- 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
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
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.”