Which five loyalty credit cards are worth keeping for their benefits even if you never use them?

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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.

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.

credit cards with the best benefits

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

The Platinum Card from American Express (click here for our Amex Platinum review)

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £575 annual fee.  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 Plat 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 late 2020 (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 Mastercard  (click here for our IHG Rewards Club Mastercard review)

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.

Representative APR 22.9% variable.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (click here for our HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review)

This card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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 Diners Club and Mastercard (click here for our Miles & More Mastercard review)

The new Lufthansa card – 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 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.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express (click here for our Marriott Bonvoy Amex review)

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.

The representative APR is 38.8% variable including £75 fee based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

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.

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Comments

  1. Daniel Evans says:

    I cancelled my Amex Platinum card over 2 years ago and I still maintain my Hilton/Marriott status and also have used the card to access Eurostar and Delta lounges. This really is the card that keeps on giving.

  2. Nick G says:

    So essentially if you currently have/had in the past 24 months an Amex (like I have), or don’t have an Hsbc premier account (Like me) then the options are fairly limited to 2 cards?

    • The Original David says:

      No. The on-going benefits of the Amexes are provided regardless of whether you’ve had a different Amex recently – only the sign-up bonus is affected by that.

  3. Waddle says:

    I understand this is limited to a small group of people and might have even more limited appeal but the HSBC Premier World Elite also includes Expedia Gold and 10% discount when booking with the card, plus iPass inflight WiFi.

    • Craig W says:

      didn’t know about the WiFi – cheers!!

    • Pretty sure the Expedia gold has been dropped, at least it has for Jade customers.

      • I took out the card this year and the Expedia Gold status and 10% off was still available to me. In fact I think it’s available on the free Premier credit card as well.

  4. In terms of cards I have kept but never use, the Tesco credit card issued years ago that gives 800 Avios per £2.50 of Tesco vouchers rather than 600. This was and remains quite lucrative. I get an email once a year threaten to shut it down and so I spend a fiver somewhere to keep it live.

    • RussellH says:

      I doubt if you need to keep the credit card to get 800 avios / £2.50 Tesco voucher.
      There are still quite a few here who get that benefit, because that was the rate on all Tesco->Avios conversions when the scheme started. When avios travel rewards closed, I continued to get 800 avios / £2.50 Tesco voucheron Tesco->BAEC, even though I had never done such a conversion before.
      While I have had, for very short periods of time, a couple of Tesco credit cards, these were long after the drop to 600 avios / £2.50 Tesco voucher.

    • The Tesco credit card is one to keep hold of forever, even once the account it closed, for the points earn on petrol.

      • RussellH says:

        I very seldom buy motor fuel at Tesco; always significantly more expensive than Morrison’s or ASDA. The Clubcard points do not compensate for the price difference.

  5. Titus Adduxas says:

    Isn’t it the case that you can get an Amex Gold card and still get the 10000 points for the annual spend? I’ve just received mine and cancelled the card but I’m led to believe there’s no problem with getting a new one any time. You’d not get the sign up bonus of course but there’s no need to wait two years.

    • Waddle says:

      Yes the annual bonus still applies. 10k MR for £15k spend. Everyone will also have their own thoughts about whether this is worth the £140 fee from the second year onwards.

      • Titus Adduxas says:

        If course as soon as you’ve got the 10000 points you cancel the card and get the pro rata refund so effectively you’re getting the points for about £12. Then after a nominal time reapply for a gold card and get the first year free again. Simples (I think)

    • Correct.

      • Claire says:

        But you only get the bonus MR points 1 month after renewal? so how can you cancel?

        • Titus Adduxas says:

          You cancel after you’ve got the points, hence the nominal £12 cost you lose.

  6. Another benefit of the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard is that the status awarded also means your IHG points don’t expire

  7. flyforfun says:

    Rob,

    Be good to run an article on cards no longer available to new members but still around for those that had them to remind them of the benefits. MBNA (Ex BMI) card with no annual fees but comes with cash back and no FX charges springs to mind. Not sure how many there are like that but worth reminding people why they still carry them around.

    Even though we can’t travel at the mo, this card comes in handy for o/s transactions even from here. I sponsor via Patreon and they charge in USD. Good not to have any fees on a small amount.

    • I think it just winds people up who can’t get them!

      • Probably, but I remember the last time you ran one and found it interesting, there’ll always be things some of us can and some of us can’t benefit from in this game.

      • Lady London says:

        I agree. It’s bad enough hearing about people here who still have the Hilton card…. when nobody new can get it.

      • Secret Squirrel says:

        Agree, a bit deflating for newbies to see what they missed out on?

    • RussellH says:

      I have one of those Visa cards, from Lufthansa, not BMI. I also have a Hilton Barclaycard and a Marriott Mastercard (from Creation) which are my main use cards, but not available to new holders. I am not aware of any other such cards.
      I do also have an IHG mastercard, but I have more than enough IHG points (and my partner has 4x as many as I do, as well as being Spire and Amb), whereas Marriott points in particular are difficult to come by AND you need a lot more points in general for a Marriott stay, making it doubly difficult to build a useful reserve.

      • Agreed re Marriott points, they are the only ones I would commit to buying in significant amounts due to the value I can get out of them. HH visa is awesome and I hope they don’t take it away!

        • Lady London says:

          grrr again

          • Secret Squirrel says:

            I am so livid with myself I didn’t apply for the Hilton Barclaycard when it was available, I wish card companies would give you a bit of notice! 😠

          • Sorry LL! But you do a lot more travelling than I do and hopefully use that to rack up your points!

        • RussellH says:

          Shhh!
          🙂

      • Ha yes, MBNA Horizon visa, I’ve got 2x from AA/EY cards I held. IHG Premium (which was only withdrawn for new members very recently), Creation Everyday, Lloyds Avios and Barclaycard Hilton are the others I’ll keep until they kill them.

        I had the Creation Marriott card years ago, regret closing that one.

        • This made me look actually, 7 of the 10 UK cards I hold are no longer available to new customers (Creation ED & IHG Black, BC Hilton, MBNA Horizon x2, Lloyds Avios, Nationwide Select).

          • @guesswho2000. How did you keep your old Avios Lloyds card. Mine was cancelled and replaced by Lloyds with a much less benefit

          • @PJJ I don’t know to be honest – the more useful, older version (with the Amex, no forex fees and upgrade voucher) was canned last year at some point, but the one I got as a replacement still earns 0.4 Avios/£1…no upgrade voucher and charging of forex fees make it less useful, but there’s no annual fee now, so no detriment in keeping it for the time being.

  8. How many credit cards do fellow HfP readers have? I have recently cancelled Amex Plat, just couldn’t justify the annual fee. I currently have the BAPP, the free VS card and the John Lewis card.

    • Hilton for general spend, Halifax for foreign currency transactions

    • RussellH says:

      Two (fee free) Amex. IHG + Marriott M/cards. Hilton Visa. Apart from the IHG card, these are the ones I carry in the UK.
      Abroad I have Post Office and Halifax M/Cards and MBNA Visa (all FX free), but they get very little use as most of my travel is in the Eurozone and I have two EUR debit cards and one EUR credit card (though it is not a credit card as we would understand it).
      When in Switzerland I have a debit card too (to draw on my Swiss state pension).
      I also have a Transferwise multi-currency a/c and debit card which I took out in February. I loaded some USD on it at the time for the holiday we were supposed to be on at present. I was able to convert some of the USD back to GBP recently, making a small profit and have left the remainder on the cardas a USD debit card for the occasional online expense.

    • mr_jetlag says:

      I’ve gone off fee paying cards for this year (Gold -> ARCC, HSBC WE Premier -> Premier, BAPP -> Blue), and in addition have Amex Plat CB and Clarity.

      • RussellH says:

        I never went on to fee paying cards, TBH.
        There has to be a **very** good reason for me to take one out.
        The only one that ever made sense to me was the Starwood Amex, spend £1000 (or rather spend £500 and load up my CAF a/c with £500), get the points bonus and canx the card ASAP.
        Usually possible to spend £500 in a couple of months or so around Christmas (not so easy the rest of the year).
        Repeat the following year, until they changed the rules.
        ;-(

      • How does the downgrade from BAPP to the free BA Amex work? Is it a downgrade or a cancellation plus a new application? How will downgrading impact my credit score?

    • Waddle says:

      I have the VS paid and HSBC Prem WE as non-Amexes.

      As for Amex I upgraded to Plat to make use of the double points offer, will probably cancel or downgrade after that’s over. I have the BAPP which I use every year until I hit the voucher and then downgrade to Blue to get some of the fee back for the rest of the year. I also have the Gold CC which I’m holding onto until the annual bonus hits.

      I’m also fortunate enough to have a U.S. bank account and a real U.S. address so I also hold the Hilton Aspire Amex which comes with a huge range of benefits including no FX fees.

      • flyforfun says:

        I’ve dropped down and up in the past, but can’t recall, does your account number change? I have a couple of auto payments on it and at times I can’t be ar5ed with updating details!!

    • 22x currently – 10x UK, 1x USD (Amex ICC), 11x Australia.
      I’ll be revisiting the fee paying ones when due, given the stark change to my travel situation as a result of this situation, but they all genuinely made sense to retain until now.

      • Lady London says:

        Until consumer credit loosens again I personally would try not to cancel the last card I have with any provider as it means (presumably) you remain known as an up to date customer for any future products they may release for other brands. There are not too many credit card operators in the UK it seems, US may be different story

    • Lady London says:

      Does the JL card have any particularly interesting attributes?

  9. 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?

    • 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.)

  10. 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?

  11. 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 ?

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