Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Three 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 three 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 or the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade 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 three 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

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 1,300 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 and the Club Aspire and No1 lounges in Heathrow T3, as well as a number of Gatwick options.
  • Access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 as well as the other Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow, Gatwick and indeed globally. Whilst these lounges are 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, 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 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
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, online or instore (no minimum spend required)
  • $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.

credit cards worth keeping, unused, just for their benefits

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

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 would also get comprehensive travel insurance, although this is technically a benefit of the free HSBC Premier current account and you would receive this even if you decided not to take out the credit card.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 bonus points and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

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.

You will also receive 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a sign-up bonus, if you qualify and meet the spending target.

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 special sign-up offer – until 1st June 2022 – of 60,000 Amex points is worth 60,000 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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (22)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Richard T says:

    I use Eurostar a lot, Amex Platinum entrance to the business lounge is a great benefit; the travel insurance is also really useful – I priced up the commercial alternative for my family, it came to over £300. Adding to that the discounts etc, for me the card more than pays for itself.

    • Cranzle says:

      If any of your family are on medication for high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, the Amex insurance won’t cover you for if you suffer from a cardiovascular related event.

  • david says:

    27,000 avios on ebay for £299. In a scale of 1-10 how legit is this?

    • Rob says:

      27,000 is the annual limit for a free transfer by a Gold member, so on that basis probably legit.

  • Panda Mick says:

    Ditto, and whilst it’s not possible to apply for the charge card, it is possible to get, via a plat downgrade

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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