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

This article was updated in December 2016

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 cards which issue Avios miles directly, there are other cards which offer points which can be converted into Avios points.

If you applied for all of the cards below which offers Avios points or points which could be converted to Avios, you would earn over 150,000 Avios from the sign-up bonuses!  (Obviously you should not do this!)

What is the best Avios credit card?

But which of these is the best credit card for earning Avios?  This article focusses purely on sign-up bonuses. Part 2 compares 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 a better deal than 4,000 Avios assuming you achieve 1p per mile.

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.

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.

The best Avios-earning personal credit cards:

Listed in order of highest sign-up bonus:

40,000 Avios – HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard  (article)

80,000 HSBC points convert into 40,000 Avios.  £195 annual fee, non-refundable.  Issuer:  HSBC.  You need to spend £12,000 in your first year to trigger the full bonus.  The card comes with various other benefits including access to 500 airport lounges via LoungeKey.  HSBC Premier has very strict application criteria and is only suitable for high earners.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

30,000 Avios American 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 hotel status cards (Starwood Preferred Guest Gold, Club Carlson Gold, Hilton HHonors Gold, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade), travel insurance, two Priority Pass cards for free airport lounge access (each admitting two people, includes the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5) and Eurostar lounge access.

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

25,000 Avios points.  £195 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 British Airways American Express at the same time.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

20,000 Avios – American 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.

10,000 Avios – Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card (review)

10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest 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.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

9,000 Avios – British Airways American Express Card (review)

9,000 Avios points.  No annual fee. Issuer: Amex. Spend £1,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus. You cannot hold both this card and the British Airways Premium Plus American Express at the same time.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

6,000 Avios – Tesco Premium Credit Card (article)

2,500 Tesco Clubcard points convert into 6,000 Avios.  This is a special offer which runs until 2nd January 2017.  £150 annual fee.  Issuer: Tesco Bank.  Bonus is triggered with your first purchase.  Representative APR 56.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

4,000 Avios – IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard (review)

20,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 4,000 Avios. £99 annual fee, non-refundable.  Issuer: Creation. Bonus is triggered with £200 spend within three months.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

2,000 Avios – IHG Rewards Club Visa Card (review)

10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios. No annual fee.  Issuer: Creation. Bonus is triggered with £200 spend within three months.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

nothing (4,500 Avios if referred) Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard (review)

£24 annual fee.  Issuer:  Lloyds.  There is no sign up bonus.  However, there is a ‘refer a friend’ scheme for existing cardholders which will earn you 4,500 Avios points for signing up.  If you need someone to refer you, email me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk and I will be happy to help.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

The Tesco Clubcard MasterCard and the free HSBC Premier card are not included on this list because they do not offer a sign-up bonus.  The Tesco Clubcard MasterCard does currently offer 1,000 Clubcard points (2,400 Avios) if you apply via certain comparison websites.

In Part 2, 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.  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.

Bits: lounge passes with O2 Priority Moments, bonus Avis Avios via Iberia
How to convert Virgin Flying Club miles to Avios points
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Comments

  1. Is the BA AMEX premium card fee waived if you have the Plat card as well, I have not been charged the fee for two years?

  2. I was wondering if you had forgotten the SPG transfer bonus but you are of course correct.
    20K SPG would earn 25K Avios but only in chunks of 20K

  3. Rob, can you definitely get a pro-rats refund on the BA Premium Amex as you have written?

    • Yes. I got once earlier this month after downgrading to BA Blue after I had hit £10k spend. It went as a credit to the bill but if balance is zero, I believe you can apply to another card or request a cheque.

      • I know everyone here says you need to downgrade to the BA Blue card in order to retain the 2-4-1 voucher but why can’t you cancel the card altogether. I want to cancel my BAPP card – the voucher is on my BAEC account – I now have a supplementary BAPP card under my husbands card so I could book the ticket with that card surely? Must the main card be in my name to pay – does BA even know that when you book? I don’t want to redeem the voucher till later in the year – I want to cancel the card altogether so that I can start the 6 month clock again. Has anyone ever lost the voucher because they couldn’t use the original or the downgraded blue card as a main cardholder. Virgin I think attach their upgrade voucher to your account but then allows you to cancel the credit card so why not BA.

        • Mark Phillips says:

          If you ask American Express, they will immediately tell you that you will lose your 241 voucher if you cancel your BA Amex card, but my personal experience is that I have at least twice cancelled either my or my wife’s card and used a supplementary card on the other one’s account to pay the taxes etc. I can’t see how BA ticketing can tell the difference!

          In the Terms and Conditions of the companion voucher (from 2009!!) is says “The Member is responsible for paying any Taxes, Fees & Charges relating to their Companion Voucher booking. All Taxes, Fees & Charges must be paid for using the Member’s British Airways American Express Credit Card.”

          I would argue that if I am a supplementary card holder on my wife’s card, and use that, that kind of still counts as the member using their BA Amex card……

          • Thanks Mark – I would say using a supplementary card would be ok too but as this is my first experience I wanted to get the views of others who had tried and tested it before. The fact that you have earned the voucher by doing the spend should be enough for you to keep it regardless of how you buy the ticket – but rules are rules. In this game we would all normally have another BA card to pay for the ticket anyway – albeit a supplementary under a partners card. Thanks.

          • Hi Liz. My experience was that as I was well towards hitting the £10k, I referred my wife for a BAPP and I became a supp. I then received my 2-4-1, booked a reward flight (using the supp in my name on my wife’s account to pay the taxes – although I believe you can pay with any Amex) and then downgraded to BA Blue. Like you, I really want to cancel the BAPP to ‘reset the clock’ on the 6 months so my wife can then refer me in 6 months’ time but as I understand it, if you cancel the BAPP completely and then cancel the reward flights you have previously booked, you would then lose the 241 (i.e. it wouldn’t get refunded to your BAEC account. This is not from my experience, however. Perhaps others have more concrete facts?

            I also believe that if you cancel the BAPP without having used the 241, it simply stays in your BAEC (contrary to what Amex advise).

          • Thanks Genghis – I assumed as you say that if you cancel the card it would stay in your account until you redeem so it is safe till then. I appreciate if you cancel the flight and you have cancelled the card then you lose it completely. Although if we all downgraded to blue and waited till we actually flew before cancelling the card there would be very little churning going on!! Think you have to take the risk in the hope that you don’t have to cancel your flight and if you do then you accept that you lose the voucher. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

          • In October last year I hit the 10k 2-4-1 spend, received the voucher and soon after booked a flight using the voucher.

            I’ve been led to believe the “downgrade to Blue” is technically another application with an additional credit check, which I didn’t want to do due to a mortgage application coming up. Hence I cancelled the card despite Amex customer services repeatedly warning me that it may invalidate my voucher.

            There has been no impact to my booking whatsoever.

            I can’t tell you whether we’ve been lucky or are an exception to the norm. But in my view Amex and BA are ultimately separate companies and they’re not as joined up as people seem to think. Legally they’re limited in the details they can exchange about you, potentially including the fact you’ve cancelled your card.

            Finally, cancelling the card may mean that you’re no longer able to cancel or move your flights (i.e. you may not receive the voucher back). In my case we had booked non-refundable hotel so this didn’t concern us.

            Rob has a good article on this here: http://www.headforpoints.com/2015/08/31/how-to-use-british-airways-american-express-241-companion-voucher/

          • I love a bit of churning Liz. Perhaps I should live life a bit more on the edge…

          • Thanks J – yes I’ve read Rob’s article and I follow the comments closely when this subject arises. It is good to hear the actual experiences of others who have actually gone through the process – all with no adverse comeback from either BA or Amex so far. It would be interesting to hear if anyone has cancelled the card completely and cancelled the companion flight and managed to keep the voucher – how would BAEC know you didn’t have the original credit card?? Wouldn’t they just want the card that the flight was actually booked on?

        • never lost voucher have done this many times

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          I have it in writing from AMEX that you don’t need to maintain the card to keep the voucher. This is in keeping with their T&C’s.

    • hi

      I can confirm 100% that you do not need to keep your bapp amex till you use the 241 voucher….it is nonsense what amex tell you…the only restriction is that you must pay the taxes with an amex, any type will do…

      have done this many times over, and the voucher is always available..

      as to whether you can get the voucher back if you cancel, cant comment on that as never tried…

      • Agree with Luke. I cancel mine EVERY TIME and still able to use the vouchers. You just have to have pay for it using an AMEX. (My last voucher, I used my Lloyds Amex to pay for the taxes).

  4. Genghis says:
    I also believe that if you cancel the BAPP without having used the 241, it simply stays in your BAEC (contrary to what Amex advise).

    — from my experience previously this is correct. (Again I caveat this with: I can’t tell you whether I’ve been lucky and am an exception to the norm).

  5. Rob, have you heard any reports of annual bonuses on gold rewards taking longer than normal to credit? Also, I have heard that target spend bonuses are also taking longer than usual, reports on here last week a few days after hitting the spend, I have heard of people who met spend over two weeks ago and still no bonus in accounts?

  6. I can also confirm that in my one off experience the 241 voucher doesn’t get revoked if you cancel the BA Plat card and I have used a Amex Plat to make my 241 booking without any problems. 1st class to NYC if you was wondering :)

    • Hello,
      Slightly OT but related nevertheless. I am a PLAT amex cardholder.
      Can I use my BA amex or SPG amex or alike to pay for a holiday and still recieve my travel insurance/ car hire cover, or must the actual trip be paid specifically on the PLAT amex?
      Thanks in advance.

      • You can use any Amex issued Amex.

        • I should caveat that – you still get the most important aspects of the travel insurance (i.e. illness) and car hire regardless of the card you use but only get the baggage and other parts if you pay an Amex issued Amex.

      • I phoned Plat Amex about this just the other day. I was told that ‘officially’ you have to use your Plat Amex, but that “as long as it’s just a one-off” you can use any Amex card. I asked for email confirmation of that, but she wouldn’t agree to that. So i suspect it might come down to your word against theirs if anything goes wrong and you need to claim

        • I think it’s quite clear in the Ts and Cs that I posted the other day on the board

        • It is as clear as day in the terms and conditions that you can use any Amex-issued personal Amex. Look at the definition of ‘Card’ in the document.

    • That is clear. What is not so clear is what happens if you now cancel your reward flight – does the voucher come back?

  7. Does anyone know how to the the Lloyds Avios card (GBP 24 fee one) with 2 x 5500 Avios referral to work. I tried with 2 different email addresses, 1 of them surely unknown to Lloyds. The referral email never arrived.

  8. Slightly OT but amex related… I saw yesterday that the 500 avios for supplementary blue BA amex is no longer advertised.

    Mrs Roberto had to chase for her 2000 she was owed.. Amex being true to form posted them instantly if course.

  9. Can anyone help with MR for Amex Gold? Purchased flights with AA and QF and only got American Express airline bonus points on the QF booking.

    Is this an error and should I have got them for the AA booking too?

  10. Can you refer (and get the referral bonus) if you refer someone for an Amex Gold charge card, if you have an Amex Platinum charge card? Or can you only refer for the same card that you hold?

  11. Please can someone refer me for Amex Plat. I tried emailing raffles. Thanks!

  12. Is the £450 fee for Amex Platinum taken monthly pro-rata or up front in one go?

    Thanks,

    Paul

    • On your first monthly statement

      • Thanks Genghis – is the PP the version that grants free access or is a fee still paid to access the lounges?

        • You get Priority Pass with Amex Plat for you and one supplementary card holder. It gets you in for ‘free’ to PP lounges – ie you don’t pay any more

          • In regards to the refer bonus on the Lloyds Card, I too never received the email after 3 days I called up and Avios said they would manually process the Avios, provided the application was done after the call.

            It’s now been 7 days and still no email, cards are In the post so hopefully the bonus will be honored.

          • No chance. But if you email Avios they should add them on.

            This is how it works with Lloyds – about 50% of emails arrive. Of those 50%, only 2/3rd actually receive the bonus without intervention.

  13. With the new EU regulations is it likely these bonuses will be withdrawn or significantly reduced soon?

    What about the IHG Rewards Black Visa…is it likely Platinum status will be withdrawn or does this work on a different business model?

    I understand there’s no definitive answer but Raffles/HFP readers views would be appreciated.

    • In general, I would expect fee-free MasterCard and Visa cards to disappear. The Black Visa is a decent model for the future – a fee but one which you can justify because the sponsor (IHG) has thrown in a valuable benefit (status) to justify it.

      If cards want to remain in your wallet (and therefore keep the brand ‘front of mind’) more groups need to think the same way. Simply offering points won’t work financially.

  14. What’s the general consensus on churning? How much is too much? Is there some point at which the credit card companies are likely to cut you off for too much churning?

  15. Slightly OT but:

    – I have held BA Amex PP and Blue on/off for last 4 years. I currently have BA Blue an have spent 6K this card year (which expires in August).

    – If I phone Amex and ask to be upgraded to BA PP (presumably around £60 pro-rata from now til August) and spend a further 4K, wil that trigger the voucher? If so seems a fairly cheap way of obtaining the voucher!

    – If in August I tell them to downgrade again to BA Blue, could this look in any way negative like I’m messing Amex around? I will probably apply for Amex Platinum around the same time and so don’t want to jeopardise my chances.

  16. This is very timely for me as I am re-evaluating what I’m going to save for and what I want to achieve.

    I have focused on Avios for years but the last 18 months or so I’ve started (thanks largely to this site) looking at other opportunities around hotel stays.

    I used to gain & use the Avios 2-4-1 from the BAPP every year for donkeys years but don’t have much call for two flights anywhere at the moment :-( so it is not as valuable to me as, say, an upgrade voucher for a single flight or a night or two in a decent hotel.

    I have tended not to stay in chain hotels that much but am starting to more now, so earn some points there and also see more value in the free nights or redemption nights that can be earned whereas previously I was happy paying a lower price for non-chain hotels / B&Bs / AirBnBs etc… (and still am on occasion).

    I currently have:
    a BAPP (for soooo long),
    a Gold Amex (for 11 months),
    an IHG Rewards Visa (for 11 months),
    an Amex (&Visa) Diamond Club card (for donkeys years),
    One of the Lloyds Amex & Mastercard duo accounts from bloody ages ago, I think the one that gets 0.25 Avios on Mastercard and 1.25 Avios on the Amex. I think it gets a one level upgrade voucher on a £7,500 spend but haven’t used the cards for ages.

    So…. I really need to clarify what Lloyds cards I actually have as I’m confused about the options compared to what I have.
    If I have the one which gains an upgrade on a single return flight then I will start making use of that Amex again at the expense of my BAPP. Shame about the earning rate being lower but a more useful voucher for me.

    I enjoy Platinum IHG status from the IHG card but tend not to spend much on it other than for stays at IHG hotels !! Which is maybe only half a dozen to a dozen nights a year.
    I intend to keep that and use it as I do.

    I have enjoyed Club Carlson Gold Status this year but have not qualified for it this year and don’t expect to again sadly. I very much like the 2-for1 & 4-for-2 weekend rates and have always been given freebies such as free parking, upgrades, in-room gift etc…. when staying with them.
    Therefore I am keen to get that some other way. The only way I know of (permanently) other than qualifying every year is via the Amex Platinum card which has a charge of £450. Not really worth it to me on its own vs the Amex Gold I already have. So unless I can find some more value in the Amex Platinum for me (making it worth the £450 a year) I will be losing that status & perks I do enjoy :-( This is quite a shame as I have a decent amount of points built up and would prefer to have the status when I start burning through them.
    I was also intending to transfer my Amex Gold points to Club Carlson at the rate of 3:1 but am less sure of doing so now I will not have status. So need to figure out if I still want to do that OR fins an alternative place for my Amex MR points.

    I haven’t tended to use my Diamond Club card for much and am not sure it has much value given the other cards I have, however need to look at it in light of binning the BAPP for the Lloyds card as once I hit the trigger for the voucher I may be better off switching to the Diamond card for Avios. Need to take a look.

    Grr….. So much to consider.

    I am thinking of cancelling the Amex Gold card however (!!!!) before the 12 months are up and I have to start paying the fee & switching spend elsewhere. Either permanently or just until I’d qualify for the Amex Platinum sign up bonus IF I’m going to bite the bullet and get the Platinum card @ £450 a year.

    Grrr….

    Too much to consider and its confusing as hell.