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What are the best credit card sign-up deals for March? – plus your news round-up

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It is time for our regular round up of what is coming and what is going in the world of UK airline and hotel credit card sign-up deals.

Our directory of the 16 main UK travel credit and charge cards can be found by clicking the ‘Credit Cards’ tab at the top of the site or – for email, Flipboard, Apple News or mobile readers – by clicking here.

What was new in February?

IHG Rewards Club doubled the sign-up bonus on its free credit card

For the first time in a long time (ever?) IHG Rewards Club is running an enhanced bonus on the FREE IHG Rewards Club Mastercard.

Until 31st March, you will receive 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points for signing up and spending £500 within three months.  The usual bonus is just 10,000 points.

20,000 IHG Rewards Club points converts into 4,000 Avios or other airline miles, or you can put them towards a free hotel room.  20,000 points should get you a room worth £80-£100.

This means that BOTH cards – the free one and the £99 Premium version – now have the same sign-up bonus.  Nothing has changed on the Premium card.

Slightly oddly, I still think that the £99 Premium card is better, even though the bonus is currently the same as the free card.  This article explains why I think the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is the best deal.  After all, we gave it an ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in the Head for Points 2019 Travel & Loyalty Awards.

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex was launched, to replace the Starwood Amex

On 26th February, the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card was replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card.

There isn’t much good news surrounding this, unfortunately.  The most positive thing is that the card now comes with 15 elite nights credit per year.  This puts you a lot nearer Platinum Elite (35 nights vs 50 nights usually) which is the sweet spot in terms of getting lounge access, guaranteed late check-out and free breakfast.

The bad news is that the earning rate drops by 33%, from 3 Bonvoy points per £1 to just 2 points.  The annual fee remains unchanged at £75.

The sign-up bonus was also whacked, falling from 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to just 20,000.  Importantly, the qualifying spend to trigger the bonus jumps sharply, from £1,000 to £3,000.

Full details of the changes can be found in our Marriott Bonvoy Amex introductory article here.  We have also written a full review of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card here.  You can apply for the card here.

This article looks at your options if you are planning to ditch your Marriott Bonvoy Amex.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Avios and Barclays agree a long-term partnership

Last Autumn, Barclays Premier tried to do an ‘under the radar’ trial with Avios, offering 25,000 Avios to a small group of people if they opened a bank account.  The secret trial got ruined when we decided to tell everyone about it.  The good news is that Barclays got to understand how popular this incentive could be!

You can learn more about the 2019 Avios / Barclays Premier offer here.

Unsuprisingly, following the strong response last year, Avios and Barclays have signed a long-term agreement to promote Barclays Premier.

You should note the deal is NOT yet live again and won’t be for a while.  However, when it returns, there will be a generous Avios sign-up bonus for opening a Barclays Premier current account.

You will also be able to earn Avios on “other banking products as well as receive additional loyalty benefits and experience”.  It isn’t clear if this will include debit or credit card spend.

There is nothing to do at the moment, although if you were thinking of moving your banking to HSBC Premier or another premium provider then you may want to hold off for a few months.  An Avios incentive from Barclays Premier will be along soon.

Virgin Atlantic ended the 25,000 mile bonus on its Reward+ card

The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card dropped back to 15,000 miles from 25,000 miles at the end of February.

Note that there was NO special offer on the free Virgin Atlantic credit card, which remained at 5,000 miles for signing up.  The March offer is therefore the standard 5,000 miles or 15,000 miles depending on which card you choose.

My review of the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is here.  My review of the paid Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is here.  You can apply for both cards here.

Virgin Atlantic credit card 25,000 mile bonus

Accor may be launching a UK Visa credit card

Accor Live Limitless, the loyalty scheme for Novotel, Mercure, ibis etc, has announced a major deal with Visa to launch credit cards worldwide.

Instead of doing deals on a country by country level, Accor has done a GLOBAL credit card deal with Visa.  Credit cards will be issued by “Visa partner financial institutions and banks in key markets across Europe, North and South America, Middle East and Asia Pacific”.

This is unlikely to be hugely lucrative because Accor Live Limitless is a 100% revenue based loyalty scheme.  1 Accor point = 2 Eurocents off a hotel room.  There is no ‘reward chart’ and therefore no gamification element.  You can’t be clever and save your points for a day when hotel prices are high.  You get 2 Eurocents per point, 365 days of the year.

This means that an Accor Visa card will, effectively, be a cashback credit card.  It’s just that the cash has to spent with Accor!  Given that most cashback credit cards in the UK are paying 0.2p or 0.25p per £1 spent, we can’t expect much.

Let’s see if Accor can surprise us.  I imagine it will take at least 18 months to launch anything.

Accor to launch UK credit card

American Express still has a 30,000 point bonus on the DOLLAR / EURO versions of the Platinum card

Amex is running a sign-up bonus on its Dollar and Euro Platinum charge cards – 30,000 Membership Rewards points to be precise.

The good news is that you can get this bonus even if you already have a UK Platinum or Gold card.  The bad news is that this is a complicated product with poorer transfer rates to most airline schemes than the UK cards.  I wrote about the pros, cons and sweet spots of the American Express International Currency Cards in this article.

Finally, whilst not directly related to miles and points, Head for Points is running an exclusive sign-up offer with Revolut.  Sign up via our link here and you do not have to pay the £4.99 delivery fee for the plastic card.  Read our full article first on how to save the £4.99 fee when you join Revolut via our special HFP reader offer.

If you have your own small business, we also reviewed Revolut for Businessclick here for our Revolut for Business review.  You can sign up here.

Revolut Business card

Further reading ….

We ran the following credit card articles during February:

Which Virgin Atlantic credit card is best for you?

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card launches today – is it any good?

Where can you go with Virgin Flying Club miles, given the 25,000 mile bonus on their credit card?

Is a 25,000 mile bonus on the Virgin Reward+ credit card a good reason to collect Flying Club miles?

What you need to know about the Amex Centurion airport lounges in the US, HK and soon UK!

How to access some Lufthansa lounges with American Express Platinum

The little-known way that Amex Platinum gets you Star Alliance Silver and fast track Star Alliance Gold

NEW: Get a VERY rare increased bonus on the free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard!

Is Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa (10,500 Avios bonus) or BA Accelerating Business Amex the best SME credit card?

Is the new Tesco Clubcard Plus credit card, which earns Avios, worth a look?

You may also want to read our ‘Top 10’ series:

What are the top 10 reasons to get American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (Amex Gold)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get American Express Platinum (The Platinum Card)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the American Express Rewards Credit Card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the British Airways American Express (BA Amex)?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the HSBC Premier Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the free IHG Rewards Club credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Lufthansa Miles & More Diners Club and Mastercard?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card?

What are the top 10 reasons to get the Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Mastercard credit card?

What are the best travel credit card sign-up deals for March?

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.  These deals are listed in no particular order and their position on the list is not a sign of how good or bad the offer is.

British Airways American Express

The bonus on this free card is 5,000 Avios.  My full review of the BA Amex credit card is here.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

The bonus on the annual fee BA Amex is an impressive 25,000 Avios.  I wrote a full review of the British Airways Premium Plus card here.  You can apply here.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including the £195 annual fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

American Express Platinum

American Express Platinum

The sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.  You need to spend £4,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

Your points can be transferred into various airline and hotel programmes.  You could get 30,000 Avios, 30,000 Virgin miles, 60,000 Hilton Honors points, 90,000 Radisson Rewards points, 2,000 Club Eurostar points etc etc.

You receive a pro-rata refund on the £575 fee when you cancel the card and you will retain most of the benefits – Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Hilton Honors Gold, Melia Rewards Gold and Shangri-La Jade – for the rest of the year even after you cancel. The Amex Platinum benefits package is extensive, though, and once you’ve got it you might find the numbers add up for you. I have had one for 15 years.

My full review of the Amex Platinum card is here. Amex’s own home page is here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is currently a good deal for a beginner. You pay no fee for the first year and earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 10,000 MR points can get you – 10,000 Avios points for a start!).  You need to spend £3,000 in 90 days to trigger the bonus.

If you are new to this hobby, I would make this your first American Express card.  One benefit of earning American Express points is that you only need to transfer them to an airline or hotel scheme when you are ready to redeem – there is no risk of being caught out by devaluations!

My full review of Amex Gold is here. The Amex home page to apply is here.

Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

This is my preferred hotel Visa / Mastercard because of the strong overall package.  Whilst there is a £99 annual fee, this is offset in Year 1 by the 20,000 bonus IHG points you receive.  You get IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you hold the card.  You will also receive a voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you spend £10,000 per year.  Representative APR 45.1% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ Mastercard

The two new Virgin Flying Club credit cards are the most generous Mastercard or Visa cards for day to day spending.  The free Reward card (with a 5,000 miles sign-up bonus) earns 0.75 miles per £1 whilst the annual fee Reward+ card (with a 5,000 miles sign-up bonus) earns 1.5 miles per £1.  The bonus triggers with your first purchase.

My review of the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is here.  My review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card is here.

Reward: representative APR 22.9% variable.  Reward+: representative APR 63.9% variable including £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.  The application page is here.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa 

The Capital On Card is an EXCELLENT Avios earner for small businesses.  We discuss the eligibility criteria in our Capital On Tap review here.  You get a sign-up bonus of £100 cashback or 10,000 Avios after spending £5,000 in 90 days and you earn 1 Avios per £1 spent.  HFP readers get a higher sign-up bonus if you use promo code ‘headforpoints’ when applying click here for details of our exclusive Capital On Tap sign-up Avios bonus.

BA Amex Business Accelerating Business credit card

Earning miles and points from small business cards

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a very small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card (click here) and the American Express Gold Business Card (click here).  There is currently a 20,000 points (= 20,000 Avios) bonus on the Gold Business card and a 40,000 points (40,000 Avios) bonus on the Platinum Business card.

You should also take a look at the new British Airways American Express Accelerating Business card (apply here, BA Amex Business review here).

There is also the Capital On Tap cards which we mentioned above, with the exclusive Capital On Tap ‘extra Avios’ HFP bonus.

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.

Comments (14)

  • Brighton Belle says:

    So we have Accor & Marriott pitching for trade and IHG is taking all my MasterCard transactions. .. which is a shame as I can’t think of reason to use Spire Elite it’s so weak. Despite SE status I haven’t stepped into a IHG hotel for over 2 years.

    Will someone give Hilton a jab with a pointy stick or are they out of the game?

  • N says:

    Do we know how the Bonvoy card “interacts” with the other cards in terms of sign up bonuses?

    Is the Bonvoy > BAPP > Plat pathway still best for new customers?

    • Rob says:

      Due to the reduced bonus on Bonvoy, an equivalent value option is Nectar – BAPP/Plat – BAPP/Plat. Depends if you prefer the Nectar points to Bonvoy points.

  • Cormac says:

    Just saw Virgin Atlantic are removing FX fees in Euro, Swedish krona and Romanian Lei, which is not a bad thing. Won’t make a huge difference for myself though as I use it linked to Curve anyway.

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Now you don’t need to use up your Curve limit then unless your not a big spender! 😎

      • Cormac says:

        Just realised the Curve limit is up to £500 a month so the removal of FX fees for Virgin Atlantic cards is definitely a good thing. Will probably stick to Curve up to the £500 mark though as their interbank rates are slightly better than the Mastercard rate at least on week days, and useful for cash withdrawals (the German’s still like their cash!).

        Anyone spending in Swedish Kronas and Lei will win out on weekends, as Curve’s weekend markup is higher outside of EUR and USD spend (1.5% over 0.5%), so the Mastercard FX rate will be better. Curve’s weekend markup for Euro still beats the Mastercard FX rate for Euros though.

        • Travel Strong says:

          On the other hand, Curve’s weekend rates were consistently 0.5% worse than Visa weekend rates when I tested it in January.

          • Cormac says:

            Interesting…it sounds like you’re getting the interbank rate with Visa then!

  • ayearinmx says:

    So it definitely looks like I’ve only been credited with the 10000 point bonus on my COT card, rather than the promised 15000….

    It is saying I have 10000 redeemable points, and then 5554 points accrued (which I assume are for the £5k I spent.

    How do I go about trying to get my additional 5k points with the ‘headforpoints’ offer?

    • Rob says:

      Email me with your name, card number and the email linked to the card and I will pass it to our contact.

      • Peter K says:

        Along a similar line, I also only got the 10000 bonus points, not 15000, but I’ve only had one statement so far.
        IIRC though you said we need to wait until the 4th statement for the additional bonus points. Is that right or should I have had them with the standard bonus a few weeks ago?

        • ayearinmx says:

          i have just been informed it is at the end of your 3rd billing period…. i don’t remember reading this, but yes… that is the rule

          apologies because i didn’t see that in the article

  • Dave says:

    OT – can someone point me to the discussion about the Marriott card points? I saw that some are still getting 3 points per £ but can’t find the comments now. I’ve had the card for months but am only getting 2 per £ already

  • makrxx says:

    I never ever get approved for the IHG Premium card it’s so annoying? Always saying I’m not eligible based on the quick eligiblity check. Dosen’t make sense as my income definitely passes the criteria…