The UK Airline & Hotel Credit Cards Directory (October 2018)

This page contains the UK’s only comprehensive and regularly updated guide to credit and charge cards offering air miles or hotel loyalty points.

I know that there is a lot of information here! I summarise the top deals below. For extra guidance, this article compares all 12 (!) of the credit cards which earn Avios points.  I also recommend this article on the best travel credit cards for long-term spending. This article looks at which cards are worth keeping for their benefits, even if you never use them. This article ranks all of the airline and hotel cards in terms of the most valuable sign-up bonuses, adjusting for fees.

I am happy to refer readers for the special referral bonuses on the British Airways, Starwood, American Express Platinum and American Express Preferred Rewards Gold cards. Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk with the name of the card for which you would like a referral.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

This page was correct as at 1st October.  See the main site for any new promotions.

The following cards currently offer the largest or most interesting sign-up bonuses:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

This is the most generous card which has no fee in Year 1.  You receive 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see here for what 20,000 Membership Rewards points can get you 20,000 Avios points for example!)  You can earn an extra 2,000 points if I refer you, see below.  My full review of American Express Gold is here.  Having a British Airways Amex does not stop you from receiving this bonus – you are OK to apply.

American Express Platinum

The card now offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points, worth 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things.  You earn an extra 5,000 points if I refer you – see below for details.  You receive a pro-rata refund on the £450 fee when you cancel the card and you will retain most of the benefits – Starwood Gold, Marriott Gold (matched from Starwood), Radisson Gold, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold, Shangri-La Jade, Eurostar lounge access – for the rest of the year even after you cancel.  My full review of American Express Platinum is here.

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

For a limited period (we don’t know how limited), the sign-up bonus on this card has been increased from 18,000 to 25,000 Avios points.  You earn an extra 1,000 Avios if I refer you – see below for details.  My full review of the British Airways Premium Plus card is here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ Mastercard

Virgin Atlantic has now launched its two new Virgin Flying Club credit cards.  These are the most generous Mastercard or Visa cards for day to day spending.  The free Reward card (with a 5,000 miles sign-up bonus) earns 0.75 miles per £1 whilst the annual fee Reward+ card (with a 15,000 mile sign-up bonus) earns 1.5 miles per £1.  There is no spending target to hit to receive the bonus.

American Express Membership Rewards cards:

American Express Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin Flying Club and various other loyalty programmes

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: free for first year, then £140 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  The standard offer is 20,000 Membership Rewards points (= 20,000 Avios etc) when you spend £2,000 in the first three months.  A higher bonus of 22,000 Membership Rewards points (= 22,000 Avios) is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a Platinum, Gold or Green Amex card in the last six months. You are OK if you have a BA, SPG, Nectar or similar Amex.

On-going benefits:  Double points on all airline and foreign spend, triple points on all spend on the Amex Travel website, 10% Hertz discount, $75 in-hotel credit with 350 selected hotels worldwide, two free airport lounge passes each year.  You receive an annual bonus of 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points if you spent £15,000 in the previous year.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.

American Express Platinum

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £450 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus:  The standard offer is 30,000 Membership Rewards points (= 30,000 Avios etc) when you spend £2,000 in the first three months.  A higher bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points (= 35,000 Avios) is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a Platinum, Gold or Green Amex card in the last six months. You are OK if you have a BA, SPG, Nectar or similar Amex. Note that this is a charge card and your balance must be cleared in full each month.

On-going benefits: Starwood Preferred Guest Gold, Marriott Rewards Gold (by matching SPG), Radisson Rewards Gold Elite, Hilton Honors Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status, Melia Reward Gold, two Priority Pass cards for airport lounge access, Eurostar lounge access, Delta lounge access, travel insurance for your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders.

American Express Rewards

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: nil / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review

Sign-up bonus:  There are three versions of this card.  LOW RATE (click here) – 5,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 9.9% variable or BASIC (click here) – 10,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 22.9% variable or PURCHASES (click here) – NO sign-up bonus but 0% APR on purchases for 18 months and a representative APR of 22.9% variable beyond that.

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a Platinum, Gold or Green Amex card in the last six months. You are OK if you have a BA, SPG, Nectar or similar Amex.

This is not the best Amex starter card – you should get Preferred Rewards Gold instead because of the higher bonus and better benefits.  You should get Amex Rewards if you are planning to cancel a Gold or Platinum card but want to keep your Membership Rewards points.  I explain more in this article.

Avios credit cards:

British Airways American Express

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 5,000 Avios points when you spend £1,000 within 3 months.  This is a special offer, the closing date is not known.  A higher bonus of 6,000 Avios points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

On-going benefits: Free companion voucher for an Avios redemption when you spend £20,000 each year. The voucher is valid for one year, taxes still apply.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £195 / Earn rate: 1.5 miles per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 25,000 Avios points when you spend £3,000 within 3 months.  This is a special offer, the closing date is not known.  A higher bonus of 26,000 Avios points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

On-going benefits: Free companion voucher for an Avios redemption when you spend £10,000 each year. The voucher is valid for two years, taxes still apply. Double miles on BA flights and holidays booked at ba.com.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

Virgin Flying Club credit cards:

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

Issuer: Virgin Money / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 0.75 miles per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 5,000 Virgin Flying Club miles with your first purchase within 3 months

On-going benefits:  Free 2-4-1 voucher for a miles redemption when you spend £20,000 each year.  This is valid in Economy for base members, Premium for Silver members and Upper for Gold.  The voucher is valid for two years, taxes still apply.  The voucher can be swapped for an ‘Economy to Premium’ upgrade voucher for a miles ticket.  Double miles on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays and unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

Issuer: Virgin Money / Annual fee: £160 / Earn rate: 1.5 miles per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles with your first purchase within 3 months

On-going benefits:  Free 2-4-1 voucher for a miles redemption when you spend £10,000 each year.  This is valid in Economy for base members, Premium for Silver members and Upper for Gold.  The voucher is valid for two years, taxes still apply.  The voucher can be swapped for an ‘Economy to Premium’ upgrade voucher for a miles ticket.  Double miles on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays and unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK.  Representative APR 63.9% variable including £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.

Other airline credit cards:

Flybe Mastercard

Issuer: Sygma / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 Spend&Fly credit per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: One free return flight excluding taxes.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Hotel credit cards :

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard

Issuer: Creation / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within 90 days

On-going benefits: Double points on spending at IHG Rewards Club hotels and abroad, IHG Rewards Club Gold status.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard

Issuer: Creation / Annual fee: £99 / Earn rate: 2 points per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within 90 days

On-going benefits: Voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you spend £10,000 per year, double points on spending at IHG Rewards Club hotels, double points on foreign spend, IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Issuer: Amex / Annual fee: £75 / Earn rate: 1 point per £1 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 30,000 points when you spend £1,000 within the first three months. This is convertible into 10,000 Avios or 40+ other airline schemes.  A higher bonus of 33,000 points is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder.  Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral. Pro-rata fee refund received when card is cancelled.

On-going benefits: Voucher for a free night in any property costing up to 25,000 points when you spend £25,000 per year.  Upgrade to Gold status when you spend £15,000 in a card year.  Double points on Marriott and Starwood hotel stays until December 2019.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Other credit cards earning airline miles indirectly:

HSBC Premier Mastercard

Issue: HSBC / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 0.5 miles per £1 in four airlines including Avios / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: None.  Note that this card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and that a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Issue: HSBC / Annual fee: £195 / Earn rate: 1 mile per £1 in four airlines including Avios / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 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, paid at the year end.  Other benefits include airport lounge access.  Note that this card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders, and that a substantial financial commitment to HSBC is required to receive one.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Tesco Clubcard Mastercard 

Issuer: Tesco Bank / Annual fee: £0 / Earn rate: 1 Clubcard point per £8 / Review / Apply

Sign-up bonus: None.  The earning rate of 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent is equivalent to 0.3 Avios points per £1 or 0.312 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

The Tesco card is the highest paying Visa / Mastercard on the market if you want to earn Avios unless you meet the stringent requirements for HSBC Premier or are willing to pay the £150 fee for Tesco Premium.

Small business cards:

Head for Points focusses primarily on personal cards. However, if you are a sole trader or run a small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card and the American Express Gold Business Card. There is currently a 20,000 points (= 20,000 Avios) bonus on the Gold Business card and a 40,000 points (40,000 Avios) bonus on the Platinum Business card.

The Platinum Business card offers different benefits to the standard Platinum card.  The travel insurance is better, as the age limit is increased to 80 and there is no requirement to pay for your flight or hotel with an Amex card.  The hotel status and Priority Pass benefits are also slightly different.

The not-so-small print:

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.

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