Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Four credit cards worth keeping, unused, 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. I thought it was worth another look at the four loyalty cards which offer decent on-going perks even if you don’t use them.

This article was updated on 1st August 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

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 Card Offers‘ page, which summarises all of the cards currently available.

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 30,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four 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.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

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.

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 four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), 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.  

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.  London lounges include the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5, the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow T3 and the ART & LOUNGE and SkyTeam lounges in T4.  At London Gatwick you have the new Club Aspire lounges in both terminals.
  • Access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 as well as the other Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow and indeed globally. Whilst these lounges are not in Priority Pass from July 2021, you can get in – with a guest – by showing your American Express Platinum card.
  • Eurostar lounge access (cardholder only, no guests, although your supplementary Platinum cardholder can get in with their card)
  • Lounge access with Delta in the US
  • Access to Amex’s upmarket ‘Centurion’ lounge network at selected US airports, Hong Kong and – from 2022 – 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
  • 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.

HFP IHG Rewards Club mastercard

IHG Rewards Mastercard

Sainsbury's Nectar credit card

IHG Rewards Mastercard

Bonus: 10,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards
  • 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 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 Premium Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All IHG Rewards cardholders receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards 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 Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards, 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. 

Gold status, or indeed any level of IHG elite status, will also stop your points expiring. Base level members lose their points if there is no activity, earning or redeeming, on their account for a 12 month period.

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

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Bonus: 80,000 HSBC points

Read our full reviewApply here

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 an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £195 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 18.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 80,000 points 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, as long as you cancelled it over six months ago, 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.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Bonus: 40,000 points
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Apply by 31st August and receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status to February 2023
  • 15 elite night credits per year to help you towards higher 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 an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 40,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

This is a special offer which runs to 31st August 2021.  It will drop back to 20,000 points after that date.

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.

Apply by 31st August 2021 and you will automatically be promoted to Gold Elite status which you will retain until February 2023.

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. 

15 night credits 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 on its own.

However, it also puts you 15 nights nearer the very valuable Platinum Elite status which usually requires 50 nights. Platinum Elite comes with guaranteed lounge access, breakfast benefits and a guaranteed 4pm check-out.

The card comes with 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a sign-up bonus if you meet the qualifying criteria. This is a special offer which runs until 31st August 2021.

Our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express is here. You can apply here.

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 (the current referral offer of 50,000 Amex points is worth 50,000 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.

(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 Card Offers’ 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.

Comments (51)

  • Gary says:

    Many thanks JPA.

  • Graham Walsh says:

    I am struggling to find a reason to keep my Amex Plat. Doesn’t look like I’ll be travelling anywhere this calendar year. Yes, the offers were good, but really wonder if they will do more of them this calendar year.

  • flyforfun says:

    What about the MBNA Horizon card? Is that worth keeping now that only existing card holders can keep it? Yes it’s 0.5% cash back on spend and fee free FX purchases, but it’s free. With the ending of the Lloyds Avios card soon, as I assume they’ll get the same perks as Lloyds now own MBNA, will it be worth having the two?

    Of course, all spend goes on the BAPP card where possible. Very disappointed when I bought a new car recently. No Amex taken. And then only £2k allowed on credit card, the rest needed to be debit card. Thanks to the Curve Card I put the rest on that and scored the points on the Avios card!

    • QFFlyer says:

      Oh, and it’ll definitely be worth having the two, if only in case one gets canned before the other. However, the Horizon card will be the better to use, as it’s 0.5% on everything (Lloyds will be 0.25% on the first £4k, then 0.5% on the rest, meaning it can never be better than the Horizon card).

    • Harrier25 says:

      The Hilton Honors card gives you Gold tier as long as you spend £10,000 on it per calendar year.

    • RussellH says:

      The Marriott card gives me 2000 points each year on the card anniversay too, even while the card sits in a drawer.

      Surely a better way of maintaining customer loyalty would be for all cards to do something like this, but tiered depending on amount of use.

  • QFFlyer says:

    I’m sure this list used to be much longer than four, I guess that’s a depressing sign of the times hey.
    Wonder if there’ll ever be some form of return to better days, in terms of card rewards.

    • Harrier25 says:

      I think we’re reliant on companies doing deals with Amex for better rewards as I don’t think there is the margins anymore to do it via MasterCard and Visa.

      • Alex says:

        Or more people follow in virgins footsteps and limit points by credit limit. More cards on offer but stopping people cycling millions of points/miles

      • QFFlyer says:

        Would kill for some Amex deals like the Marriott and Hilton cards they get in the US though, even with the hefty annual fees.

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