This credit card hack can get you 20,000 air miles and two lounge passes — and it’s completely free

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  • Founder of air miles blog Head for Points said people often overlook the best way to earn points — credit cards.
  • Rob Burgess said a American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card is a route to easy points
  • By and spending £2,000 within three months you earn 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be converted into air miles.
  • You’ll also be given two airport lounge passes just for signing up — and you can cancel any time.

If you’ve always thought that shiny, gold credit cards are reserved for the rich and famous, you’re not alone.

However, signing up for the infamous Amex Gold card is actually complete ley free of charge — and it delivers some pretty big rewards.

Rob Burgess, founder of UK-based frequent flier and air miles blog Head for Points, told Business Insider that most people in the UK don’t fully understand the ways they can use credit cards to help with their travel goals — assuming they have a decent credit score, that is.

Before starting Head for Points, London-based Burgess told Business Insider, he worked in private equity for 16 years before he was forced into retirement at 40 because “the market was in a bad way.”

He found retirement quite boring. He had always travelled a lot as part of his job, so he started the blog back in 2012 for “a bit of fun” during his two-year non-compete clause.

He planned to spend three hours a day on it and be able to take his kids to school. However, he said it “got out of control.” Now the site has 1.2 million pageviews a month, almost all from the UK and City of London professionals. 

Along with his air miles pointers, Burgess writes hotel reviews, business and first-class flight reviews — he flew Emirates First Class this year — and he even took home Editor of the Year at the Business Travel Journalism Awards this year.

“If you have a City analyst brain, the whole frequent flier stuff is easy to get your head around,” he said. “It’s no different to looking at company accounts.”

The best card for beginners

amex gold card

The first thing beginners need to know, according to Burgess, is that anyone who signs up for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card will be given 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points if they hit a minimum £2,000 spending target within three months — pretty doable around the festive season if you put all of your spending on the one card.

American Express Membership Rewards points — the company’s own scheme — can be converted into the equivalent number of Avios points (British Airways’ scheme). They can also be converted at 1:1 on the Virgin Flying Club, Emirates Skywards, Hilton Honors (at 1:2), Club Carlson (at 1:3), Starwood Preferred Guest (at 2:1) and many more programmes.

“Flexibility is key,” Burgess told BI. “You aren’t locked in to just having Avios points. You can always cash them out for an Amazon gift voucher as well.”

You’ll also get two airport lounge passes just for signing up, valid at any airport lounge in the “Lounge Club” network (there are lounges at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, and Stansted, as well as lounges in major airports worldwide.)”

And, what’s more, you’ll also collect one Membership Reward Point for every £1 spent on the card in addition to your signup bonus, as well as a 10,000 Membership Rewards points bonus each year you decide to renew (assuming you’ve spent a hefty £15,000 in the previous year, that is).

Other perks include discounts on car hires through Hertz and hotel credits and upgrades.

You can cancel any time

It’s free to sign up, and there’s no annual fee in the first year. There’s also no minimum income requirement, and you can apply even if you already have a British Airways American Express card.

The card then costs £140 annually after the first year — but Burgess says this doesn’t need to impact anyone using the card for its perks.

“In the UK, you can cancel that card, then six months later, reapply,” Burgess said. “It’s free for the first year, and you’ll never hold it beyond that first year.”

While you can basically withdraw your application completely within 14 days of receiving your card, Burgess says the full terms state that you can cancel at any time by writing or calling the company.

In a blog post, Burgess writes that “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.”

You have to pay your balance in full

However, he explains that the only catch is that you must pay your balance off in full at the end of each month.

“Note that the Preferred Rewards Gold card is a charge card, not a credit card,” he writes. “You MUST clear your balance in full at the end of each month. It is not possible to pay interest and roll over your balance to the following month.”

He adds that while you can reapply, you won’t receive the 20,000-point sign-up bonus if you’ve cancelled an American Express Platinum, Gold, or Green card in the previous six months.

You can also stay in five-star hotels — for free

Waldorf Astoria

Another of his favourite hacks is using Hilton’s free Visa card which, when you spend £750 within 90 days, gives you a voucher for a free weekend night in any hotel Hilton owns globally, including the Waldorf Astoria.

“As long as you qualify for a standard Visa you’ll get it,” he said, adding that like with the Amex, you can “cancel those cards easily.”

He added that, if you’re in a couple, you can both get a card and use the signup bonus, meaning two weekend nights away.

The types of fliers Burgess is writing for include professionals used to travelling in business class who “shouldn’t have to downgrade” (even if the flight isn’t on their own dime), small business owners who use their own money for flights and use miles to go on trips, and “corporates with frequent flier miles in the bank,” he said, who want to “max out the benefits of the miles they’ve picked up over the years.”

“We’re not writing for the hardcore frequent flier obsessive — we’re writing for professionals who have quite a few miles and want to maximise on that,” he said.

“I’ve taken my hobby and turned it into something I enjoy doing,” he said. “The Hilton card and Amex Gold Card, 20,000 frequent flier miles and a free weekend night at a five star hotel — it’s an easy way of showing people what you can do in this hobby with very little effort.”

“You have your first taste of a lounge before a flight, use your Hilton voucher for a nice Waldorf Astoria somewhere — it becomes quite addictive.”

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10 things in tech you need to know today (AAPL, AMZN, FB, GOOG, TWTR)

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Good morning! Here’s the technology news you need to know this Friday.

1. Lyft raised another $500 million (£376 million) in funding. The Uber rival is now valued at $11.5 billion (£8.6 billion).

2. Apple supplier Foxconn said it will stop using illegal intern labour to assemble the iPhone X. The Financial Times found that around 3,000 interns had been working illegal overtime at Foxconn.

3. Employees at Amazon’s main distribution centre in Italy are going on strike today for Black Friday. Workers at six Amazon warehouses in Germany are also striking.

4. Samsung’s next flagship smartphone may make an early appearance in January. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ may make their first appearance as early as January at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

5. Facebook is testing a “streaks” feature in Messenger that’s similar to Snapchat. It encourages users to keep their streak going when they send messages to their friends.

6. YouTube will block ads against creepy videos targeted at children. The company will also ban predatory comments left under videos showing minors.

7. Twitter is currently testing its new bookmark feature. Bookmarks will be a private way to save a tweet to read later.

8. Facebook will show off its giant solar drone for the first time in public at London’s V&A. It will be part of the Future Starts Here exhibition which starts in May.

9. Shares in “Angry Birds” maker Rovio fell 19% after disappointing results. Increased marketing costs meant that the company’s earnings remained flat in Q3.

10. China created a website for vigilante citizens to report leaks and fake news. China Army Network Report Platform, “accepts tip-offs about people who pretend to be military personnel on social media, malicious posts about the People’s Liberation Army, or leaks of potentially classified information.”

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34 under-the-radar things everyone should do on a weekend in London, according to Londoners

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According to TripAdvisor, there are over 1,700 tourist attractions and 18,000 restaurants in London, not even counting parks, pop-ups, and seasonal attractions.

That’s certainly more than enough to satisfy the 19 million tourists that visit London every year and the 8.63 million people that occupy the capital year round.

With so much going on, it’s easy for visitors to get overwhelmed with choice during a weekend in the UK capital — or to end up only hitting the easy, obvious tourist spots.

In order to ensure a truly authentic London experience, the real-life Londoners from the Business Insider UK office have compiled a list of the best things to do in the city if you’re trying to avoid crowds of travellers, lengthy queues, and hefty price tags.

From gilded museums and sprawled-out parks to quirky breweries and hidden-away restaurants, the list offers a look at how a true Londoner spends their weekend.

Scroll down to discover 34 under-the-radar things everyone should do on a weekend in London, according to Londoners.

Take a stroll around the Capital Ring walk.

The Capital Ring walk is a great (and free!) way to spend a Sunday, particularly Section Four between Streatham Common and Crystal Palace,” said Sarah Kocianski, a Senior Research Analyst for BI who has lived in London for the past seven years.

“It takes you through the Rookery gardens — a beautifully restored formal garden — and there are some great pubs at both ends of the walk if you need extra motivation.”

Nearest station: Streatham Common (Zone 3).

Grab a curry at Tayyabs in Whitechapel.

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“Tayyabs curry house — an East London institution — is the very definition of organised chaos,” said BI’S Associate Social Media Editor Tom Murray, who has lived in London for the past six months.

“Waiters weave seamlessly between customers while somehow balancing 17 sizzling dishes about their person. When the food quickly reaches your table, you are rewarded with Punjabi fare you’d happily wait hours for.”

Nearest station: Whitechapel (Zone 2).

Take a stroll through Victoria Park in Bow.

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“Victoria Park is a jewel of a park in between Hackney and Tower Hamlets,” said Politics Fellow at BI Adam Becket, who moved to London in 2016.

“It feels a world away from the skyscrapers you can see from the park, with so much open space to relax in. It’s bordered by the Regent’s Canal and has a very upmarket food market on Sundays. It’s a great place to exercise, escape, and stroll around.”

Nearest station: Homerton (Zone 2).

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This course will cover everything you’ll need to get started with Affinity Photo.

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