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

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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)

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  • Creation says:

    Re- editors choice –

    “I don’t think you can ask for more” – How about customer service that isn’t the most ignorant, rude and completely useless bunch of individuals I have ever had the misfortune of using? So bad in fact that I personally have TWO upheld ombudsman complaints against creation, and a vow never to use them again – a vow that also covers the whole of IHG brands just for being associated.

    On the other hand – the complaints do rack in a nice little earner, which is fine if you can get over the lack of a will to live after the first interaction.

    The only award this card should be earning is “worst ever to deal with’

    Rant over.

    • Yawn says:

      Had a different card with Creation and their customer service did seem particularly clueless, while the IT was rudimentary.

    • Craig says:

      +1 for the customer service at Creation, they blocked my card for apparent fraud but didn’t tell me they’d done it. They then blocked the supp card, the whole mess took weeks to sort out.

      • David says:

        Had this with Virgin Money – blocked card, didn’t inform me. Unable to use card when I wanted to – refused to refund the annual fee for the period of time they were not providing the subscribed to service.

    • Crafty says:

      Agree they are clueless, but in other aspects this works very much in one’s favour.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      So while I don’t disagree all these comments show they are pretty bad CS. What if you got your card when it launched about 3 years ago without any fuss and have been pain free every since?

      I’m sure there are many more tales of the above than of shocking CS encounters.

      It’s the best package for a credit card on the uk market today.

  • Joe says:

    That’s the big thing I don’t like about the BA card – in order to save 120,000 avios with a 241 I first need 120,000 avios which I’m not going to be able to do without a lot of creative thinking! Then to redeem it on most of the routes I’d want to fly I’d have to ring up 355 days before, book the single leg and then add the second later etc etc and it’s all just too much work.

    If you combine the free night from the IHG card with an ambassador 241 weekend certificate then that’s a bit of an easier way to get good value from a credit card once a year I think. The only thing I don’t like about this approach is you pay the card fee and ambassador fees each year and then have to make sure you have a trip each year to make the most of them (but this is also true of the BA card, after paying the fee you want to make the most of the 241 and not let it expire).

    One thing I don’t see mentioned as often as I think it should be is after you’ve renewed ambassador you get a 10% rebate on all points redemptions, meaning in effect all the points you earn (eg from the IHG card) go 10% further.

    Creation are annoying to deal with – my main issue is when they block a card but their customer service is closed (which it is more hours each day than its open) then there is no way to unblock your card until they’re back in the next day. However they seem to have got a bit better recently at not randomly declining transactions all the time, and if you’re happy to let the occasional points statement miscalculation slide then you don’t have to deal with them.

    • Spurs Debs says:

      Joe isn’t that part of the fun of it all, plotting and planning how and where to get points from and where you are going to go to spend them?
      I keep the BAPP Never churned it my Son has a supplementary card and we always earn the 241.
      It takes work and imagination to earn and use voucher but I’m a planner I can’t do things last minute anyway, even if I wanted to. This year I’m off to Japan for two weeks, been planning it for two years used my 241 voucher and we are going 1st class both ways.

      • Anna says:

        I’m like you, Debs, I’m usually waiting impatiently for T-355 to roll around lol! My next travel booking is most likely going to be for April 2021 so it’s going to be a dull 3 months waiting for that to open up. OH has a BAPP that he doesn’t churn in case they withdraw it or significantly change the conditions for new customers, I churn.
        Joe – I appreciate availability is never guaranteed but if you are after flights which carry a very expensive cash price, even buying avios when there is a 50% bonus offer on can offer a significant saving when using a 2 4 1.

        • Spurs Debs says:

          Snap Anna I’m currently trying to plan for April
          2021. I think it will be my last big trip. Hoping to do Hawaii via LA. Going to take family to an event but won’t know where that is till April this year. But rumours it will be LA. So I think LHR to LAX use 241 voucher then Alaska/AA to islands?
          I’ll take any advice if people have got any. 3 adults 1 child. I’m hoping event is in Vegas as no desire to go to LA really. But that’s out of my control.

          • Anna says:

            We did LA and Hawaii about 17 years ago. Not much of interest in LA for us (except the Natural History museum if that’s your kind of thing, we are history geeks!), however there is a lot of opportunity for exploring the surrounding areas like Joshua Tree which are worth seeing and easily drivable. We also went to Oahu for 10 days, while I would go to the Big Island next time there was still plenty to do and see. Pearl Harbor is a must, by coincidence we visited on Veterans’ Day and there were a couple of guys there who had actually been present when it was attacked (though it’s unlikely they are still around).
            Of course being America there will be a lot to appeal to a child, what you do might be dependant on the age.

          • Spurs Debs says:

            I’m planning on taking grandson to Wrestlemania.
            I took him this year to it in NY and we had a great time. It’s a 5 day event if you do other shows as well so won’t be time for much else. It’s also really hard work using a wheelchair so extra planning needed for that.
            If we don’t go to event we could go the other way via Tokyo/ Hong Kong.
            We will see lots of research needed!

          • Anna says:

            Wow, cool Grandma!

          • Nate1309 says:

            AA flights LAX to HNL are easy to snag as long as it isn’t a weekend flight you need. When I booked a trip for my dad 7+ seats were available every day booked at T-?? at 00:00 in ? time zone. apologies for the ?s as I can’t remember the exact details as I booked it 18m ago. have a look on the BA website for what days are available now and should give you an idea. Was a great use of avios though, 12500 and $4.

          • Chas says:

            Spurs Debs – we did a 3 week road trip this summer starting and ending in LA, and taking in Vegas and SFO, as well as multiple national parks on the way, so happy to offer plentiful advice of things which worked for us (2 adults and 2 teenage girls) if of interest once your location is confirmed. Key thing to think about though if you’re planning on doing any National Parks, is to book your accommodation very early to avoid having to stay outside the park and traipse in and out every day, which often adds several hours to your journey.

      • Lady London says:

        I hope you will tell us about that trip when you’ve done it,@Spurs Debs!

        • Spurs Debs says:

          Thanks. As soon as we know where WM is being held I can plan and ask advice. Tbh there won’t be much time to do much else if we go to shows, it’s really full on and long and unfortunately I get tired really easily.It’s more Hawaii I’m planning on I’ve been to Vegas twice but would go again. I took my Son for his 21st he’s now 38 lol and I took my Mum after an Alaskan cruise. I’m busy putting finishing touches to my trip to Japan in April an early 60th present to myself.
          I don’t go anywhere all year and I mean I hardly get out of the house the more my Mums dementia takes hold the more housebound I become, but once a year or every two years I like to plan to do something fabulous, something to look forward to.

    • Joe says:

      My favourite card is actually my Hilton one, because of getting Hilton gold after £10k spend year. This is can be worth a lot depending how often you stay at a Hilton. What I like most though is that if you don’t stay often, as there’s no annual fee I don’t really feel like I’ve lost very much (at most the opportunity cost of not putting £10k spend on another card). It’s a shame it’s not open to new applicants anymore.

      • Peter K says:

        The Hilton card is the one I’d miss most if it went.

        • Crafty says:

          Agreed. Excellent card.

        • Rob says:

          That’s unfortunate.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            “That’s unfortunate.”

            Oh dear, it looks like the HH card is not long for this world :(. Shame, as I’ll also miss it for the reasons described – for a free card you really couldn’t grumble about the offer; and as it was free you could always ditch hitting the £10k target for a year if a much better opportunity came along.

          • memesweeper says:

            oh no… 🙁

          • The Urbanite says:

            Sad but the day has to be coming. So many other points cards have been withdrawn for existing customers, most recently the mundane TSB Avios card the other day. Just have to make the most of it while it’s still going!

        • Roy says:

          The earning rate is 2 points per £, right? – so no better than an Amex MR card. In fact, I got 3 points per £ converting my MR points in the recent promotion – but of course there are no guarantees about future promotions.

          So the attraction is purely that you can get gold for free, I guess?

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            Plenty of places don’t take Amex. Curve for one…

          • Roy says:

            Fair point.

          • The Urbanite says:

            Yes, there is the option to convert MR to Hilton but I wouldn’t do so in normal circumstances. The Hilton Visa is more widely accepted than the Amex so easier to rack up spend on. Personally I save MR/SPG points for redemptions on airlines that aren’t BA or Virgin but people have different uses for their points.

      • Nate1309 says:

        +1 for Hilton card love

  • Brighton Belle says:

    The extended time cycles and rules on all the Amex cards means I’m closing my 3 Amex cards. I can’t generate enough Avios for long haul redemptions. By the time I’ve paid the exorbitant BA fees I might just as well pay cash with someone else in economy. The business seats are nice but economy isn’t so bad … 40 years of sitting at the back… and at least it’s smoke free nowadays. I can’t ignore the tons of CO2 I contribute either.

    Amex Platinum is exceedingly expensive and the travel insurance worthless if you are nudging 70 and have the slightest pre- existing conditions; only for City gym-bunny thirty-somethings. Amex will lose my £800 in card fees.

    If Hilton decide to relaunch a Uk card that’s where my money’s going.

    • Dominic says:

      Unfortunately, in the kindest way possible, I don’t think Amex *want* card churners like yourself, hence significantly widening the card change fees.

      Those bonuses are there to attract new customers with the hope they’ll stay and keep paying – not an annual handout.

    • Anna says:

      I must be getting jaded but I am seriously starting to consider returning to economy for shortish transatlantic flights to save the hassle of transferring through LHR (especially T5 with its poor business lounges). Business class fares from MAN are generally absolutely ridiculous, not to mention also the lack of decent lounges, I couldn’t justify paying £2.5k when it’s double what you pay from a London airport. I think the only time I might splash out would be a Qatar trip to somewhere like Seychelles for the tier points, otherwise, unless OW start taking MAN seriously, I’ll be looking in future at Virgin’s offerings to NYC from where I can connect to many other destinations.

      • Crafty says:

        For a 7 hour flight to the east coast (assuming it’s a leisure not work trip) sitting in economy and watching a couple of films is a perfectly acceptable way to save £2,000.

        • Anna says:

          I agree – it’s the lack of avios earning opportunities direct from MAN that puts me off, not the travel class.

          • Lady London says:

            But at least you can say you’ve been in First and stayed in some very nice hotels :-).

            In MAN hopefully there will always be Y competition for longhaul at least from the holiday providers.

            There appears to be some excellent holiday providers out of some other European markets and not just the cheaper ex-EU flights that we know about. So depending on how/if the Virgin-KL tie-up works then it maybe it could become worth routinely flying them out of regional airports to pick up a holiday company fare or package longhaul. As Rob says UK school holiday dates are not the same as Europe’s.

          • Anna says:

            Totally, LL, and for anything over 8 hours I don’t think I could cope with Y any more! But our future travel plans are likely to include stopovers in the Eastern USA, so 8ish hours in Y, with 3/4 days in a city, followed by 4 hours in Y to the Caribbean or other part of the US wouldn’t be too bad. But I’m also hoping to get to Singapore and a few other far away places in the future, but only if it’s in J or F!

  • Rui N. says:

    OT but related to Amex. 🙂
    My Gold card is coming up for annual renewal. I don’t want to mess with the whole thing of cancelling and getting a new one, but wouldn’t mind a discount in the annual fee. Any good strategies to get them to give a partial refund or extra points when renewing? What number to call and who to ask for?

    • Anna says:

      You can just call the number on the back of the card to enquire (I think the chat agents would refer you to this as well), however if you’ve another Amex user in the family for a bit more effort I would be cancelling and get some referral points.

      I cancelled my SPG the other day as I’ve hit the 15k spend for gold and will renew it when I next need Bonvoy gold if it’s still around! In the meantime I have a supplementary on my OH’s card so we’ll spend towards hitting his £15k for when his gold expires in March.

      • Rui N. says:

        Thanks Anna. 🙂 I’ll try calling and see what they say. I won’t cancel, as they only other person in the family is on an Amex 2-year hiatus to get the sign up bonuses next year.

        • Anna says:

          Yes, I cancelled most my Amexes when the rules changed but I’ve since had a re-think and am going to apply for another BAPP this year to get a 2 4 1 which is worth more than the sign up bonus – OH will refer me for that from his BAPP for 9k avios. As other posters have pointed out, by next year the rules might be different again, or the cards might not exist!

  • George C says:

    Will these ‘Awards’ ever be over??

  • B says:

    I think the choice of BA amex is pretty ill informed, with a creation card as editors choice bang on. Terrible customer service but hugely profitable.

    I don’t hold the BA amex anymore as long haul travel plans are minimal over the next couple
    of years (annual solo F trip to OZ only). The remainder of my flying is done with BA reward flight saver (3 family trips)

    The unsung hero is the LLoyds avios card. I also hold virgin reward card.

    Last months credit card points earning was

    40k Avios, 76k Flying club and 100k ihg.

    • memesweeper says:

      Last *month*? Yowser. Well played.

      Rob — an article on best rewards cards for consistent heavy spenders might be in order. 🙂

    • B says:

      No flying. The avios are there for the taking so may as well pick them up. I’m focused on FC these days but avios have their use for family holidays in Europe plus CX redemptions to Oz to minimise costs.

      I use all my amex MR for Marriott (30k this month but usually around 5k) – I quite like the moments redemptions and this sits well with the SPG card that I use for work expenses.

      I missed out on the Hilton card as I wasn’t on the ball enough before it was closed. As I don’t have a monthly Hilton earning opportunity, I’ve decided to ignore the scheme.

      This game is all about the loopholes, it would take years of saving points to do anything interesting if you just rely on your day to day spend and the occasional bonus.

      • Doog1000 says:

        Hi B

        You’re obviously an expert on this stuff so it would be helpful if you for example could share how you earned 40k avios last month if not by flying or day to day spend.
        We can then see if this is something we can easily imitate – eg was it Barclays 25k offer that earned the bulk?

        If you reluctant to share fair enough but though I would ask the question directly!



        • Ashish says:

          I would be more interested in the 100k IGH – wit their current limits on MS

        • Crafty says:

          Ashish – IHG points are easy to pick up if you have to / are able to put through payments to HMRC via Curve, using the IHG Premium card.

    • Lady London says:

      Are you very rich or us your strategy closer to just re-using money? Impressive.

      • Anna says:

        I bet we all have stuff we don’t share on here – we need an annual conference 😂

        • Anna says:

          In fact we should have one, in Vegas, organised by Debs and with Shoestring as guest speaker! Like they have for those pyramid schemes I’ve never been tempted to join 😂😂😂

        • Alex says:

          Seminars dedicated to each scheme, of course.

    • The Urbanite says:

      The Lloyds card was the hero for me until I got told off like a naughty schoolboy and slapped on the wrist by one of their departments the other week who were clearly very well clued up on the activities of serious points collectors!

      Also, B’s stats are entirely believable. Well done!

      • Shoestring says:

        a certain poster recently got 100+K in a month or so, enough to pay for his cruise, so he said!

  • memesweeper says:

    I’m surprised the hotel cards didn’t, in general, do better. Hotel points are much easier to spend in my experience than airline points. Love my SPG Amex, Hilton Barclaycard and IHG Creation cards. IHG Creation Customer Service, it must be said, is abysmal. Fortunately I’ve not needed to talk to them in a while.

    • Crafty says:

      +1. These are the cards we actively use too. And also IHG White when my annoyingly low Black limit is maxed.

      • Peter K says:

        Why not pay off your IHG black mid month to free up more credit?

        • Crafty says:

          I do, several times a month, but Creation is pretty slow to update its systems. I find it’s 48-72 hours between paying off a certain amount and being able to use the equivalent credit. My limit on the Premium is only £2,400, so this is pretty much always maxed out and in between paying-off cycles. I also have the free card with a limit of £6,500 (they’re about to increase it again – infuriatingly this is the only one they’ll increase).

  • Craig says:

    Does anyone have any experience of running 2 IHG Premium Mastercards? I’m about to cancel the Virgin card having earned the voucher and enough points for a return flight to NYC over NY2020/20201. I’m getting close to earning the 2nd batch of 20k Avios on the HSBC WE card and will easily hit the £10k on my IHG Prem card. I’m wondering if it’s worth Mrs S signing up for another one?

    • Anna says:

      Definitely – OH got one in July and had hit the £10k spend by October due to some particular expenses we had so I applied for one and am now spending towards another free night – hopefully we’ll be able to redeem them for 2 nights during the same stay when we come to use them.
      Now there is the Creation app, it’s easy enough to have his and hers accounts on different devices. One of the major advantages of having the 2 cards is that it doubles your Curve/Revolut potential. A 2nd sign up bonus is useful, of course.

      • Anna says:

        Aim is to use 2 x free nights at the GCM Kimpton where cash prices can hit $1k per night, so this would easily justify the £99 card fee.

        • Craig says:

          That’s a good shout Anna, I was possibly looking at this hotel for next year. One CC free night and 6 points redemptions. The latest IHG 4x has been very lucrative for me! 🙂

          • Anna says:

            Get another card and you could have 2 free nights! There seems to be very good availability on reward nights at the Kimpton and you can book studios with enough room for 2 adults and a teenager as a standard redemption which is an extra bonus.

          • Pid says:

            Just need to pay the resort fees but still a good redemption.

    • JPa says:

      I have had two before fine in a household (but stupidly cancelled my one after a year and can’t get it back again now. Just keep getting declined. They said it was because I also have the white card. Cacanelled that and still can’t get it!). We still have my wife’s one.

      • Crafty says:

        Lesson from the Hilton Barclaycard. Never cancel an unusually lucrative card (without being ready not to be able to have it back).

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