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Comparing the 11 Avios credit cards that can earn you points!

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What is the best Avios credit card?  With the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card now closed to new applicants, I wanted to take another look at the other remaining options for earning Avios points from a UK credit card and suggest your best strategy.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

All of these cards add a 3% foreign exchange fee, so you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.  The Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here) is free and has NO foreign exchange fees.  There are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 1st November 2018 and all the information was correct as of that date.)

What are my options for an Avios credit card?

There are now 12 UK credit or charge cards which earn Avios points at a rate of at least 1 Avios per £1 on an American Express card or 0.2 Avios per £1 on a Mastercard or Visa.

This is what you have to choose from, ranked in order of sign-up bonus:

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard  Sign-up bonus:  80,000 HSBC points = 40,000 Avios

(£195 fee, must be a HSBC Premier client to apply, earns 1 Avios per £1, representative APR 59.3% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, my HSBC Premier Mastercard review)

American Express Platinum    Sign-up bonus:  30,000 Amex Membership Rewards points = 30,000 Avios

(£450, earns 1 Avios per £1, my Amex Platinum review)

British Airways Premium Plus American Express   Sign-up bonus: 25,000 Avios

(£195, earns 1.5 Avios per £1, representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, my BA Premium Plus review)

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold   Sign-up bonus:  20,000 Amex Membership Rewards points = 20,000 Avios

(free, earns 1 Avios per £1 with a 10000 point bonus for spending £15000 in a year, representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit, my Amex Gold review)

Starwood SPG Amex   Sign-up bonus:  30,000 points = 10,000 Avios sign-up

(£75, earns 1 Avios per £1 jumping to 1.25 Avios per £1 if you convert in chunks of 60,000 points, representative APR 36.2% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, my Starwood Amex review)

Amex Rewards Credit Card   Sign-up bonus:  0 – 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points = 0 – 10,000 Avios

(free, earns 1 Avios per £1, APR and sign-up bonus depends on which of the three versions you get, my Amex Rewards review)

British Airways American Express   Sign-up bonus:  5,000 Avios sign-up bonus

(free, earns 1 Avios per £1, representative APR 22.9% variable, my BA Amex review)

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard    Sign-up bonus:  20,000 IHG Rewards Club points = 4,000 Avios

(£99, earns 0.4 Avios per £1, representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, my IHG Premium Mastercard review)

Tesco Clubcard Mastercard    Sign-up bonus (to 31/1/2019):  1,000 Tesco Clubcard points = 2,400 Avios

(free, earns 0.3 Avios per £1, representative APR 18.9% variable, my Tesco Mastercard review)

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard   Sign-up bonus:  10,000 IHG Rewards Club points = 2,000 Avios

(free, earns 0.2 Avios per £1, representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, my IHG Mastercard review)

HSBC Premier Mastercard     No sign-up bonus at present

(free, must be a HSBC Premier customer to apply, earns 0.5 Avios per £1, representative APR 18.9% variable, my HSBC Premier Mastercard review)

Frankly, 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 – if there is a key reason!

credit 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 the free card with a lower earning rate. Similarly, if you cannot spend £10,000 per year on the Amex to trigger the voucher 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 among other benefits.  This is the best Amex card for beginners to the miles and points hobby.

Tesco Clubcard Mastercard – this earns 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 such as Uber credit.

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 in reality.  Full details are here.

HSBC Premier 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 points sign-up bonus and 1 Avios per £1 spent.  The card also comes with airport lounge access via LoungeKey.  Similarly, the free HSBC Premier Mastercard is great – you earn 0.5 Avios per £1 on the Mastercard – but meeting the eligibility criteria is tough.

Avios credit cards that work for a niche market:

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 article explains why the free BA American Express card can be a bad deal.

American Express Platinum – you should seriously consider applying for this card. Don’t focus too much on 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 / Marriott hotels Gold card, Hilton Honors Gold, Shangri-La Jade, Melia Rewards Gold and the Radisson Rewards Gold cards.  Many people find that they end up keeping the card despite their initial intentions because of the value of the travel insurance, lounge access and other perks.

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – is it worth paying £99 per year for this card, earning 0.4 Avios per £1 (ie 2 IHG Rewards Club points), when the Tesco Mastercard is free and give 0.3 Avios?  Potentially yes, because if you put £10,000 through the card you also get a free night at any IHG hotel potentially worth £250+.  This covers all InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels globally.  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.

Starwood SPG American Express – the day-to-day earnings rate of 3 points (= 1 Avios) per £1 isn’t bad and you get the flexibility to convert to 40+ different airlines as well, of course, as using your points for Starwood or Marriott hotels.  You also get an enhanced conversion rate of 1.25 Avios per £1 when you convert in chunks of 60,000 points.  The sign-up bonus is 30,000 points, which converts to 10,000 Avios.  The £75 annual fee is refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

Amex Rewards Credit Card – as I explain in this article, the ARCC card is an excellent option if you already have a Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum Amex card and want to cancel it to avoid the annual fee.  Getting a free ARCC card will keep your Membership Rewards points alive and allow you to delay transferring them to an airline or hotel partner.

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

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – this card is OK if you want to earn IHG Rewards Club hotel points, but if your aim is to convert the points into Avios then you are better off with the free Tesco credit card (0.3 Avios per £1) than this one (0.2 Avios per £1).  The only trade offs are that you get IHG Gold status for having the card and the points you earn also count towards your IHG status renewal. There is a sign-up bonus of 2,000 Avios (10,000 IHG points) but that should not influence your decision on the long term value of the card.

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.

(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.

Review of the InterContinental Sandton Towers, Johannesburg
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Comments

  1. Laura says:

    O/Tish but wondering what card to get next.

    I’ll have had my Amex Gold rewards card for a year in July. I’ve diverted as much spending as possible into it but still a long way off the anniversary bonus. I’d say I spend around £500/month on Amex on average.

    I’ve had a mailing through about the 5k bonus on the gold ‘companion’ credit card if I spend £500 in three months. Which should be easy to spend if I diverted some of my gold rewards spending.

    Should I apply for this, get the bonus 5k then cancel both my gold rewards and gold companion credit card, then apply for the free BA Amex? Then in 6 months reapply for the gold rewards (assuming they haven’t put the churning restrictions in place by then?)

    Thanks

    • Alex G says:

      Yes, in your circumstance I would do something like that too.
      I used to have the Gold charge card but decided instead of trying to reach the anniversary spend (which we could have done), it made more sense to upgrade to Platinum for the 20k bonus points (i’m keeping platinum long term anyway) and then churn other cards in conjunction with my partner – who I referred for a Gold Card before I upgraded.

      • Alan says:

        Why didn’t you refer after you upgraded? You would have got 18000 referer points rather than the 9000 you did get.

  2. Spurs Deb says:

    I have hit spending limit for bonuses on BA card I no longer will be using the card as its in Mums name and she can’t travel any more so the 2 4 1 voucher is pointless.my question is what is an acceptable time before I cancel card. I have cleared the balance and just waiting for points to post to my executive club account? I know I have to wait 6 months before applying again.

    Thanks

  3. Debs says:

    Great stuff!

    Thanks Genghis

  4. I have a Preferred Rewards Gold Card at the moment. As it’s a different card family from the BA cards can i refer myself for the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card and still get the following:

    a) the referral bonus on my gold card
    b) the ba 25,000 sign up bonus

    Sorry if this has been asked before. I cant find this answer on hfp or anywhere else.

  5. Andrew Devine says:

    Im planning on getting the BA Amex PP for my wide as the main card holder and then having myself as supplementary. I will then get my own card in September. Am I right in thinking that:
    * I can combine both 241 vouchers in the first 2 years so that 2 people can travel free (with one paying) and
    * that being a supplementary cardholder on my wife’s card will not impact my bonus (I think this is OK),

    Thanks for any responses

    • Polly says:

      Correct on both points. But you still have to pay Apd and ba charges on all 4 tickets. Avios needed for one pax only in each 241. It’s the way you worded it!

      • Genghis says:

        To clarify, you don’t really “combine” in this circumstance. You end up with you having a 241 and your wife having a 241. You travel on yours and she travels on hers. If one person then has status then only that person (and their companion) gets seat selection etc (unless Gold where can combine IIRC). The mechanics therefore are slightly different to one person having two 241s and booking four tickets (for three other people)

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