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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 November 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.  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 – 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. 

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

10,000 miles (£100 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.  Bonus posts with your first purchase.  £79 fee.

£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.  Miles post with your first purchase.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable. 

£50 of value – Amex Rewards Credit Card

5,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £50 as it gets you 5,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) bonus when you spend £2,000 within 90 days. No annual fee. Representative APR 22.9% variable.

£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.  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.


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.

Top 10 reasons to get the IHG Rewards Club Premium credit card
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  1. I am not sure about that the new Plat Amex T and Cs will permit retaining Hotel status after cancelling the cards. The following is an extract from the T and Cs from my new (this month) Plat Amex. I usually (used to), sign up, cancell after one month/6 weeks and then churn every 6/8 months or so to get to the sign up bonus and referal bonuses in order to generate the MR/AVIOS for my annual J/F holiday flight and also to renew my hotel status.

    Hilton. You maintain Gold status without meeting otherwise required criteria only while an eligible cardholder.

    Shangri-La. American Express reserves the right to instruct Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to cancel your membership if you cease to be a Platinum Cardmember or if your Account is not in good standing.

    Radisson Rewards. American Express reserves the right to instruct Radisson Rewards to cancel your membership if you cease to be a Centurion member or Platinum Cardmember or your Account is not in good standing..

    • Obviously you were only playing the game with Amex so no criticism intended – but when you set out your previous churning pattern so baldly it’s no surprise Amex has called time.

    • No feedback yet on this happening.

  2. Can someone tell how are IHG behaving with Curve?

    Any extra fees on using ATM or business

    • ATM or Business Serices on Curve?

    • Jonathan says:

      I couldn’t recently top up my Skipton LISA with my Curve and IHG card. Had to use the Virgin card instead but no fees there either.

      Used curve with IHG numerous times for HMRC no problem and no fees.

  3. Any data points on how long to wait before upgrading green charge to platinum charge? for 20k bonus?

    • I can confirm it works after 3 months (ie after the green fee has been charged, if that’s what you’re angling at… 😉 20k point bonus added, green fee refunded. Awaiting first statement for plat fee

    • Markus says:

      I requested on the day I received the card and it went through fine

  4. Bit of a niche question, but I had a TSB Amex which I got before becoming aware of this site and kept until it was discontinued about a year ago. Does this also count as a”personal American Express card” for the purposes of the Amex sign up bonus? The card was issued after the Lloyds/TSB split.

  5. O/T not sure if mentioned already, amex offers: £10 off £60 spend at Asos

  6. Is there any type of referral bonus to the IHG card?

  7. Is the UK version of the Premier World Elite metal as well, or is it just for the American ones?

  8. Lost+confused says:

    Re Amex discount code with Amazon. I’m trying to use my partners card (the 1st sup on my account). When I try and enrol her card for Shop with Points on Amazon it says that American Express® reports that you do not have a Membership Rewards® account. Technically I guess this is true as it’s my membership rewards account (which I’ve already added for my card on the same amazon account).
    Am I missing something?

    • Peter K says:

      Supps don’t count for this. The main card can be used for multiple Amazon accounts however.

  9. A quick question as its about cards and no bits though it would fit here. Had platinum but not travelling much this year, and was going to close to reset the 24 month clock. They offered me 1years free gold no sign up bonus but all other features. The account has now loaded in the my amex and it says “he Preferred Rewards Gold Card”, would this be the old style charge card, and not the gold credit card? If it is, can I get the upgrade bonus to platinum again? TIA

    • Waddle says:

      A way to check would be see if it has a credit limit or “check spending power”. Credit card for the former, charge card for the latter.

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      It seems to me you’re worse off than if you’d just stuck to your original plan of cancelling.

      No sign up bonus, and free for the first year you could have anyway just by applying…and your 24 month clock has not been reset because you still have an MR card.

      Am I missing something as to why this was a worthwhile move?

      • Just checked and have the spending power button on the account so seems like I got the charge card. Now the benefit I see in this is after I have triggered the bonus for spending £15k i should be able to uprgade using the linkes to plantium and get that sign up bonus or am I missing something. That way I did not have to wait 2 years again.

        • On the assumption that the upgrade link is still available in a years time.

  10. Waddle says:

    Anyone know how long the SPG card has left before it is withdrawn? Will we be given notice?

    • When is it going? When is the Creation Marriott Mastercard returning?!

    • Mr Dee says:

      Notice from Amex…. haha

    • Not noticed this until recently when taking up the SPG card again, on the SPG card landing page it says:

      ….You will receive 6 points from American Express for each £1 of eligible spend at participating SPG and Marriott properties made between 15 November 2016 and ***31 December 2019***…

      Was this dates always there since 2016 if so would assume this covers the current contact period, or perhaps its come in place recently signalling the expected end date of contract or transition into lower earning rate

  11. OT – Supposed to travel last minute to the US tomorrow and I don’t have an ESTA. Can anyone who has applied for one recently tell me how long approval took?

    • Jill. (kinkell) says:

      Literally a couple of hours first time. Then a few minutes second time for us .

    • Of you don’t get an instant decision log out and back in last it was approved in minutes

      • Apparently no more instant approvals since the end of last year – anyone with any experience in the last 3 months?

        • In early Feb got an approval within less than a day. Applied afternoon, got approved overnight.

        • Approved in more than 3 but less than 6 hours. Didn’t get an email but checked the ESTA website which said approved.

    • Froggee says:

      I thought the rule was now that you had to apply at least 72 hours before travel. You might wish to check this.

      • Froggee says:

        I now get the question – sorry for being oblique. It was about two hours for my family a couple of months back i.e. after they brought the changes in, I was getting nervous compared to previous applications

      • I think they recommend applying 72 hours beforehand not an actual rule

    • Lady London says:

      It’s now officially 72 ahead ahead that one is supposed to apply.

      It used to be either immediately or within 2 hours give or take – but I’m not sure that they won’t have adjusted the software to not accept you any more if your travel date is -72 hours ahead, or not.

    • Doug M says:

      Not the ESTA approval, it’s the time to exchange data with the airline.

      • Lady London says:

        That makes sense.

        My first one was approved practically immediately, and the second one. The third one (still same passport) for some reason took 1-1.5 hrs. I didn’t log out though as @Jason said above- which might have made the difference. It was a bit nailbiting though. It was the same passport though. So I wondered what I’d done wrong since the earlier applications!

        I’ve not tested it now the 72hrs has been stated to be the minimum time ahead to apply and am a bit nervous… so I’m glad someone asked here.

        • Doug M says:

          Someone had a huge rant on either FT or Vflyer about this. From memory so maybe not 100%. They rocked up at the airport early, but having forgot that one of the groups ESTA had expired. Did it there and then on phone and got approval. Virgin refused to fly them as their system didn’t have the ESTA approval from US. Can’t remember how it ended, but clearly the old near instant is not to be relied on. Website definitely states needs 72 hours.

        • Doug M says:

          Hope this is not a problem for you but here’s the long read version.

        • Rui N. says:

          @Doug M, that is indeed a very annoying rant! Everyone is wrong but him!

    • I applied yesterday, around lunch time… no instant approval but “pending authorisation” (the whole afternoon and evening). This morning I checked again and was approved.

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