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 Amex Plat 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 22.9% variable on the free card, and 45.1% 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. There is no way in the world that paying £75 each year for a SPG amex is worth it if you never use it.

    You’d struggle to value silver elite at £20 (being generous)

    • Agreed, if you don’t spend on this card, it’s wortless

      • It was always debatable whether this card should be on the list. In retrospect, I suppose this is how I should have looked at it – if you were spending enough in Marriott hotels to get £75 of value from the 10% points bonus, given there are no other real benefits, then you’d clearly be far higher than Silver anyway.

        • Shoestring says:

          there might be a few people who thank me for prompting them to get a couple of his ‘n hers SPG cards on the old Plat referral basis before it was too late

  2. Are there any UK supermarkets or petrol stations that accept the Miles & More Diners Club card?

    I have seen acceptance on the checkout pages of BA, Flybe and Virgin but the card would be much more attractive if it could be used for day to day spending.

    Genuine frequent flyers could just use it one a month to get into a lounge and also stop miles expiring?!

    • David says:

      It comes with a mastercard, which is accepted anywhere.

      don’t worry about using the diners card.

    • You get a Mastercard with it, so it isn’t an issue – you just use the Mastercard. I have never, ever put a transaction through the Diners Club element!

    • Most petrol stations do, and I believe Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose okay, but double check as this is just me trying to remember something I read last year.

      • Thanks for all replies. A bit of a shame to leave the Diners Club card in the drawer, I forgot about the Mastercard!

        • Marks and Spencer apparently do, in their food stores. I’ve seen the logo on their check out tills.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Anywhere that shows the discovery of unionpay logos will take it too.

            All BP Shell Esso I’ve visited do.

  3. Gillian Wilson says:

    Hi do you need to keep your Amex preferred rewards gold card after the first year To keep the rewards points? Can you downgrade so no fee and keep points? What would be the best strategy?

  4. Cool Guy says:

    I currently hold a BAPP card and was looking to downgrade to the BA Classic card at renewal and upgrade later if I manage to hit the £10K spend in the card year.

    I spoke to AMEX and the lady mentioned that she can put in a request for downgrade which will happen within 14 days but an upgrade back to the BAPP will be solely at discretion of AMEX. Is it true? What is the rule for downgrade and upgrade on the BA Premium Plus Card?

    • My OH accidentally downgraded once and had no issues upgrading back to BAPP. However, I always ensure that most of the spend goes through while the card is a BAPP. I you’re organised this can be achieved very quickly through things like paying council tax, and vouchers. Part of my new collecting strategy following Amex’s recent implementation of its slash and burn policy is to buy lots of supermarket and other vouchers then close the card and use the vouchers during the fallow period until I can get another sign up bonus.

      • Annabel says:

        My new membership year is usually February But I downgraded to free card in May after earning my companion ticket. When you upgrade again to BAPP does your ‘membership year’ reset on that date? So once you spend £10k you get companion ticket or do I have to wait until after February 2020 to start earning again? Sorry hope that makes sense!

        • Your card year for the purpose of earning the 2 4 1 stays the same, presumably to stop people earning more than one voucher per year, but once you upgrade again, the fee becomes payable in the month you upgraded.

    • Surely all card issuance is at their discretion? So there’s never any _guarantee_ that you’ll get approved for the card you want. And anyway, pretty much anything can happen – they could even close the BAPP to new customers the day after you downgrade.

  5. George K says:

    Hey folks – any idea as to how the AdLee credit month works in terms of calendar vs actual days?

    So for example, for a ride taken on the 29th of June, and credit received on the 7th of July, when would be the first day that you’d be able to take another ride qualifying for a discount?

    • Hi, according to Amex, it is supposed to post 10 days max after the original transaction and it is once a month. So if you do another trip in July, you’ll get the 10£ again

      • But is it max £10 credit per calendar month? Or max £10 credit per billing period? Or something else entirely?

  6. If you value Virgin Money lounge access at
    >£0 then any of the free Virgin Money cards is worth keeping around for that reason…

    • Good point – although arguably bunging £500 in a savings account makes more sense than having another credit card on file.

  7. In a similar vein to the above, (Virgin Money savings account vs Virgin Money credit card) an option is to take up the IHG Ambassador offer for $200 USD instead of the £99 IHG credit card i presume.

  8. Chelseafi says:

    If I cancel my free IHG card can I then apply for the IHG Premium card and get the intro 20k points? Or do I need to wait 6 months? Thanks

    • I wouldn’t try it, if you really want to keep the IHG Premium card. I cancelled mine a year ago and now trying to apply again and got a straight turn down on the website. Nothing has changed with my credit profile (perfect) and I still hold the white one that I had before the black one. So something else is at play.

      I have emailed CS and got the usual response about checking your credit file etc. It is currently raised as a complaint with them. I think others are having the same issue as well on here. My wife still has her one so can still get one free night. At the time with Amex still working as normal I didn’t think it was worth the £99 without the extra 20K points, but things have changed since last year and it looks a lot more attractive…..

  9. Keith Parker says:

    The article above re Amex Platinum says: “Travel insurance, subject to enrolment, which is fully comprehensive…..” The “subject to enrolment” put the wind up me as I have relied on the Amex Platinum insurance for years without enrolling. I called both their direct number and the insurance line today, and on both occasions was assured that no enrolment is necessary.

    • It isn’t.

      Due to a recent change in EU law, anyone who takes out a Platinum card from May 2019 onwards must voluntarily opt-in to the insurance. It cannot be forced upon you. Existing cardholders are not impacted.

  10. Chris Murray says:

    I got the contact of a credit specialist on here whom i contacted and who helped me remove all the negative items from my report and also improved my score to excellent . He is real and affordable price, I’m recommending him to everyone who needs to fix their credit to contact him on his regular email ACETEAMCREDIT At Gmail Dot Com

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