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

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 60,000 points + £200
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,400 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • £300 per year of restaurant credit
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols
  • Annual fee: £575

Representative 439.9% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £575 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 26.0% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 60,000 points + £200 sign-up bonus +

You will receive 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and a £200 Amex Travel credit as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within six months of signing up.

This is a special offer which runs to 25th October 2022.

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 your supplementary cardholder, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,400 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

£150 per year to spend in over 160 UK restaurants

£150 per year to spend in over 1,200 international restaurants

£100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, instore or online (no minimum spend required)

£300 per year of dining credit – £150 to be spent at 150+ UK restaurants and £150 to be spent at 1,200+ restaurants outside the UK

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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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 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
  • £150 per year to spend in 150+ UK restaurants (no minimum spend required)
  • £150 per year to spend in 1,200+ restaurants outside the UK (no minimum spend required)
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, online or instore (no minimum spend required)

…. 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

Bonus: 80,000 points

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 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 or hotel points) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 points) 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 11 airline and hotel loyalty schemes – Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club / Avios, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Finnair Plus, Flying Blue (Air France KLM), Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, TAP Miles&Go, IHG One Rewards and Wyndham Rewards.

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 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

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Bonus: 40,000 points
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full review

Other information:

  • 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 43.3% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 26.0% 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 8th November 2022.  The standard bonus is 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

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.

EDIT: Until 8th November 2022, the bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is doubled to 40,000 points. The standard bonus is just 20,000 points.

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 of 30,000 Membership Rewards points, 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? – October 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit 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 with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

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

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up 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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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 – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee 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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback 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.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    Small typo: “being to treat the £575 fee as tax deductible.”

  • HH says:

    I came here to say the same thing. There’s £120 of Deliveroo credit, the lounge passes, refund protection and travel inconvenience cover… Well worth the £140 in all, before even considering all the double points and bonus points features.

  • mark2 says:

    Also Platinum gets a chunky bonus if you refer someone.

  • Johnny5a says:

    I’m about to cancel my HSBC Premier Mastercard and just replace it with the free Barclaycard Avios both earn the same amount. I can live without the lounge access, long haul i’ll travel J anyway so i’ll get lounge included. Most of the lounges included with LoungeKey aren’t great anyway for <£20 I could get a drink and snack air side

    • SamG says:

      Agree. Unless you use the lounge benefit a lot (which is pretty difficult living in the UK tbh) or would transfer the points to someone else other than BA (Krisflyer is a potential due to the better exchange rate vs Amex) I don’t see the value in keeping this card past year 2

      I had it when I lived in Asia and definitely got good value then, was traveling a lot more and the lounges tended to be better (and v rare to be refused entry due to capacity vs UK)
      I also used the WiFi benefit a lot on Singapore Airlines which actually saved me a fortune !

      • Matt says:

        Wish the credit cards would scrap lounge membership and replace it with something better or lower the fee. All the paid lounges I’ve been to suck (or refused entry). Paid lounges only make sense if you want to get smashed on cheap booze.

        • dougzz99 says:

          This is quite interesting. I wonder what Amex and HSBC pay to PP and LK. In the UK it’s a fairly useless benefit. Between ‘capacity issues’ and the generally poor quality of lounges it’s a dubious benefit. If a lounge is nice it’ll be crowded, meaning it’s not that nice. That applies to every Amex lounge I’ve been in.

      • Johnny5a says:

        We use to have Amex Platinum when we travelled a lot as a family, especially when my son was pre-school age, the PP was quite handy.

    • Red Flyer says:

      Don’t forget the 25% bonus on miles transferred that HSBC tend to run annually.

  • Gringo says:

    Could you please write an article of the impact these (and other cards) would have on your credit rating, assuming they’re all paid off in full each month of course? I’m looking to apply for my first mortgage, and after ~10 years of churning Amex cc’s I’m not convinced it will be so straightforward!

    • polly says:

      Usual advice, stop applying/churning 6 months before you might be applying for a mortgage. But, if you have always paid off the balance etc, your credit rating will be quite high. Have you checked it lately? And every application is different anyway. Been some discussions around this topic on here, over the years.

    • John says:

      Mortgage applications mainly look at your affordability and won’t be bothered by closed card accounts.

  • Ian Davis says:

    I took the Amex platinum card for the bonus sign on miles and because I keep reading about it articles such as this all the time. Now I have it, unless the points improve I will be cancelling it in 10 mths. For me the perks don’t add up. I can buy priority pass for circa £60 a visit. Excess car insurance circa £50 2wks. Hotel upgrades normally mean a slightly bigger room and bottle of water. We used Addison Lee recently, no Mercedes and twice the price of an Uber. The biggest challenge is that a yearly spend of £50k would mean a loss of 25,000 airmiles when compared to using the Virgin Atlantic black card.

    • YC says:

      Definitely does not work for everyone but can stack up if you travel a lot. But why cancel in 10months if u can get a pro rata refund?

  • Max says:

    Amex rewards card – to keep MR points

    • Jonathan says:

      Only really beneficial if you’re about to cancel another MR card and you’ve got points still on the card without anywhere/anything to transfer them over to before you cancel

  • Andy J says:

    HSBC premier card also gets 10pct off Expedia, and more usefully, agoda hotels.
    Agoda has some cracking 5 star hotel rates, but nevertheless just one booking with a further 10pct off can alone pay for the card fee.

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