Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Who won ‘Best UK Travel Rewards Credit Card’ at the 2019 Head for Points Awards?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

Over Christmas and New Year, we are unveiling the winners of the inaugural Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards.  Today is Day 10 and we’re heading into the home straight!  This is the first of two awards for payment cards.  Today we are looking at which is the best travel rewards credit card?

The winner will not surprise you.  We decided we needed to give an Editor’s Choice award too to give everyone a chance!

The Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2019 are a great opportunity to recognise the cream of the crop when it comes to UK premium business and leisure travel. A lot of the areas we are covering, such as airport lounges and travel credit cards, are ignored by other awards because they are too niche – but for our readers, they are very important and appreciated.

Over 4,500 HFP readers voted over three weeks in November. There were 12 categories in total. As well as giving an award to each category winner, we are also giving out a number of ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards for products and services which we personally admire.

Each winner will receive a trophy which we will be presenting at a special dinner in January.

What is the best UK Airport Lounge

Today we are announcing the winner of ‘Best UK Travel Rewards Credit Card’

And your winner is ….

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card smashed it, if I’m honest.  This was the biggest winning margin of any of the 12 categories.

The BAPP card won a whopping 52% of your votes.  For a product that carries a £195 annual fee, that is pretty good going.

‘Best of the Rest’ was more good news for Brighton, with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold coming second with 17% and The Platinum Card coming third with 12%.

The top Visa or Mastercard product was Virgin Atlantic’s Reward+ Mastercard, followed by the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard, the free version of the Virgin Atlantic card and the Miles & More Global Traveller Card.

It was interesting to see the £160 Virgin Atlantic card get 50% more votes than the free version even though the rules for using the 241 and upgrade voucher are the same.  (Note that the free British Airways Amex card was not shortlisted, because we don’t see the point of having one.)  I thought that the Miles & More card would do better – it is currently my ‘go to’ Mastercard – but I accept that most people are unlikely to earn enough miles through card spend alone for a good redemption.

British Airways Premium Plus - best uk airline credit card

Why does everyone love the British Airways Premium Plus card?

Obviously the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card has a lot going for it:

1.5 Avios per £1 spent – this equals the highest earning rate available on ANY airline credit card

a decent sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios

double miles on all your spending at British Airways and BA Holidays, which is a ‘not to be sniffed at’ 3 Avios per £1

Let’s be honest though.  The real value here is in the 2-4-1 voucher which you earn after spending £10,000 in a card year.

The 2-4-1 voucher on the BAPP card is the most valuable perk of ANY UK credit card.  If you want proof, I did the maths in this article.

If you use your voucher on, say, two Club World seats to New York – which is hardly the most ambitious Avios redemption – then you will save 120,000 Avios.  If you value an Avios at 1p, that’s a £1,200 saving.  This is a whopping 12% return on your £10,000 of spend.

More importantly, the 2-4-1 voucher is the only way that many people can stay in the game.  Earning 240,000 Avios for two Club World tickets to New York is tough going unless you are doing a lot of premium flying.

Earning 120,000 Avios, alongside a 2-4-1 voucher, is a different story.  Whilst it has got harder than it was, timing your Amex sign-up bonuses correctly, referring friends for cards and taking advantage of the Avios-earning offers we promote on Head for Points makes 120,000 Avios every 12-18 month a realistic target.  (You can still earn 185,000 Avios every two years by timing your Amex applications correctly.)

Long-term, there are clearly question marks over whether the card can continue in its current form.  It is probably reliant on Amex getting an exception from the caps on credit card interchange fees, although you would hope that British Airways would see the value in cutting its profits to retain the value in the card.  Well over £1 billion is currently spent on the BA Amex cards each month.

British Airways BA American Express Amex credit cards

We also decided to given an Editor’s Choice award in this category.  If we didn’t, no-one else would ever get a look in!

The Editor’s Choice winner is …..

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

If you are a regular reader of HFP then this will not surprise you.  We have often said that the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is about as close to perfect as you can get from a credit card rewards package.  What is smart is that many of the benefits are of low cost to IHG but are highly valued by cardholders.

For a £99 annual fee – which in Year 1 is virtually covered by the 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points sign-up bonus – you get:

2 IHG points per £1 spent – I value these at 0.8p, which is a great return for a Visa or Mastercard

The points count towards status – a very smart move, which oddly no other card has copied.  This means that you could acheive top tier Spire Elite status purely via card spend if you wanted.

You get Platinum Elite status for as long as you hold the card, which is the 2nd of the four tiers

You get a free night voucher, valid at virtually every IHG hotel, when you spend £10,000 in a card year.  This repeats each year.  If used at a top property in a big city this is easily worth £200.

I don’t think you can ask for more than a decent sign-up bonus, a strong day-to-day earning rate, points counting towards status and a free night each year.  It is a compelling package and one which is worthy of an Editor’s Choice award.

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

I look forward to giving American Express and IHG their awards at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.  Tomorrow we come to our second credit card award – who will win ‘Best Special Sign-Up Offer 2019’?

Comments (119)

  • Jon says:

    Virgin CC

    Finger in the air time.

    Thinking of applying for the fee based one, any idea if the bonus is likely to increase any time soon?

    • Shoestring says:

      yes – must be due a bonus month/ 6 weeks application window – last bonus period ended 31st Oct

      free or premium card? as one is worth waiting for a bit more than the other

  • NFH says:

    The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard might have a favourable earning rate etc, but the systems and functionality of the card issuer (Creation) are atrocious, for example:
    – No Apple Pay
    – No smartphone app
    – No function to download transaction data in machine-readable format
    – Payments into the card account do not update in real time (only next day), possibly in breach of Regulation 89(3) of the Payment Services Regulations 2017.
    – No way to see pending transactions
    – Each card account needs a separate login.

    • Rob says:

      There is an app. Look up ‘Creation’ in the app store.

      Amex is the only issuer I know who do real time payment updates. MBNA and Diners/Affiniture run substantially in arrears.

      • Nick_C says:

        Faster payments to the Virgin Atlantic CC show within 2 hours.

      • NFH says:

        Thanks Rob for the advice about the app. It was not obvious, not least as Creation doesn’t advertise it. It’s better presented than the web site, but still not perfect, in that it shows the additional cardholder’s card with the primary cardholder’s name printed on it, and it still fails to show pending transactions. The functionality to freeze a card is a good one, following the trend of Revolut and Barclays’ heavily-marketed functionality.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          The website and the app clearly showing pending transactions

          On the app it says pending next to it and on the website it’s slightly greyed out

    • mvcvz says:

      I don’t care about any of that. I just want to speak to someone who isn’t an unmitigated imbecile if I have occasion to phone. Not too much to ask IMHO.

  • Tilly says:

    I got the free Virgin CC last year with the enhanced sign up bonus. Just transferred the points to Hilton. Virgin miles no good to me as won’t earn enough for a decent redemption, plus without status can only redeem in economy which I’m not interested in.

    Love the BAPP card with the 2-4-1. Couldn’t have flown First without it for a couple of long haul holidays. I also love my Hilton Visa which I get Gold via as value the comp brekkie and had some decent redemptions. Combining use of both those cards works very well for me.