Comparing the 15 credit cards that now earn you Avios points!

(EDIT:  This article was updated in October 2016)

What is the best Avios credit card?  With 15 different cards now offering Avios points, and issuers starting to reduce the rewards on Visa and MasterCard products in response to the new EU rules on credit card fees, I wanted to look at all of the options and suggest your best strategy.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here for a free 30-day trial of Equifax’s online credit report service.   Note that a monthly fee of £14.95 will apply following the 30 day free trial of this product if you do not cancel within the trial period.  You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Travel rewards credit cards have high interest rates and are not suitable for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month.  You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.

There are now 15 UK credit cards which earn Avios points at a rate of at least 1 Avios per £1 on an American Express card or 0.3 Avios per £1 on a MasterCard or Visa.

This is what you have to choose from:

British Airways American Express (free, 9000 Avios sign-up bonus, 1 Avios per £1, my review)

British Airways Premium Plus American Express (£195, 25000 Avios sign-up bonus, 1.5 Avios per £1, my review)

Lloyds Avios Rewards Amex & MasterCard  (£24, no bonus, 1.25 per £1 Amex & 0.25 per £1 MC, my review)

Lloyds Choice Rewards Amex & MasterCard (£24, no bonus, 1 Avios per £1 Amex & 0.2 per £1 MC, my review)

TSB Avios Amex & MasterCard (free, no bonus, 1 Avios per £1 Amex & 0.2 per £1 MC, my review)

TSB Premier Avios Amex & MasterCard (£50, no bonus, 1.25 per £1 Amex & 0.25 Avios per £1 MC, my review)

Starwood SPG Amex (£75, 10000 Avios sign-up, 1 Avios per £1 jumping to 1.25 Avios per £1 if you convert in chunks of 20,000 points, my review)

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (free, 20000 Avios sign-up bonus, 1 Avios per £1, my review)

American Express Platinum (£450, 30000 Avios sign-up bonus, 1 Avios per £1, my review)

HSBC Premier MasterCard (free, no bonus, 0.5 Avios per £1, my review)

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard (£195, 40000 Avios bonus, 1 Avios per £1, article)

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard (£99, 4000 Avios bonus, 0.4 Avios per £1, my review)

Tesco Premium MasterCard (£150, no bonus, 0.6 Avios per £1, article)

In addition, the best free MasterCard or Visa option – assuming you don’t qualify for HSBC Premier – is:

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard (free, no bonus, 0.3 Avios per £1, my review)

You could also include the free IHG Rewards Club MasterCard (my review), although at 1 IHG point per £1 (0.2 Avios if converted) you would be far better off getting the Tesco card.  You would receive 2,000 Avios by converting the 10,000 IHG points you receive as a sign-up bonus.  The Marriott Rewards MasterCard has a similar earnings rate but is not currently available to new cardholders.

Frankly, it has gone a bit crazy. It would be madness to try to do a comparison chart, so instead I want to pick out the key reasons for getting each of the cards.

Cards with a specific ‘best in class’ reason to get them:

British Airways Premium Plus American Express – the No 1 attraction is the 2-4-1 voucher that you receive for spending £10,000 each year. This is valid on Avios redemptions in ALL classes and saves you, for eg, 150,000 Avios on two Club World peak day tickets to San Francisco. Coupled with a high earnings rate, all serious Avios collectors should have one of these.

(If you travel solo, though, ignore it as the 2-4-1 has no value to you – save £195 and get a free card with a lower earning rate. Similarly, if you cannot spend £10,000 per year on the Amex then look elsewhere and save £195.  You also need to be certain that you can generate enough Avios per year to use the 241 voucher effectively – although reading HFP will make that easier!)

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – this card offers the most generous sign-up bonus for a free card.  You receive 20,000 Amex points for signing up (=20,000 Avios) and there is no fee for Year 1 (£140 thereafter).  You also receive two Lounge Club airport lounge passes.

Tesco Clubcard MasterCard – this 0.3 Avios per £1 if you convert your Clubcard vouchers into Avios. This makes it the best free Visa or MasterCard for earning Avios for 95% of people (the HSBC Premier cards are better but this has very strict criteria for signing up).  There is also the potential to use the points for Virgin miles or a totally different Clubcard Boost deal.

That said, 0.3 Avios per £1 is still not great unless you assume that there will be occasional conversion bonuses – and the nasty ’rounding down per transaction to nearest £8′ rule means that you will get less than 0.3 Avios is reality.

HSBC World Elite MasterCardas this article explains, this is an excellent product if you earn enough to qualify for HSBC Premier.  The high annual fee is offset, at least in Year 1, by a 40,000 Avios sign-up bonus and 1 Avios per £1 spent.  The card also comes with airport lounge access.

Cards that work for a niche market:

Lloyds Avios Rewards Amex & MasterCard – there are three groups of people who should pay the £24 fee for this card. The first are those with heavy foreign spend, as this is the only UK rewards card which charges a 0% fee on FX transactions. This saves 3% on all your foreign spend.

The second group is solo travellers. If the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher doesn’t work for you, the upgrade voucher on this card when you spend £7,000 probably will.  You can read more about the upgrade voucher in this article – since the Avios devaluation, it is more valuable than it was.  The upgrade voucher can also help families of three, allowing two to travel with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher and the third using the Lloyds upgrade voucher.

British Airways American Express – the free BA Amex has a decent (for a free card) rate of 1 Avios per £1. However, do not get this card if you are planning to spend the £20,000 required to earn the 2-4-1 voucher – this post explains why.

American Express Platinum – if you meet the £40,000 household income criteria, you should seriously consider applying for this card. Ignore the £450 fee, as it is refunded pro-rata if you cancel. Focus instead on the 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus, the Priority Pass for airline lounge access, Eurostar lounge access, the Starwood hotels Gold card, the Accor hotels Platinum card and the Club Carlson Gold card.  Hilton Gold is due to be added in 2016.  The hotel benefits will run for a full year even if you cancel your Platinum card after triggering the bonus.

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard – is it worth paying £99 per year for this card, earning 0.4 Avios per £1, when the Tesco MasterCard is free and give 0.3?  Potentially yes, because if you put £10,000 through the card you also get a free night at any IHG (InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza etc) hotel.  All cardholders also receive IHG Platinum status.  The £99 fee for the first year is offset by the 20,000 IHG points you earn as a special sign-up bonus.

TSB Premier Avios Amex & MasterCard – on the face of it, the 241 voucher offered for £15,000 of spending is weak. It is valid for 1 year and only on economy flights. However, as spending on both the Amex and the MasterCard count towards the voucher, it may have some value for someone with heavy Visa / MasterCard spend. You are trading off the voucher for the higher earnings rate on the Tesco MasterCard, though.

Starwood SPG American Express – the day-to-day earnings rate of 1 Starwood point (= 1 Avios) per £1 isn’t the best, although you do get the flexibility to convert to 30 different airlines.  You also get an enhanced conversion rate of 1.25 Avios per £1 when you convert in chunks of 20,000 points.  The sign-up bonus is 10,000 points, which converts to 10,000 Avios.  The £75 annual fee is refunded pro-rata when you cancel.

Tesco Premium MasterCard – as I explain in this article, this card MAY work for you if you spend £5,000 at Tesco per year, including Tesco Fuel.  This is because you receive 5,000 bonus Clubcard points – 12,400 bonus Avios – for hitting this target.  It is unlikely to work well for other people.

Cards which are not ‘best in class’ in terms of benefits:

TSB Avios Amex & MasterCard – the free British Airways American Express has the same earnings rate on the Amex and also has a sign-up bonus, unlike this card

Lloyds Choice Rewards Amex & MasterCard – it comes with a £24 fee, but the earnings rate (1 Avios per £1 on the Amex and 0.2 Avios per £1 on the MasterCard) can be beaten by free cards

(Don’t forget that our directory of all UK airline and hotel credit cards can be found here.)

PS. If you are a sole trader or run a small business, you may also want to check out the American Express Platinum Business Card and the American Express Gold Business Card.

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.

1,000 bonus Avios with Amex Currency Exchange this Christmas
Bits: £100 Qatar discount, Starwood / Design Hotels competition
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  1. Hi Raffles

    Re the Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard, do you have a referral link for this earns Avios?

    Also, can you use the upgrade voucher to upgrade the 241 voucher booking? Or do they have to be used separately?


    • You can earn 4.5k avios through a refer a friend link. You can’t use the two vouchers at once (the terms preclude it and the website doesn’t let you).

      • You get 4500 each (link on Avios site)
        If you use Lloyds for your current account you get cash Back offers – my wife has had £65 this year; I have had £50.

        • Email me at raffles (at) and I can arrange a link.

        • How do you get sent these offers? I’ve got a current account and avios card with Lloyds but never got anything!?

          • First you activate ‘Everyday offers’ when you have logged in. Then you need to activate each individual offer as with Amex. After that is spend on any Lloyds card linked to the same internet banking profile

            • In the case of Hungry House you can sometimes double dip with Lloyds and Amex. And I have used a £6 wys 90 from Sainsbury’s on top of 10% from Lloyds.
              The slight annoyance is that they do not tell you about new offers; you have to keep logging in.

            • Thanks so much, can’t believe I never found that!

  2. It would be worth pointing out that the Tesco card is up to 0.3 per pound, not actually 0.3 (unless you only ever make purchases in multiples of £8). I didn’t get close to 0.6 per pound when it was on the old rate, it’ll probably be even worse now a £7.99 purchase earns 0 avios and a £15.99 purchase earns 2.4 avios (or 0.15 per pound). A consistent 0.25 from Lloyds is best for me (and presumably many others) so I don’t particularly agree that Tesco is the best.

  3. Rob, I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that the 2-4-1 voucher on the BAPP is only worth the £150 fee if you can generate enough Avios to fly in the cabin you want at the time of year you want. After devaluation it’s a lot more difficult to do if you don’t fly a lot as well as spend. If you can collect circa 150k Avios a year then it’s a no brainer to have this card but to collect the 150k it may mean a bit of card churning.

    • Good point. Also, even with a large bundle of Avios, reward availability has become much more restricted, obviously depending where you want to go.

      I’ve just let one 2-4-1 voucher lapse, and we are using another to go somewhere which is a poor substitute for what we would have chosen.

  4. I have a TSB Amex/Visa card from before the merge with LLoyds. I dont pay a fee for this card. Is there still an upgrade voucher? Are FX transactions fee free? Can anyone please advise?

    • I have the same one… I don’t think so but not 100% sure. I’ve kept it for amex promotions & as an easy way to keep my Avios balance alive

  5. Anyone have views on whether it’s currently better value to collect hotel points (e.g. IHG?) from Visa/Mastercard than Avios (assuming your travel patterns work to let you use the hotel points at a decent exchange.)

    • No easy answer – it depends on how you want to spread your points and miles (do you value free hotels over flights?), your current balances and how many points you earn from stays or flights. Hotel cards on their own require a lot of spend to get a free night so best used in conjunction with points you earn from stays.

      I am personally putting more spend on hotel cards now as my Avios balance is high enough – but I am also aware, when travelling with the family, of the limitations of booking suitable rooms on points.

  6. I currently hold the ba amex – free version. What’s the strategy to get the sign up bonus for the premium plus version?

  7. Must admit I’m surprised that the relevance of the Lloyds Avios card is seen as niche, especially for this audience where heavy overseas spend would seem to be the norm…

    And once you’ve hit 10k on the BA Amex, you can even top it up with UK spend if you want.

    • As a predominantly solo traveller the Lloyds is the best option for now. The zero FX fee is great, though I use my Halifax Clarity for ATM transactions. I’m also likely to benefit from the upgrade voucher, which I can’t for the 2-1 (spend is a little too high). Things are looking up on the romance front though so perhaps a BAPP is a long-term strategy!

      Also have the free BA Card and a Gold, I am about to cancel the BA though for the next cycle of signup-offers, though I will hold the Gold till the bitter end to benefit from the lounge pass, foreign currency ordering and Amex offers.

      • My opinion of the Lloyds card has improved considerably post Avios devaluation as it makes the upgrade voucher more valuable. That said, the voucher is inflexible (ie not returned if flight cancelled, only one year validity).

        A lot of people with 1 kid have also told me how useful they found it when used with a 241.

        My own personal biases are at play here, I think.

        • How is it useful in this senario? The upgrade voucher needs the person who earned it to be on the booking. We are a family of 5 and couldnt figure out how we can use 2 by BAPP 241 and 1 upgrade voucher (we earned all 3 between us). Am I missing something? 1 adult per child for 241s but then the 3rd child couldnt use the upgrade voucher that wasnt in their name. Similarly 2 kids couldnt use 241 as not in their names….

      • Good luck Gavin!!

  8. Snap!
    Looking forward to using all 13 today :)

  9. OT but is anyone else having problems access Tesco via Award Wallet?

  10. If I hold a current account with TSB are there any benefits to getting the TSB Avios cc?

  11. Hi sir, I desperately need your advise. I’ve got a BA companion ticket which expires in April. I need to fly to Buenos Aires in March which would be an ideal and only chance to use it, problem is I’ve only got 95k avios – can buy 14k more – and use the companion ticket to fly Business on my way there and Economy on the way back. Thus my options:
    a) Buy avios and use companion ticket (Business outbound/Eco inbound) –> £900gbp (taxes and avios) + 95k avios (full price for same ticket combination is £3,500 total for 2 people). Thus, is using my 95k avios to save £2,550 a good deal?
    b) Buy two eco tickets for £1,550 total, get to keep my 95k avios to travel within Europe or a future companion ticket next year.

    Appreciate any advice!

    • If you would otherwise be looking to fly economy, think of it as 95k Avios for £650 saving + a one-way upgrade…

      If you were to use the Avios for (e.g.) 5 European trips (for 2 people) how much would you spend on flights otherwise? – These would be £35 each (i.e. £700 in total)… would you be able to book ahead, not need the flexibility and pay e.g. £150 pp per trip? – if so this would then cost £1500…. using them this way you would then be getting £800 from the Avios (but no upgrade). This figure will vary massively depending on what you’d otherwise pay for the flights.

      The other thing to consider is how much you value cash vs how much you value the points at this moment in time – how easy would it be to replace the points? Why do you collect the points (inexpensive weekends away or for luxury travel)?

    • I would probably go with the 2-4-1 to be honest. It is a long flight and economy both ways would be painful. Given the high cost of the economy tickets I think using the 241 and your Avios to save £650 plus get a one-way upgrade to Business is a decent deal.

  12. Georges Pharand says:

    Am I right to assume then that the only 2 4 1 voucher that allows booking in all classes is the BA Amex?

  13. Hi Rob/Guys, big thanks for all of the help since I started a few short months ago!
    My wife has a BAPP and is about to generate the voucher, but my question is this. With the great ex-eu fares (we do not have any children so this is easy enough for us) and the high £1000 tax that BA impose even with the 2-4-1 is it a great deal anymore?
    Leaving aside that availability is pants and that I may not be able to find seats, (Vegas is my favourite destination and from what I have seen, wish me luck) the 150,000 avios and £1000 of tax, valuing the avios at 1p for ease as much as anything else means that 2 CW seats are costing £2500, which is more than I paid for 2 ex-eu CW seats in the sale and I’m earning avios on that flight so that’s a real consideration. DUB-LAS for example we would earn approx. 25,000 avios each. Is my logic sound? I can see this being the best thing since sliced bread before the devaluation, but combining this with fantastic ex-eu sales fares marginalises the benefit of the 2-4-1, from what I can see.
    Are there sweet spots (destinations) for using this voucher?
    As I’ll have a voucher should I use it to pay for a positioning flight? I understand this may be seen as terrible value but could it still be the best use? Thanks as always Adrian

    • Adrian, everyone has there own interpretation of value but I think generally people find the 241 good value on 1st class redemptions, with the ex eu fares making the CW savings more marginal. Although for some the convenience of ex UK when using the 241 sways it.

      • Also, the cheap tickets are only to certain destinations which may not be where you want to go.

      • thanks Jim, I’d largely discounted 1st class redemptions as the availability is really poor for most routes, maybe I’ll get lucky.

    • You can never be sure the ex-EU deals will continue of course, and you lose the flexibility to cancel and change which a redemption brings. First Class is also possible with the 241 (although you could also upgrade an ex-EU cash ticket of course).

      Worth remember that even if you only ended up using for a Club Europe flight to ‘far Europe’, eg Helsinki, you would still save 30,000 Avios which would make the £150 card fee (when added to the higher 1.5 per £1 earning rate) wash its face.

    • Be careful of timings for the BA 2for1 voucher – it seems these days it can take up to 2 WEEKS for it to appear on your BAExec account after the final amex spend! This is driving me MAD at present as just got enough spend and points for hopefully a 1st/club flight combo last week, but no voucher yet!!

  14. You have to wonder how long the 2 avios per £1 on the free Diamond Club Amex will last when it’s earning more than BAs own £150 fee card. Probably best to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

  15. OT sorry – two questions re the Amex Post Office £5 back for £10 spend offer:

    1. Has anyone successfully proven that this works with buying One4All gift cards (I think the terms exclude this)?
    2. I bought £10 of stamps with Lloyds Avios Amex card via contactless (yes I know stupid error) last week and haven’t had the credit – any idea who I can contact?


    • Give it a couple of days. Last year I did the same with AmEx shop small. It takes a couple of working days before AmEx acknowledged the payment and a bit longer to show on the statement. You should get a confirmation e-mail always instantaneously.

      • Thanks Frenske. There’s been no email and the transaction is on my credit card account :-(

        • Now you mentioned it I did not get a confirmation e-mail. It was 2 days ago and I did not use contactless. I will need to keep an eye on it.

    • I bought One4All cards using contactless last Tuesday and the credits didn’t post until yesterday. Give it a few days.

    • Another reason to distrust contactless (daft I know given the tech must be robust)

      When I use c+p the email hits my phone before I’ve even left the shop!

    • I have so far bought and used six One4All gift cards and got the statement credit for each.

    • One4All cards are confirmed as working by me!

      Don’t use contactless – confirmed as NOT working in terms of producing a Thank you for shopping small email by myself and several others. Might still show up with a statement credit but I have my doubts.

      I phoned up at the weekend when I got 4 Thank yous, but 1 missing (at the same shop) – the CS guy just credited me £5 straight away. But I figure they are not likely to be so easy on multiple calls/ requests, so I am going to wait several days.

      So far missing 3 out of 3 on Sunday – contactless @ pub – and 1 out of 16 today, again, the other 4 at the same shop gave me immediate Thank you emails so I am doubtful that 1 went through right and that it won’t ever be picked up.

      The Amex map definitely improved for me in the last couple of weeks, plenty to keep me busy until we fly.

    • Just confirming that the £5 credit for the contactless Post Office transaction has come through despite no email :-)

  16. I used the Lloyds upgrade voucher for the first time last week, and I think the T&Cs may have changed. Despite my own T&Cs stating it was available to upgrade either two one-way flights, or one return journey (based on availability in the desired cabin but only redeeming the Avios for the cabin below), the Avios website would not let me do this. After a long conversation on the phone with them, I had to get senior manager approval to get an upgrade on two one-way flights. The lady read out to me what the new T&Cs were, and to paraphrase, I think they are now either one return flight (as before), or two one-ways, but crucially still having to book a return flight.

    This makes redeeming the voucher more difficult. I know people on here have used it for two one-way upgrades, and then booked the other leg separately for cash. Of course, finding return availability is much more difficult than just one way.

    I wonder why Avios have done this. Has anyone else seen these revised T&Cs?

    • That would be a bit rubbish – stops you, for eg, using Virgin miles or a oneworld partner to come back in the same cabin you went out. Let’s see if this is officially published somewhere.

    • Would that stop you booking an outbound flight and return separately, as the reward seats get released?

  17. Heya,

    Lloyds premier avoid card is giving double avios for 6 months spend on the amex on new applications at the moment so 3 avios / £ which is a pretty decent rate? Do you think this tips the balance vs the standard lloyds card?

    Spend 2k per month = extra 9k avios for extra yearly charge of £116…

  18. Rich Jones says:

    I have the ‘Diamond Club’ amex and Visa. 2 avios per £1 on Amex. Love the card. Anyone else got this old card? Used to be operational as the BMI card.

  19. Slightly OT, had 2x BA 241 vouchers both available and valid since April 2015, used my wife’s voucher to fly first to Mexico (great!) but now realised I should have used my voucher as she needs it to travel to NYC with our son. Does any one know a way to get that to work, ie getting the vouchers switched retrospectively or booking then getting a name change afterwards?

  20. OT-Whats the quickest way to get my bonus 7500 reward points on the PRG? I have spent the £15000 by card anniversary and want to cancel. I do not want the £140 charge and poor earning rate with the new one.

  21. Has anyone received the 4500 Avios from the Lloyds refer a friend offer recently?

    Reason I ask, although it is still shown on the Avios website, in the small print at the bottom of the page it says you need to apply before 16th October. Thanks.

  22. Re: the Lloyds card. Do bookings have to made via the Avios site or can it be a redemption via BAEC?

    • Has to be via or directly with Avios over the phone, so you need to transfer any points across from your BAEC account via Combine My Avios first.

    • Must be via the Avios site. That makes no difference (they should see the same BA availability) unless you are BA Gold in which case you lose access to the extra economy availability.

  23. Harry – it does work, just you don’t get the instant email confirmation :)

  24. It’s interesting reading about the contactless issues on here – with ShopSmall AU I did contactless for over 80% of them (some of the card readers would only do MC/Visa contactless, had to do C+P for Amex) but in all those cases I got confirmation emails fine – they must be processing things differently on the UK terminals for some reason. Sounds like credits still post OK though, the issue is just the confirmation emails not arriving?