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.
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
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.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
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.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express
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.
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:
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 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 Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
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:
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
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.