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.
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.
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.
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.
Further reading ….
We ran the following credit card articles during February:
You may also want to read our ‘Top 10’ series:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.