What are the top UK credit card sign-up deals by £ value?

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What I thought might be interesting to look at today, in very mercenary terms, would be to rank the best UK travel credit card sign-up bonuses in terms of cold hard cash.

How do I value my miles and points?

The biggest question mark is over the value of the sign-up bonus.

For hotel points, I have used my standard valuations (0.5p per Marriott point, 0.4p per IHG point)

For airline miles, I assume they are worth 1p each.  Of course, for airlines where short-haul redemptions are bad value, a small amount of miles can be effectively worthless. In some programmes, you would need to already have a decent balance to get full value from the bonus miles.

I have valued American Express Membership Rewards points at 1p since they transfer 1:1 into airline miles and I am valuing those at 1p

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

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.

It is important to remember that annual fees on American Express cards are refundable pro-rata if you cancel.  Cancel a card after three months, for example, and 75% of the fee will be refunded.  You will keep any sign-up bonus you have earned.

(EDIT: this article was updated on 1st July 2019 and all of the information was correct as of that date.)

Bring on the winners!

OK … here we go! Remember that full details on all the cards can be found on our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

GOLD!  £400 of value – HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

40,000 Avios or other airline miles (£400 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) when you spend £12,000 in your first year.  £195 fee and you need to pay for the second year in order to receive the bonus.  Note that HSBC Premier has strict eligibility criteria and most people will not qualify.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

GOLD!  £300 of value – The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £300 as gets you 30,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) when you spend £2,000 in three months.  £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

Most importantly, though, you will retain your Marriott Bonvoy Gold card, Radisson Rewards Gold card, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Jade and Hilton Honors Gold cards for a full 12 months, even if you cancel.  This adds substantial extra value to the package.

American Express Platinum

SILVER!  £250 of value – British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios points (£250 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) when you spend £3,000 in three months.  £195 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

BRONZE!  £150 of value – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard 

15,000 miles (£150 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.  The 15,000 miles post with your first purchase.  £160 fee. Representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

BRONZE!  £150 of value – Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

30,000 points (valued at £150 as I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.5p each) when you spend £1,000 in three months.  £75 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  Representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

BRONZE!  £100 of value – Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard

10,000 miles (£100 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.  This is a special offer until 31st July 2019 at which point it will drop back to 5,000 miles.  Bonus posts with your first purchase.  £79 fee.

BRONZE!  £100 of value – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

10,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £100 if turned into 10,000 Avios or other airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) when you spend £3,000 in three months.  No fee in the first year, £140 thereafter, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  £3,000 spend in 3 months required.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

£80 of value – IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard 

20,000 IHG Rewards Club points (valued at £80 as I value an IHG point at 0.4p) when you spend £200 in 90 days.  £99 fee. Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

£50 of value – Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.  The 5,000 miles post with your first purchase.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£50 of value – Amex Rewards Credit Card

Up to 5,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £50 as gets you 5,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved).  There are three different versions of this card as this article explains – you only receive 5,000 points with the version here which requires £2,000 of spending within 90 days and has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.  No annual fee.

£50 of value – British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus when you spend £1,000 within 3 months required.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£40 of value – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 

10,000 IHG Rewards Club points (valued at £40 as I value an IHG point at 0.4p) when you spend £200 in 90 days.  No fee.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

The HSBC Premier card and Tesco Clubcard Mastercard currently have no bonus.

Summary

If there is anything to learn from this bit of fun, it is this:

If you and your partner took out the best 3 credit cards each, you could get over £1,900 of value from the sign-up bonuses between you based on my valuation model. That is certainly nothing to be sniffed at!

Do not underestimate the value of the hotel cards. Whilst a small number of airline miles has little value, a small number of hotel points can get you one night somewhere, and one night is often all you need.

(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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Comments

  1. Frenske says:

    If there is one thing that AmEx probably hates more than churners are churners who cancel their cards within 3 months. If enough people start doing this theyll change this too e.g. paying bonuses at end of year.

    • Nick_C says:

      The logical thing for Amex to do next is to stop giving pro rata refunds to people cancelling the cards.

      I’m surprised by this article TBH

      • Yes Nick I am also surprised that this Website does not even take into consideration that this is the Easter Holidays and still it is running how to scam American Express & other Companies , on churning, and bed runs , no escuse for spoling the Holidays with this nonsense .

        • I suspect most people don’t give two hoots about Easter other than their chocolate eggs and a 4 day weekend.

        • An atheist says:

          Too right Gavin! You nailed that!

        • Nope it’s a wake up call for those who’ve never worked in banking or finance. This is how it works. Product developer’s design financial products on how much they can make off Joe Blogs, how much can they get away with charging Joe Blogs, how long can they keep Joe Blogs on their books? Some Joe Blog’s also worked in the banking and finance sector and are doing the same thing in return; how many points can they make off this product, how much of the fee can they reclaim if they cancel early whilst still getting the same result and how many offers can they participate in and still keep in profit. The vast majority of credit card users haven’t got a clue how the system works and it’s them, the soft targets that credit card companies are fighting over. Not us. Sometime I think people outside the banking and finance world have a rather romantic and benevolent view of the true nature of credit cards.

        • Alex W says:

          You don’t need to work in banking to understand how to maximise the points and interest free deals from a credit card and minimise the cost to yourself. There is a whole world of intelligent people outside the square mile.

      • That would require Amex to make a global change to its accounting policies.

        We run this article every year.

    • The deluded churners believe Amex wants them to churn away….
      The recent changes are nothing to do with them… Hahaha

      • Genghis says:

        A lesson in behavioural economics wouldn’t go amiss. Amex are setting the rules so are able to affect behaviour.

    • Doug M says:

      A lot of thoughts here, none backed by any real evidence. Amex have so many spokespeople here in the comments.

    • Mr Dee says:

      The amex churning times are clearly already over, 3 cards every 2 years is not even worth spending too time thinking about.

      • … per person. It is still over 160k Avios per couple every two years (11k Avios via SPG, 26k via BAPP, 35k via Platinum, all doubled, with cross referral bonuses on top) which is not – in any reasonable sense – a bad deal, except when considered against what we’ve had in recent years. You’d also have points from spending on top.

  2. Great update

    Does holding personal versions stop bonuses on business versions ie the gold card?

    Also can you get multiple sign ups per director?

    And finally if you own more than one company can you get the bonus more than once?

    Thanks

  3. Morning all,

    Does anyone know if there are any rules on how long you need to wait to receive the welcome bonus on an IHG Platinum Card? I have had the free card ticking over for passed few years but wondering if should close it for [maybe] 6-months and then open the Plat Card for the welcome bonus and free night voucher when spend £10k.

    I’m looking for new targets, now all my Amex shenanigans have been blown out the water.

    • The 2 IHG cards are fine to hold at the same time and get the bonus on each. No need to cancel for 6 months

      • Agreed, but the earning rate on the paid card is much higher and potential free night so no point in keeping free card as well.

        • +1
          Anyone knows what the cooldown period is for IHG plat card? I had closed it prior to the amex rule change but has become more attractive now (particularly if you can get the welcome bonus again)

          • No published rule. They probably think it is ‘never’ but in reality a gap of two years or so always worked out on the old MBNA airline cards.

  4. Nick_C says:

    To really max out the value of these cards though, you should (1) get someone to refer you for a higher sign up bonus and (2) add a supplementary card once you receive your own card. This pushes the points on the PRGC from 10k to 15k for example.

    And I would be a lot happier getting PRGC and holding it for a year than cancelling cards after 3 months.

  5. No mention of the capitalontap card?

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Probably because for a £250 fee you get 20k Avios so the signup bonus does not even cover the fee. Still interested to read any reports whether it works with HMRC though…

    • Not on a Bank Holiday when we have no readers!

  6. Simonbr says:

    Slightly OT: Am I correct that club Accor points cannot be earned except by staying at their hotels, booked direct? No credit card for example?

  7. OT but Amex Platinum related hence putting it here: We have just returned from the Maldives where my husband and son got quite ill at the end. I know the island doctor fees will be covered by Platinum but on return, I would like them to be seen by the Hospital of Tropical Diseases in London. My question is whether Amex would cover the cost of taxis to and back as I think it would be around £70-£100 each way. They are in no position to go by Tube and I can’t drive into London. Do I contact Amex insurance as am not sure if medical insurance is covered when back in the UK. Please advise.

    • Peter K says:

      The best thing to do would be to ring them direct. Any advice given here, even if personal experience, may not apply in your case. On an important matter like this you need to get it in writing (or name and time and date of person on the phone) from the horses mouth.

    • You can phone them but I think it pretty unlikely they would cover it. Would be more the case of seeing your GP and they could refer on to local ID unit or that hospital if they felt it was required.

    • I doubt it. Your trip is over.

    • Lady London says:

      Sorry to hear about this. Just wondering how do you think they got infected there? Especially as you didn’t?

      • They got ill while on the island. It could just be a viral but could also be dengue/zika as you are at risk while there. I didn’t get it as dengue/zika are via a mosquito bite and not person to person. Will get them checked just in case.

    • Almost certainly not – the insurance does not cover your ‘country of residence’, and I doubt you’d get them to covers transport where it has not been pre-approved as medically necessary.

      That said, you could use your £25 wheely amex discount on the taxi rides – feel free to use my 20% off W56DY for Wheely as well.

  8. Lay flat sleeper says:

    Just to clarify, you wouldn’t get any bonus points if you open a ba or gold card, when you hold the basic Amex card which earns NO points ??

    I was thinking of applying for the basic card for the shop small promos.

    • You can get the paid BA card because that only looks at other BA cards.

      You are disqualified from everything else except Platinum, which would only be disqualified if the basic card earns MR points.

  9. I honestly didn’t know that Amex issues pro-rata refunds on all Amex cards. I thought it was just the platinum… pretty sure I’ve never had a refund when cancelling BAPP before

  10. Pretty sad if people want to get a credit mark for the sake of £50 or £100.

    Surely the idea of a fee is a payment towards the benefits received.

    Would much rather you concentrate on the value of each rather than a sad grab at £50 or even a £100. This is barely a meal out these days for a couple.

    • Peter K says:

      Two things:
      1) Whom would you rather have pay for your meal, yourself or someone else?
      2) it’s not “just” e.g. £100 on the gold, it is £10000 worth of spend on the card for only spending £3000. This then frees up £7000.

    • Genghis says:

      Maybe I’m sad but I’d do a credit card sign up for £100. I’ve said it before but this is my min. £100 is £100, a few hours work after tax. Credit records if not abused don’t worry me in the slightest.

      • Doug M says:

        For £100 absolutely. If credit card companies don’t want this behaviour they cab change the rules.

    • Bonglim says:

      It is worth noting that Amex do not credit search for every application. It seems to be quite random when they do a search for someone with a current / recent Amex account.

      You should look after your own circumstances though. E.g I took a break in the run up to renewing my mortgage – which is just common sense.

  11. Andrew says:

    How do referrals work for the small business cards? Can a personal cardholder refer you? Failing that, can you Rob?

    • Personal can refer, I can also send you a direct link.

      • Andrew says:

        Thanks, Rob, What are the referral rates? I can’t see them online anywhere. Or are they just the same as any other referral, given that is now set by which card you have, rather than which you are referring. Is there a higher bonus if referred?

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