What is the best Avios credit card? (Part 1: comparing sign-up bonuses)

(EDIT:  This article was updated on November 6th to reflect the increased bonus on the British Airways American Express cards)

What is the best credit card for earning Avios points?  This is not as easy an answer as you might think and beginners to this hobby may not be aware of the full range of cards which are available.  You have more options than you may think.

Whilst there are the BA and Lloyds / TSB cards which issue Avios miles directly, there are other cards which offer points which can be converted into Avios points. If you are intent on squeezing out every free Avios that you possibly can, you might want to get these cards as well – just not all at the same time ….

If you applied for every single credit card which offers Avios points or points which could be converted to Avios, you would earn over 100,000 Avios from the sign-up bonuses!

But which of these is the best credit card for earning Avios? Today I am focussing purely on sign-up bonuses. Tomorrow I will compare the same cards in terms of their day-to-day earning capacity.

You should note that, whilst some of these cards offer points which convert to Avios, this is not necessarily the best use of them.  The 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points from their Premium Visa would get you a free night at many Holiday Inn hotels, for example, which is probably a better deal than 4,000 Avios.

Some of these cards offer a higher bonus if you are referred. You can find full details of these in the relevant entry on our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page.

The best Avios-earning personal credit cards:

Listed in order of highest sign-up bonus:

30,000 AviosAmerican Express Platinum Charge Card (review)

30,000 Membership Rewards points convert into 30,000 Avios. £450 annual fee, refunded pro-rata on cancellation. Issuer: Amex. Spend £2,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.  The Platinum card also comes with a substantial number of other travel benefits including three hotel status cards (Starwood Preferred Guest Gold, Club Carlson Gold, Le Club Accorhotels Platinum), travel insurance, two Priority Pass cards for free airport lounge access (each admitting two people) and Eurostar lounge access.

25,000 AviosBritish Airways American Express Premium Plus Card (review)

£150 annual fee, refunded pro-rate when you cancel. Issuer: Amex. Spend £3,000 within 3 months to trigger bonus.  You cannot hold both this card and the free BA Amex at the same time.

20,000 AviosAmerican Express Preferred Rewards Gold Charge Card (review)

20,000 Membership Rewards points convert into 20,000 Avios. No annual fee for the first year. Issuer: Amex. Spend £2,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.

12,500 AviosHSBC Premier MasterCard (review)

2,500 HSBC Premier points which convert into 12,500 Avios.  This is a special offer which expires on November 30th. No annual fee but the card is only available to HSBC Premier current account customers. Issuer: HSBC. Bonus triggers on first purchase.

10,000 AviosStarwood Preferred Guest American Express Card (review)

10,000 Starwood points convert into 10,000 Avios. £75 annual fee, refunded pro-rata on cancellation. Issuer: Amex. Spend £1,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.

9,000 AviosBritish Airways American Express Card (review)

No annual fee. Issuer: Amex. Spend £1,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus. You cannot hold both this card and the BA Premium Plus Amex at the same time.

4,000 AviosIHG Rewards Club Premium Visa

20,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 4,000 Avios. £99 annual fee, non-refundable. Issuer: Barclaycard. Bonus is triggered with your first purchase.

2,000 AviosIHG Rewards Club Visa Card

10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios. No annual fee. Issuer: Barclaycard. Bonus is triggered with your first purchase.

nothing (2,400 if referred)Tesco Clubcard MasterCard (review)

No fee. Issuer: Tesco Bank. There is no sign up bonus. However, once you have applied, you can claim 1,000 Clubcard points (2,400 Avios when converted) by sending in a ‘refer a friend’ form to say that you were recommended by someone. Email me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk for a referral form. If you have recently got the Tesco card you can still retrospectively claim 1,000 Clubcard points for being referred.

2,000 AviosMarriott Rewards MasterCard (review)

10,000 Marriott Rewards points convert to 2,000 Avios. No annual fee. Issuer: Creation. Spend £200 in 6 months to trigger bonus.

The four Lloyds and TSB Avios cards are not included on this list because they do not offer a sign-up bonus.  The Lloyds card has recently launched a limited ‘refer a friend’ scheme, however, which I will discuss later this week.

Tomorrow, I will look at the earning rate on all of these cards.

(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)

What is the best Avios credit card? (Part 2: on-going earning rates)
Updated with Q&A: Servisair / Aspire devalue Lounge Miles loyalty scheme (but it is still free money!)
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Comments

  1. Anyone know if SPG will be running their bonus soon?

    • Looks like it is coming up! Just saw “Earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints” banner leading to AMEX UK page for SPG card (not updated yet).

      Remember to ask Raffles for a referral (send him an email) to earn that extra 5,000 SPG points on top of 20,000 bonus. That is how it works last time.

  2. In the US you can get 100,000 bonus off one card. I guess the lower bonuses here are partly because our credit card market is less competitive and partly the fruit of BA’s dominance of Heathrow slots.

    • It’s mostly due to the interchange CC companies earn per transaction being much higher in the US

      • And yet, AMEX acceptance is a widespread norm there and stuff costs generally cheaper. Economy of scale and/or competitive market with serious marketing offers available to nearly everyone.

        Compare 50,000 bonus on US United card to 15,000 on UK card, etc. In the UK, “the serious offers” are only available to a limited class of premium borrowers/higher spenders, ones that pay fee to hold Platinum AMEX.

        • The impact of EU regulation to reduce interchange on Visa/MC has made the high spender market less lucrative for banks in the UK, and so only Amex or banks issuing cards on an Amex platform get involved. No bank in the UK could give 1.25 Avios/$ (2 Avios/£) on a Visa card like Chase without losing money on every single transaction, and they would certainly need to revise their rewards as soon as EU regulations kick in. Of course this is more relevant to ongoing rewards rather than sign-up bonuses, but the better the margin is on ongoing spend, the more you can give up-front.

          Differences in interchange rates are tiny compared with differences in VAT/sales tax on the purchase of most items in the UK versus US, hence the difference in how much things cost.

          • My fear is that the impact of VISA’s new rates from 1 Jan will cause EU merchants to demand lower rates from Amex too. Or we might just see a reduction in the number of merchants willing to suffer Amex interchange costs when VISA/MC will be charging a fraction of 1%.

            Either way, it’s not looking good for us with loyalty schemes devaluing their points; BA effectively removing long-haul premium redemption opportunities for many destinations; Tesco reducing the number of CC-earning opportunities and avios conversion bonuses (I cannot remember the last time I saw a double points coupon); and the EU slashing the interchange fee that fuels the bread-and-butter credit card earning opportunities!

    • Exactly the thought that crossed my mind, reading about 100,000 Avois. It is often a single bonus on the US British Airways card from CHASE.

  3. Great timing for a review Raffles, thanks: I’m just contemplating an Autumn clear out and a new batch of cards before Christmas!

  4. ‘American Express Platinum Card-£450 annual fee, refunded pro-rata on cancellation.’

    Does anyone know if you retain the free PriorityPass card if you cancel the Amex Platinum?

    • PriorityPass is cancelled at the same time as AMEX Plat.

      Also, be careful about using PP in the week or so before the cancellation of AMEX, as there might be unbilled activity from a lounge, added to the statement of the account being closed!

      • You don’t keep Priority Pass. You do keep the hotel status cards. If you don’t send the card back, it is also good for Eurostar lounge access until the expiry date printed on the front.

  5. I was referred for the Lloyds Avios cards offering 4,500 Avios both for the referrer and me. Clicking on the link produces this message:

    “There’s a problem…
    900000:Unfortunately there has been a technical problem. This transaction has not been completed.”

    :D Lloyds IT problems march on!

  6. The best Avios generator credit card remains initially taking the free Amex Gold card and then upgrading to Platinum. you get at least 40K points via referral, with a further 2K points possible. You also end up with 2 additional lounge passes. This is 2-4K points better than just taking the platinum directly.

    http://www.goingonrewards.com/2014/01/42k-sign-up-bonus-for-amex-platinum-card.html

    • What's the Point says:

      But in this instance what would happen to the additional 7,500 points that you may earn after year 1 for spending £15k on the Amex Gold?

      • Scottnothing says:

        The T&C of your card change when you upgrade to Platinum, so you are not eligible for the anniversary bonus of 7,500 MR points for £15,000 spent in the previous 12 calendar months as that only applies to the Gold Charge Card.

        I took out the Gold, qualified for its initial spend bonus and then upgraded to Platinum (and pocketed the upgrade spend bonus on that card) over the holiday season last year. Process was very easy.

      • This article is purely about sign-up bonuses.

        First place on the list is given to the Plat card. There is no anniversary bonus for this card. If you decide that is the right card for you, due to the other benefits, then applying first for the gold card and then upgrading to the Plat loses you nothing, but gains you at least an extra 6K points for an extra £1K of spend (assuming no referral which is in keeping with the original article)
        new plat + £2K spend = 32K points
        new gold +£2K spend + upgrade + £1K spend =38K points (possibly 40K depending on your gold spend) + 2 lounge pass cards.

        • You would have to be sure to use the 2 lounge passes you get for your gold card before you upgrade – as far as I know, once you no longer have the Gold card, the associated lounge card is no longer valid.

  7. This article is just about sign-up bonuses, but don’t forget the 2-4-1 voucher with some cards. This was the clincher for me, since I intend to use it for a First seat to Vancouver normally costing 150,000 Avios. So it’s very much a question of which best suits your personal circumstances – thanks Rob for doing the leg work.

    Incidentally I have seen people advertising on eBay that they will propose you (to get the reward) and pay YOU.

    • I hate to burst your bubble but BA stopped the first class cabin on the Vancouver flights last month as they weren’t going to upgrade it from the old First Class product due to the eventual retirement of the 747s that fly that route. You may still get seated in it, but the service will be that of Club World, but it will mean you’ll save 50k avios!

      • So they have; Thanks for the tip. Although when we flew First once on an old 747 it was hardly different from Club apart from dinner in the airport.

      • What about First class to Rio from LHR – do you know whether this is still running? It does not show as an option on the BA availability checker map thingy, however when you manually search for it it is an option? Thanks

  8. Surely the best card is the BAPP – cycle your 3V cards and you’ll have your £10k done in a month!

    • The trick is finding ways to cycle them!

      • Try High Street Vouchers, Top Gift Cards, council tax, Amazon, BT, Vodafone, fuel bill, any small online amount and that’s without amalgamating.
        And I am just a beginner!

      • Piece of cake cycling them, even at zero cost, and not wasting time with silly utilities bills or more gift cards/vouchers.

        • Care to share?

          • I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake, but it’s definitely possible to get the full £25 paid directly into your bank account. Maybe Garry’s method is different from mine, but I’m not going to post it here as some idiot is going to go overboard, and one must tread extremely carefully with this route or you risk more than being banned from Amex for life. I would say for each virtual address you own you can do one card per 72 hours. This method is posted on a public forum which doesn’t see much activity

        • Lady London says:

          keep stumm, mate
          although I’d still like to dabble and no idea what this could be, just don’t have the cash right now anyway!

        • If you spill it, you kill it.

      • For many people the trick is finding them to buy.

        • Not near me … I’m happy to help someone find a very significant consistent source if they’ll help me with a solution to the cycling question ;-)

          I’m not keen on buying & eBaying things (too busy) but buying & refunding (to a different card?) sounds like a plan!

  9. Any thoughts on when SPG bonus will move to 20,000 points?

    • No. Usually happens by now, if it doesn’t launch next Monday then I would begin to think they aren’t going to bother. I don’t think it was a great success in terms of getting long-term cardholders.

      I actually submitted a paper to SPG at their request on ways to make the SPG Amex a more interesting long-term proposition but it didn’t go anywhere.

  10. pointsarb says:

    @ Garry

    You seem to have found the holy grail! I don’t suppose you would be willing to share this cycling channel cryptically here would you?!

  11. Heard rumor amex will shortly give 1 year of amazon prime (worth £79) to its plat holders

  12. Was this the one that was a former monopoly?

  13. pointsarb says:

    @dynamo
    If it is that channel then yes that makes perfect sense but don’t know whether you can cycle any volume there to make it worthwhile?!

  14. Ah, sorry Raffles, take it down if you like! ;-)

    Amazing the stuff you find, though. I looked at myself a few months ago and apparently somebody in business I didn’t think liked me that much in the past praised me as a Young Turk! ;-)

  15. Hi All,

    Just a note on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Charge Card, if you sign up to in currently with topcashback.co.uk you get £21 cashback, which you can turn in to an additional 5000(ish) Avios points by getting the cashback as tesco points

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