Our credit cards directory lists 13 different personal credit cards in the UK which offer travel rewards. For the beginner to this hobby, however, there is one obvious piece of plastic to start with – the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card.
In return for taking out this card (FREE for the first year, cancel at any time) and hitting a £3000 spending target, you will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. These will convert into 20,000 Avios points.
(The standard bonus on this card is 10,000 points. It was doubled to 20,000 points on 19th October 2020.)
Key legal information:
Sign-up bonus and earnings rate:
- Get 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 within 90 days
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent
- Get a 10,000 points bonus if you spend £15,000 in a card year
- Earn double points on all airline and overseas spend
- Points transfer at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin and other airline schemes
- Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
- You receive two free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further two passes each year if you renew
- After your two free passes, you can visit further lounges for a small fee
- Annual fee: Free for the first year, £140 from Year 2
Representative 56.6% APR variable, from Year 2, based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £140 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases and in Year 1 22.2% APR variable (representative example).
You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.
Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible, which is why we recommend this as the best choice for your first miles and points card. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.
To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.
You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.
You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.
For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus. You would still benefit from the two free airport lounge passes and the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with two free airport lounge passes. These allow either you and a friend, or yourself twice, to visit any lounge in the Priority Pass network. You make additional lounge visits for £20 per person. You receive an additional two free passes each year.
You earn double Membership Rewards points on all airline spend (made directly on an airline website) and all spend made outside the UK.
If you spend over £15,000 in a card year, you will receive an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you renew.
Other benefits include a 10% discount on Hertz car rentals and special deals at 350 selected hotels worldwide, where Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders receive a $75 in-hotel credit per stay.
How do I earn 20,000 free Avios points with Amex Gold?
American Express has its own loyalty currency called Membership Rewards points.
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 within three months.
This is the most generous sign-up bonus available on any free (or free for the first year) UK loyalty credit card.
Membership Rewards points can be converted 1 to 1 into Avios points. This means that the 20,000 points you receive for signing up to American Express Gold will become 20,000 Avios points.
You aren’t restricted to Avios points. You can also convert to Virgin Flying Club, Emirates Skywards, Hilton Honors (at 1:2), Radisson Rewards (at 1:3), Marriott Bonvoy (at 2:3) and many more programmes. Click here to see what other reward programmes are Membership Rewards transfer partners.
Do I qualify for the sign-up bonus?
Following a change in the rules in March 2019, you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus as long as you have not had a personal American Express card in the past 24 months.
It isn’t a problem if you had an American Express card issued by Lloyds Bank or MBNA. This will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for the Gold card. Similarly, it is not a problem if you have a Small Business or Corporate American Express card.
If you do NOT qualify for the sign-up bonus, you can still apply for the card. You will still receive your first year for free, receive two airport lounge pass vouchers and earn 1 point per £1 spent.
Any other benefits?
You receive two free airport lounge passes each year with Amex Gold, valid at any airport lounge in the Priority Pass network.
Heathrow (including Terminal 5), Gatwick, Luton and Stansted – amongst many others – have participating lounges as do most major airports worldwide. After your two free visits, you can make further lounge visits for a £20 charge. You can see which airport lounges accept Priority Pass cards on their website.
You will receive 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points each year when you renew your Amex Gold membership if you have spent £15,000 in the previous year. These will post one month after your renewal date.
You will receive a 10% discount and free additional driver on Hertz bookings. There are also 350 4-5 star hotels worldwide which offer a $75 in-hotel credit and an upgrade when booked by an Amex Gold cardholder via the American Express travel service.
Is there an annual fee on Amex Gold?
There is no fee for the first year of Amex Gold.
There is a £140 annual fee from Year 2. However, you can cancel at any time – you won’t lose your bonus points! Even if you do accidentally pay the fee for the second year, you can still cancel and receive a pro-rata refund at any time.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
As well as receiving 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up, you will receive points for all of your spending.
You receive 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on the card.
Foreign currency transactions and airline transactions earn DOUBLE points – 2 points per £1 – as do travel bookings made via the American Express Travel website.
What are the criteria for getting Amex Gold?
There is no minimum household income requirement. As long as you are 18+ and a UK resident with no history of bad credit, you have a good chance of being accepted.
Can my partner apply too so we can both get the sign-up bonus?
Yes. American Express is happy to issue separate Gold cards to different people in the same household. This means that, if your partner shares a British Airways Executive Club household account with you, you could both receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus and so earn 40,000 Avios points in your BA household account.
We recommend American Express Preferred Rewards Gold as a very low risk introduction to American Express.
You don’t pay any fee in the first year (and can cancel at any point), you get 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus and you get two free airport lounge passes. You can’t argue with that!
The application form for Amex Gold can be found here.
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. 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.