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

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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.

In light of all the recent card closures, as the industry reacts to the cuts on interchange fees, I thought it was worth updating our master list of bonuses.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 1st April 2020 and all of the information is correct as of that date.)

Whilst there are the American Express cards which issue Avios directly, there are other cards which offer rewards which can be converted into Avios points.

credit cards

But which of these is the best credit card for earning Avios?  This article focuses purely on sign-up bonuses. Part 2 – which you can read here – 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 American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which gives you 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 20,000 Avios.  We reviewed Amex Gold hereThe bonus of 20,000 points is a special offer which runs until 29th June 2020.

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.

All of these cards carry a 3% foreign exchange fee when used abroad.  If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  This card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, with no fee.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

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 to get your free Experian Credit Score.

The best Avios-earning personal credit cards:

Listed in order of highest sign-up bonus:

40,000 Avios – HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard  (HSBC World Elite review)

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, and you only receive the second half at the year end which commits you to paying the fee for Year 2.  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 The Platinum Card from American Express (Amex Platinum review)

30,000 Membership Rewards points which convert into 30,000 Avios amongst other things. £575 annual fee, refunded pro-rata on cancellation. Issuer: Amex. Spend £4,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.  The Platinum card also comes with a substantial number of other travel benefits including hotel status cards (Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Hilton Honors Gold, Melia Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade), travel insurance, £10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit, two Priority Pass cards for free airport lounge access (each admitting two people, includes the Aspire lounge in Heathrow T5), access to the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow T5 and Eurostar lounge access.

25,000 Avios British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card (BA Premium Amex 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 credit card (Amex Gold review)

Best bonus on a free or ‘free for first year’ card.  20,000 Membership Rewards points which convert into 20,000 Avios amongst other things. No annual fee for the first year. Issuer: Amex. Spend £3,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.  The 20,000 points bonus is a special offer which runs until 29th June 2020.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit. 

6,666 Avios – Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (Marriott Amex review)

20,000 points in the Marriott Bonvoy programme convert into 6,666 Avios. £75 annual fee, refunded pro-rata on cancellation. Issuer: Amex. Spend £3,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.  Representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

5,000 Avios – Amex Rewards Credit Card (Amex Rewards review)

5,000 Membership Rewards points bonus which convert into 5,000 Avios amongst other things.  No annual fee.  Issuer: Amex.   For clarity, I prefer Preferred Rewards Gold for the first free year because of the higher bonus and the better benefits.  Representative APR of 22.9% variable

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

5,000 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.

4,000 Avios – IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard (IHG Premium 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 45.1% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

2,000 Avios – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (IHG review)

10,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 2,000 Avios. No annual fee.  Issuer: Creation. Bonus is triggered with £500 spend within three months.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

The free HSBC Premier Mastercard and Tesco Clubcard Mastercard are not included on this list because they does 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.

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  1. I’m also fairly new to collecting points and have a question re what Amex cards I can have at the same time and what strategy I should follow. Currently I have a BAPP – had for 6 mths and just earned 241, also have a work issued green Amex charge card and collect MR. (Also BA Gold via work travel.) My OH also has a BAPP for less than 6 mths and close to 241. I was thinking of my OH and I cross referring each other from our BAPPs for a gold Amex CC each (if this is possible) Then cancelling our BAPPs once our 241s are spent to reset the 6th mth application clock (and to stay on side of Ts & Cs – although I’ve read on HFP that it’s possible to cancel BAPPs once 241 issued.) So this means both of us will have 2 x Amex CCs (until BAPPs cancelled) and 1 x Amex charge card (corporate). Think this is ok – but interested to hear of other better ideas. Many thanks.

    • Lev441 says:

      Once the 241s post on your exec account, fee free to cancel and ignore the advise from amex that they will be removed.

      You won’t be eligible for the gold card bonus points as you already have an account earning membership rewards.

      I’d recommend your OH get the gold card (being referred obviously) and maybe you look into getting an SPG card which I am personally using for the majority of my day-to-day amex spend. It does have a £75 fee but depending on how much you spend, the SPG points can be quite attractive. Regular airline point transfer promotions (such as 35% extra Avios which happens a couple of times a year) and if you get to 20,000 SPG points (or 60,000 some point in August) you will get 5,000 extra Avios awarded.

      • Thank you for the reply. Forgot about the green Amex and hence current MR member. I did wonder whether company corporate card was treated differently by Amex re sign-up bonuses for personal cards. Will look at SPG. Re OH gold Amex – guess I could get a supp card.

  2. Lev441 says:

    I’ve currently got three amex credit cards and one charge card… so looks like rule isn’t being enforced!

  3. James C says:

    A little OT
    I want to sign up to Starwood credit card as have plenty of Avios and 2 for 1 vouchers but want to know if there is a joint Marriott / Starwood card in the very near future or will either cards points be interchangeable soon anyway? (Assuming at the same value)

    • The SPG Amex becomes a ‘new scheme’ Amex in 4 weeks, Creation will relaunch the old Marriott Mastercard as a free ‘new scheme’ Mastercard in 4 weeks. Give or take a few days.

  4. Pat Atkin says:

    I have just had a letter from TSB regarding their American Express Avios Card. From the 26th September the American Express card is being withdrawn leaving you with just the Mastercard. I wonder if it would be better to change to the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard?

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