What are the top UK credit card sign-up deals by £ value?

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I am in The Sunday Times as part of an article discussing how to earn miles and points from credit cards.  It is the Money section if you have a copy – the link is here but there is a paywall.

As it will bring across a few new readers, I thought I would update our annual rank of the best UK travel credit card sign-up bonuses in terms of cold hard cash.

This article was updated on 26th June 2020.

How do I value my miles and points?

The biggest question mark is over the value of the sign-up bonus.

For hotel points, I have used my standard valuations (0.5p per Marriott point, 0.4p per IHG point)

For airline miles, I assume they are worth 1p each.  Of course, for airlines where short-haul redemptions are bad value, a small amount of miles can be effectively worthless. In some programmes, you would need to already have a decent balance to get full value from the bonus miles.

I have valued American Express Membership Rewards points at 1p since they transfer 1:1 into airline miles and I am valuing those at 1p

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

All of these cards add a 3% foreign exchange fee so you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.   Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

It is important to remember that annual fees on American Express cards are refundable pro-rata if you cancel.  Cancel a card after three months, for example, and 75% of the fee will be refunded.  You will keep any sign-up bonus you have earned.

Bring on the winners!

OK … here we go! Remember that full details on all the cards can be found on our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

GOLD!  £400 of value – HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (HSBC World Elite review)

40,000 Avios or other airline miles (£400 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) when you spend £12,000 in your first year.  £195 fee and you need to pay for the second year in order to receive the full bonus.  Note that HSBC Premier has strict eligibility criteria and most people will not qualify.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

What is the best credit card sign up bonus?

GOLD!  £300 of value – The Platinum Card from American Express (Amex Platinum review)

30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £300 as gets you 30,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) when you spend £4,000 in six months.  £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

Most importantly, though, you will retain your Marriott Bonvoy Gold card, Radisson Rewards Gold card, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Jade and Hilton Honors Gold cards for a full 12 months, even if you cancel.  This adds substantial extra value to the package.

What is the best credit card bonus?

SILVER!  £250 of value – British Airways American Express Premium Plus (BA Premium Plus Amex review)

25,000 Avios points (£250 assuming 1p per Avios achieved) when you spend £3,000 in six months.  £195 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  Representative APR 74.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

BRONZE!  £150 of value – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard (Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card review)

15,000 miles (£150 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus with your first purchase.  £160 fee. Representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

BRONZE!  £100 of value – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (Amex Gold review)

10,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £100 if turned into 10,000 Avios or other airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) when you spend £3,000 in six months.  No fee in the first year, £140 thereafter, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  £3,000 spend in 3 months required.  Representative APR 56.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

BRONZE!  £100 of value – Marriott Bonvoy American Express (Marriott Amex review)

20,000 points (valued at £100 as I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.5p each) when you spend £3,000 in six months.  £75 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.  Representative APR 38.8% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

£50 of value – Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard (Miles & More card review)

5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.  Bonus posts with your first purchase.  £79 fee.

£50 of value – Amex Rewards Credit Card (Amex Rewards review)

5,000 Membership Rewards points (worth £50 as it gets you 5,000 airline miles, assuming 1p per airline mile achieved) bonus when you spend £2,000 within six months. No annual fee. Representative APR 22.2% variable.

£50 of value – British Airways American Express (BA Amex review)

5,000 Avios (£30 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus when you spend £1,000 within six months.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.2% variable.

£40 of value – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (IHG card review)

10,000 IHG Rewards Club points (valued at £40 as I value an IHG point at 0.4p) when you spend £200 in 90 days.  No fee.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

The HSBC Premier card, Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard and Tesco Clubcard Mastercard currently have no bonus.

Summary

If there is anything to learn from this bit of fun, it is this:

If you and your partner took out the best 3 credit cards each, you could get over £1,900 of value from the sign-up bonuses between you based on my valuation model. That is certainly nothing to be sniffed at!

Do not underestimate the value of the hotel cards. Whilst a small number of airline miles has little value, a small number of hotel points can get you one night somewhere, and one night is often all you need.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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. Wouldn’t it be better to calculate value after accounting for annual card fees?

    And value perhaps should take into account the value of the 2 for 1 voucher from the BA Amex card, although this would vary according to how it’s used.

    • It used to be done that way but the article got too complex because you also had to factor in pro-rata on Amex fees (and over what time period?) with the lack of refunds on other cards. You ended up needing a maths degree to understand what it meant to be an introductory article.

  2. Matthew says:

    Plat card need £4K spend IIRC for the bonus points…

  3. Rob, it should be pointed out that the Starwood card is being replaced by Bonvoy & sign up bonus falls to 20K & spend target rises to £3K.
    Still Bronze, I suppose.

  4. Rob, re Virgin “ 5,000 miles (£50 based on achieving 1p per mile) bonus.” isn’t this 0.75p per £1 spent?

  5. Given that HSBC runs reliable 25% Avios conversion bonuses once/twice a year, would it not be fair to view the ‘real’ card sign-up bonus as 50,000 Avios and the ‘real’ earning rate as 1.25 Avios / £?

    • Peter K says:

      But it’s not guaranteed. Past performance is no guarantee of future results and all that.

  6. Secret Squirrel says:

    Is the amount of points earnt via the Virgin card being capped Monthly for everyone or just those who received a letter / email?

  7. Fola Akingboye says:

    O/T. I have cancelled my British Airways Amex Premium card. I would like to apply for the Amex Gold Business Card. I have not held any reward card(s) in the last six months. I want to my wife to refer me from her Amex Preferred Gold, would she have any problem receiving the referral bonus?
    Also, is it possible to have multiple Amex Gold Business Card for different businesses?

  8. *Amex Platinum £4k spend in first 3 months

  9. OT: Barclaycard fighting me on a refund of the cash advance/interest on Revolut. Has anyone had any luck getting them to refund? They refuse to answer why in one week Revolut was a purchase and now cash.

    • I would provide them with the screenshot of Revolut saying charges should be treated as purchases. You proceeded on this basis. What you were charged was materially different to your detriment, and not as described. Therefore due a chargeback/consumer credit act charge for the cost of the service not being as described (=cash advance fee + interest charged + lost rewards points).

      Nationwide paid up very quickly (not Barclaycard I know)

    • I would also submit a formal complaint by email to Revolut for these costs. One will end up paying.

      Both complaints to Barclaycard and Revolut can be escalated to the ombudsman if necessary.

      • Shoestring says:

        OK forgive me playing devil’s advocate but why should Barclaycard *not* treat a cash advance as a cash advance when that’s clearly what it was?

        From Barclayvard’s point of view, they don’t care what Revolut say or claim (eg that it will be treated as a purchase).

        It wasn’t a purchase, it was correctly identified as a cash advance (so I understand).

        • That would be true if credit card suppliers weren’t also liable for services paid for on the card, where there is a direct link between the payment processor and the service provider (in this case both Revolut). The service provided is clearly not as described. This is the case if using S75 CCA (I don’t know for certain if this applies). Alternatively Visa provides a redress system (chargebacks) for when services aren’t as described.

        • And I agree, In my book it is reasonable to treat Revolut as a cash advance. But the face Revolut claimed (I note they’ve changed this) that it would count as a purchase means the Revolut service is not as described.

          • Thank you.

            I will escalate. Right now I am asking them to understand that previously the transactions were purchases and now they are not.

            I previously wrote that Revolut intend it to work again for purchases with VISA but not with MC for unspecific “internal reasons”.

  10. OT: What are the options to earn avios when buying foreign currency (cash)? Previously used the travelex avios page but it is down still since they had the hacking isses.

    Thanks,
    Simon

  11. Martin C says:

    Hi
    My wife and I have been using AMEX BA premium cards as we spend an easy £10k every 6 months so we are gaining the 241 vouchers. We are not qualifying for the joining bonus obviously as we are not leaving the 24 months between cancelling and re joining, but we are using the refer a friend to get the 9,000 avios for free. Can someone advise if we would get the joining bonus if we opened an AMEX platinum card, or does the criteria for 24 months apply across those cards as well? I think we had a AMEX gold card about a year ago, but would need to check. There is also a charge card isnt there, could we use this for the joining bonus?
    Sorry for all the questions but using the BA cards for 241 seems to be the best value for us rather than clocking up points and only triggering a 241 every 2 years, unless someone knows how the math would work out to maximise the way to approach this… we also have the HSBC premier card already, and using this to fill in the gaps and achieve £12k spend in the year.
    Thank you

    • Harry T says:

      If you had a Gold AMEX within the last 24 months, you’re blocked from a Platinum bonus. You could get the green AMEX and upgrade to platinum for the upgrade bonus.

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