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Across the board, when it comes to earning points and miles, the easiest way to do so is through credit cards. For the right people, credit cards offer a way to increase your point balances quickly in order to get you on your way to travelling for (almost) free. There are some great cards out there, with exciting benefits available in the UK market, and here are my three personal favourites!
Before making your choice at which to apply for, I strongly recommend checking out the full reviews of each of the cards below. And it’s also key to fully understand American Express’ new welcome bonus restrictions, which may influence your Amex strategy. But without further ado…
The Best UK Miles and Points Credit Cards of 2019
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold: Best for beginners
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card: Best for earning the most valuable UK credit card benefit (the British Airways Companion Voucher)
- Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard: Best for when Amex is not accepted
1. American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Welcome bonus: 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending £3,000 in the first three months
Earning rate: 1 Membership Reward point per £1 spent on all purchases; 2 Membership Rewards points per £1 spent directly with airlines or in a foreign currency (though you’ll have to pay a 2.99% foreign transaction fee); 3 Membership Rewards points per £1 spent at American Express Travel
Other key benefits: Two annual lounge passes to make your airport experience more enjoyable. The visits must be made in the Lounge Club network, which boasts more than 700 lounges worldwide. Member lounges include the No1 Lounges at London Gatwick (LGW), and Plaza Premium lounges at Heathrow Airport (LHR), among others.
Representative example and annual fee: This card has a representative APR of 57.6% variable and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. There is an annual fee of £140, which is waived for the first year.
Why it’s great: The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card is my top pick for the beginner to the miles and points game. A 10,000 Membership Rewards-point welcome bonus, no fee for the first year and great point-earning structure make this card a no brainer. Plus, you’re earning Membership Rewards points, which are a transferable currency, allowing you to shift your points to any of Amex’s 17 partners. For example, 10,000 MR points can be transferred to British Airways Avios for a return flight to many destinations in Europe.
2. British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
Welcome bonus: 25,000 British Airways Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months
Earning rate: 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on all purchases; 3 Avios per £1 spent directly with British Airways or BA Holidays
Other key benefits: 2-for-1 Companion Voucher earned after £10,000 in annual spend on the card. The Companion Voucher is the most valuable credit card benefit out there, allowing you to take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Of course, taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to the companion. When earned with this card, the Voucher is valid for two years. (Stay tuned for a separate 2-for-1 Companion Voucher guide.)
Representative example and annual fee: This card has an APR of 76.0% variable and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. There is an annual fee of £195.
Why it’s great: The 2-for-1 Companion Voucher is the most valuable benefit in the UK reward credit card market. And subject to various rules, it gives you a free ticket when you make a redemption using your Avios, effectively doubling the value of your pool of Avios if used correctly. Plus, the 25,000-Avios welcome bonus can get you an upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World or three return flights to many destinations in Europe.
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card Review
- Ultimate Guide to British Airways Avios
- Guide to the British Airways Amex Companion Voucher
3. Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
Sign-up bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after making your first card purchase within 90 days of account opening
Earning rate: 1.5 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per £1 spent on everyday purchases; 3 Flying Club miles per £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays
Other key benefits: You’ll unlock a ‘Virgin Atlantic reward’ after spending £10,000 annually. Options vary, depending on the level of status you have with Flying Club. The value of the Virgin Atlantic reward is highest if you’re a Flying Club Gold member, where you can effectively get a companion voucher on any redemption flight in any cabin of service.
Representative example and annual fee: This card has a representative APR of 63.9% variable, and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. There is an annual fee of £160.
Why it’s great: Because this is a Mastercard, you’ll have a back up in situations where Amex may not be accepted. With a fantastic sign up bonus and ongoing earning rate of 1.5 miles per £1 spent on everyday purchases and double that for purchases made directly with Virgin or Virgin Holidays, you’ll have an expedited way to getting an Upper Class redemption.
- Should I choose a rewards or cashback credit card?
- Where do I start if I am a beginner?
- How do I plan a credit card portfolio?
If you’re looking to earn your way to a redemption in the near future, credit cards are your best way of getting there. This trio of cards — highlighted by the fact that you’re earning three different and important point currencies — will cover the needs of most UK miles and points collectors, and have you well on your way to maximising your returns.
Know before you go.
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The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points as well as a slew of other valuable benefits like lounge access, hotel elite status and a digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times for Primary and Platinum Supplementary Cardmembers.
- Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £6k in your first 3 months of Card Membership
- Up to 99 free Supplementary Cards - one complimentary Platinum Employee Cards and 98 Complimentary Gold Employee Cards
- Global Lounge Collection - Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries, including The Centurion® Lounges and membership of Priority Pass™
- Hotel Status at Hilton, Marriott Bonvoy™, Meliá Hotels International, Radisson Hotel Group, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts – enjoy benefits such as complimentary upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, enhanced loyalty points, complimentary Wi-Fi and more
- The Times and The Sunday Times annual digital subscription (£312 value per Card) – available for Primary and all Supplementary Cardmembers
- Fine Hotels and Resorts – Enjoy a collection of over 1,000 hand-selected iconic 5-star properties worldwide. Receive complimentary benefits worth an average total value of £400 per stay.*
- £150 statement credit for every booking with onefinestay (unlimited use)
- Dedicated Account Management Team