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Five credit cards worth keeping just for their benefits

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Typically there are three different types of travel loyalty credit cards you can apply for:

Cards you get just for the sign-up bonus

Cards you get primarily for the strong on-going earnings rate

Cards you get but don’t use because they come with generous perks

Head for Points tends to focus on the first two types but I thought it was worth another look at the five loyalty cards which offer decent on-going perks even if you don’t use them.

Which credit cards are worth keeping just for their benefits?

For clarity, my list does NOT include perks which require you to hit a spending target each year to receive them such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.  This article (click) looks at the most valuable credit card perks which require you to hit an annual spending target.

All of the perks discussed below are yours simply because you took out the card.

The place to turn for full details of all airline and hotel loyalty credit cards is, of course, our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page, which summarises all of the cards currently available.

Looking through the list, these are the five cards you might want to get but keep in your desk drawer gathering dust:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in five major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £575

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £575.

See if you qualify for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £4,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.  Holding a British Airways American Express card does not disqualify from the Platinum bonus.

If you cancel The Platinum Card at any point, you will receive a pro-rata refund of your membership fee.  You will not lose your sign-up bonus.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in five major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold Elite), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold Elite), Shangri-La Golden Circle (Jade), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

The Platinum Card from American Express is the most complex and most debatable card here.

Because you can get a very generous 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.  There is a higher bonus of 35,000 points if I refer you – see my Amex Platinum review for details.

The Platinum Card is a charge card, not a credit card.  You need to clear your balance in full each month.

There are a lot of long-term benefits that can have real value:

  • 2 Priority Pass cards, each getting you and a guest into 1,200 airport lounges for free.  If you give your second card to your partner, you have a family of four covered.  The addition of the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5, the Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow T2, the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow T3 and the Plaza Premium, ART & LOUNGE and SkyTeam lounges in T4 have made this benefit more valuable in recent years.  At London Gatwick you have the new Club Aspire lounge in BA’s South Terminal.
  • Access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.  Whilst this lounge is not in Priority Pass, you can get in – with a guest – by showing your American Express Platinum card.
  • Eurostar lounge access (cardholder only, no guests)
  • Lounge access with Delta in the US
  • Access to Amex’s upmarket ‘Centurion’ lounge network at selected US airports, Hong Kong and – from 2021 (TBC!) – London Heathrow Terminal 3
  • Marriott Bonvoy (Sheraton, Le Meridien, Aloft, St Regis etc) hotels Gold status,
  • Hilton Honors (Conrad, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Hampton etc) Gold status
  • MeliaRewards (Melia, INNSIDE, Tryp, ME) Gold status
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle (Shangri-La, Traders) Jade status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Taj InnerCircle Gold status
  • Radisson Rewards (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn) Gold status
  • Travel insurance, subject to enrolment, which is fully comprehensive (some minor benefits such as lost luggage requiring you to pay for your flights and hotels with an American Express card, although ‘big stuff’ like medical cover is covered regardless) – although read the small print if you have pre-existing conditions
  • Comprehensive car hire insurance
  • Discounts and/or added benefits in luxury hotels via the Fine Hotels & Resorts programme
  • £10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit
  • $200 cashback on every onefinestay home rental – available unlimited times, no minimum spend

…. plus some other bits and pieces.

A lot of people, including myself, have a Platinum card for the benefits but – because of the weak 1 point per £1 earning rate – do not use it much.  I use mine purely for HFP-related expenditure which gives me the added benefit of being to treat the £575 fee as tax deductible.

IHG Rewards Club credit card free

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club
  • Points from spend count towards elite status
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You receive 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points as a sign-up bonus when you spend £200 within 90 days.

There are no restrictions on receiving the bonus if you have previously held this card or the (no longer available) IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All IHG Rewards Club cardholders receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club for as long as they hold the card.

This is the only UK travel card where the points you earn from spending count towards elite status.  The 10,000 points you receive as a sign-up bonus do not count towards elite status, however.

The free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / Hotel Indigo / InterContinental loyalty programme. This is not worth much, frankly, but some hotels do give you a modest gift or some points as a welcome gift.  In the UK you will get the option of a free drink.  Given that the card is free, it makes sense to take it out purely for the on-going Gold status if you have the occasional IHG hotel stay.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Only available to HSBC Premier account holders
  • Receive free airport lounge access with LoungeKey
  • Annual fee: £195

Representative 59.3% APR variable based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and £195 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 18.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the sign-up bonus +

The sign-up bonus on the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard is 80,000 points.

This is paid in two parts.  You receive 40,000 HSBC points (worth 20,000 Avios or other airline miles) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 miles) for spending £12,000 within twelve months.

The annual fee is £195 and you need to pay the fee for the second year in order to receive the second half of the bonus.

There is no restriction on receiving the bonus if you have previously held the card or are upgrading from the free HSBC Premier Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The points earned with the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard can be transferred to four airline frequent flyer schemes – British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

They can also be redeemed for other items including retailer gift cards.

Cardholders can access any airport lounge in the LoungeKey network for free.  No guest are allowed, but you can get your partner a supplementary credit card on your account for an annual fee of £60.  Children would be charged at £20 per visit.

You need to be a HSBC Premier current account holder to apply for this card.  HSBC Premier comes with a range of additional benefits including comprehensive travel insurance.

The HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one. 

You receive free airport lounge access at 750 airports worldwide via the LoungeKey programme.  Guests are charged at £20, although if you regularly travel with the same adult it would be cheaper to pay £60 to get them a supplementary credit card on your account.  It is a cheaper way of getting lounge access than buying your own Priority Pass card.

If you get the standard version of the HSBC Premier Mastercard, you also get a LoungeKey card but are charged £20 per lounge visit, no freebies.  You can also get a free LoungeKey card via the Santander World Elite Mastercard.

Miles & More Global Traveller Mastercard

Read our full review

Other information:

  • You receive both a Mastercard and a Diners Club card
  • Your Miles & More miles will not expire if you use your card monthly
  • Annual fee: £79

This is a charge card, not a credit card.  You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £79.

See if you qualify for the 5,000 miles sign-up bonus +

The sign-up bonus is 5,000 Miles & More miles, received with your first purchase.

You will not qualify for the bonus if you have previously held this card and are re-applying.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Miles & More Global Traveller Cards come as a double pack of a Diners Club card and a Mastercard.

Technically, the Mastercard element is a prepaid debit Mastercard.  This means that you can use it in some places which do not accept credit cards, such as HMRC.  It should only be used for personal and not business tax.

For most people, there is no reason why you would want to use the Diners Club card instead of the Mastercard.

Diners Club has an agreement with 800 airport lounges to allow you access, on sight of your Diners Club card, for £15 per person.

Holding this card stops your Miles & More miles from expiring as long as you spend at least £1 per month.  This benefit takes three months to activate.

The Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard – launched in 2018, and which operates as a charge card and not a credit card – has one key benefit.  As long as you charge £1+ per month to it, your Lufthansa Miles & More miles will not expire. 

This is a valuable benefit as Miles & More has a draconian three year expiry policy for non-elite members, irrespective of your account activity.  The card has a high annual fee of £79 per year, offset by a 5,000 mile bonus in your first year.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Read our full review

Other information:

  • 15 elite night credits per year which gets Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
  • Free night, up to 25,000 points, when you spend £25,000 per year.
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: £75

Representative 38.8% APR variable based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the 15 elite night credits per year, the free night (up to 25,000 points) for spending £25,000 and Gold Elite status for spending £15,000.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You will receive 15 elite night credits per year in Marriott Bonvoy.  The first batch will arrive within 60 days on applying and then in Spring in each subsequent year.

15 elite nights will automatically get you Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and put you nearer to Gold Elite and higher tiers.

If you spend £15,000 per card year, you will be upgraded to Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.

If you spend £25,000 per card year, you will receive a free night voucher, valid at any hotel where reward nights cost up to 25,000 points.

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 15 free elite night credits per year.  This means that you will immediately qualify for free Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.  This has few real benefits, except for a 10% bonus on base points earned from Marriott hotel stays, so it is debatable whether it is worth the £75 annual card fee.  However, it also puts you 15 nights nearer the very valuable Platinum Elite status which comes with guaranteed lounge access, breakfast benefits and a guaranteed 4pm check-out.

The card comes with 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a sign-up bonus.

Conclusion

Overall, there are some interesting deals to be had with some credit cards which makes them worth keeping, even if you don’t use them.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, The Platinum Card from American Express is worth a look.

The generous sign-up bonus (30,000 Amex points is worth 30,000 Avios or other airline miles when transferred), airport lounge access and the free hotel status cards mean that you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try, despite the heavy fee.

PS.  In case you are wondering, I deliberately excluded The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card.  Whilst you get two free airport lounge passes per year, these do not justify the £140 annual fee from Year 2 onwards.  Of course, in Year 1, it is a different story!

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 (53)

  • rams1981 says:

    Does Miles and More still work at HMRC? That’s a definite benefit if so. Can it be used for corporate payments such as tax or VAT?

    • Rob says:

      Works for personal tax, no problem. People who use it for VAT / corporation tax / PAYE seem to be getting warnings to stop as you are breaching the terms of the card by using it for business expenditure. However, you can use Curve to do the latter.

      (For clarity, your statement DOES break down the exact type of tax you paid.)

  • Waddle says:

    I wonder when/if the metal Gold card will hit the UK and if it will come with any new benefits and/or annual fee?

  • Jenn says:

    Given how limited travel is at the moment and likely to be in the future, I’m thinking of stopping my Amex platinum card. Is there any advantages ( other than saving the fee) or more importantly disadvantages. I’ve taken out the free card to transfer my points onto.
    I also bought lots of air miles when they were being enhanced but could not use them for a return trip next year to Sydney as the dates had not been released. I’m wondering how secure they are?
    Does anyone have any thoughts, views or opinions on the above ?

  • Benilyn says:

    OT: standard version of the HSBC Premier Mastercard also has 2Y extended warranty (on top of manufacturer provided) with D&G for electricals. The paid one does not as far as I can tell.

    • Paul says:

      I’ve just got the Premier account and standard credit card – do they issue a lounge pass or do you just swipe at the desk and pay £20 each time?