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Which six loyalty credit cards are worth keeping for their benefits even if you never use them?

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Typically there are three different types of travel loyalty credit cards you can apply for:

Cards you get just for the sign-up bonus

Cards you get primarily for the strong on-going earnings rate

Cards you get but don’t use because they come with generous perks

Head for Points tends to focus on the first two types but – with the recent changes to The Platinum Card from American Express – I thought it was worth another look at the six loyalty cards which offer decent on-going perks even if you don’t use them.

For clarity, my list does NOT include perks which require you to hit a spending target each year to receive them such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.  This article (click) looks at the most valuable credit card perks which require you to hit an annual spending target.

All of the perks discussed below are yours simply because you took out the card.

The place to turn for full details of all airline and hotel loyalty credit cards is, of course, our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page, which summarises all of the cards currently available.

credit cards with the best benefits

Looking through the list, these are the six cards you might want to get but keep in your desk drawer gathering dust:

The Platinum Card from American Express (click here for our Amex Platinum review)

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £575 annual fee.  Because you can get a very generous 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.  There is a higher bonus of 35,000 points if I refer you – see my review for details.

The Platinum Card is a charge card, not a credit card.  You need to clear your balance in full each month.

There are a lot of long-term benefits that can have real value:

  • 2 Priority Pass cards, each getting you and a guest into 1,200 airport lounges for free.  If you give your second card to your partner, you have a family of four covered.  The addition of the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5, the Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow T2, the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow T3 and the Plaza Premium, ART & LOUNGE and SkyTeam lounges in T4 have made this benefit more valuable in recent years.  London Gatwick is getting a new Club Aspire lounge in September is BA’s South Terminal.
  • Access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.  Whilst this lounge is not in Priority Pass, you can get in – with a guest – by showing your American Express Platinum card.
  • Eurostar lounge access (cardholder only, no guests)
  • Lounge access with Delta in the US
  • Access to Amex’s upmarket ‘Centurion’ lounge network at selected US airports, Hong Kong and – from late 2019 – London Heathrow Terminal 3
  • Marriott Bonvoy (Sheraton, Le Meridien, Aloft, St Regis etc) hotels Gold status,
  • Hilton Honors (Conrad, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Hampton etc) Gold status
  • Melia Rewards (Melia, INNSIDE, Tryp, ME) Gold status
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle (Shangri-La, Traders) Jade status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Taj InnerCircle Gold status
  • Radisson Rewards (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn) Gold status
  • Travel insurance, subject to enrolment, which is fully comprehensive (some minor benefits such as lost luggage requiring you to pay for your flights and hotels with an American Express card, although ‘big stuff’ like medical cover is covered regardless) – although read the small print if you have pre-existing conditions
  • Comprehensive car hire insurance
  • Discounts and/or added benefits in luxury hotels via the Fine Hotels & Resorts programme
  • £10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit
  • $200 cashback on every onefinestay home rental – available unlimited times, no minimum spend

…. plus some other bits and pieces.

A lot of people, including myself, have a Platinum card for the benefits but – because of the weak 1 point per £1 earning rate – do not use it much.  I use mine purely for HFP-related expenditure which gives me the added benefit of being to treat the £575 fee as tax deductible.

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard and IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard  (click here and here for our IHG card reviews)

The free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / Hotel Indigo / InterContinental loyalty programme. This is not worth much, frankly, but some hotels do give you a modest gift or some points as a welcome gift.  In the UK you will get the option of a free drink.  Given that the card is free, it makes sense to take it out purely for the on-going Gold status if you have the occasional IHG hotel stay.

The £99 Premium version of the card gives you Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club. The guaranteed benefits are slim, apart from a 50% bonus on base points, but a lot of hotels do offer decent upgrades at this level, especially at the Crowne Plaza brand.  Being able to buy high level hotel status for £99 is a great opportunity.

Whilst outside the scope of this article, I also rate VERY highly the free night voucher which you earn each year for spending £10,000 on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.  A free night annually in a top InterContinental is not to be sniffed at.

Representative APR 18.9% variable on the free card, and 41.5% variable including £99 fee on the paid card, based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (click here for our HSBC Premier WE Mastercard review)

This card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

You receive free airport lounge access at 750 airports worldwide via the LoungeKey programme.  Guests are charged at £15, although if you regularly travel with the same adult it would be cheaper to pay £60 to get them a supplementary credit card on your account.  It is a cheaper way of getting lounge access than buying your own Priority Pass card.

If you get the standard version of the HSBC Premier Mastercard, you also get a LoungeKey card but are charged £20 per lounge visit.  You can also get a free LoungeKey card via the Santander World Elite Mastercard.

Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard (click here for our Miles & More card review)

The new Lufthansa card – launched in 2018, and which operates as a charge card and not a credit card – has one key benefit.  As long as you charge £1+ per month to it, your Miles & More miles will not expire. 

This is a valuable benefit as Miles & More has a draconian three year expiry policy for non-elite members, irrespective of your account activity.  The card has a high annual fee of £79 per year.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (click here for our SPG Amex review)

Following the launch of Marriott Bonvoy in early 2019, the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card has gained a new benefit.  All cardholders get free Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.  This has few real benefits, except for a 10% bonus on base points earned from Marriott hotel stays, so it is debatable whether it is worth the £75 annual card fee.

The card comes with 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a sign-up bonus.

The representative APR is 39.7% variable including £75 fee based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

Conclusion

Overall, there are some interesting deals to be had with some credit cards which makes them worth keeping, even if you don’t use them. The most valuable is probably the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard where you are effectively paying £99 to buy yourself mid-tier Platinum status at Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc properties.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, The Platinum Card from American Express is worth a look. The generous sign-up bonus (30,000 Amex points is worth 30,000 Avios or other airline miles when transferred), airport lounge access and the free hotel status cards mean that you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try, despite the heavy fee.

PS.  In case you are wondering, I deliberately excluded The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card.  Whilst you get two free airport lounge passes per year, these do not justify the £140 annual fee from Year 2 onwards.  Of course, in Year 1, it is a different story!

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. Title states six cards.
    First paragraph states five cards.
    Last sentence of intro states four cards.
    Five cards are listed.
    Slightly inconsistent.

    • Polly says:

      I think Gold is worth having for the 1st year. Pretty good value and no fee.

    • Sorry! At the last minute, literally after midnight last night, I decided to add Starwood.

  2. I value the lounge access you get with the LH M&M cards. Ditched Priority Pass as a result.

  3. Steven Campbell says:

    Given the soaring costs of Amex Platinum and the diminishing service from bricks and mortar banks, I’m now of the view that my Capital On Tap card in combination with Curve Metal for Lounge Key and other benefits, is a better proposition. I would actually qualify for HSBC Platinum but despite my long history with HSBC find myself no longer interested in dealing with them. I applied for CoT last month and their claim of a two minute application rang true. I got a five figure credit limit off the bat. The only thing was that, while nicely boxed, their black and gold embossed Mastercard now feels a little retro!

    • Genghis says:

      I’m surprised someone would even recommend Curve metal these days. I’d argue at £150 for Curve metal + £15-20 a lounge visit offers really poor value given the other benefits.

      • I just upgraded to a Curve Metal. It depends on how the math works out, but I have a fair amount of travel coming up and didn’t have any travel or car rental insurance yet. I think I should be able to earn at least 5 pounds back in cash back every month as well…

  4. James says:

    Would it be worth getting either of the IHG cards for the status on the off chance that Hilton would ever do a status match? Thanks.

    • paulm says:

      Hilton regularly do status matches and they would match from IHG.

    • I’ve matched my IHG Plat to Hilton Diamond in the past no problem at all. I’ve also been IHG Plat for years now without requalifying via stays and despite only holding the free version of the credit card – I don’t know if continuing to hold the card makes any difference (I should have long since dropped to Gold) but I’m not intending to cancel to find out!

  5. Kevin C says:

    Credit card related. I took out the £250 Capital On Tap card and received points for the 5k spend but no bonus.

    Does the bonus take longer or should I be chasing?

    • Bonus comes with the 4th statement, apparently.

      • Kevin C says:

        Thanks. Will hang on.

        • Any issues, let me know. 2 readers had a delay last month due to an IT issue – when I reported those, they were able to work out what was common between the two cases and fix the bug.

  6. Ricaro says:

    Has anyone managed to get the Addison Lee credit to work? I tried a couple of test trips (late June and early July, both booked through the app and over £10) before my July statement date and nothing has appeared so far

  7. IHG MasterCard – can you get supplementary cards?

  8. OT but IHG so possibly fits here! With the Amex MR game being on hold for 2 years, looking at the IHG card as they have Kimpton which would be a good option for us in GCM. Does the free night certificate cover any hotel? It says choose from 5000 on the website but I don’t know if that equates to the entire portfolio!

    • It’s any hotel subject to standard reward night availability i.e. if you can book a room on points, you can use your free night voucher.

      • Kiran says:

        Not always true. I tried to book 3 points nights at the new CP in NYC (36th St) and then a 4th night with a voucher but the hotel did not come up when searching for free night availability despite having availability for a points booking. In the end I used the voucher for the CP Times Square meaning we to move our luggage on day 4.

        • EwanG says:

          I agree with Kiran.
          I’ve found there are sometimes difference between reward night inventory and credit card free night availability.

          • I have also come across this – but it’s not clear why, and it isn’t down to some weird rule. I get a feeling it is more likely to be IT issues.

    • Grant says:

      Also bear in mind that the voucher is only issued on the anniversary of having the card and not on reaching the £10k spend target. I seem to recall your trip to GCM is booked for Easter next year?

      • Hi Grant, well remembered! We go every year though and with hotel (and other) prices being astronomical I’m always on the look out for bargains 😉. Got 5 for 4 on Bonvoy points at the Westin at Easter which would have been £3500 for cash!

    • Tilly71 says:

      Only up to grade 7 or 40k per night.

      • Doh! Being Cayman, the Kimpton is Cat 13 according to one website I’ve looked at 🙄. And they wonder why they struggle to attract more “staying” tourists (as opposed to ones from cruise ships). Well the points could be used at the Holiday Inn, I guess and the certificate somewhere else.

      • FlyingChris says:

        Isn’t that just for the the US Card T&C’s? I just redeemed my voucher for the IC Osaka for 60k points. I believe it’s any IHG property with reward inventory?

        • Correct – only exception is Vegas / Macau and the 6 (?) Regent hotels.

          • Hi Rob you can use the free night voucher at the Venetian / Palazzo – I did in February. It wouldn’t process online so I called and they said it’s an IT error that prevents you doing it online.

      • Peter K says:

        I thought the free night on the IHG card was any hotel in the portfolio….but I agree that the reward nights for it differ to the usual points nights. A CP I was at last weekend said they have to process it differently through their system as well.

        I think it’s the free night on the SPG amex that has a limit on the points value of the hotel that it can be used on (though of course that’s not IHG).

        • Free night is any hotel EXCEPT the Las Vegas ‘Alliance’ ones and Regent.

          • ^ As above I used my free night voucher at the Venetian in February. Had to call though to redeem.

      • Tilly71 says:

        Sorry, I’ve been reading the U.S terms for the Reward night certificate.
        Great news for us in the U.K as confirmed on the Creation.co.uk site.

  9. Sorry for the OT.

    I think I cancelled my BA Amex about this time 2 years ago but cant remember the exact details. Does anyone know how I can find out exactly? I’ve tried looking on my BAEC for when points were credited but get an error when going back that far looking at transactions.

    Any suggestions appreciated.

    Thanks

  10. Roger* says:

    How easy/difficult is it to redeem TWO free IHG nights from the £99 credit card at the same time?

    I’m sitting on one certificate from a year or so ago. This has to be ‘redeemed’ soon, which I believe means reserved, not stayed. My online card account tells me that I have qualified for a free night this year, but it does not yet show in my IHG account.

    I’d like to use both for the same trip, possibly with an Ambassador 2nd night free booking, so 4 nights – 1 paid, 3 ‘free’. Is that aspiration realistic? Thanks.

    • Peter K says:

      I used two of the free nights (one mine, one my wife’s) last weekend and connected the stay at at Crowne Plaza with no difficulty.

    • you won’t get the free night you have qualified this year, until you have paid for your membership fee on your card anniversary date.

  11. So my Amex Gold (personal) is coming to first year end, I will be claiming my 10k points and then closing it down. I know the rule changes came into effect about having a second card and not being able to claim the introductory offer, is there an Amex card that gets around that?

    If I got an Amex Gold (business) through my company, presumably, that’s different as the company is taking it out rather than me personally?

    • No, it’s the same. Companies cannot have MR accounts so the account would be in your name, and as you already have an MR-earning card you don’t get a bonus.

      However, you only need to wait 6 months after cancelling your current card to get a bonus on Gold Business vs 24 months on another personal MR card.

    • You could try upgrading your gold to platinum?

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