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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 February 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 10,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 10,000 Avios.  We reviewed Amex Gold here.

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 WE 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.

10,000 Avios – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card (Amex Gold review)

Best bonus on a free or ‘free for first year’ card.  10,000 Membership Rewards points which convert into 10,000 Avios amongst other things. No annual fee for the first year. Issuer: Amex. Spend £3,000 in 3 months to trigger bonus.  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.

4,000 Avios – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard (IHG review)

20,000 IHG Rewards Club points convert into 4,000 Avios. No annual fee.  Issuer: Creation. Bonus is triggered with £500 spend within three months.  This is special bonus which is only available to 30th March.  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. Zana711 says:

    Re HSBC World Elite bonus: anyone received their 2nd tranche of 40,000 bonus points on £12,000 spend recently before their first anniversary? When Rob covered this in January, seemed like quite a few people got their 2nd tranche of bonus points way before their renewal date but mine hasn’t been deposited. I crossed the £12,000 threshold within 3 months due to large chunk of work expenses but I’m still waiting for mine…

    • Genghis says:

      Haven’t the headline terms been updated but the (d)evil in the detail hasn’t?

      • Memesweeper says:

        HSBC Prem World Elite : I applied a few weeks ago and although the headline says ‘anniversary bonus’ the small print says when you spend more than £12,000 in a year. Arguable if you’re not keeping the card long term, or need the points short term, or you just enjoy arguing 🙂

    • It took a lot of online messages, three calls to their service bots and eventually two calls to some “proper” HSBC employees in Scotland – but yes, I eventually got the 40k before the anniversary date.

      I had to confirm/promise on the phone that I wasn’t going to use the third batch of 40k (which came in on the actual anniversary date), so the whole process seemed very manual!

    • Stu P. says:

      I was told that they would be deposited 60 days after anniversary. We wait……

  2. Got a 30k sign up offer on the BAPP 241, tempted.

    VS also recently sent out an unnecessary box via Royal Mail with a promo for 33k, (15k + 6k / month / for £1k spend / month)

    I did phone to ask if they would stretch to the 60k offer 15k sign-up then 15k per month for £1500 spend per month but no.

    Anyone nabaged to get the deal upgraded and signed up for the latter.?

    BA may yet tempt me back, might be heading down under again in 18months…

    • *managed

    • Genghis says:

      Re 30k BAPP, you lose on internal referral points. If not available to you, good offer via the site which should not be named, opp cost of 0.9ppa so I’d prob go via that.

    • We also received the 30,000 Avios offer from Executive Club but Genghis and others pointed out that we would be better off referring from our existing Gold card i.e. My wife would get 9000 MR points and I would get 26,000 (I think) bonus Avios. That is 35,000 avios as opposed to the 30,000 available with the Executive Club offer.

  3. Frenzie says:

    OT. I hit my £20K target on my Virgin Atlabtic credit card in the first month.
    I have tried to apply for the premium one but even though I have excellent credit score, they wouldn’t give it.

    Anyone had this?

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Might be best to give them a call. If they’re like MBNA they’re likely to want you to split your credit between the two cards.

  4. Ken Middleton says:

    It is worth remembering that there are simple ways to increase the sign-up value of some of these cards. For the BA Premium card, for instance. I received the card a week or so ago and hit the sign-up bonus in a few days, thanks to some strategically-timed business expenses. As I hit the £3000 target I had accrued 33,500 Avios points. This breaks down to 25000 points (regular sign-up bonus), 3000 points (bonus for 1st supplementary card), 1000 points (referral bonus) and 4500 points (initial £3000 spend). Is this card worth having? Absolutely!

    • Is 3000 Avios for 1st supplementary card targeted?

      • Walty says:

        I applied for it a couple of weeks ago. Not targeted but received the 3000 avios for it

      • Ken Middleton says:

        No. I am not sure it is well advertised though. I called them to ask about it. You only get it on the first supplementary card. Free, of course. Because I called in, 3000 points were applied to my account almost straight away. We haven’t even received the card yet.

        • ed balls says:


          Is this the same for the Free BA Amex card?

          Other half as the free BA Amex.

        • Does this apply to the Gold card too as just added my wife as a supplementary card holder and no points added?

      • I applied for BAPP last month with my hubby as a supp during the application then added my mother in law after the cards arrived and I got 3000 Avios! Ta very much!

      • can someone please tell me which is the best credit card to get that pays avious points and has no annual fee please many thanks in advance

  5. Jerry says:

    Rob – minor tweak / update required on the free IHG credit card link page (2017) – refers to Hilton free night card.
    How can I easily stop my 8000 IHG points expiring?

  6. OT I am fairly new to the churning scene and have upgraded my PRG to Plat. With regards to the annual fee, when does this get charged?

    • If you’re lucky, not until your anniversary date – I’ve churned a couple of times through that route and got away with it, though I didn’t hang onto the Platinum for very long.

  7. JohnT says:

    Question on Referrals from Amex? – I want to refer my OH for a BA Amex – Seems I can refer from my BA Amex for 4k bonus, BUT could I also refer from my Gold for a 9k referral bonus even if she still applies for BA card – or do they adjust the bonus based on card applied for? (Will also be referring her for Gold card in a couple of months).

  8. JulietSoul says:

    Question regarding the Amex Gold card. I am close to the end of my first year on it. I know a bonus of 10,000 MR will be triggered if I stay for 60 days after my renewal date. Is it worth keeping it for 60 days then cancelling? Will my bonus be revoked? Will I get the money back for the second year pro-rata?
    Considering now what is best – to stay with Gold, get BA Premium or BA regular blue Amex.
    I managed to get a companion voucher but in looking to use it before expiry I found it is really bad value to use it for the February half term (husband is a teacher). We can go to California for about 615GBP on Virgin, or pay at least 800 pounds + 50,000 Avios with the companion voucher…

    • Bonus hits after 30 days. As £10k is worth £100 and the fee for a month is £12 (plus the 2 new lounge passes) I would stick it out.

      • JulietSoul says:

        Thanks, do the lounge passes not ‘expire’ if I cancel the card?

        • Andrew says:

          They do. You’d have to use them within the month before you cancel your card.

    • Genghis says:

      The 10k MR bonus for annual £15k spend comes 30 days after card anniversary. This would cost c.£12 in fees for the 10k MRs, so hang on in there. Once you’ve got the points, they’re yours. Prorata refund on cancellation, yes. Given your circumstances, why not upgrade to Platinum once you’ve got the annual bonus points for 20k MRs for £1k spend, refer your husband for Gold (18k) and he can then get a sign up bonus (22k MRs for £2k spend)? This way means more points and another year of free card.

      • JulietSoul says:

        Thanks, that’s good advice.
        My husband already referred me to gold. Just realised his year passes one week ago and he didn’t spend 15,000 so would need to cancel it ASAP. He only used one lounge pass, assuming the second is expired?
        I could sign up for platinum anyway and get this bonus I suppose?

  9. Artem says:

    Skytrax awards are out today. BA were awarded Best Cabin Crew in the United Kingdom. I’m surprised it wasn’t Virgin Atlantic. In fact, VS got no awards this year.

  10. Miles says:

    Real off topic here but I referred myself for the BAPP card from my platinum card, I hear the 18000 MR points post relatively quick (once they dispatch the card or not long after)

    But nothing as of yet and its been a few days.. should I be worried?

    • Genghis says:

      Usually day card received. I did referral from SPG card on Thursday. Points have posted just now. I’m expecting the BAPP card to be on my door mat when I get home.

    • I usually get my referral points the working day after approval

  11. No, seems not based on recent reports.

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