This article is part of my usual refresh of our travel reward credit card reviews. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be revisiting and updating all of our in-depth credit card feature articles. You can read the current series here.
Whenever I explain the concept of miles and points to somebody for the first time, one of their first questions is always: what’s the best way to earn large amounts of miles/points quickly?
While there’s no single trick for amassing huge amounts of points in minimal time, generally speaking, credit card sign-up bonuses offer the best opportunity to earn a large chunk of points with minimal effort.
The next question I tend to get is: what’s the best UK points-earning card to apply for first?
This is our review of the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card (Amex Gold card).
This card currently offers a bonus 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (equivalent to 20,000 Avios points or other miles) when you sign up and spend £2,000 within your first three months of Cardmembership.
Amex Membership Rewards points can be converted at a 1:1 ratio to various frequent flyer programs including British Airways Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Emirates Skywards and Etihad Guest miles. These points also transfer to hotel loyalty programs such as Hilton Honors and Marriott Rewards. Alternatively, they can be cashed out for gift cards at numerous retailers including M&S or Amazon.
What can you do with 20,000 Amex Membership Rewards points?
You have a wide range of options available when it comes to redeeming your points:
Transfer them to airline miles:
British Airways Avios
These 20,000 Membership Rewards points are worth 20,000 British Airways Avios. That alone is enough miles for a return trip for 2 people to Paris, Amsterdam or Geneva!
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
20,000 Virgin miles is enough for an off-peak return to New York. Or more than enough for one way in Premium Economy to the Carribean.
Transfer them to hotel points
Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton. This means that your Amex Gold sign-up bonus is worth 40,000 Hilton Honors points. That’s enough for a free night in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Docklands Riverside for example.
Your points also transfer at a 1:3 ratio to Radisson Rewards (formerly Club Carlson). This means that your sign-up bonus is worth 60,000 Radisson Rewards points. That’s enough for a free night at the Park Plaza Riverbank London for example.
Membership Rewards points can be transferred to (the soon-to-be-renamed) Marriott Rewards at a 2:3 ratio. This means the sign-up bonus is worth 30,000 Marriott Rewards points.
That’s more than enough for a free night at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, Dubai for example.
You could choose to cash out your points for a range of gift card options. 20,000 Membership Rewards points can be exchanged for a £100 voucher at the likes of Amazon, M&S, Harrods or House of Fraser.
This card is free for the first year.
Thereafter the fee is £140 a year. However, that fee is refundable pro-rata if you chose to cancel the card at any point. This is a feature unique to Amex in the UK. This means if you did decide to keep the card for the second year you need not consider the £140 fee a sunk cost.
As of April 2018, this card is a credit card rather than a charge card.
Representative 57.6% APR variable. Based on purchases rate 22.9% p.a. variable and a £140 annual fee.
Other card benefits
- Free airport lounge passes – These can be used in any lounge that participates in the ‘Lounge Club’ lounge network worldwide. Further visits will cost £20 per person.
- 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points – after spending £15,000 on your card in a year. These will typically post to your account 3/4 weeks after your account renewal date.
- $75 in-hotel credit plus an upgrade – This offer can be redeemed multiple times over 350 4* and 5* hotels worldwide when booked via the Amex Travel service.
Day-to-day earnings rate
Cardholders generally receive 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on their card.
You can earn bonus points for the following types of transactions:
- Foreign currency transactions and airline transactions will earn a bonus point, for a total of 2 points per £1.
- Transactions made with Amex Travel will attract an additional bonus point for a total of 3 points per £1.
In terms of using this card for your day-to-day spending, you’ll have to analyse your key areas of spending. If you’re spending a decent amount directly with airlines or plan on booking a fair bit of travel through Amex Travel, earning two or even three Amex points per £1 on the Gold card is an excellent return.
Alternatively, if your focus is on Avios points, and you aren’t spending a great deal on travel, you may be better off putting your daily spending on something like the British Airways Premium Plus card (review here) which earns 1.5 Avios per £1. Or if you’d prefer Virgin Atlantic miles, the Virgin Reward+ Mastercard is worth a look – it earns a huge (for a Mastercard) 1.5 Virgin miles per £1.
Am I eligible for the welcome bonus?
You WILL still receive the sign-up bonus on this card if you hold/have held either of the BA Amex cards, SPG card, Platinum Cashback cards or the Nectar credit card.
There are NO minimum income requirements to be eligible for any cards issued by American Express. This restriction was removed a number of years ago.
All things considered, the sign-up bonus on the Amex Gold card is the most flexible and lucrative welcome offer currently available on any ‘free’ card in the UK.
Even if you weren’t interested in converting the points to airline miles or hotel points, this bonus is worth at least £100 if you cashed out your points for an Amazon or House of Fraser gift card. The variety of options when redeeming your points means there is something for everyone.
What would you say is the best miles & points beginners credit card in the UK?
Disclaimer: The information provided by Tricks of the Trade is intended solely as a helpful guide to relevant travel rewards card products and their various features and offers. You should always conduct your own research as recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.