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

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 American Express 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 140,000 Avios from the sign-up bonuses!  (Obviously you should not do this ….. at least in the short term.)

credit cards

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.

Note that most of the best cards carry an annual fee.  The best free card (at least, free for the first year) is Amex Gold which gives you 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 20,000 Avios.

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 MasterCard would get you a free night at many Holiday Inn hotels, for example, which is a better deal than 4,000 Avios assuming you value them at 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.

Most rewards cards are not suitable products 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 Tesco Clubcard MasterCard Low Rate card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 5.9% variable – and you can transfer your Clubcard points into Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles.

The best Avios-earning personal credit cards:

Listed in order of highest sign-up bonus:

45,000 Avios – HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard  (review)

90,000 HSBC points (a special offer until the end of August 2017) convert into 45,000 Avios.  £195 annual fee, non-refundable.  Issuer:  HSBC.  You need to spend £12,000 in your first year to trigger the full bonus, and you only receive the second half at the year end.  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 Honors 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 – this is temporary special offer.  £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)

Best bonus on a free or ‘free for first year’ card.  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.

5,000 Avios – British Airways American Express Card (review)

5,000 Avios points – this is a temporary special offer.  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.

4,500 Avios – Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard (review)

4,500 Avios points.  This is only available if you are referred for the card – email me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you want a referral emailing to you.  £24 annual fee, non refundable.  Bonus is triggered when the card is issued.  Issuer:  Lloyds Bank.  Representative APR 23.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

5,000 Avios – HSBC Premier MasterCard (review)

This card does not usually offer a sign-up bonus, but until the end of August 2017 you will receive 10,000 HSBC points.  These convert into 5,000 Avios.   HSBC Premier has very strict application criteria and is only suitable for high earners.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

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 MasterCard (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.

The free Tesco Clubcard MasterCard and the Tesco Premium MasterCard are not included on this list because they do not offer a sign-up bonus.

In Part 2 of this article (click here), I will look at the earning rate on all of these cards.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the 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.

(BACK IN STOCK) Quick deal: Under 1p Avios or Virgin miles with a BT phone from Tesco!
My review of the BA Galleries lounge in the Terminal 5 satellite terminals
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Comments

  1. polly, this will be taken down in a matter of minutes, rob doesn’t like guesting exchanges

    FT shut down a guesting page when it became a marketplace!

  2. totaltool says:

    Can you cancel AMEX Gold on line or do you have to phone? Can’t see anything on website and all related comments on this and other threads usually refer to speaking to an agent or similar.

    • I’ve always done it over the phone or in writing (though last time I wrote it took 3 goes plus 2 phone calls for them to acknowledge so it’s by phone only from now on!). I think that giving an online option would make it too easy to cancel and they wouldn’t be able to try and entice you to stay.

      • Raj Singh says:

        Always cancelled online via the “contact us”and never had an issue.
        Cards have been cancelled within 24 hours numerous times.

  3. My partner was targeted for the new Creation IHG Mastercard (fee) with a 40k bonus option.

    We had a credit limit of £17k on the IHG Barclaycard, but apparently he is not eligible for the new Creation card.

    He is 52 and lives off investments / redundancy payout, retired really but not drawing a pension and not claiming any benefits. We have a household income if you like of £7k a month.

    Any ideas to get around this?

    • Can you find out why? I was accepted for the Lloyds avios card whereas my OH (the main earner) wasn’t. Turns out he had an ancient Lloyds CC account which had been lying dormant for years but never cancelled which caused him to be ineligible. It could be as simple as that.

      • There was an old mobile contract with talk mobile that lay dormant for for a couple of years that has an o/S amount of £100. They have written it off but awaiting the credit file to be updated, so perhaps that is it.

        We recently took a new lease out on a car and that was ok.

        Thanks!

    • Did he say he was retired and input his investment income as ‘income’ plus whatever income you also provide? In theory the household total of £7k per month should be enough for Creation. Alternatively he could have an old card that’s under Creation’s ownership or other kind of debt that was passed on to them.

      • Yes, we did input it just as you say. Just one issue perhaps with an old mobile account that we are awaiting to be updated.

        No other adverse credit. We pay everything off, every month.

        • Call and tell them that unless they have a very good reason not to reconsider their decision then they can pay to handle a case with the Ombudsman service. In all likelihood you will get the outcome you want. From what I’ve heard it seems like retirees are being declined.

          • Genghis says:

            The FOS don’t get involved in such commercial decisions. Credit institutions don’t have to lend to you.

          • Indeed. Sometimes I suspect they actually want some potentially bad debt to ramp up their fee income – I’ve been surprised how many folk with excellent credit have been refused the Hilton Visa (but then approved at another time subsequently with no change in status).

  4. the real harry1 says:

    Congrats in order – I finally made Plathood, just logged in & saw it :)

    • Well done, now you can travel in style!

      • the real harry1 says:

        had to settle for poor man’s business lounge going out at Easter as I had my son in tow & too tight for £30 when we only had under an hour – scrounging round the free whisky samples (got about 8) then 2 pints of Guinness @ £4.90 T3 pub (which I thought was very reasonable!) – then BA gave me the only economy window seat in the whole jam-packed plane with a blocked off middle :)

      • Well done Harry…!!! Done this myself last night and awaiting the card(s)..feeling very excited..

    • Plathood = Platinum?

      How long you keeping it for, 2 weeks? 😉

      • the real harry1 says:

        got £1000 waiting to be paid on my CT :)

        not worth waiting around to use PP tbh (upcoming x2 #1 half term out, #2 summer out), Club Aspire perfectly good for £15 entry & I guess 450/12 = 37.5, that’s 3 months away so 112.5 vs £60 for myself + my boy who needs me to keep an eye on him

        • You must be losing it, a happy Harry face for council tax payments!?

          • the real harry1 says:

            I think the indication to Anon/ TR was that I’ll pay the requisite amount to get my 20K Avios on day 1 lol

          • the real harry1 says:

            put it this way: a 20% discount on that £1000 council tax?

          • Well played TRH

            I’m considering doing exactly the same, just timing it right to combo with a referral too, got to wait another few weeks for the 6 month limit before reffering/reapplying..

          • Yes, I know. One KLM ticket and £400 CT got my gold, like you another £1k CT gets my platinum upgrade, another £1k CT gets my dad 4k avios and me 6k from standard BA amex. Still left with a few hundred on CT after all that which can wait on my nectar or SPG cards coming round again.

          • Genghis says:

            Council tax needs to be paid. I like paying it and hitting sign ups through it.

        • As l say,,these rewards take the pain out of the bills somewhat! Just changed our gas elec, but they won’t take any prepayment cards, but will be £500 cheaper for the year, so l can either put that towards a BA tax or a QR flight, so win win, but it does cause me grief not to gain anything from the payments! Just can’t get my ctx on board, very rigid with payment options!

      • I can’t let Plathood go, churning this particular card is not for me.

        benefits are far more valuable than few Avios received, I rate PlatTravel very highly. Just as an example I have booked deluxe room in Atlantis Dubai and Suite upgrade was offered on each occasion (I dont have a status with them), upgrade to club with BA on a very busy Xmas flight

    • Didn’t know that, thanks.

  5. Raj Singh says:

    O/T – Marriott Rewards Travel Package
    Hi All

    I haven’t used a Marriott travel certificate before and have a quick question.
    The hotel that I’m looking to reserve, Category 9, requires 270,000 points for a seven night stay. However, when I looked at the travel packages table it states that I would need to redeem 390,000 points in order to gain a seven night stay plus 120,000 BA miles. I don’t understand what the point is of redeeming 390,000 points for the package instead of 270,000 just for the hotel stay. My points would be converted from SPG points obtained from Amex membership rewards. I could convert the additional 120,000 required points directly to BA, so why go through Marriott.

    Regards
    Raj

    • These deals always seemed borderline to me but It probably depends on where you want to stay.
      Also I would never stay for seven nights in the same place but many people do.

    • The SPG to Marriott ratio is 1:3. This means you are basically spending 40k SPG to get the extra 120k Marriott for 120k Avios. Usually 40k SPG only gets you 50k Avios.

  6. Sure this has come up before but…

    IF I’ve got a BAPP and I’ve spent £10k triggering the companion, can I then ask to downgrade to the free BA card, keep the BAPP companion and then go and spend £20k on the free card to trigger another companion ticket?

  7. With the Plat AMEX, I read other people being offered bonus points for adding a supplementary card. How do you go about doing that?

  8. MARIA LUCIA GOMES says:

    Pitty none of these are available here in Brazil and for some reason unknown to me over here credit cards do not give bonus when you enter them…

    • That’s unfortunate Maria, the US has the best sign ups, way better than the UK.

      If it’s any consolation, we on the UK have to suffer our climate, it’s May next week and it’s freezing and dreich here….

    • Maria, we spend all our time and energy in this cold country trying to get to nice places like yours on reduced fares or avios supported flights. We need those darn bonuses to help get us out of here! Enjoy your lovely climate…

  9. This might be a silly question but I was forced to get a corporate charge card through work (Amex Green card), would this impact the signup bonus i could get on a Amex charge card (e.g. platinum).
    I didn’t receive any bonus on the corporate card, just forced to get one as part of a new policy.

    • It would impact it IF you had a Membership Rewards account with your corporate card. Some companies let employees collect MR points, some don’t (and presumably get a better deal from Amex).

      • Ah i sadly have linked my other BA Amex with this and we are allowed to get membership rewards. I just haven’t earned enough on business spend to make it at all worthwhile

        • Remember that MR cards and Avios cards are in separate families so Avios card does not preclude an MR card.

          • Ah, I’ve got the BA Premium plus amex already, was just looking to add a chargecard and get the signup bonus.

            I think as i’ve been forced to get the green corporate card with MR that probably precludes me from getting the bonus, annoying as I’ve earned <1k rewards on the green card and received no bonus with it.

  10. Marcelo Curado Correa says:

    Hi guys! I already have a BA American Express credit card and would like to know if I can apply for a different BA card and still get the sign up bonus. Do you have any idea? Tks!

    • You can’t get the other BA Amex. You CAN get the Lloyds Amex card. You can also get Amex Gold, Amex Platinum or the SPG Amex and transfer those points into Avios.

  11. Genghis says:

    Me and Mrs G today. Sent to BACS instead as I don’t trust monies would remain as ‘Payable’

  12. Caroline Hooton says:

    Thanks all. Will give it a couple of days to see if it gets fixed. Glad to know I am not the only one though!

    1F

  13. They haven’t told me anything so I doubt it is permanent. They have had problems with Avios transfers in recent weeks so they may be pausing whilst that is cleared up.

  14. I had a transfer which took 2 weeks to go through