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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.

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. Can anyone tell me if holding the Costco Amex would prevent you from getting the bonus on the gold card or the SPG card? I was wondering if it counts as a personal Amex for these purposes? I apologise if this has been covered elsewhere.

  2. Annabelle says:

    I re applied for Hsbc world elite card in November, six months after closing it in May last year. Had to chase Hsbc several times for the 40,000 bonus points, which they were adamant would only be paid 90 days after 60 days (!) of account opening and qualifying spend was met. After promising the points would arrive today ( and they didn’t) and a quick phone call to them they credited the points immediately. Result!

  3. Brian S says:

    I’ve pretty much maxed out my benefits of the IHG Premium Card and its only April. I’ve hit my free night and also achieved Spire status.

    Any advice on where to direct my non Amex spend to now?

    For non Amex my current options are IHG air Hilton. TIA

  4. O/T I want to book a one way avios redemption to Aus/SE Asia. Can I combine the Lloyds upgrade voucher and the BA 241 voucher? I assume no, but as we have to call BAEC to use the upgrade voucher now I wondered if an agent could technically combine and use both vouchers on one booking? Thanks

  5. Stella64 says:

    I would be grateful for some advice. My wife wants an Amex for the theatre tickets. I would like a Plat for the Gold status at Marriott. We collect VS miles as well and we have a Reward+. A few questions:

    1. If I get a platinum – how long do you have to hold it? We would hit minimum spend in the first month.

    2. Which would be best the Amex to sign up for next? I assume I will not get a sign up bonus.

    My partner has a limited company. Could she get a corporate Amex? It is has only been incorporated for a year.

    Thanks.

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