Who won ‘Best Special Sign-Up Offer on a UK Travel Rewards Payment Card 2019’ at the 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 11 and – for our penultimate award – we are looking at what was the best special sign-up bonus on a travel payment card in 2019?

I have to be honest and say that I was surprised about how this one turned out …..

If you want to know who won “Best UK Travel Rewards Credit Card” yesterday, click here.

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. You can catch up with all of the winners we have announced to date by clicking here.

What is the best UK Airport Lounge

Today we are announcing the winner of ‘Best Special Sign-Up Offer on a Travel Rewards Credit Card’

And your winner is ….

American Express Business Platinum:
60,000 Membership Rewards points when referred by a friend

American Express Business Platinum not only won, but won by a large margin.  It got 52% of your votes.

The runner-up was the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard, for its limited-time 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles offer in Q2.  Nothing else came close – the other shortlisted options (7,000 miles on the free Virgin Atlantic Mastercard and 10,000 miles on the Lufthansa Global Traveller cards) made almost no impact.

American Express Business Platinum

There is no doubt American Express Business Platinum was a very attractive offer.

60,000 Membership Rewards points would transfer into 60,000 Avios or other airline miles, 120,000 Hilton Honors points, 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, 180,000 Radisson Rewards points or 4,000 Club Eurostar points.  The spend target was also an achievable – given that this is a card for business users – £6,000 in 90 days.

That said, I’m surprised that an offer on a Business card beat any of the offers on the Personal cards.  Business Platinum also comes with a £595 annual fee, albeit that for a business this would be a tax-deductible expense.

Business Platinum is a good package, of course.  You get a free digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times, you get better travel insurance than the personal Platinum card (higher age limit, fewer restrictions), you get two Priority Pass cards for airport lounge access and you get the usual hotel status cards – Hilton Gold, Marriott Gold, Radisson Gold etc.

(There are two things you don’t get which come with the personal version.  There is no £10 per month Addison Lee credit and you cannot access Eurostar lounges.)

Even the standard sign-up offer of 40,000 Membership Rewards points is not a bad deal.  You won’t qualify, however, if you have had a personal Gold or Platinum card in the last six months.  Note that it is still a six month rule on the Business cards, not 24 months.

My full review of Business Platinum is here if you want to find out more.  You can apply here.

American Express Business Platinum

I also chose to give an Editor’s Choice award in this category.

This goes to:

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – 30,000 Flying Club miles

This offer ran in late Spring.  We had never seen one as generous before and we haven’t seen one as generous since.  In fact, it was the biggest bonus on ANY Visa or Mastercard since 2013, when American Airlines offered 35,000 miles on their MBNA card.  For that reason alone it deserves an award.

Whilst the card comes with a £160 annual fee, it was still worth applying purely for the bonus.  The fact that you would earn 1.5 Flying Club miles per £1 on your ongoing spending is just an added extra!

I also wanted to reward Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money for their efforts in trying to get a co-brand card to work in the new interchange fee environment.  Whilst most people who used to have cards have given up (hello Emirates, Etihad, United, American Airlines), the two Virgin Group businesses have worked hard to find a structure that pays off.

You can find out more about the card on the Virgin Money website here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

The card is run as a genuine joint venture, with a shared profit and loss account, rather than Virgin Money simply paying for the miles and taking all the upside.  This takes substantially more work than a standard co-brand relationship, where the airline generally just sits back and receives a cheque and list of accounts to credit once per month.

(Full disclosure: Sinead, who is our interim Marketing Manager whilst Anika is on maternity leave, previously managed credit card marketing for Virgin Atlantic.  She was involved in arranging this promotion.  It had no impact on my decision.)

I look forward to giving American Express and Virgin Atlantic their awards at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.  Tomorrow we come to our final award and, if I’m honest, the most interesting one given the very long and varied shortlist – “Best Travel Innovation 2019”.

Get an excellent British Airways World Traveller Plus premium economy flight deal to North America
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  1. I got a total of 60,000 miles when I signed up for the Virgin + card. But that was targeted.

  2. The Savage Squirrel says:

    Any idea how long the Times subsription lasts after cancellation? Mine’s still going strong a month later – hoping it lasts all year! Good value-adder by Amex actually – much more so than PP (useless in MAN) or AdLee (just rubbish); use it every day and can’t even complain about it being London-centric :D.

  3. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    “I also wanted to reward Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money for their efforts in trying to get a co-brand card to work in the new interchange fee environment.”

    In that case they should have got an Editor’s Choice award yesterday instead of IHG for best card. Recognition for launching a card does not fit with this award.

    Feels a little like the dream invite list for the dinner was drawn up and then awards made to fit. That’s certainly what I would do!

    • We wanted to give them something for their efforts but they seemed to have a stronger case for this one.

      Virgin already has its dinner invite in the bag anyway as you will see tomorrow ….

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Why does a good bonus for signing up male it a good package ?

      Yesterday’s award was for it being the best overall package from a card, a card that gives great value without any churning aswell.

      I wouldn’t churn Amex cards if they rewarded my loyalty/spend with a points bonus like on Gold.

    • I’m very sceptical about these awards, though they do give me something to chuckle about each morning. I used to think HfP was a useful source of independent information but now I’m never sure if something is being reported in a genuinely independent way or because HfP is getting commission or sponsorship. It’s a shame really.

      • Eh? I can show you various HFP articles from the past where we strongly recommend every product which has been given an Editor’s Choice award. It would only look odd if something we usually slate (eg the free BA Amex) had won.

        Frankly, though, you’re talking nonsense. It is a matter of FACT that the Virgin offer was the highest publicly available bonus on a Visa / MC since 2014.

        Creation does not pay us a penny on IHG Premium card sales. Only a complete idiot would give an Editor’s Choice ‘best card’ award to a card which doesn’t pay commission, given that virtually every other card we could have picked DOES pay (we could have given it to Capital On Tap for example, or Virgin again) but it seems we didn’t.

        PremiAir, another Editor’s Choice winner, pays us no commission, has not advertised with us and we’re about £300 out of pocket (inc travel and hotel costs) from my trip to Manchester to try it.

        Feel free to have your own little conspiracy theories if it makes you happy though 🙂 We will continue to operate in our own way which included – a few weeks ago – turning down a VERY substantial sum of money from a business if we removed all negative comment about it from HFP.

        • Good to hear! Can you hint at what the business was? 🙂

        • My, my, I do seem to have touched a nerve.

          • Just think it’s a build up of a lot of comments similar to yours ..Rob needed to put the issue to bed.

          • You made an accusation it was rebutted. Awards are really just a form of marketing, any sort of ranking is subjective.

        • Amazed anyone would do that. So obvious when nothing bad is written that something else is going on.

        • Lady London says:

          That makes me wonder how many other sites DID take the money then…

          The other and almost unique thing about this site is that so long as our highly competent commenters were allowed to comment, the truth would probably still appear in the comments! Although often in a very British way… sometimes said indirectly.

          I trust Rob, let’s be realistic about the commercial realities there is a lot of pressure here, he could have taken the money but he doesn’t. I for one am clear about that. And if I wasn’t I would just look to solid regular commenters here and the truth will, in the case of this site, appear in the comments.

          • You’re right, of course, LL, no doubt a HFP codeword would be deployed!

          • I know who has taken the money, because they told us.

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            They told you? Both indiscrete and unprofessional. I’m often amazed how inept some people can be and still have employment.

        • Interesting….removed negative material from the articles or from the comments?! Great that you came down in favour of freedom of expression!

  4. memesweeper says:

    I really hope that 60k by invitation runs again, I’m looking for a new business Amex now the bonus period on my BA Accelerating Business has passed.

  5. The Virgin card is very good. The £160 is easily cover by the 25K points in the first year. Subsequent years you have to have decent spend to make the fee worthwhile. I cancelled after year one, couldn’t spend sufficient when churning Amex. Flying Virgin in Feb, and hoping for an offer.
    The big problem is VS miles are still a bit meh, unless some real advantageous European options appear from KLM/AF.

    • The Urbanite says:

      I fly to Hong Kong every so often and Virgin are pretty good for Upper Class availability, much better than Club World availability. Just for that reason I keep some FC points just in case.

  6. Does anyone know if you can use the credit card voucher to book 2 x one way flights in Premium (for the economy amount of miles) and then upgrade then with additional miles to Upper Class?

    • The fare class on the voucher bookings is not upgradable with miles.

    • Also, booking a Premium return to say Miami using the voucher means economy FC miles, and about £470 in taxes.
      At the moment BA have excellent WT+ prices to much of the USA. NYC as low as £550 for much of March, and £600 for April.

  7. Is this amex offer still running?

    • No, was for a very limited period in the Autumn. Current referral deal is 45k (ie 40k + 5k extra for the referral), let me know if you need one.

  8. For either the business gold or platinum is a credit check carried out on the individual?

  9. For either the Amex business gold or platinum is a credit check carried out on the director applying for the card?

    • Yes, because the liability is with the person and NOT the company. For all practical purposes, Gold Business and Platinum Business are personal cards which just happen to have a company name on the front.

  10. Tony Boyton says:

    I have a Amex Gold card, Amex BA premium card, and a Virgin premium card. I want to spend £4,000 with Emirates Holidays, but I am not sure which card to use. Does the Amex Gold card get 2 x points with Emirates Holidays ?

    • If it goes through as Emirates or Emirates.com it might, probably not if Emirates Holidays.

      Assuming it is a chunky sum I would be thinking about which annual bonus I want to help trigger.

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