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Which Airmiles Credit Card Is The Best In The UK?

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?

Multiple credit cards
Source: Pixabay

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. You can also read the post below.

How You Can Earn 332,000 AVIOS Without Taking Any Flights

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.

Calculating the AVIOS you can earn
Source: Pixabay

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
Books/Magazines £100.00 £100.00 £100.00 £100.00 £100.00 £100.00 £100.00
Food shopping £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00
Household Bills £300.00 £300.00 £300.00 £300.00 £300.00 £300.00 £300.00
Clothing £500.00 £500.00 £500.00 £500.00 £500.00 £500.00 £500.00
Entertainment £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00 £3,000.00
Car Fuel £1,200.00 £1,200.00 £1,200.00 £1,200.00 £1,200.00 £1,200.00 £1,200.00
Holidays £5,000.00 £5,000.00 £5,000.00 £5,000.00 £5,000.00 £5,000.00 £5,000.00
Other £1,000.00 £1,000.00 £1,000.00 £1,000.00 £1,000.00 £1,000.00 £1,000.00
Total Spend £14,100.00 £14,100.00 £14,100.00 £14,100.00 £14,100.00 £14,100.00 £14,100.00
Total Points 10,575 14,100 17,625 21,150 28,200 42,300 56,400

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:

  1. Whether you are prepared to pay an annual fee
  2. Which airline you wish to accumulate points for (see this handy airline alliance infographic if you are unsure)
  3. Whether you wish to keep your options open and be able to redeem points with more than one airline
  4. Whether you can meet the minimum spending requirement in the allotted time
Flight board in an airport
Source: Pixabay

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.
Airline Credit Card Bonuses
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

American Express Gold card
Source: American Express

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!)

Get your Gold card now

American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum
Source: American Express

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!

Pro: None!

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 all the following options from MBNA have been withdrawn.

Is This Another Nail In The Coffin For The UK Airmiles Credit Card Market?

  • Lufthansa Miles & More credit card (VISA/AMEX)
  • Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card (VISA/AMEX) is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017.
  • Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card (VISA/AMEX) is no longer available to new applicants as of 7th November 2017
  • Emirates Skywards Elite Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
  • Emirates Skywards Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
  • Etihad Guest Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
  • The Mileage Plus Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
  • MBNA/AAdvantage Credit Card (VISA/AMEX)
  • TSB Premier Avios Credit Card (Mastercard/AMEX)
  • TSB Avios Credit Card Account (Mastercard/AMEX)
  • Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Rewards Credit Card (Mastercard/AMEX)

British Airways American Express Premium Card

British Airways Premium credit card
Source: American Express

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.

Sign up now

British Airways American Express Standard Card

BAcredit card
Source: American Express

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.

Sign up now

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. This card is also no longer available online, but you can apply in store.

Avios_Rewards_Credit-Cards
Source: Lloyds Bank

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. Months later, we still had 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.

Flybe Credit Card

Flybe credit card
Source: Flybe

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

Tesco clubcard credit card
Source: Tesco Bank

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

Tesco premium-credit-card
Source: Tesco Bank

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

Closing Remarks

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 card

UK top airmiles credit card infographic
Get your free infographic

Where to start with a UK airmiles credit card

  1. Read Getting Started and the Only Way is Up With Credit cards .
  2. Pick a reward credit card and apply
  3. Log the details on your Credit card tracker
  4. Start diverting spending which you were previously putting on debit cards onto your credit cards
  5. Ensure you transfer funds from your bank account to your credit card account regularly to cover the spending
  6. Grab your golden rules of travel hacking using credit cards infographic

Have your say

What do you think about the withdrawal of so many credit cards?

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Source: Pixabay

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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23 comments

  1. Wow! Such an informative post, Anne. Your post has given me food for thought! This list is truly helpful! 😉

  2. I was just thinking about signing up for a credit card with air miles! I don’t why I didn’t do it years ago! I am going to look into the Lloyds & Amex as these work with the airlines I fly with.

  3. Interesting to read this post, I was just having a conversation with my family about travel hacking yesterday. I always just thought this was something reserved for Americans, but I see several Canadian credit cards (and British too now it seems) got on the travel reward bandwagon. Being a frequent traveler, I really need to read more closely into this!

    • I recommend you make haste as a ton of cards in this post have sadly been withdrawn. I’m in the process of updating the post to reflect this and will shortly republish. It is really limiting our options.

  4. Rosemary Swift

    I signed up for the Virgin/MBNA credit cards nine years ago just so as to be able to fly and spend my way across Australia for my fiftieth birthday, I have since added my husband and daughter onto the account so we get triple spending and we have saved up all our flying club miles which to date is over 200,000. My next dream trip is to The Great Wall of China and India’s Taj Mahal, I was told this very evening with this many miles I could fly in the upper cabin to anywhere in the world WHOPPEE1111

    • Now that is a definite result. I started collecting with Virgin but there are so fewer opportunities to earn miles, I reverted back to British Airways. I definitely want to check out their Upper Class though so may take another look.

  5. I need to get on this! Thanks for sharing this guide and some tips for your fellow travelers! Happy travels!

  6. Wow, this list is awesome and a great resource. I wish we had this many choices too. IT would really be helpful

  7. Great tips and suggestions. Cards are definitely a great way to get a bunch of points! We signed up for the British Airways card when it was a 100,000 mile bonus–it was amazing! It was a card offered in the states though, so not sure if they ran that in the UK. Glad to hear there are so many great options in the UK as well!

    • Definitely never been a 100,000 bonus in the Uk while I have been travel hacking (last five years mainly!) sob sob, that would be awesome!

  8. The many travel benefits of credit cards never ceases to amaze me. Although they do require a bit of effort, thank you for breaking it down!

  9. Super helpful, thanks for sharing! I need to look into some of these.

  10. A great round up for those in the UK thanks!

  11. Wow, these are great tips and suggestions, now what would you recommend for cards for US based travelers? Loved the thorough details you provided for UK clients.

  12. That is a very extensive and helpful list! I just signed up for a Chase preferred card and I receive 50,000 bonus points if I reach 4k spending in 3 months, which means I get a free roundtrip flight! I also want to get into travel hacking a bit more. I’m also interested in the American Express card that you mentioned as well.

  13. As always, what a great post, Anne!!! I absolutely love that I have a full website to direct UK travel hackers too, but this one takes the cake with specific cards that can get people travel hacking ASAP!

  14. awesome list!! i wish Canada had this many options! We do try and use rewards programs here to our benefit as well and i was able to get a free Disneyland Ticket and a Free Car Rental for our So Cal trip later this month!

  15. We just booked free tickets to Asia using credit card points.

  16. I’m not sure of the differences between UK and US travel credit cards. But, I will say that I use a travel credit card for my go-to airline, and though I haven’t earned a free flight yet, I have enjoyed the other perks of having the credit card. For example, I don’t have to worry about a baggage fee, which is one less travel expense when on the road … or in the air, as the case may be!

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