Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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UPDATE – OCTOBER 2020:  This article is now out of date, but don’t worry.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 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:

You may also want to read our ‘Top 10’ series:

What are the top 10 reasons to get American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (Amex Gold)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get American Express Platinum (The Platinum Card)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the American Express Rewards Credit Card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the British Airways American Express (BA Amex)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the HSBC Premier Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the free IHG Rewards Club credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Lufthansa Miles & More Diners Club and Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Mastercard credit card?

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.

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.

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.

Comments (146)

  • fivebobbill says:

    Hi all, some advice please. My wife’s Marriott points balance has about 2 months to run before expiring, could somebody please tell me does spending on her SPG Amex card count as qualifying spend in the new combined Marriott account, and thus reset the clock?
    Thanks you

  • TonTonT3 says:


    Have an upcoming trip to Las Vegas, and will be booked into the Wynn / Encore hotel on company dime. Some questions:

    1) Which is better between Wynn and Encore? I understand they’re attached but mixed reviews in terms of differences.
    2) Is there a way to force a booking into either of them? Which one would you recommend?
    3) I will probably have to book through my company portal, but I have an Amex Platinum, and know there’s the FHR benefits that come with it (but have also read mixed reviews on these
    – upgrades not really happening, etc). Is there anyway I can still reap the benefits of Plat if I don’t book through FHR?



    • Rob mc says:

      I prefer the Wynn. Have stayed at both and feel the Wynn is closer to the strip and the rooms are nicer. There’s not a massive difference between the two as both hotels are connecting.

  • Simon says:

    Re the AMEX business platinum.

    Can I refer myself and will the sign up bonus apply if I already have a personal platinum?


  • Pid says:

    Is the second (AC) card still available on BAPP? If so can you apply online or do you need to call?

  • Simon says:

    Has anyone had their lloyds avios card cancelled yet…?

  • Nigel says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen you mention Barclaycard for foreign use – I recently took out a Card for a long vacation and wanted the best deals on foreign transactions. The card I got is a white card called “Platinum”, there is no annual fee and no foreign transaction charges or foreign cash ATM charges for 22 months. The rates given are the standard interbank(?) rates and are much better than local exchange places. Whilst there are no points/miles to be gained this is definitely my favourite travel credit card at the moment.

    • RTS says:

      Nigel – check out the Halifax Clarity Card. It is a mastercard rather than visa which generally provides better exchange rates. It too is free to use abroad with no FX charge on purchases or cash withdrawals albeit the latter does incur interest charge from the day you withdrawal. This can be circumvented by paying off the card the same day/night.

  • RussellH says:

    Anyone used a Marriott MasterCard (Creation) overseas at an ex-Starwood brand hotel?
    The card gives 4 points /£1 at overseas Marriotts (and the one time I have done this, the exchange rate was not a rip-off, seemed to be very close to spot), so it ought, now, to do so at a Sheraton. But does it, or would I have to argue my case with Creation?

  • Rob mc says:

    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

    • RTS says:

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

      • Alan says:

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

        • Rob mc says:

          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

    • Anna says:

      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.

    • Nick_C says:

      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.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Same 1st no email yet…