What are the best non-American Express cards for earning points and miles?
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
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 U.K. believes to be the best options in the U.K. right now — and they’re all Mastercards.
How did we decide on this list?
We looked at the sign-up bonuses, as well as the best ongoing earn rates per pound to find maximum miles when earning. If you’re looking to avoid annual fees, these cards may not be the best for you.
This Mastercard has a generous sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points (the points currency of Virgin Atlantic) after making your first purchase on the card within 90 days.
This card has an impressive earning rate of 3 Virgin Points 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’ which can either be an Upgrade, a Companion Voucher, or a Clubhouse pass. This means you can choose between:
- A one-cabin return upgrade in any booking class (excluding Economy Light). Anyone can upgrade from economy to Premium, or Premium to Upper Class, even if you are just an entry-level Flying Club Red member. Fees, taxes and surcharges are applicable for the upgrade; or
- Gold and Silver Flying Club members can book a companion into any class of service (economy, Premium, or Upper Class) for no extra Virgin Points. Red Flying Club members can continue to book a companion into economy or Premium using the Companion Voucher, or into Upper Class for 50% of Virgin Points required for a normal redemption seat. Fees, taxes and surcharges are applicable for both passengers.
- One Virgin Clubhouse worldwide entry pass when flying with Virgin Atlantic, Delta or Air France/KLM. No additional guests can be permitted. If you’re a Flying Club Gold member, you’ll get two passes.
What’s even better is that you can apply your Companion or Upgrade Vouchers on a cash fare, rather than just redemption fare. This means if you’ve earned a Companion or Upgrade Voucher but don’t have enough Virgin Points for the first passenger to make a redemption, the first passenger can just book a cash fare. The first passenger can then apply the Companion Voucher for their companion or the Upgrade Voucher for themselves.
You can read our TPG UK’s complete review of this offer here.
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.
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