There are oodles of reasons to go a-hunting for the best travel credit card UK – airport lounge access, bonus travel points, cashback, and more come into play when you have one of these bad boys to play with as you move around the globe. Sadly, there are so many to choose from these days that it can be tricky to know exactly where to start.
That’s where this guide comes in. It’s got some tips on the top offerings from banks and the like on what products best suit the global traveler. We’ll pay special attention to the best travel credit card UK airport lounge access deals, so you can stay comfy when you hit Heathrow or are returning from big LAX. But we’ll also touch on all manner of other perks that are on the menu for globetrotters keen to score some plastic in 2023.
Naturally, we’d always recommend doing your own in-depth research before signing up to any credit card. It’s important to read every inch of the small print and ensure that it’s the right product for you and your financial situation before pressing ahead.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card
A very popular personal credit card choice that also comes with plenty of bonuses for the would-be traveler, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card attracts a £140 annual fee that’s waived in the first year for new signees. You’ll also be able to bulk up your rewards by scoring a big sign-up bonus of 20,000 points by spending at least £3,000 in the first three months of ownership.
We’re not going to pretend that the card is top dog on the lounge front. Users get just two complimentary lounge visits per year and are limited to the Global Lounges collection from AMEX. It’s still a good group of venues in 1,200 locations around the planet, but not quite on par with the uber-luxury of the Centurions. The key thing to remember here? This card will cost you a lot less and comes with lower rates than most of the other, more corporate leaning American Express cards.
The good news is that you can clock up some pretty neat bonuses to use with participating airline partners, British Airways included. You’ll earn two times the points on any money spent directly with carriers and 1X point per pound spent on anything else. There’s also a generous 6k worth of points up for grabs when you refer a friend.
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express has long been a go-to product for travelers looking to hop airport hotels and lounges and collect points while doing it. It enters the field with one of the biggest sign-up bonuses going, in the form of 60,000 points after an initial spend of £6,000 in the first half a year of having your plastic – that’s double the usual amount offered by most AMEX-own cards (although this is a limited-time deal).
The reason we put this one up there close to the top of the list when it comes to the best travel credit card UK airport lounge access products is because every customer will gain access to AMEX’s comprehensive array of departure lounges. These are particularly good in the US and North America, where you can make use of Centurion-level lounges that really do ooze comfort and mod cons. Altogether, there’s something like 1,400 lounges included in the network around the globe, though.
Of course, there are WAY more travel perks than that. Users will benefit from worldwide travel insurance that can even be extended to cover family members and supplementary card members associated with each AMEX. There are also countless hotel partners to score room upgrades and extras like late check-out with, along with statement credits that can be used in over 1,000 high-class restaurants around the planet. Not bad, eh?
Earning is simple with the Platinum Card from American Express. It’s 1X points on normal purchases calculated at one point per £1 spend, although that’s cranked to 2X points on purchases made through the official American Express travel portal. You can also score a whopping 12k points by inviting a friend with this one.
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express
The Marriott Bonvoy AMEX might just be our top pick of all the best travel credit card UK lounge access products out there. The reason? It’s specifically designed with travelers in mind. Granted, said travelers are the ones that tend to stay at the more high-end accommodations that come under the Marriott brand – Westin, Sheraton, St Regis. However, we still think there’s something here for a whole host of globetrotters.
First off, all of the bonus points you accrue with this card are automatically credited to a corresponding loyalty program, also known, simply, as Marriott Bonvoy. You can use them for a whole host of things, from free nights in Marriott-associated hotels (usually, a night’s stay is valued at 50,000 points, although room upgrades can be as little as 5,000 a night) right down to tours and activities in the cities you visit (sea kayaking in Sydney Harbor, anyone?).
When it comes to those long layovers, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express comes up trumps by offering enrolment in the global Priority Pass. That’s the world’s largest independent network of premium airport lounges, totaling something in the region of 1,300 separate venues across hundreds of airports. AKA – you won’t be short of somewhere slick to chill out in while you wait for boarding.
The currency of the Marriott Bonvoy are points earned on purchases. Users initially get 2X points per £1 on spend on all travel-related and non-travel related purchases. That soars to a whopping 6X points should you fork out for a hotel in the Marriott group itself.
On top of all that, every customer gets a free night credit per year’s use of the card and there’s a hefty welcome bonus of up to 20,000 points on the bold card when you spend an initial £3,000 in your first three months.
The American Express Business Platinum Card
The joys of the Platinum AMEX carried over to the world of business – that’s the name of the game with the American Express Business Platinum Card. Aimed squarely at corporate travelers and their parent companies, this nifty piece of plastic offers a whole range of benefits that should really grease the wheels of those meeting trips to Hong Kong and NYC.
First off, that lounge access. This is pretty comprehensive. Customers get unlimited access to the Centurion Lounge network, which covers 40+ locations in the airports of the most business-ready metropolises and Global Cities around the planet, from Heathrow to JFK. And we’re talking the bees knees of lounges here, folks – minimalist design, fast WiFi, delectable food spreads.
On top of that, the AMEX biz Platinum also earns points like your regular AMEX for individuals. These can be transferred to a whole host of partner companies to be used on nights in luxury hotels or tickets on leading, flag-carrying airlines. The brands where you can spend a pretty big: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Marriott Bonvoy. Throw in purchase protection insurance and worldwide travel insurance and it’s starting to look like a good deal, eh?
Premier World Elite Mastercard From HSBC U.K.
The Premier World Elite Mastercard From HSBC U.K. claims a place on this list of the best travel credit card UK airport lounge access options because it guarantees all users a place in the Lounge Key program. That’s a far-reaching club of 800 lounges in airports right around the planet, from the Middle East to East Asia, South America to the USA.
Getting in and starting your comfy wait for boarding couldn’t be simpler with this plastic in tow, either – simply rock up to the door of the club and flash the card and they’ll let you pass. One thing that might be worth noting is that some users have noted that participating Lounge Key venues might not be quite as posh and fancy as lounges in other programs, like the Centurion from AMEX, for example.
New sign-ups to the Premier World Elite Mastercard can move fast to bag themselves 40,000 reward points in the first 90 days, simply by spending £2,000 or more. There are even more earnings to be had on purchases, calculated at two reward points per £1 if said purchase is in British Stirling and four points per £1 if it’s in another currency – see how this one’s great for regular travelers?
Best travel credit card UK for airport lounge access and more – our conclusion
The best travel credit card UK airport lounge access products tend to be cards that are aimed squarely at business or regular travelers. They range from the Marriott Bonvoy that lets you earn points on stays in any Marriott-associated hotel name to the American Express gold card, which costs a little less per year but gives two free lounge visits within the Global Lounge network.