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

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In Part 1 of this article 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?’.  Today I wanted to update, in light of recent card closures, my list of the best on-going earning rates.

Because you can earn Avios points both directly and indirectly (eg via Tesco Clubcard or American Express Membership Rewards), the list of possible cards is longer than most people think.

Part 1 of this 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’.

(EDIT: this article was updated on 1st July 2019)

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 Head for Points.

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 IHG Rewards Club points to 10,000 Avios when you could get a valuable hotel stay out of them. However, I have listed all of the options for completeness.

credit cards

This article does not factor in the value of long-term incentives such as the British Airways American Express Premium Plus 2-4-1 voucher or the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard free night voucher.  You should also think about these perks when deciding where to put your long-term spending.

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.

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

American Express cards:

1 Avios per £1 (1.66 per £1 if spending exactly £15,000 pa) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card 

Best sign-up bonus (10000 points) for a ‘free for first year’ card.  1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Avios.  You also receive double points on foreign and airline spend.  You get 10,000 bonus points on renewal when you spend £15,000 per card year, equivalent to an extra 0.66 points per £1.  Representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  The interest rate on purchases is 22.9% APR variable.  Full Amex Gold review.

1.5 Avios per £1 British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

Best overall card for long-term spending due to the value of the 2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher.  Double points on British Airways spend (3 per £1) plus the 2-4-1 Avios redemption voucher when spending £10,000 per year.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.  Full BA Premium Plus review.

1.25 Avios per £1 Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card

3 points = 1 Avios, but you get a 25% bonus when converting 60,000 points at once.  Representative APR 39.7% variable including £75 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.  Full Starwood Amex review.

1 Avios per £1 – Amex Rewards Credit Card

Best card to get when you are planning to cancel an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum, as it keeps your Membership Rewards points alive.  1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Avios.  Full Amex Rewards review.

1 Avios per £1 – The Platinum Card from American Express

1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Avios.  £575 annual fee albeit offset by a very wide range of travel perks.  Full Amex Platinum review.

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.  Full BA Amex review.

Mastercard and Visa cards:

1 Avios per £1 HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Best Visa / Mastercard if you meet the qualifying criteria.  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.  Full HSBC Premier World Elite review.

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.  Full HSBC Premier review.

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 £99 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.  Full IHG Premium Mastercard review.

0.3 Avios per £1 Tesco Clubcard Mastercard 

Best free Visa / Mastercard for earning Avios points.  1 Clubcard point per £8 spent per transaction.  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.  Full Tesco Mastercard review.

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.  Full IHG Mastercard review.

(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. DanATC says:

    Sorry as I’m sure it’s been asked before, but can I downgrade from my BA PP Amex to the standard BA Amex card, get a pro-rate refund of my fee and still keep my 2-4-1 vouchers?
    I have two vouchers already and my card year is about to start again. Was thinking of getting to my 10k limit to trigger a third voucher (which will take 3 months) and then downgrading. Please let me know if there’s something smarter I could be doing! Thanks.

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Yes, you can. You can also cancel your card and still keep the vouchers.

    • Genghis says:

      You know you need to spend the vouchers, right? 🙂
      (Flights booked and outbound flown before expiry)

      • Wivus says:

        I used mine. Then BA cancelled my flight the night before departure. Gave me the voucher back with only 8 weeks to use it. Surprisingly no availability left on anywhere decent. Phoned them to explain and ask for an extension and they said it was an Amex voucher and tough. Amex said they would look into it, but still showing as expiring in a month. Peeved is not the word as I had 2 First to Tokyo on it. Probably have to use it to Tallinn or some such now. I have another two behind it but not really the point.

      • Wivus says:

        Yes, they offered me an earlier flight but I was at a wedding oop norf and could not reach LHR in time. They offered so I believe I have no recourse there. Still, I feel they should replace/extend the voucher but they so no, it is an Amex responsibility. Amex are being polite but, as yet, no change in the expiry date.

        • They should have offered you a flight later as well, or if they couldn’t the next day then on a different carrier.

          They also owe you some money for short notice cancellation as well. Suggest you read up on EU261 on FT

      • Wivus says:

        Thanks Matt. Will do

        • Absolutely Wivus – you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes. I recall the major cancellations sweep to TYO. You could have flown on the slightly later JL44 even.

  2. Cinimo says:

    OT, but credit card related and no bits today, I’m trying to do a self-referral from an Amex Plat, but the referral link says bonus points for Amex platinum, gold or green only. If the application is for another Amex card (nectar or spg) will I get the 18k points. Thanks.

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Yes, I’ve got the 18k bonus when referring myself and OH for SPG.

  3. Bonglim says:

    For HSBC premier account the ‘savings’ requirement can be very low if you earn over 75k. I did it with £200 in a HSBC global investment centre fund….. it is now worth £240!

  4. RichS says:

    OT credit card related. Has anyone received a bonus on SPG Amex for first supplementary card? If so how many points?

    • Genghis says:


    • Jonathan says:

      I gambled…. and never got any points initially. But after i argued it with the online chat for about 3 months saying the online advert i followed did not stipulate the card type. They then agreed i should get 3000 points for an SPG supplementary card. I still didn’t receive the points so i called Brighton and had the 3000 points awarded within minutes. Whether that was because i was entitled to them or compensation for arguing for 4+ months i don’t know.

      I think i was the exception, SPG supplementary cards do not seem to come with any bonus points and i couldn’t be bothered to argue on my wife’s card (she wont call Brighton up and see it through and i can only get so far online pretending to be her)

      • you can’t pretend to be your wife ‘online’ via the Amex chat facility? really?

  5. OT: CC related. I’m an Amex plat card holder. Can I refer a friend who has a gold charge card for an upgrade to plat? I know you can refer for another Amex but can’t find anything on referring for an upgrade so they still get 20k MR on £1k spend.

  6. Jimbob says:

    I think for mere mortals, that can’t push huge amounts through the card, then the earning per £ spent becomes almost irrelevant, and the majority of points comes through churning and sign up bonuses. I’ll push £10k through BAPP in a year, the 15k Avios I’ll earn through that won’t get me far, but the 90k Avios earnings through Amex platinum referrals will.

    That is unless I get better at manufacturing spends

    • Bonglim says:

      I agree that the referral bonus points are a massive deal and need not be underestimated.

      I wonder if in your situation I might spend a year doing lots of amex plat referrals and pick up a few bonuses for reaching the 2k spend in 3 months etc,
      then make a real push with manufacturing spends to get the 241 voucher once every 12-18 months.

      • Who are all these people you are referring? I can never find anyone to refer

    • Jonathan says:

      Good way to look at it, never thought about it that way before….

  7. AndyR says:

    Sorry another OT – my wife’s Curve card is very new so is being declined when trying to pay HMRC. Is it ok if I pay her taxes with my Curve card? Will HMRC have any issue with that? Thanks.

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      No. Just paid my taxes with wife’s card – since my MBNA American Airlines card was on her Curve (she is a supplementary AA card holder on my account) and Curve won’t let you have two cards with same numbers on different accounts.

    • Bonglim says:

      That sounds annoying – was just waiting for my curve to be delivered for the same reason, but sounds like it will not work as easily as I hoped.

      • Genghis says:

        Does this only apply to the (dying) MBNA cards? Are VM principal and supps the same number?

        • DAVID says:

          My Virgin Rewards+ principal and subs are different numbers. I’m hoping that New Horizon doesn’t have the same issue with numbers – but I have a sneaking suspicion they might.

      • AndyR says:

        Yeah it’s pretty annoying, not sure how long it takes for their security to ease off. The payment that was declined was only £800!

        • Don’t forget to check the credit limit on the underlying card, and the Curve Card daily / monthly limits. It needs careful management if you are trying to maximise it all. You might have have to make extra payments to the credit card before any auto D/D payment goes through.

    • Just email curve, they are pretty good at responding. NB it could be your underlying card that is declining the payment.

  8. Brian S says:

    What do we think will happen to the Starpoints earnings after August 1st?

    Will they still be posted as 1 x Starpoint on Amex and converted x 3 when they are posted to the SPG account?

    • It will be 3:1 – looking at the note on my last statement the card will be advertised as 3 per £1.

      • RichS says:

        I got an SPG Amex three weeks ago. There has been no mention at all throughout application process, or since receiving card about the changes to earning rates or merger of schemes. Everything just says 1 point per pound spent.

  9. Claire says:

    Can anyone help? My husband had Amex BA Premium and then DG to Amex BA basic, he wants to upgrade again but his credit rating has suffered since Amex rejected him for SPG card (excellent – fair) do you know if Amex do a full credit search when upgrading from basic to premium or is it more simple because they are not giving a new credit limit just switching it from one card to another?

    Thanks for any help you can give, don’t want to mess his credit rating up even more!

    • Genghis says:

      It’s not really “upgrading” and “downgrading”. Each and every application is a new application and Amex have the right to perform a full credit search – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

  10. OT – what is the best card to link to the curve, scared to link my Tesco again after the saga of the transaction fee and interest, or is it okay to as i want to pay HMRC

    • Should be ok now but if paying big chunks I would look for a better reward from, say, IHG Premium.

      • Yes indeed – get Intercontinental free night, shed-loads of points and IHG Spire status!!

  11. “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.”

    no you won’t offset it by earning double points at Tesco !

    if you use the Tesco card for “normal” day to day spending (as I assume a lot of readers do) – the £8 rounding rule means you will earn about one tenth of the headline 0.3 avios per £1 – so more like 0.03 avios per £1

    good luck trying to offset that abysmal rate with double points on Tesco shopping !

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