and More Diners Club charge card

American Express launched a 30,000 point bonus on the DOLLAR / EURO versions of the Platinum card

For the first time in a while, Amex is running a sign-up bonus on its Dollar and Euro Platinum charge cards – 30,000 Membership Rewards points to be precise.

The good news is that you can get this bonus even if you already have a UK Platinum or Gold card.  The bad news is that this is a complicated product with poorer transfer rates to most airline schemes than the UK cards.  I wrote about the pros, cons and sweet spots in this article.

If you missed it, I also published an article this week on ‘Which low interest rate credit cards also earn miles and points?‘.

What can we expect from the travel credit card market in 2019?

2018 was, to be honest, a more positive year than I expected.  Both Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa Miles & More returned to the market with non-Amex products, and both were generous:

Here are two things I know will happen in 2019:

  • An attractive new SME card is coming to the market soon
  • Curve will move its Amex acceptance out of beta mode, allowing all of us to recharge Visa and Mastercard purchases to most American Express cards

Here are some questions I can’t answer at the moment:

Will the new version of the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card being rolled out to existing customers be re-opened to everyone?

Will the new version of the Tesco Premium credit card being rolled out to existing customers be re-opened to everyone?

Will Hilton find a new issuer for their Hilton Honors card?

Will Creation ever get around to putting the Marriott Rewards card back on the market?

What will happen to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card, given that the Starwood brand disappears in March?

Will we see major changes to the co-brand American Express cards (BA, Nectar, Starwood, Harrods, Costco) now that they have had their retailer fees capped?

Will we will see more aggressive action from American Express to persuade people to move from its co-brand cards to Gold or Platinum, which have not had their retailer fees capped?

Will Flybe, Etihad, Emirates, American or United find a way back into the UK credit card market?

And, more of a wish than anything else as I am 99% sure it won’t happen, will Hyatt ever sign up as an American Express Membership Rewards partner?  (It would make sense, for Europe only, as I doubt Hyatt will ever launch its own co-brand card here.  There would be no cannibalisation.)

I will keep you up to date with the answers to these questions as I get them!  In the meantime:

What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals for January?

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.

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.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Amex Gold

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

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.

Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ Mastercard

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.  The bonus triggers with your first purchase.

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.

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  1. Applied for an SPG amex on 1st Jan and got the usual 10 days wait.. Still haven’t heard anything. I hold the amex platinum currently and have for a year.

    Anyone else in a similar position re waiting time? Normally they send the card within 5 days even after getting the 10 day wait message

    • I am in the same boat except I did mine on 2nd.

      • Similar for my Gold Card application and I currently hold 2 AMEX cards

        • Just checked and I’ve received the referral points so it should be on its way. Still slow. Perhaps they got a lot of applications on Jan 1st

    • I called Amex yesterday about my gold application from Jan 1st, they said the card is in the post. Referral points not arrived yet though.

    • I applied on Sunday 6th. Instant approval. Card arrived this morning. Referral bonus received. But I can’t add the bloody thing to either of my online Amex accounts. Phoned and got the polite but useless overseas call centre (where are they?) who said they would email someone to get it linked.

    • Same 1st no email yet…

  2. Nigel Williams says:

    OT – I was just about to build a card churning spreadsheet, and realised that there is no point re-inventing the wheel. However a lot of the samples online are US focused.

    Does anyone here have a UK focused version before I build one?

    • Genghis says:


      • BlueHorizonuk says:

        I think the question should have been ‘Does anyone here have a UK focused version they want to share before I build one’, to which @Genshis would have said NO


    • Not sure why you need a churning spreadsheet?

      But then I record all my financial transactions in a single workbook anyway, and enter the account opening and closing dates there.

  3. I have an Amex Business Platinum and Amex Pref Reward Gold Charge Card. Does anyone know if I would get the 20k bonus if I upgraded the Gold Charge to Platinum?

    I have separate Amex online accounts for each but the points earned on the Gold post to my Business Plat MR account so they know both cards are me. I was told before applying for the Gold Card that I would get the bonus but that wasn’t the case so would like to get some points out of it before cancelling.

  4. Scottydogg says:

    If i book Avios reward flights on an Aer Lingus flight , (the flight is just withing the UK)
    Does it come with 20k baggage included ? or is this going to be extra

  5. Should we get the amex SPG card just in case it gets pulled without notice?

  6. Are there are referral bonuses running for the IHG Premium Card? Similarly, I’m not yet an IHG Rewards Club member so interested in any referral bonuses for joining. Thanks

  7. Scam email alert to watch out for.
    Just received an email supposedly from Amex, professional looking template but with a Delta skymiles Amex in the picture. Spelling mistakes and a non amex email address used.

  8. OT Question re HSBC Premier WE:
    Terms say the wait for the sign-up bonus is if you haven’t had a World Elite card in the last six months. So does that mean one would be eligible if they are past this period but hold the “standard” Premier credit card?

  9. When do referral bonus cap on the platinum amex reset? Is it on the anniversary of the application or Jan 1st each year?

  10. OTish,

    I know that there are no points cards available with 0% fx transaction fees, but which cards are more popular Barclaycard or Halifax Clarity?

  11. Clarity been around longer but Barclaycard looks a slightly better deal
    Note that you cant get the Barclaycard 0% FX card if you hold another Barclaycard

  12. I’m pretty new to all this. I have the Amex Gold card and also the BA card for 2-4-1 when I spend £10K. Why is it that sometimes when booking flights I get charged a surcharge when using these cards and sometimes I don’t? BA have sometimes charged me, same with Qantas. It just seems to be pot luck!

    • What surcharges do you mean? There shouldn’t be any surcharges for using Amex since last January, unless it’s a corporate Amex. But Qantas can have surcharges for bookings made in Australia.

      • Just booked with Qantas and had to pay extra £5.47 for using the Amex Gold card which they told me was Corporate but it’s in my name. I also thought there should not be any surcharges. I also booked car rental with BA and just paid, again using my Amex Gold card and had to pay extra 1.57 or something. Again they told me it was corporate when I put my details in, even though I clicked the Amex non corporate bit.

        • Sorry, John, I meant to add that Qantas I can understand although I know I didn’t get charged extra on their site once before. But BA have done this to me a few times. Odd.

        • Sometimes on BA, I click personal Amex, then when you proceed, it flicks back to Business Amex, and adds a surcharge. Then you have to re-select “personal amex” from the drop down. Then there is no charge.

      • Has Amex sent you an Amex Business Gold by mistake?!

        • HI Rob – I’m just going to ring them now, but no, I am pretty sure it’s not. I also just checked the car rental payment I made to BA and it was actually £5.47 that they charged me for using the card as a ‘credit card surcharge’. I’m just sitting on ‘hold’!

        • to update… AMEX said no, it’s not a corporate card so now I have to contact BA to discuss. Thanks for you help John and Rob 🙂

        • Curious to know, wouldn’t Amex Business have a separate BIN range (first 6 numbers on card) ?

        • Scallder says:

          I got charged using a personal Amex on KLM back in November. I had a look into this and it seems only the UK has extended the card surcharge ban to Amex for products purchased in this country – other countries in Europe haven’t. It seems that by buying a ticket through KLM is was purchased online with a Dutch company based there, so they can charge for it… 🙁 Guessing the same will apply for Qantas

  13. Curve needs to increase the limits before I can make any use of the Amex option

  14. Just signed up for the Premier World Elite but didn’t realise there was also a bonus offer on the regular card. Is it possible for me to also sign up to the free card and get that bonus too?

  15. My wife has this morning received an email from the BA Exec club with an offer of 10000 Avios for the free BA AMEX card if she applies before the end of January.

    • Scallder says:

      But you won’t get any referral points, so still likely better for you to refer her if you can

      • Only have Amex Gold charge card. Don’t think I’m entitled to any referrals.

        • I thought those cards got 9k per referral? Worth checking your online account to see!

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