What Are the Best Non-American Express Cards for Earning Miles?

May 8, 2019

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American Express offers some great card options and the ability to earn valuable Membership Rewards points. But, American Express isn’t accepted everywhere, so you may be looking for a decent Mastercard or Visa card to keep in your wallet so you can still earn rewards on your purchases.

Here are what TPG UK believes are the best options in the UK right now — and they’re all Mastercards.

How did we decide this list? We looked at sign-up bonus, as well as the best ongoing earn rates per pound to find maximum miles earning. If you are looking to avoid annual fees, these cards may not be the best for you.

1. Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

This Mastercard has a generous sign-up bonus of 30,000 Flying Club miles (the points currency of Virgin Atlantic) until 30 June 2019. You’ll have to spend £3,000 in the first 30 days in order to get the full 30,000 miles. This card has an impressive earning rate of 3 Flying Club miles per £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays and 1.5 miles per £1 spent everywhere else.

This is an excellent earn rate for a non-American Express card

If you spend £10,000 on this card within 12 months of each year of activating the card, you will earn a valuable ‘Virgin Atlantic Reward’ based on the the status you hold in the Flying Club program as follows:

If you hold Flying Club Red status (the lowest/entry-level tier) you can choose:

  • To upgrade a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
  • A second economy redemption seat for a traveling companion for no additional miles on the same flight.

For Flying Club silver status members, you can choose between:

  • Upgrading a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
  • A second economy or premium redemption seat for a traveling companion for free on the same flight; or
  • A single Virgin Clubhouse pass for London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW).

If you are a Flying Club Gold member, you can choose between:

  • Upgrading a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
  • A second redemption seat for a traveling companion in any class for no additional miles on the same flight; or
  • Two Virgin Clubhouse pass for London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW).

You can read our TPG UK’s complete review of this offer here.

Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG
Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.

2. Premier World Elite Mastercard From HSBC UK

The biggest downside of this card is that it has very strict eligibility requirements. In order to get it, you need to have an HSBC Premier current banking account. By itself, that restriction does not sound onerous, but the requirements for opening this bank account are:

  • A minimum of £50,000 held with HSBC, either in a savings account, or otherwise invested; or
  • A ‘mortgage, investment, life insurance or protection product’ with HSBC and a minimum annual income of £75,000, which is more than twice the UK median income.

However, if you can meet these requirements there’s a sign-up bonus of 40,000 HSBC Rewards points for spending £2,000 in the first 90 days of holding the card, as well as a further 40,000 points for spending £12,000 on the card in the first twelve months.

These points convert 2:1 to several different airlines programs. So the 80,000 points for reaching both minimum spend amounts would be worth, say, 40,000 British Airways Avios.

The earn rate is also decent. You’ll earn 2 HSBC Rewards points per £1 spent in local currencies, which converts to 1 standard airline mile per £1 spent.

These solo seats are good, but you'll want to grab the seats on the opposite side of the cabin.
Singapore Airlines A350 premium economy, a transfer partner of HSBC Rewards. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.)

3. Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard

Although Miles & More, the loyalty program of the Lufthansa Group may not be the best first program most UK-based travellers might think of when collecting points, this card makes the list because of its excellent earn rate.

There is a sign-up bonus of 5,000 Miles & More miles after your first spend on the card (without having to hit a higher minimum spend).

This alone does not make it a compelling offer, however, the ongoing earn rate is. You will earn a generous 1.25 Miles & More miles per £1 spent. For big spenders where American Express may not be accepted, the miles could add up quickly.

Although this has a higher earn rate than the HSBC card at No. 2 on this list, it does not have the flexibility of the HSBC Reward points, as these are locked in to the Miles & More program.

Miles & More miles can be redeemed on Star Alliance airlines. So if you fly airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss, United, Singapore or Air Canada regularly and are looking for a way to boost your Star Alliance miles balance through the Miles & More program, this could be an attractive offer. This program is also the easiest way to access one of the world’s best first class products using miles — Lufthansa first class.

You can read TPG UK’s complete review of this offer here.

Lufthansa First Class (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
Lufthansa first class. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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