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

This article was updated in August 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.

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.

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.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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). Representative APR 17.9% variable.

1 Avios per £1 – British Airways American Express Card

2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher when you spend £20,000 per year.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

MasterCard and Visa cards:

1 Avios per £1 HSBC Premier World Elite 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.  Representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

0.6 Avios per £1 Tesco Premium MasterCard 

1 Clubcard point per £4 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 £4, offset by the fact that you earn double points for shopping in Tesco. Representative APR 56.5% variable including £150 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

0.4 Avios per £1 IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard

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.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

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.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit.

0.2 Avios per £1 TSB Avios MasterCard

Double points on foreign spend.  Representative APR 17.9% variable.

0.2 Avios per £1 IHG Rewards Club MasterCard

1 IHG Rewards Club point per £1. 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

0.2 Avios per £1 Marriott Rewards MasterCard

This card is temporary closed for new applications

1 Marriott point per £1. 10,000 Marriott Rewards points convert to 2,000 Avios.  Representative APR 16.9% variable.

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 18.9% variable.

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.

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Comments

  1. This article has finally cleared something up that was driving me mad. I couldn’t work out why I had more Membership Reward points on my gold Amex than it was saying I had spent towards the £2000 sign up bonus target. Turns out I’d made a booking with Iberia and got double points for it.

    Actually got the bonus this morning as well (plus an extra 2,000 points, thanks to the referral from this site). Now, what to spend them on….

    • I got a random Bonus Adjustment of 1329 MR a couple of days ago. No idea what for, but I am not going wake up sleeping dogs.

      • Same for me – received just over 2000 last week – very welcome but anyone any ideas why? I’m not intending to ask Amex……..

  2. The BA PP Amex effectively doubles your earning rate (or halves your spending rate), so can change the calculations a bit. It’s effectively 3 Avios per £ (or 6 for BA spend), assuming you apply the 2-4-1 to every booking. So far we’ve used the voucher for US, CPT and Asia redemptions in club world.

    We’ve also redeemed Reward Savers, but these are now significantly less attractive since the domestic connection is extra.

    • On the assumption you are not earning all your Avios through ongoing card spend (which would require £100K spend for two peak CW tickets to LA as an example!) it is actually better than that if you look at that way.

      Say you have 135,000 Avios from other sources (flights, sign up bonuses, Tesco spend and offers) and top it off with a £10K spend to get a further 15,000 plus voucher you are effectively earning 16.5 Avios/£….

      Have to pay the annual fee of course but it is still a game changer for couples who use the vouchers in that way.

      • Agree with this method of valuation. Raffles has an article on it which is a good read.

        • This,(the collection of Avios-which we don’t own!) is best treated as a “Hobby”- which Rob made clear at outset.
          Value them at 0.5p, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed.

          • It is a hobby. But I still think you should apply an accurate earning rate as this should then dictate how you then go about obtaining avios. It’s best not to ‘collect’ in the narrowest sense but to ‘earn then burn’, thus avoiding any devaluations etc.

            • Genghis, my post was a reminder to all, and not a reply necessarily to you :) .

              Earning rates are pretty transparent-burning is another matter.

  3. The TSB cards also gives 1.5 avios per £1 balance transfer (rounded down to each £1000)

  4. I’m reaching my 15k gold spend in a few weeks. My free first year ends in April.
    When’s the best to cancel the card, getting the additional 10000 points and don’t have to pay the full £90 for a year Amex gold? Thanks!

    • Bonus posts after a month so you are obliged to pay one month of fee, then cancel and get 11/12th back.

    • The fee is charged at 38p per day.

      Ideally you would check whether the bonus has arrived daily (maybe starting from day 25 of the anniversary) and as soon as it arrives you would call up to cancel.

      In practice 38p isn’t going to break anyone’s bank…

    • When the renewal fee was £125, I cancelled once the bonus membership rewards hit my account and was refunded £112.32, so I paid £12.68 effectively for my bonus point.

      They actually left the money sitting there in my cancelled Gold account until I called them up and asked them the transfer the refund to my BA PP card, when it never arrived after a week I queried it and found that they have managed to transfer it to an old cancelled BA free card.

      They apologised and transferred it to the correct live account and threw in 1000 avios also to say sorry. Really like Amex customer services, even pay up for small mistakes.

  5. A bit ot – how long does it take from acceptance of an Amex Plat to receiving your PP?

  6. Double avios on the lloyds cards for 6 months on spending up to £2500pm could lift both cards to the top depending on your upcoming spending patterns

  7. What about the Tesco clubcard plus which is a MasterCard?

    Here you earn one clubcard point per £1 spent so that’s 2.4 avios or 3.2 if on the old grandfathered rate.

    Not technically a credit card.

  8. Would be grateful if somebody could clear up a few points on Lloyds avios card for me please. Can the voucher be used to upgrade a return journey for anybody or does it need to be for the person holding the card and avios account? If used to upgrade two one ways, can these be stand alone one way flights or do they need to be ine sector of a return flight? Thanks.

    • The two one ways can be stand alone (I have already done this). When I asked the agent I was told that the voucher can be used for a return for anybody but I will count on it 100% only when someone testifies to have done it. Also, I was told that the two one way flights don’t need to originate from UK. So if you book GIG-LHR or HKG-LHR there may be potential tax savings.

      • Thanks VP, I was curious on that other point too because in the back of my mind I seemed to recall avios bookings had to be returns exUK but obviously not in your experience. I prefer to use my voucher once I qualify for it to upgrade a return for my partner but if not possibe wd have the fallback on two one ways. I have been collecting avios since demise of bmi bug so far havenonly ever used them with BA not avios.

    • Confirmed, I used the upgrade voucher for someone else to fly. Made a saving of 78,000 Avios with it!

      • Thanks Alex, were you able to book and apply the voucher onlineordid you need to call them up?

      • Booked online as usual.
        Although there was an Avios.com promotion at the time (40% off Avios in Economy) which caused an error. Called them up and they sorted it on the phone (they let me have the double discount).

        I got CW outbound and WT+ return for 40% off economy price. And that ticket got up-up to CW to boot. So in effect got CW return LHR-PVG for £460 plus 57,000 Avios. Result!

        • I recently booked CW LHR-PVG, HKG-LHR using 241 for 150k avios so a truly great result!

        • Good stuff, and good tip to wait for redemption sale. I’m hoping to use it HKG-EDI rtn for my partner to limit taxes/fees.

          • I understand that you pay the taxes for the class you travel in, just not the Avios. Happy to be corrected, though!

            • Correct, you pay the taxes for the travelled class but get a discount on the Avios. £460 taxes to PVG was CW out WT+ return. CW return tax would have been £500 IIRC.

            • Brian, flights exHKG are ultra low tax/fees due to local regulatiins. Makes exHKG trips one of sweetest deals in FF game.

  9. With the SPG do you have to transfer in batches? Ie, if I transfer 40k spg points do I get 45 or 50k Avios?

    • You can transfer in batches but you don’t have to transfer in such big lumps. I can’t recall what the minimum is (probably 500 or 1,000) but yes, the real value in transferring them lies in the bonus 5,000 for every 20,000 transferred. Let’s just say that if you had 39,000 it would be worth waiting until you had 40,000 to transfer.

  10. OT – but has anyone tried settling an AMEX statement with their Supercard? Am I being stupid – but as it’s a prepaid Visa I think it would be treated the same way as a debit card?

    • It was about first thing I tried, didn’t work … would have been too good to be true. I have since cancelled my supercard, wasn’t worth the hassle and embarrassment. Free cash with N&P debit and free payments (well £24) and two upgtade vouchers per year with Lloyds avios card orks much bettef for me.

      • What embarrassment … I am happy to use it abroad!? I have the SuperCard linked to my Nationwide credit card which gives 0.5% cashback on UK spent. So using the SuperCard gives me 0.5% cashback on foreign spend and even on cash withdrawls.

        • Embarrassed when declined 100% of timd for purchases in Asia. Had a good run on ATMx for a whike but that eventually ceased too regardless of linked card.

  11. I called AMEX today as received an email from them saying they were going to be charging me for another year form my gold rewards card and as I had spent over the target would be getting 7500 points. My fee will go to £140 and is due at at the end of April. Given I also have the BA card not sure if it’s worth keeping. Do people keep both?

    • I would take then transfer points, cancel the card for a refund and reapply aftef 6 months.

      • This! If I had reason to spend £2k against Amex I would get the Gold Charge card again.

      • Or if you can, refer your partner for the Gold, cancel once referral bonus received for the pro-rata refund then 6 months later your partner refers you again for the Gold and you receive another sign up bonus?

        • Only joined the game last summer, had intended to go via the Avios route to redeem for flights however.

          My wife works at a school so severely restricts flight options, daughter is 19 and is still keen on USA trips (think DASH stores, NY and Chicago shopping etc).

          I have a business Gold AMEX which generates around 100,000 MR a year through spend (thank you Post Office for accepting AMEX). Means I’m unable to churn the wife’s personal Gold card. However, everything that can go through the card does do. Local pub is a Vintage Inn so always have a Dining Out card in my wallet (thanks Tesco)

          Wife has Hilton cc (gold status due to easily hitting £10000 spend (self assessment)). I have IHG will hit Spire when I pull the trigger on Virgin conversion (thanks Tesco).

          To sum up, I don’t churn cards but keep them and target hotel rooms for use of points. Means I can fly where I like and when (within reason) without juggling and chasing 3 seats a year in advance. Total outlay approx £300 on two gold amex.

      • Sound advice, just cancelled our two Amex rewards gold cards and will reapply in 6 months. Potentially another 50k (approx) in points between the two of us depending on what sign up bonus is on offer.

  12. Hi Rob/guys. This highlights a few things for me.
    This newly found “hobby” is great to do. My wife and I only started in August last year and already have in excess of 100,000 avios from AmEx sign-ups and spend and a 2-4-1, so thank you for the site as without it we’d have 0. I’ve yet to try and spend them though but I’m sure even that can be fun!
    In terms of CC churn my wife and I have been through the washer once.
    Amex gold me then refer my wife, BAPP my wife then refer me, Lloyd’s £24 card for the double avios for 6 months and no fx charges (this was perfect as it filled in a gap after we had hit the minimum spend on the other cards). We are about to rinse and repeat the gold card and the BAPP again in the next 6 months.
    What have we learned?
    AmEx is a good company, UK call centre always happy to help, but they don’t give out accurate information, always trust what Rob tells you not what they say!
    I like the idea of a Platinum Card (who wouldn’t) but looking at it and the huge fee, for us a couple it would only bring a limited return, then it’s gold again for me next. I’m really surprised the Plat isn’t 1.5 or 2 avios per £, especially given the fee (I know it’s pro rata refunded but with the gold effectively free the gold is a no-brainer for us).
    BAPP is a great card and I have to say our favourite. 6 months of spend (£10,100). £75 pro rata refund on the fees and with the double avios on BA flights, the joining bonus and the referral bonus we netted just under 51,000 avios which is just superb and a 2-4-1 all for £75.
    We value avios at 1p, although we only have a small sample size so far, we’ll know more in another year, long may it continue!

    • Adrian…dont forget to to churn the spg amex…for 2 grand spend you will get 28k(10+11+5+1+1) spg points convertible to 33k avios…well worth it

      • soz, one other thing…do your maths carefully on the gold vs platinum decision..i used to think gold was better for churning but………….

        35k +35k +18k is a lot more than 22k +22k+9k

        boils down to how long you will have the cards open, if you can hit spend in one month, you are effectively buying an additional 35k mr points for 2 x1/12 x 450 = 75 pounds

        • Hi Luke, thanks for this. I don’t have an spg card yet. With the bapp, gold, bapp, gold and Lloyd’s I don’t think I’ll have any spending power left, but if I do I’ll look at the spg card.

        • Luke on the gold vs plat I don’t think it’s that simple, please let me know if I’ve got it wrong.
          Rob referred me, so 22k, then 9k for me referring my wife then another 22k, so I agree with that part of the equation, plus that is free. This year between us we had 58k avios for nothing on the 2 gold cards (spend plus bonuses) did I mention I love Amex?.
          If I refer my wife we get 35k +18k but then I have to hit the spend asap. This could be almost instant if I’ve a flight to book, but then I’m losing out on the 3x the avios vs. the bapp card (which I still need to spend 10k on) and I’m having to pay the pro-rata £450 fee. If I then downgrade to the gold, I have to pay the £150 fee. if I don’t downgrade and I just cancel then I lose 9k in the future as I won’t then have a card to use to refer and get the bonus next time.
          If it’s plat then plat plus referral, I agree it’s 35k extra upfront, as you say with the fees for the plat for as long as I need to hit the spend and then minus the 9k if I’ve cancelled the card or plus probably another £75 if I downgrade and keep gold for 6 months until I can refer again. Does this make sense. I’m sure I’ve over complicated this! I reckon my costs would be £75 (2 months to hit plat spend) x2 and the additional £75 for downgrading and keeping gold for 6 months, so £225 for an extra 26k avios? Let me know and thank you for the suggestion.

      • Good shout Luke. This is for one person getting the SPG card and then referring the other person, each spending £1k on the card. There is a £75 fee per card but once again refundable pro-rata.

  13. thanks all for your replies.
    I called and they’ve given me double points for 3 months which is handy just before i cancel at the end of May after the 7,500 bonus points have posted :-)
    I’ve already recommended my wife and will get her to refer me months after i cancel. I just need to be clear where to transfer the points when account is closed – most likely to BA to use the 2 for 1.
    I love this website and the ideas it brings to make points. My only comment is it would be great to have a section to raise the many off topics we all have or comments on our experiences of getting points based on old articles but perhaps not worthwhile…

    • Amex have always offered me an offer to stay but I’d rather move onto the next sign up bonus. I have a legacy MBNA 2 diamond club points = 2 avios / £1 spend anyway.

      I believe having discussion boards has been discussed previously but that this approach would lose the rich commentary (and some might even say banter) that is provided on the daily articles.

  14. Does anyone know if a refund of an item which takes card spend below the bonus points threshold will remove the bonus if the bonus was actually achieved against a different purchase?

    • Not sure about a different purchase but we had our 22000 gold MR points removed after we cancelled a hotel booking and it took our spend below the £2k mark. Hadn’t thought of that and had to quickly spend the money again to retrigger the bonus – we cut it a bit fine though!

    • It will remove the bonus, yes, but will be added again when you go over the threshold again.

  15. Sarah Murray says:

    OT. Hilton giving away a £100 gift card every 3 mins at Kings Cross until 8pm today.
    Bigger prizes seem to have already been won. They are somewhere tomorrow as well, I suspect Westfield but they wouldn’t tell me.

  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.

    • The MBNA BMI DC card you dismiss is probably much better than all the others – it is my preferred card (& ISTR same for Raffles) except when I am earning introductory bonuses

      • I used to use it before the BAPP but it just fell out of favour. I will relearn it’s benefits. Ta.

  17. The Lloyds cards are the old TSB Duo cards so do have the £7k trigger for a one-tier upgrade.

    Any advice on all this ?

  18. Hadn’t realised the Tesco Mastercard was so poor these days. I have tended to use that over my old Diamond Club (BMI) Amex and MC cards. Guess I should switch back then. Anyone know what the current Avios rate is for the old Amex and MC Diamond Club cards?