Which is the best airmiles credit card in the UK?
UPDATED: The secret to huge airline rewards in your chosen frequent flyer program is not flying. It definitely helps, but for most of us, circumnavigating the globe on a regular basis is not an option and hence you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no point joining a frequent flyer program. Don’t worry because there is another way. A credit card offering airmiles is an amazing way to boost your loyalty points quickly and easily. But which is the best airmiles credit card for you?
Note: If the mention of credit is bringing you out in a cold sweat, you might want to start with credit scores, myths and management, as this gives you the lowdown on everything you need to know before you start applying for travel credit cards.
How many AVIOS might I earn from credit cards?
In case you are in any doubt about how lucrative this strategy can be, the following table shows you how many points you might earn, in addition to your airline credit card bonuses, just by diverting your usual spending onto your credit card instead of a debit card.
The different earnings rates are shown along the top, with the total earned points at the bottom, based on estimated annual spend for each category. If you want to work out exactly how beneficial this approach could be for you, use the attached avios points calculator. This will allow you to calculate what you might earn depending on your likely spending and the earnings rate.
Simply insert the amount for each spending amount into the relevant column on the Excel spreadsheet, overwriting the contents and it will work out the possible points for you.
Potential airmiles based on different airmiles credit cards in the UK
|Rate per £1 spend||0.75||1||1.25||1.5||2||3||4|
Even the worst UK credit card earns you enough points for a short-haul reward flight with AVIOS.
Alternatively, with an earnings rate of 3 AVIOS rewards per £1 of spend (see Virgin Black and British Airways Premium cards), that same spending earns over 40,000 in AVIOS. That puts you well on the way to funding a long haul flight in business class when booked with a companion voucher.
This doesn’t even include any sign up bonuses you might earn or double dip options. You could easily double this amount. Hop on over to The Globetrotting Teacher and Economical Excursionists for an idea of the best US travel card options).
Which is the best UK airmiles credit card for you?
Assuming you have read the Credit card golden rules and are satisfied that you can manage your credit cards responsibly, you are ready to consider which is the best UK credit card with airmiles.
Which credit card will be the best airmiles credit card for you depends on a number of factors, including:
- Whether you are prepared to pay an annual fee
- Which airline you wish to accumulate points for (see this handy airline alliance infographic if you are unsure)
- Whether you wish to keep your options open and be able to redeem points with more than one airline
- Whether you can meet the minimum spending requirement in the allotted time
Here is the lowdown on all the available UK airmiles credit cards currently, or you can download this infographic showing you the best options in the UK (in my opinion).
American Express Membership Rewards
American Express cards allow you to earn membership rewards which can be converted into airmiles with many frequent flyer programmes. These include AVIOS, Etihad Guest, Emirates Skywards, Singapore Airlines, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can see the full list on your Membership rewards page which looks like this.
This offers great flexibility as it allows you to defer the decision as to which airline you wish to use until you are ready to book. Membership rewards can then be converted to any of the partner airlines at a 1:1 conversion rate.
WARNING: don’t forget to transfer any stray points before closing any AMEX card accounts as you will lose those points.
There are a number of options in the UK but my preferred card is the American Express Gold.
My preferred card – American Express Gold
The American Express Gold card* offers 20,000 points on sign up after spending £2,000 within three months. If you use this referral link, you earn an additional 2,000 points. Plus you earn 1 point for every £1 of spend, increasing to three for travel booked through AMEX Travel.
The annual fee of £140 is waived in year one making this an ideal option for churn and burn strategies. It also offers a range of extra benefits, including two complimentary airport lounge passes.
Pro: Generous sign up bonus
Con: £140 fee from year two (but cancel and reapply instead!)
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum card offers 35,000 points on sign up after spending £2,000 within three months. You also earn a membership reward for every pound spent.
It offers a range of extra benefits including unlimited airport lounge access, concierge service and little extras in select restaurants. Frankly, I am not sure this really justifies the annual fee of a massive £450, although the Elite tier status at Accor and Starwood might sway it for those regularly using these hotels.
There is also a business card version offering a sign up bonus of 40,000 so if you have a business be sure to check this option out!
Pro: Generous sign up bonus
Con: £450 fee!!!! OUCH!!
The American Express Green Card
The American Express Green Card offers no sign up bonus, the same earnings rate as the cards above and basic travel insurance. You can get a better deal elsewhere!
Con: £60 annual fee and no sign up bonus! In my opinion, you would be better applying for the American Express Gold card.
White label credit cards – AMEX and Visa/Mastercard Duos
American Express and MBNA offer white labelled credit cards which allow you to earn points for a specific airline including British Airways, Virgin, and Lufthansa. Points earned from using these UK credit cards are automatically transferred to the relevant programme. You do not have the option to transfer them to a different airline should you have a change of heart. Choose wisely…
Many come as either a VISA and AMEX duo or Mastercard and AMEX duo meaning you will never find yourself high and dry if a retailer doesn’t accept AMEX. Beware, the non AMEX card pays a lower rate, so it pays to attempt to use AMEX, wherever you can. I use these as my back up cards.
Lufthansa Miles & More credit card (VISA/AMEX)
The Miles & More UK credit card is no longer offered by MBNA.
Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Virgin Atlantic Black card is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Virgin Atlantic White card is is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
Emirates Skywards Elite Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Emirates Skywards Elite card is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
Emirates Skywards Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Emirates Skywards card is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
Etihad Guest Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Etihad Guest is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
The Mileage Plus Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The Mileage Plus credit card is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
MBNA/AAdvantage Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
The MBNA AAdvantage card is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
British Airways American Express Premium Card
The British Airways Premium Card pays a whopping 25,000 bonus (or 26,000 if you apply using this referral link) Avios when you spend £2,000 within three months. It also pays an attractive earnings rate of three Avios for every £1 spent with BA and 1.5 Avios for every £1 spent elsewhere.
You earn a companion voucher each year you spend £10,000 meaning you only need to redeem enough points for one person to fly (albeit you do pay taxes and fees for both travellers!).
There is an annual fee of £195 (recently increased from £150) which may be offputting to some but I feel it is totally worth it because I’ve earned companion vouchers which have allowed me to travel in business to Montreal, India and Japan amongst others, each time paying less than the cost of economy tickets for the privilege.
Pro: Generous sign up bonus and the companion voucher. This is the only available companion voucher in the UK considering the withdrawal of the Virgin and Emirates MBNA cards.
Con: £195 fee and no VISA or Mastercard option. The 76% APR means this is a terrible option if you are not disciplined enough to pay off the balance each month.
British Airways American Express Standard Card
This companion voucher is perfect for those wishing to earn a companion voucher and avoid an annual fee.
It has a lower earnings rate of one AVIOS for £1 of spend, a lower sign up bonus of 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in three months. It has a higher spending threshold of £20,000 to achieve the companion voucher and the voucher is only valid for 12 months.
That £20,000 spend earns you 26,000 points including sign up bonus whereas the premium card will earn you 56,000 points for the same amount of spend.
Pro: No annual fee
Con: Lower sign up bonus and earnings fee.
TSB Premier Avios Credit Card (Mastercard/AMEX)
The TSB Premier Avios Credit Card is no longer available to new customers.
TSB Avios Credit Card Account (Mastercard/AMEX)
The TSB Avios Credit Card is no longer available to new customers.
Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Rewards Credit Card (Mastercard/AMEX)
The Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Rewards Credit Card is no longer available, as of July 2016.
Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards Credit Card Account (Mastercard/AMEX)
Since I originally wrote this post, ten cards have been withdrawn which offered a combo so this is the last man standing where you can access both a AMEX and Visa card combined.
The Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards has a lower annual fee of £24 and the earnings rate is 1.25 points per £1 of spend on American Express or 1.25 AVIOS per £5 of Mastercard spend.
It doesn’t offer a sign up bonus but it does offer an upgrade tvoucher when you spend £7,000 a year.
The upgrade is valid for either two people one way or one person return and the booking must be made through the AVIOS store.
Pro: Higher earnings rate than the British Airways Standard card
Con: No sign up bonus and £24 annual fee
WARNING: a word of warning with this card. My husband applied for this card and satisfied the spending requirement for the upgrade voucher. That was months ago and we have not received the voucher or the points. He has chased several times to no avail (although they did pay us some compensation as a gesture) so I would be wary of recommending this card. That said, I also have previously used this card with no issue!
Flybe Credit Card
Unless you regularly fly business with Flybe, I would steer clear of the Flybe credit card as you can only use it for flights with Flybe and £250 spend earns you one reward flight.
Pro: Low entry point for earning a free flight
Con: No sign up bonus and limited to one airline. Given you can now earn AVIOS from Flybe flights, I would not bother.
Tesco Bank Clubcard Credit Card Account
The Tesco Bank Clubcard isn’t an airline award card, however it does offer conversion options for AVIOS.
Be warned, however the earnings rate was recently dramatically reduced with the introduction of Premium credit card which carries a £150 annual fee.
You now earn 1 Clubcard point for every £4 of spend in Tesco and 1 point per £8 of non spend in Tesco. This makes this card highly unattractive in my view as you now need to spend £1,000 in Tesco to secure a £2.50 voucher which converts into 600 AVIOS with British Airways or 625 Flying Miles with Virgin.
At best this is a rate of 0.625 which is pitiful compared to other earnings rates. For non Tesco spend, it is almost insulting at half this rate!
Pro: No annual fee
Con: Low earnings rate and little else to excite unless you want 30 months interest free credit! Swank honeymoon maybe?
Tesco Bank Premium Credit Card
The Premium version of the card allows you to earn 1 Clubcard points for every £1 spend in Tesco and 0.25 Clubcard points per £1 everywhere else. £1,000 spend in Tesco would therefore earn you 1,000 clubcard points which would convert into 2,400 AVIOS or 2,500 Virgin Flying Miles. This is a reasonable rate of 2.4 or 2.5 miles per £1 spend.
If you only use the card for non-Tesco spend where you earn 0.25 clubcard points for every £1 spend, that same £1,000 would earn you either 600 BA miles or 625 Virgin Flying Miles – an earnings rate of 0.6 or 0.625 respectively.
You also earn a bonus of 5,000 points if you spend £5,000 in Tesco in one year. If you don’t have a huge family, I think this might be a challenge!
Pro: In my opinion, travel addicts would be better investing this annual fee into a card with a better accumulation rate and sign up bonus.
Con: £150 annual fee with a poor earnings rate for the fee
If you are checking out your options, beware that credit card companies lack consistency in the way they show earnings rates. Sometimes, they show them as points per £1, and other times as points per £2 or £5. Make sure you are comparing like for like.
So which are the best airmiles credit card in the UK in my opinion?
Considering the UK reward credit card has been decimated by the introduction of new European legislation, there is little choice, making this decision so much easier. Here are the best for different purposes in my humble opinion.
Sign up bonus: British Airways Premium Plus card
Flexibility: American Express Gold
Overseas use: Lloyds cards
Get started with a UK airmiles credit card
- Read Getting Started and the Only Way is Up With Credit cards .
- Pick a reward credit card and apply
- Log the details on your Credit card tracker
- Start diverting spending which you were previously putting on debit cards onto your credit cards
- Ensure you transfer funds from your bank account to your credit card account regularly to cover the spending
- Grab your golden rules of travel hacking using credit cards infographic
Have your say
If you have any other suggestions, please get in touch and let us know what you think about the withdrawal of so many credit cards.