Finally, here is my credit card strategy as a Muslim traveller. I am not sure why it took me this long to write something so simply especially since I love points.
There is no doubt that loyalty points changed the way I travel and how I view the world of credit cards and spending. As a Muslim however it is also very important to keep in mind that interest is haram and we should be mindful not to get in debt.
I always try to keep my credit card travel strategy as a Muslim pretty simple. I can’t do a lot especially since the UK has limited choices but also because I like to manage my cards and always pay them off at the end of the month.
Please note that the below are my loyalty point travel strategy when it comes to accumulating rewards through my normal day-to-day spending. This is by no means a piece of financial advice or should not be taken as one.
Having a Travel Goal / Strategy
I always say that it is super important because you start accumulating rewards to have a goal or a destination in mind. This will make it easier to know how much you need to accumulate and also what are your options when it comes to airlines or credit card partners.
For example, I have been using my American Express cards for years and I love them because they have saved me a lot of money.
They also transfer to a variety of airlines making it easy to actually transfer between for example Etihad or British Airways depending on the flights I need, giving me more flexibility. Unlike the co-branded credit cards which you can only use with a specific airline and their partners.
Currently, as a family, we have three credit cards for various reasons and this works well for us as it is easy to manage, we don’t use the same cards for the same purpose and we know what and approximately how much we can earn in terms of rewards.
American Express Gold
I will start with the American Express Gold or Amex Gold card because it is one I have an article on my website and it is my first card.
The card used to be a charge card which meant there was no interest and you had to repay it in full every month. Now, it is a credit card but I again recommend paying it off monthly as the interest rates are high.
The card is free for the first year and £140 after that and recently they made some changes to it with extra lounge passes from 2 to 4, the earnings are also better for some categories than for example the American Express Platinum.
If as a Muslim you are new to reward credit cards and you just want to try it out, this is definitely the card I would recommend. If you get referred you also get extra bonus points via this link ( I do get some too for full transparency) but you also have a lot of benefits and since it is free the first year the almost £400 benefits are also free.
Depending on how you use the points and if transferred to British Airways you can have a flight to Riyadh for Umrah and just pay the taxes.
Why I keep the card:
I keep this card because I do refer several readers a year for the bonus points, they are not as much as they used to be but it is something and also it is easier if a reader asks for a referral.
Also, the card is in my husband’s name so we get the benefit of supplementary lounge access if we travel with extended family as well as the cashback offers they have, which in some cases are better than the Amex Platinum.
For example, they have offers like £250 spent on Hyatt hotels and receive £100 back. As top level at Hyatt, we do stay in many properties and since we both have the card, we can split the cost and receive £200 back.
Recently they also had a Paypal offer to spend £75 and receive £15 up to 3 times. Making it again worth it since the card pays for itself.
There is also a £120 credit for Deliveroo which even though we don’t order much does offset the cost of the credit card every year.
We can also transfer points from his account for travelling which is easier when our British Airways account is a family one. I like the fact we both have accounts and points and it provides more flexibility as in some cases we travel separately. If everything was on my name he couldn’t use half the points.
American Express Platinum
I upgraded my Amex Gold to Platinum via promotion because at the time it made sense. The Platinum American Express is a charge card, not a credit card but it doesn’t suit everyone. As a charge card, it means you must pay it every month.
First, the cost of the card is high with a yearly fee of £575 for it. Recently the card has increased the benefits and to be honest, in my opinion, it is value for money considering the “free money” they give through credit like the £100 Harvey Nichols and the £300 dining cashback option.
The American Express Platinum card is actually NOT a credit card but a charge card, like the Amex Gold, used to be. This means that you must pay it off monthly and if you are strict about holding a credit card then this is a great option with travel rewards.
Both these benefits alone are once I use and value and in most cases, I would have spent the money without it anyways. So to offset my credit card membership is definitely worth it.
I also value some of the other benefits as well.
Why I keep the card:
The insurance on the American Express Platinum is better and since we travel a lot with my daughter I wanted to know we are covered in case of an emergency. I have had various claims on American Express cards before without a problem.
I always buy insurance so the cost just is added to the fee rather than paying separately for it.
We also receive unlimited lounge access via Priority Pass. This comes in super handy since I love using lounges when travelling alone with my daughter. It saves me so much frustration in anxiety that I don’t know what I would do without it.
We don’t always travel in business class, though I do try my best and we also use low-cost airlines so having a Priority pass makes sense each visit ranges from £25 to £45 per person. We use about 10 lounge passes per person so this is a considerable saving.
Another benefit I like is the excess travel insurance for car hire. During Covid, we had to rent a car monthly so having this excess insurance comes in handy. Again I used to pay for this separately, now it is part of the Amex Platinum benefit.
One benefit I don’t use often but might come in handy is the Fine Hotels via the Amex portal. It gives you benefits on luxury properties like $100 spend in the hotel, late check-out and breakfast. I have only used it once in Doha but I know in some locations that rooms don’t cost £600 a night I can receive value out of it.
Finally, I do use a lot of the promotions they have in the Offers section, for example, the £120 Harvey Nichols cashback which provides me with the spending for my skincare and make-up top-ups. They have hotel and other retailer cashback options that have saved me over £3000 in the last couple of years. Many of the offers are similar to the ones available in the Amex Gold card and as I mentioned above if combined it can be a good saving.
Overall I feel that both cards actually cover the cost to me through the benefits that I was paying separately and also via the points I accumulate or the cashback saved.
If you are interested in the American Express Platinum card my link is here, you get a few thousand extra points by being referred, though I suggest reading the fine print and making sure you pay it off monthly.
If you want extra bonus points apart from the referral, then you can do that if you don’t hold an Amex card for two years. So for example both spouses can sign up get the bonus, then one can cancel and just keep one card with a supplementary. Then after two years they can swap and get a new sign up bonus. It is a hassle but possible.
Virgin Atlantic Credit Card
This is a recent addition to my portfolio but I am happy I took it out. The Virgin Atlantic card is a Mastercard so this gives me more options in spending and accumulating points.
I signed up for the card thinking it was a temporary solution to my summer holidays and because it came with 30,000 bonus points. Currently, it is 15,000 points.
The card has a yearly fee of £160 but I have realised this is easily covered as well by the points earned and benefits.
Over the past years, American Express started to be accepted in more retailers but still many don’t accept them. Having an alternative card like Mastercard which is accepted virtually anywhere makes it easier to collect points on the missing purchases I made using my debit card.
Why I keep the card:
The Virgin Atlantic Credit card gives you 1,5 points per £1 spent it also has no foreign exchange fees in Euro which is one of the primary reasons why I signed up for it apart from the bonus points.
We travel a lot to Greece and having to use the card with no fees is much easier. I normally use Wise for travelling and exchanging money but having an alternative is always good.
Also Virgin Atlantic is an American express partner which means that if I need to top up my account with more points for redemption it is easy and instantaneous.
I can use the bonus points for a trip to the US where I am speaking in September and fly either in business or Premium Economy from Manchester. Since a one-way flight costs about 35,000 points return in Premium Economy and £500 in taxes whereas the same flight in cash is about £1,900.
In my book, even with the yearly cost of the card, this is a saving of about £1200.
I also realised that with this card I can pay my daughter’s nursery fees since they accept Mastercard but not American Express. This adds several thousand points a year by just paying for something that I would anyways with my direct debit and miss out on them.
British Airways Amex
I used to have this card for about 3 years but I recently cancelled it. It is a great card to have if you want to earn extra Avios points and after spending £10,000 you also get a companion voucher. I will eventually sign up again at some point but I have three vouchers that I have not used and I earn a lot of Avios through the BA shopping portal as I explain here.
So I decided to take a break from it and swapped to the Virgin card.
As a Muslim, I am always very cautious of how much I stretch myself. I know friends, especially in the US with over 20 cards but for me, this is hard to keep track of and definitely a grey zone.
Sadly we cannot live a life without a credit card. We have more consumer protections and it is better to use a credit card than a debit card when travelling.
I pay each card monthly since the interest on these cards is not for the faint-hearted with 30% + APR. I would never recommend you get a card and debit if you cannot afford to pay it monthly.
I stick to my budget and use it as a debit card so I know how and where to track the expenses.
Loyalty points whether it is airline miles or hotel points have afforded me the opportunity to experience things I couldn’t afford otherwise so it is definitely worth it but always as Muslim travellers, we should keep in mind that we need to keep it halal in a way.