What is the best Avios credit card? (Part 2: on-going earning rates)

(EDIT:  This article was updated in February 2016)

Yesterday I did my best to begin answering the question commonly asked by beginners to this hobby – ‘What is the best credit card for earning Avios points?’.

Because you can earn Avios points both directly and indirectly (eg via Tesco Clubcard or Amex Membership Rewards), the list of possible cards is longer than most people think.

Yesterdays article comparing sign-up bonuses was the most important part of the exercise. The easiest way to build up your Avios points, after all, is through multiple sign-up bonuses.

It is also worth running over the various earning rates.  For simplicity, I have separated these into ‘best American Express card for earning Avios’ and ‘best Mastercard / Visa for earning Avios’.

Before you apply for anything, though, consider the size of the sign-up bonus and annual fee as well as the earning rate.  Some cards offer a better sign-up deal if you are referred rather than apply direct – you will find full details of referral deals on the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page of HFP.

Let me be very clear on one point. I am not suggesting that the best use for the points from all of these cards is to transfer to Avios. Frankly, you’d be crazy to convert 50,000 Hilton points to 5,000 Avios when you could get a valuable hotel stay out of them. However, I have listed all of the options for completeness.

Credit cards

American Express cards:

1-2 Avios per £1 (1.66-2.66 if spending £15,000 pa) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Charge Card

1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Avios. Double points on foreign and airline spend. 10,000 bonus points on renewal when you spend £15,000 per year, equivalent to an extra 0.66 points per £1.

1.5 Avios per £1 British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

Double points on British Airways spend (3 per £1) plus 2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher when spending £10,000 per year.

1.5 Avios per £1 Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards American Express

2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher (Economy only) when spending £12,000 per year, voucher to upgrade one return Avios flight by one class when spending £5,000 per year, no foreign exchange fees on overseas spend

1.25 Avios per £1 – TSB Premier Avios American Express

Double points on foreign spend (2.5 per £1) plus 2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher (Economy only) when spending £15,000 per year

1.25 Avios per £1 Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card

1 Starwood point = 1 Avios, but you get a 25% bonus when converting 20,000 points at once.

1.25 Avios per £1 Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express

Card also has no foreign exchange fees on overseas spending, voucher to upgrade one return Avios flight by one class when spending £7,000 per year

1 Avios per £1 – American Express Platinum Charge Card

1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Avios

1 Avios per £1 TSB Avios American Express

Double points on foreign spend (2 Avios per £1)

1 Avios per £1 – British Airways American Express Card

2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher when you spend £20,000 per year

MasterCard and Visa cards:

0.5 Avios per £1 HSBC Premier MasterCard

This card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders and requires substantial savings or investment products to be held with HSBC to qualify

0.4 Avios per £1 IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa Card

2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1. 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios. Double points on foreign spend.  £99 annual fee.

0.3 Avios per £1 Tesco Clubcard MasterCard 

1 Clubcard point per £8 spent per transaction. 1,000 Clubcard points convert into 2,400 Avios. Note that your actual earnings rate will be lower because each transaction is rounded down to the nearest £8, offset by the fact that you earn double points for shopping in Tesco.

0.3 Avios per £1 Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards MasterCard

2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher (Economy only) when spending £12,000 per year, voucher to upgrade one return Avios flight by one class when spending £5,000 per year, no foreign exchange fees on overseas spend

0.25 Avios per £1 Lloyds Avios Rewards MasterCard

Card also has no foreign exchange fees on overseas spending, voucher to upgrade one return Avios flight by one class when spending £7,000 per year

0.25 Avios per £1 – TSB Premier Avios MasterCard

2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher (Economy only) when spending £15,000 per year, double points on foreign spend

0.2 Avios per £1 TSB Avios MasterCard

Double points on foreign spend

0.2 Avios per £1 IHG Rewards Club Visa Card

1 IHG Rewards Club point per £1. 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios

0.2 Avios per £1 Marriott Rewards MasterCard

1 Marriott point per £1. 10,000 Marriott Rewards points convert to 2,000 Avios.

0.2 Avios per £1 Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa

2 Hilton points per £1. 10,000 Hilton HHonors points convert to 1,000 Avios.

Representative APR rates for the cards above can be found on our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page.

(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.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.)

The IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa (with free Platinum status) is finally back!
What is the best Avios credit card? (Part 1: comparing sign-up bonuses)
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  1. It’s worth noting that the Lloyds Premier Avios card also gives you double avios on your first £2,500 spend each month for the first 3 months (provided it is Amex spend).

    This effectively gives you 3 avios per £ in the first six months provided you spend less than £2,500 – or if you spend more you could see it as a 22,500 signup bonus, albeit with a high spending target! Am using it as a business card so usually maxing out the bonus each month but the savings on foreign exchange (as most of our payments are to overseas suppliers) is the best bit really

  2. For anyone thinking about getting a new or additional Amex card now could be the perfect time as this years Small Shop Saurday looks very impressive as it runs until from the 6th to 21st Dec; by applying now you should have your card in time to participate and could easily recoup a good slug of any annual fees with the cash back.


    • Shop Small certainly does look much better than last year, there’s loads of choice near us for the first time. Map functionality is a bit rubbish though 😉

      Maybe there’s a way to bring up more than one place at a time in terms of addresses?

      • The map is useless – it showed nothing originally when putting in a postcode although when doing ‘near me’ it brought up more places. Very messy and difficult to see though.

  3. Thanks for the updates Raffles. I’m quite new to this and signed up in September for my first Avios card and went for the BAPP. 1.5 points per £1 seems pretty good to me and so far I’ve been averaging over £200 p/d seven days a week by putting spend for my business on the card.

    My question is about the sign up bonuses and how many cards you can churn through. As a newbie it almost feels a bit wrong to apply, use for a couple of months then cancel, but it’s clearly a tactic.

    Given that I can put about £10k of personal and business spend on cards every six weeks or so should I just keep applying? Or should I be more considered in my approach?

    Does anyone know if this type of activity harms your credit rating? It should be noted that the balances are always paid in full each month.

    I’m happy to apply on a regular basis but don’t want to flag anything bad! Any advice on this would be gratefully received :)

    • My message has always been the same. I have been doing this for 15 years and can probably manage another 20! You should treat it as a long-term game. If you annoy Amex by applying for umpteen cards over 18 months then they will simply stop giving you any more and then you are permanently stuffed. I probably open 2 new cards a year, max.

      Given your spend pattern you should leave the BA card open. If you have a partner, get them one and make yourself a supplementary cardholder – you can then trigger another 2-4-1 voucher so you get 2 each year. With a lot of £ going through the BA card Amex will be OK about you opening the occasional Gold, Platinum, SPG etc for a short period.

      • Got it… thanks. And presumably I can get the wife to apply for a card or two per year as well to double up on our (household Avios) points.

        What about other cards? For example, the The Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa seems an easy way to get a free nights accommodation. Do you apply the same kind of ‘2 per year max’ rule to each card provider? So in the case of HHonors Plat which is issued by Barclaycard would you then only apply to one other Barclaycard issued card?

        If this is the case you can presumably gain a high number of sign up bonuses per year across multiple providers. That does though raise my other original point which was does anyone know if this adversely effects your credit score?

        • Barclays does not have a stated rule for reapplying. However, people who reapply after a year seem to be accepted again for the Hilton card.

          When I said ‘2 per year’ I meant 2 new cards a year across ALL providers not just Amex.

          You do not have a credit score. That is a US concept which does not exist here. Your credit report lists all the cards you have, the total credit limit and the amount you have spent towards that limit. The most a card issuer can do is decide if a) you have too much credit across other cards already in relation to your income and b) how close you are to busting the limits on your existing cards which would be a sign of trouble.

          It also shows any missed payments on your credit cards, utility bills, council tax etc. That is all.

  4. ive got a fairly decent sized USD hotel bill coming in 5 weeks. Trying to decide which card to pay it on.

    Assume Amex Gold has forex fee?

    I also have the Amex Diamond Club card but have lost track of how many Avios per £ this pays. I could just avoid the fees and go with the Post Office Card?

    Any suggestions? BA Amex and Amex Plat also in the mix?

    • In my experience foreign hotel spend gets triple points on the Amex Gold.

    • Well if it is a business trip and your boss is reimbursing you the costs, then for sure go for the AmEx Gold. Double points for foreign spend plus double points for travel. It almost ofsets the ~3% conversion rate they charge.

      If paying yourself, well try to get a zero comission credit card e.g. Nationwide, LLoyd Premier Avios, etc.

  5. Here’s an impossible question, but Any kind of answer would be interesting.

    Which hotel mc/visa has the best ongoing earning? I know there are lots of things that make a comparison hard, but it seems the key decision for non-Amex spend is Avios vs hotel, and then, which hotel?

    • comparisons not easy as you say.

      for non Amex I use the IHG card listed here – but then i’m chasing a free night in an IC.

      but I have also used the Hilton card in the past, which if you haven’t had is worth getting as you get a free night after £750 spend.

    • IHG Premium at roughly 1p per £1 (as above) but of course you have the £99 fee. Marriott card is 1 point per £1 which I value at 0.5p. Hilton card is 2 points per £1 which I value at 0.6p post devaluation. Basic IHG card is 1 point so 0.5p. Very little in it really.

      At the end of the day, as you’d struggle to get enough points JUST from the credit card for a free night, you need to look at a) a card from a chain where you also stay or b) a chain which is an Amex MR partner and you could top up via an Amex transfer which would just be Hilton.

      • As remarked, this past year has been a low travel year, so I’m effectively starting from scratch. Hilton and IHG seem to have similar coverage for my typical destinations. Up to now my stays have generally been Hilton. What’s off-putting is that the signup bonus (free night for £750 spend) is good, but there appears to be no on-going bonus.

        IHG on the other hand you can get a free night every year. (My guess is that my non-Amex spend will remain enough to trigger that voucher.)

        My experience with Barclaycard is that they are less churn friendly to me that Amex, which is part of what puts me off the Hilton card.

        But I’m very open to being corrected in my assumptions!

  6. The legacy BMI Amex + Visa cards are pretty good, I think better points than any of these new ones?

  7. Slightly OT, I have 4 AMEX cards (2 private and 2 work) and had my application for Amex reward gold turned down . Credit history is good and pay off all the cards every month. Is there a max limit to the amount of Amex cards you can hold?

    • I always believed the amex-issued limits were 2 charge cards and 2 credit cards max at one time per person

  8. Has anyone who opened the new Lloyds avios cards received the Double Points bonus in month 7? I (naturally) moved all spending off that card at the end of the 6 month promo period, only to notice that a small transaction that went on the card in month 7 still attracted the bonus. I’m now wondering if there is a problem with their IT/ability to count to 6, and if I shouldn’t move more spend back?

  9. For AMEX Gold card, after renewal if I cancel it , will they refund the a part of the fee ? Has anyone here done it ?

    I am eyeing on the 7500 MR points.

    • They refund fee pro rata but looks as if you need to wait up to 60 days to get the 7500 points

    • Yes they will, points post a month after you renew.

      • If I waited until after anniversary of the gold card to apply for the upgrade to the Plat Card would i end up paying £549 or would Amex deduct the gold fee?

      • I reckon I’ll be putting this to the test in a few months. Can’t really lose, I guess. T&Cs say up to 60 days but you can’t beat past knowledge.

        Before now we’ve just closed down Gold fairly quickly after the first bonus got released so that the 6 months wait was up, not that I churn much otherwise.

        But seeing as it’s a free RFS flight for us, might as well grin & bear it for £12.50 – and £25 won’t exactly hurt.

        BTW Raffles I’m sure we’ll see a post on it (probs tomorrow! 😉 ) but Amex really does seem to have dramatically increased its small shops base in the last 12 months – well, at least ones included in the next campaign. LY I had to go to Truro to do a bar & restaurant crawl but this year can manage within staggering distance of home lol

        • What is everyone’s opinion on ongoing foreign and travel spend after first year? The 7500 bonus on renewal + 2x MR per £1 for travel seems an ok deal for £125.

          • You can get the best of both worlds 😉

          • You are paying the 3 per cent FX fee to get those double points, so arguably getting a Post Office card for overseas use is better. No miles but you save 3 per cent.

            Depends how much travel spend is in Sterling.

            • Especially given the 1% cashback (on up to £1,500 spend) that the Post Office have offered me on a time-limited basis. Wish they’d make this a long-term thing!

  10. Robert Jenkins says:

    Hi, if I currently hold the BA Amex Premium Plus am I still eligible for the sign up bonus of 20,000 points on the Gold Card?


  11. Raffles,
    some of the links don’t work!

  12. Sigh always makes me sad these articles at the passing of BMI.

    Gone but not forgotten.

  13. It is worth noting that Tesco Clubcard MasterCard can earn 5 Clubcard points for every £4 you spend at Tesco stores and 5 points for every £4 you spend on Tesco fuel, not just 1 point for every £4 you spend everywhere else.

    • Thanks; it is indeed worth noting that.
      I make it 1.25 points per £1 i.e. 3 Avios per pound.
      But I am going for the 2-4-1 on BAPP; decisions, decisions!

    • No, that is not correct – you have believed the Tesco marketing spiel! That INCLUDES the 4 points per £4 that you would normally get. The points from your spending accrue at the normal rate of 1 point per £4.

      • Thanks for clarification! I have to be more careful about Tesco’s trick from now on.

      • They did a good job there; I am suitably chastened.
        But at least I do not have to make the decision.

        • One of yours, Raffles ;-):
          So, what is the answer? What is the best way to earn Avios when buying fuel?
          Based purely on standard fuel (not V-Power or Momentum) the answer is:
          Buy standard fuel at a Tesco-branded garage. Use your Tesco credit card as a Clubcard but use your Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card to pay!
          For every £4 spent on petrol, you would earn:
          4 Clubcard points (earning rate is 1 per £1 when using a Tesco credit card as a Clubcard) = 9.6 Avios
          8 American Express Membership Rewards points (2 per £1 when buying petrol) = 8 Avios
          That is 17.6 Avios points per £4, or 4.4 Avios per £1.
          But also reported that Tesco Momentum gives 2 clubcard points per £1 when bought this way, not tried it myself.

          • Remembering, of course, to use the credit card as clubcard when buying gift cards and even groceries etc. to maximise the fuel saving.

  14. Pleasantly surprised at how good the (double) foreign spending rate is on the TSB Premier Avios AmEx – not sure my work spend is worth the £99 annual fee though :-(

    • The problem is, of course, that the card is issued by Lloyds so whether the points actually transfer is anybody’s guess.

  15. I have an Amex platinum card, and its getting near its renewal of £450. Was thinking of getting the renewal, then canceling for the pro rata refund. Also got over 55k points in the account. Was eyeing up the BA amex with a 2-4-1 or amex gold next, Decisions decisions…
    Would I be correct in saying that I will still get the signup bonus on BA, whilst I still have my platinum card? Likewise, if I sign up for an amex gold, would I still get a signup bonus (dont think so).. However my mrs is a supplementary cardholder on my amex plat, so if she signs up, she will get the bonus?
    Assuming we switch cards, what can I do to keep my amex points? Can I transfer them to another account in mine or my mrs name, or do I have to use them/transfer to avios, etc?

    • Yes, you get the BA bonus. No, you won’t get the Gold bonus. Yes, your wife will get the bonus as having a supplementary card does not count when deciding if you get your own bonus.

      You will get a short grace period to use the points but you will have to empty the MR account relatively quickly.

  16. Hi there, I was wondering whether there was any news/rumours of a MR conversion bonus to Avios coming up. I am not sure whether to cash out or keep on holding out?

  17. Hi Raffles. Apologies if duplicate posting but previous effort doesnt appear to have gone through. When mbna increased the avios earning rate on the diamond club cards last year, there was speculation that this related to a forthcoming renegotiation of the BA/Amex contract. Not heard anything since. Did they renew their deal or has the decision been deferred?