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. Gary Colclough says:

    Just sorting out our card holdings and 1 of our 2 BA premium plus will be going, renewal date is July so I understand we will get a pro rata refund, just wondering how this works, If I settle the bill in full before cancelling it will leave a credit balance after the refund, can I cancel, get the refund and then pay the rest of balance? anyone know how to work this?

    Thanks

    • Genghis says:

      It’s best to cancel, get refund and then pay rest of balance (that way you owe them).

      If acct goes into credit, however, a quick call will get the amount back into the bank account your DD comes from.

      • Gary Colclough says:

        Thanks

        Wasn’t sure if I could cancel while there was still a debit balance

    • Gary Colclough says:

      Rang to cancel wife’s card and they said as we have a 2-4-1 voucher on system she needs to keep a card to pay for it when used. They suggested we downgrade to free card which we did, actually wanted to cancel so we could start the 24 month wait period for new sign up, I thought I could pay for flights when booked on my Amex card and there is not need for her to keep a card, anyone know what is correct? Thanks

  2. Jan Samson says:

    I have to pay over £9000 for cruise tickets next week. I have a BA Amex card which gives me a companion voucher with normal spending every year. My partner also has one. She has spent to the limit to get this year’s CV but I need to spend £5000 to reach my target (by September). As we have just received her CV I dont want to pay this cruise bill on my Amex as I will reach the spending target straight away and then we will have two vouchers which expire around the same time.

    I also have a Marriott Rewards Creation card… should I pay the £9000 on that or on Amex? What would the difference be in points per pound/mile? Thank you.

  3. Colin JE says:

    I’d say avoid the IHG credit card if at all possible. I’ve had nothing but trouble, starting with a vague application process, stupidly low credit limit for a paid card that you need to spend £10k on for its main perk of a free hotel night, no Apple pay and then to top it all, they will keep me waiting a month past my anniversary date before getting my IHG voucher. At least an app appeared in 2019.
    Their Trustpilot score is 1-star out of 5!

    • To give it some balance, I’ve held the black and the white cards, both signed up with no issues, decent low 5 figures credit limit on black, points transfer on time, annual statement generated on time, free night cert has posted on time (times three). I can live without Apple Pay as it’s contactless. App is OK, TouchID saves me typing in passcode. One issue I have had with is the MasterCard SecureCode and support are flummoxed by it but I can work around it.

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