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What are the best credit card bonuses for LONG TERM spending?

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Many of the credit card articles on Head for Points are focused on sign-up bonuses.  Get a card, spend the minimum required to trigger the bonus and potentially move on.

However, if you are a high to medium spender, the few thousand pounds of card spend required each year to hit your sign-up bonus targets is not a stretch.  You need to consider where to put the rest of your annual spend.

All of these cards carry a 3% foreign exchange fee when used abroad.  If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  This card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

What are the best UK credit and charge card bonuses for long term spending?

Many issuers offer incentives for spending £10,000+ per year on their cards.  The value of these perks is often underestimated – they are often worth far more than the points for your normal spend.

In order of value, lets take a look at what is out there.  This analysis ignores the value of any sign-up bonus or ‘first year free’ deal – I am looking for the best long-term solution.

Excluding the Virgin credit cards, the results summary is, based on spending just enough to trigger the relevant long-term bonus:

  • British Airways American Express Premium Plus – 10.1% back on first £10,000
  • British Airways American Express (free version) – 6.1% back on first £20,000
  • IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – 2.3% back on first £10,000
  • Generic cashback Visa or Mastercard – 0.5% back, usually in vouchers

Your return on the free Virgin Money Reward card varies by status:

  • Base Virgin Flying Club member – up to 2.4% on first £20,000
  • Silver Virgin Flying Club member – up to 3.4% on first £20,000
  • Gold Virgin Flying Club member – up to 6.4% on first £20,000

Your return on the £160 Virgin Money Reward+ card also varies by status:

  • Base Virgin Flying Club member – up to 3.3% on first £10,000
  • Silver Virgin Flying Club member – up to 5.1% on first £10,000
  • Gold Virgin Flying Club member – up to 11.4% on first £10,000

I will explain the basis of my calculations below.  The BA and Virgin calculations are based on using the 241 voucher for San Francisco or a flight of similar length.

Our base comparison –  The John Lewis / Waitrose Partnership Card or similar

This is typical of the best free Visa or Mastercard cashback cards currently available, giving you 0.5% of your general spending back in the form of shopping vouchers.

Representative APR 18.9% variable.

The winner British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

This is not exactly a surprise.  Spend £10,000 on this card and you get a voucher which gives you two Avios redemption tickets (on BA planes, ex-UK only) for the miles of one.  On an average redemption (2 Club World tickets to San Francisco on a peak day), this saves you 150,000 Avios points!

Based on my very conservative 0.75p per Avios point valuation, the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ £1,100.  You also earn 15,000 Avios for spending £10,000 (worth £110 assuming 0.75p per Avios) with an annual fee of £195.  The net benefit for spending £10,000 = £1,015 (£1,100 + £110 – £195) or 10.1% of spend.

Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

BA Amex - NEW

Runner-upBritish Airways American Express card

The standard, free, British Airways Amex gives you a 2-4-1 voucher when you spend £20,000, and a lower 1 mile per £1 on your spending.  Using the same maths as above, £20,000 of spend gets you £1,100 of 2-4-1 benefit plus 20,000 Avios for your £20,000 of spending, worth £150.  There is no fee.  The net benefit for spending £20,000 = £1,250 or 6.1% of spend.

However, if you plan to earn the 2-4-1, the British Airways Premium Plus Amex is more attractive.  The card has a higher earnings rate and the 2-4-1 voucher lasts for two years instead of one.

Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Honourable mention, airline category Virgin Money Reward Mastercard 

The new Virgin credit cards are very hard to value because you have a choice of rewards which are determined by your Virgin Flying Club status.

Spend £20,000 on this card and you can get:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Economy (base members), Premium (Silver members) or Upper Class (Gold members) or

A return upgrade to Premium when you book an Economy reward flight (requires reward availability in Premium)

Let’s assume you use the 2-4-1 voucher to fly to San Francisco on a peak day.  A base member redeeming in Economy will save 50,000 miles; a Silver member redeeming in Premium will save 75,000 miles and a Gold member redeeming in Upper Class will save 155,000 miles.

Someone using the upgrade voucher to redeem in Premium rather than Economy will save 25,000 miles.

Based on my very conservative 0.75p per Virgin Flying Club mile valuation, the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ between £375 and £1162.  The upgrade voucher would be worth £187.50.  You would also earn 15,000 miles for spending £20,000, valued at £112.50. The card itself is free.

The low end valuation is a base member using the upgrade voucher: £187.50 value from the voucher plus £112.50 of value from miles earned, total £300 back on £20,000 of spending.  This is a return of 1.5%.

The high end valuation is a Gold member using the 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class, assuming a flight to San Francisco:  £1162 value from the voucher plus £112.50 of value from miles earned, total £1273 back on £20,000 of spending.  This is a return of 6.4%.

Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Virgin Reward Plus credit card

Honourable mention, airline category Virgin Money Reward+ Mastercard 

This card is equally hard to value.  Spend £10,000 on this card, which has a £160 fee, and you can get:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Economy (base members), Premium (Silver members) or Upper Class (Gold members) or

A return upgrade to Premium when you book an Economy reward flight (requires reward availability in Premium)

The maths is the same as with my analysis of the free card.  With a 2-4-1 to San Francisco on a peak day, a base member redeeming in Economy will save 50,000 miles; a Silver member redeeming in Premium will save 75,000 miles and a Gold member redeeming in Upper Class will save 155,000 miles.

Someone using the upgrade voucher to redeem in Premium rather than Economy will save 25,000 miles.

Based on my very conservative 0.75p per Virgin Flying Club mile valuation, the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ between £375 and £1162.  The upgrade voucher would be worth £187.50.  You would also 15,000 miles for spending £10,000, valued at £112.50. The card has a £160 annual fee.

The low end valuation is a base member using the upgrade voucher: £187.50 value from the voucher plus £112.50 of value from miles earned, total £300 back on £10,000 of spending, less the £160 fee.

The high end valuation is a Gold member using the 2-4-1 voucher for Upper Class, assuming a flight to San Francisco:  £1162 value from the voucher plus £112.50 of value from miles earned, total £1274 back on £10,000 of spending, less the £160 fee.

This means the net benefit for spending £10,000 = between £140 and £1114, or 1.4% to 11.1% of spend.

Representative APR 63.9% variable including £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.  Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

Honourable mention, hotel categoryIHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

The premium version of the IHG Rewards Club card gives you a voucher when you spend £10,000 for a free night in ANY IHG Rewards Club property.  I am assuming you use this somewhere expensive, such as the InterContinental in London, Paris, Hong Kong, New York etc for a £250 room.

In addition, you would have earned 20,000 points from your £10,000 of spend which I value at £80.  The card fee is £99.  The net benefit for spending £10,000 = £231 or 2.3% of spend.

Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

I also considered the value of the long-term spend bonuses on these other cards, but dismissed them as poor value:

Starwood American Express – upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for spending £15,000 and a free night voucher for spending £25,000.  Marriott Bonvoy Gold has only modest benefits and is often available for free, eg as an Amex Platinum benefit.  The free night is valid only at hotels costing up to 25,000 points, which limits its use considerably, and the value of such a free night (generally around £100) is a small reward for such substantial expenditure.  The card has a £75 fee.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £15,000, paid when you next renew.  I would value the 10,000 points at £75 (assuming you transfer to airline miles and achieve 0.75p of value).  You also receive two additional Lounge Club vouchers with each renewal.  Given the £140 annual fee after the first year, your net return is low.

I also feel that the Lufthansa Miles & More Diners Club and Mastercard package deserves a mention.  Whilst there is no long-term spend bonus, the day-to-day earning rate of 1.25 miles per £1 is very strong.  You need to be a high spender to maximise value due to the £79 annual fee, although the 10,000 mile sign-up bonus offsets much of it in the first year.

I am happy to hear arguments for and against my views here – many of these rewards are subjectively valued, dependant on your travel patterns.

(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.)

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Comments

  1. Folks, have AMEX pulled offering some of their OTHER Cards via Platinum referral link?

    Just followed a referral link and it does not show the SPG Amex or the BA??

    • Sincerely hope not, just about to do referrals for both from our Plat!

      • still there for me, try chrome. They there cards don’t show for me on safari.

      • I was on chrome, will try another browser or tomorrow… Maybe they can limit cards offered via a specific referral link??

        • Post the link and I’ll report which cards I can see

        • Worth trying different browsers, private mode, different moon cycles lol – it does seem to come and go a bit with Amex!

          I’m still on a rest phase with them while my credit score picks up, did have quite a few new card apps (not just Amex) at the end of the year and then a few 0% (like MBNA Horizon) that are still fairly heavily utilised for now.

    • From Plat I can still reffer to BAPP and SPG over here

  2. OT: IHG Pointbreaks is live, just booked IC Pattaya.

    • Have you got the link – I can’t find it

      • Got it

      • just search IHG pointbreaks, use mobile views for best results.

      • https://www.ihg.com/rewardsclub/content/us/en/redeem-rewards/pointbreaks

        Not a very long list is it! Unless you live in the states of course.

        • We are doing a month long road trip using 10 IHG properties over 8 states and this list is useless for us! Been successful a couple of times in the past. Our trip goes through to mid June so will check again next time to see if any work out. Could have used the South Dakota one but we are there in June and not May! List is definitely much shorter this time.

        • How many States have you clocked up now Liz?

        • Been to 29 so far – going to 7 new states this year plus Arizona again. Planning on Hawaii, Washington State and Oregon next year.

        • Niagara on the Lake is a good place to go: near the falls but avoids the tackiness
          http://www.ihg.com/rewardsclub/hotels/redirect?path=hd&city=NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE&hotelCode=XLVNF&rateCode=IVANI

        • Good going, what are you going to do about Alaska, combine with Western Canada? I really liked Oregon.

        • @BJ Yes. Was planning on doing an inside passage cruise to Alaska and back to Vancouver but after seeing Michael Portillo recently in Alaska we think we will do a one way cruise to Alaska and do a bit of a road trip then fly back to Vancouver for a road trip out to Banff and Jasper – possibly 2021.

        • @Liz, if you are in Vancouver at right time of year don’t miss the opportunity to go to Steveston and go whale watching. It was one of my best travel experiences ever. If you do, don’t opt for the speed boat, regular boats are much more comfortable and room to move around easily.

        • Will take note! Hoping to go whale watching next year round San Juan islands.

        • We are flying out to Vancouver on 7 May (points in F of course) and crossing on an extended Rocky Mountaineer package including Chateau Lake Louise, Banff Springs and a helicopter flight across Rockies.
          If we went on an Alaska cruise again, I would go all the way to Anchorage and fly back or vice versa.

    • Gross LOL. Cancel it and go for Bangkok Indigo Wireless Road.

      Only 3 UK hotels, all 15k. HIX Inverness and Hammersmith, and the previously flagged Manchester Oxford Road.

  3. What happened to HI Ipswich? It was there this morning @ 10,000 points and it’s disappeared now!

  4. Is there any way to increase the return off the IHG card? Can I perhaps stack the free night voucher with another one earned off my partner’s card? Or does IHG offer something like a ‘pay for 4, stay 5 nights’ arrangement like other chains?

    • We are planning to use our two vouchers for consecutive nights, but IHG scheme is very poor compared with Hilton and Marriott with no 5 for 4 or breakfast.

  5. I’ve had the Gold Amex for just over a year. My anniversary date was 30th Jan…. I intended to cancel it as I didn’t want to pay the fee for the second year but didn’t get round to it (ok I forgot!) I’ve just checked my statement and I haven’t been charged anything yet. Have they abolished the fee, have I got lucky, or is the fee likely to appear any day now?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      No they haven’t, it’ll appear when your statement for this month is produced. If you call and canx, you won’t be charged.

      If you call even after the statement is produced, it’ll be refunded pro-rata, and if you haven’t used the card since that statement was produced, they should be able to refund it in full.

      • The charge appeared this morning! Just transferred my points out and will be calling to cancel later.

  6. michelle says:

    My partner signed up for the AMEX BA Premium Plus in Oct.. we hit the £10k last month and have received the voucher. I signed up in Feb and I’ve only got £3k left to spend till I hit £10k so will expect the voucher very soon shortly to.. but now.. what should we do next? I’m thinking of slowing down my card so we don’t hit it as quickly so our vouchers don’t have similar expiry dates. I had the AMEX Gold prior to the AMEX BA and received the sign up off but won’t be hitting the 10k membership bonus as I’ll need to spend another £11k by July..

    We’ll both need to cancel our BA cards and wait 6 months before we do another round of spending for vouchers.. should I go on to the AMEX Gold next? If not.. suggestions?

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