The recent availability of shale gas has led to a renewed interest in C–H bond activation as the first step towards the synthesis of fuels and fine chemicals. Heterogeneous catalysts based on Ni and Pt can perform this chemistry, but deactivate easily due to coke formation. Cu-based catalysts are not practical due to high C–H activation barriers, but their weaker binding to adsorbates offers resilience to coking. Using Pt/Cu single-atom alloys (SAAs), we examine C–H activation in a number of systems including methyl groups, methane and butane using a combination of simulations, surface science and catalysis studies. We find that Pt/Cu SAAs activate C–H bonds more efficiently than Cu, are stable for days under realistic operating conditions, and avoid the problem of coking typically encountered with Pt. Pt/Cu SAAs therefore offer a new approach to coke-resistant C–H activation chemistry, with the added economic benefit that the precious metal is diluted at the atomic limit.