IMPORTANT: American Express changed the sign-up bonus rules in March 2019. This means this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it. Read this post for more information but please read the smallprint before applying for any credit cards.
UPDATED 30th September: Assuming you have read the Credit card golden rules and understand that credit cards are the key to earning AVIOS quickly and know that you can manage your credit cards responsibly, you are ready to consider which is the best airmiles credit card in the UK.
Which credit card will be the best airmiles credit card for you depends on:
- whether you are willing to pay an annual fee
- which airline you wish to accumulate points for (see this handy airline alliance infographic if you are unsure)
- 2hether 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.
Best Airmiles Credit Cards?
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 British Airways AVIOS, Etihad Guest, Emirates Skywards, Singapore Airlines, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can see the full list on the 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 the best airline credit card in my opinion is the American Express Gold.
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 30,000 points on sign up after spending £2,000 within three months. You also earn Membership Rewards at the same rate as the Gold card.
It offers a huge range of extra travel benefits including unlimited airport lounge access, concierge service and tier status in many hotel chains. There is a whopping annual fee of £450 which might be worthwhile for those regularly using chain hotels. Check out my review of the American Express Platinum card to see if it is worth the investment.
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
American Express offers white labelled credit cards which allow you to earn points for a specific airline such as British Airways. 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
Sadly, your options are limited followed the changes in EU legislation which have meant that many cards have been withdrawn.
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 which discourages some people. However, I have earned companion vouchers for travel in business or first class to Montreal, India, Beijing, South Korea and Japan amongst others, each time paying less than the cost of economy tickets for the privilege. If you are not convinced, read this post which explains why you should NOT opt for the FREE British Airways Card which is next up on the list.
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. You will need to be flexible with your travel plans however as you only have 12 months to redeem this voucher.
The has a lower earnings rate of one AVIOS for £1 of spend. It also has a lower sign up bonus of 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in three months. Finally, 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 25,000 points including sign up bonus whereas the premium card will earn you 56,000 points for the same amount of spend (don’t forget to use our referral link, otherwise it will be 55,000).
Pro: No annual fee
Con: Lower sign up bonus and earnings fee. The companion voucher is only valid for 12 months meaning you may struggle to use it unless you book as soon as you receive it.
Virgin Atlantic Credit card
The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card rewards cardholders with 5,000 Flying Club miles after one purchase during the first three months.
You will then earn 0.75 Flying Miles per £1 spent which looks good value compared to the other non AMEX cards. You can select from a choice of rewards also once you have spent £20,000 in a policy year.
Pro: The best earnings rate for a non AMEX card and no annual fee.
Con: The companion voucher is poor compared to British Airways.
Virgin Atlantic Reward + Credit card
This card offers a much more attractive sign up bonus of 15,000 miles after your first purchase in the first three months. For every £1 you spend you will also earn 1.5 Flying Miles and once you spend £10,000 you will receive additional rewards. These are not very attractive however unless you hold tier status with the airline.
Pro: attractive earnings rate
Con: Limited route selection, poor rewards for non tier status members and a lower sign up bonus than on the Virgin cards.
Lloyds British Airways MasterCard
Lloyds Bank used to offer a credit card combo of AMEX and Mastercard which allowed you to earn Avios. This offer has now been withdrawn and the only option is for existing account holders
The new card appears to have no annual fee but pays a pitiful 0.4 AVIOS per £1 of spend in the UK and 0.8 AVIOS per £1 spent overseas.
It doesn’t offer a sign up bonus or companion voucher and appears only to award AVIOS in increments of £5. In other words, every full £5 spend earns 2 AVIOS.
Pro: I honestly cannot think of one! The only Mastercard option to offer AVIOS?
Con: Rubbish earnings rate, plus you need to be an account holder.
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. £250 spend within your first six months (but you still pay taxes and fees) earns you one reward flight. The taxes and fees will likely account for the majority of the ticket cost so I think this is also pretty useless.
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.
The earnings rate was recently dramatically reduced so that you now earn 1 Clubcard point for every £4 of spend in Tesco and 1 point per £8 of non Tesco spend. 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.
This is still more favourable than the Lloyds card however which would reward you with just 400 AVIOS for the same spend!
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 is the best airmiles credit card in the UK?
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
Have your say
Which card do you think is the best airmiles credit card in the UK? And why? I would love to know.