Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Three credit cards worth keeping, unused, just for their benefits

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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.

Three credit cards worth keeping, unused, 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.

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 ‘Top Credit Card Offers‘ page, which summarises all of the cards and deals currently available.

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

Three credit cards worth keeping, unused, just for their benefits

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 40,000 points

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: £650

Representative 704.6% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £650 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

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

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within three months 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.

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 (Premium), 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

You need a minimum personal income of £35,000 to apply for the card.

The Platinum Card from American Express is the most complex and most debatable card here.

Because you can get a very generous 40,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 40,000 Avios or 40,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.

There 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, the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 and the Club Aspire and No1 lounges in Heathrow T3, as well as a number of Gatwick options.
  • 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) Premium 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 1,800+ restaurants outside the UK (no minimum spend required)
  • £50 per half year to spend at Harvey Nichols, online or instore (no minimum spend required)

…. plus some other bits and pieces, including car hire status.

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.

Note that the restaurant and Harvey Nichols credits are not yet confirmed for 2025, but new applicants will definitely be able to enjoy them until the end of 2024.

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 10 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 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 1,300 airports worldwide via the Priority Pass programme.  Guests are charged at £24, 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. There is no way of getting children into a lounge with you without paying the £24.  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 Priority Pass card but are charged £24 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.

The card has a chunky £195 annual fee BUT you receive a sign-up bonus – paid over two years – of 80,000 HSBC points. These convert to 40,000 Avios or 11 other airline and hotel programmes. If you value an Avios at 1p then the card is effectively free for two years if you offset the £390 of fees against the 40,000 Avios received if you hit the bonus targets.

Our full review of the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard is here.

PS. Whilst it is not a ‘travel rewards’ card, and so not included in this article, you may also want to look at the new Lloyds Bank World Elite Mastercard. This costs £15 per month and includes Priority Pass airport lounge access.

Three credit cards worth keeping, unused, just for their benefits

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Bonus: 60,000 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: £95

Representative 54.8% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £95 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

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

You will receive 60,000 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 until 3rd July 2024 and is the highest bonus ever offered.  The usual 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.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.

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 £95 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.

I have this card myself and find that I can manage 35 Marriott nights each year on top to requalify for Platinum Elite. The 15 free elite nights even count towards lifetime status with Marriott Bonvoy.

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 card 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 40,000 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 four free airport lounge passes per year and £120 of Deliveroo credit, these do not justify the £195 annual fee from Year 2 onwards.  Of course, in Year 1, it is a different story.


best travel rewards credit cards

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2024 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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £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.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

HUGE 60,000 POINTS BONUS UNTIL 3rd JULY and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 Business Credit Card

1% cashback uncapped* on all your business spending (T&C apply) Read our full review

Comments (52)

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

  • KyaCat says:

    Didn’t the bonvoy Amex used to have a free night stay after hitting a certain spend amount? Is that gone?

    • BBbetter says:

      Not gone. Rob said he wouldn’t focus on benefits that require a spend target, in this article.

  • Tim says:

    Lloyds world elite is £15 a month, free pp, free partner card with the same benefits, and fast track in a lot of airports. It doesn’t need a financial commitment to the issuing bank. It warrants more than a PS.

    • PGR says:

      Was expecting to see this one too

    • Maples says:

      I think I’d keep this over the HSBC if I was aiming for PP. The value I think for it is if you use it regularly for the points. I don’t think the second year bonus counts for an unused card.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Gatwick and Manchester of the big UK airports isn’t really worth mentioned fast track for.

  • Occasional Ranter says:

    As a many time Amex Plat holder, I have to ask – have we reached the point yet where we can ascribe a negative value to the Amex Priority Pass perk 😉 ? If I value each rejection from a busy lounge at -£30 per head, and when I realise I’m only using the PP access anyway on the few occasions I don’t have a J ticket and haven’t got a couple of Dragonpass lounge entries spare from my Barclays Avios Rewards, and when typically this amounts to walking out of my way to get into a tired looking lounge serving substandard food when I would actually rather have just shelled out 10-15 euros for a coffee and a bite to eat in a public area with better aircon and a great view of the runway, then I think so.

    Right, got that off my chest…

  • Occasional Ranter says:

    The restaurant dining credits, OTOH, have real value, more so if your anniversary isn’t too close to the calendar year end and you are alternating between Platinum and other Amex cards from year to year. Have already managed to use both the UK and the foreign credits twice (once in 2023, once in 2024) within a single card year, and 3 of the 4 uses were in restaurants I actually wanted to eat in anyway. All had slightly “aspirational” pricing but I’d still assign about £300-400 of value to the credits.

  • Ali Hunter says:

    Hi, if you already have a BA Amex Premium 2 for 1 card would you still qualify for the 40,000 Platinum Card sign on bonus? And I assume your assessment of the benefits includes netting off the annual fee for the Platinum Card I.e. still worth it even with the large annual fee type thing?

    • Rob says:

      Yes.

      Fee remains refundable pro-rata (for now).

      • Chris says:

        I have never realised that. I’m always jumping between the Amex’s when buying flights dependant on what coverage I’d value more for that flight, didn’t realise that was unnecessary

        • Rob says:

          BA Amex cover probably requires paying on a BA Amex – not sure. Plat cover just requires an Amex card in your name.

      • Ali Hunter says:

        Hi thx Rob, one more question if you cancel the platinum card after you receive the 40,000 sign on bonus and obtain a partial refund on the annual card fee would they take the air miles off you agsin??

  • Nathalie says:

    Am I right in thinking you can’t get the Platinum Card from American Express/qualify for the sign up bonus if you already have the BA Amex as well as gold Amex??

  • sturgeon says:

    Does the requirement to pay on Amex for the lost luggage insurance require you to pay for flights and hotels with the Platinum or any Amex? It says pay with ‘an American Express card’ above. What else within the insurance requires this? I barely use it due to the crap earning rate.

    • Rob says:

      Any personal Amex in your name. Is very clear in the T&C (if you’re a lawyer).

  • Lynn says:

    If I upgrade my British Airways amex half way through my membership year, do I still pay the full fee?

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.