Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best Avios credit card?

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What is the best Avios credit card?  In this article I want to look at your options for earning Avios points from a UK credit card, and explain my preferred choices.

This article was updated on 1st May 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

BEFORE WE GO ON …. Do you have a small business? Until 20th May 2021, you can receive a sign-up bonus worth 29,900 Avios with the Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa credit card. This offer is exclusive to Head for Points readers. Click here to learn more.

All of these cards add a 3% foreign exchange fee, so you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.   

Unfortunately there are no travel rewards cards without a foreign exchange fee.  One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than the usual rate) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.

What is the best Avios credit card?

What are my options for an Avios credit card?

There are now ten 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, followed by my preferred picks.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Only available to HSBC Premier account holders
  • Receive free airport lounge access with LoungeKey
  • Annual fee: £195

Representative 59.3% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £195 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 18.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the sign-up bonus +

The sign-up bonus on the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard is 80,000 points.

This is paid in two parts.  You receive 40,000 HSBC points (worth 20,000 Avios or other airline miles) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 miles) for spending £12,000 within twelve months.

The annual fee is £195 and you need to pay the fee for the second year in order to receive the second half of the bonus.

There is no restriction on receiving the bonus if you have previously held the card, as long as you cancelled it over six months ago, or are upgrading from the free HSBC Premier Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The points earned with the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard can be transferred to four airline frequent flyer schemes – British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

They can also be redeemed for other items including retailer gift cards.

Cardholders can access any airport lounge in the LoungeKey network for free.  No guest are allowed, but you can get your partner a supplementary credit card on your account for an annual fee of £60.  Children would be charged at £20 per visit.

You need to be a HSBC Premier current account holder to apply for this card.  HSBC Premier comes with a range of additional benefits including comprehensive travel insurance.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £575

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £575.

See if you qualify for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £4,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.

If you cancel The Platinum Card at any point, you will receive a pro-rata refund of your membership fee.  You will not lose your sign-up bonus.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: £195

Representative 74.7% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £195 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must not have held the British Airways Premium Plus or the free British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways Premium Plus card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and all of the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for two years.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. It could save you 150,000 or more Avios when used for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.

The voucher with the Premium Plus card is far more powerful than the voucher given with the free British Airways American Express card.  You only need to spend £10,000, instead of £20,000, in a card year to receive it.  More importantly, the Premium Plus voucher is valid for two years.  The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card is only valid for one year.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
  • You receive two free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further two passes each year if you renew
  • After your two free passes, you can visit further lounges for a small fee
  • You receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year (24 x £5 credits)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £140 from Year 2

Representative 56.6% APR variable.  Annual fee applies after the first year.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible, which is why we recommend this as the best choice for your first miles and points card.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the two free airport lounge passes and the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with two free airport lounge passes.  These allow either you and a friend, or yourself twice, to visit any lounge in the Priority Pass network.  You make additional lounge visits for £20 per person.  You receive an additional two free passes each year.

You earn double Membership Rewards points on all airline spend (made directly on an airline website) and all spend made outside the UK.

If you spend over £15,000 in a card year, you will receive an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you renew.

Starting in May 2021, you receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year.  Amex will repay you £5 for the first two Deliveroo orders charged to your Gold card each month.

Other benefits include a 10% discount on Hertz car rentals and special deals at 350 selected hotels worldwide, where Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders receive a $75 in-hotel credit per stay.

Nectar American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • From January 2021, you can convert Nectar points into Avios (and vice versa)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £25 from Year 2

Representative 27.3% APR variable.  Annual fee applies after the first year.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 Nectar points as a sign-up bonus on the Nectar American Express credit card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Nectar points are worth 0.5p each if spent in Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay.  From January 2021 they can also be converted to Avios at the rate of 400 : 250.  1 Nectar point gets you 0.625 Avios.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Nectar American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Nectar American Express credit card comes lets you earn 2 Nectar points for every £1 you spend.  This is on top of any Nectar points you would usually earn at Sainsbury’s and other Nectar partners.

Converted to Avios, you would be earning 1.25 Avios per £1.  This makes the card better value than the free British Airways American Express credit card for your first year, as the Nectar American Express is ‘fee free’ for the first 12 months.  There is a £25 annual fee from Year 2.

The sign-up bonus of 20,000 Nectar points is worth £100 to spend in Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay.

20,000 Nectar points can also be converted into 12,500 Avios.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • 15 elite night credits per year which gets Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
  • Free night, up to 25,000 points, when you spend £25,000 per year.
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: £75

Representative 38.8% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the 15 elite night credits per year, the free night (up to 25,000 points) for spending £25,000 and Gold Elite status for spending £15,000.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You will receive 15 elite night credits per year in Marriott Bonvoy.  The first batch will arrive within 60 days on applying and then in Spring in each subsequent year.

15 elite nights will automatically get you Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and put you nearer to Gold Elite and higher tiers.

If you spend £15,000 per card year, you will be upgraded to Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.

If you spend £25,000 per card year, you will receive a free night voucher, valid at any hotel where reward nights cost up to 25,000 points.

Amex Reward Credit Card ARCC

American Express Rewards

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Your best choice if you want a ‘free for life’ card which earns Membership Rewards points
  • A good choice if you want to close a Gold or Platinum card but keep your points intact
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Rewards card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Rewards card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You may want to do this if you are thinking of swapping your Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum card for a free alternative, and would prefer to keep your existing Membership Rewards points balance alive.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Rewards is the only ‘free for life’ American Express card which lets you collect Membership Rewards points.

We do NOT recommend this card if you would also qualify for the sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  The Gold card is free for the first year, comes with two free airport lounge passes and has a higher sign-up bonus of 10,000 points.

The best reason to get American Express Rewards is if you are coming to the end of your free first year with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, or no longer want to pay the fee on The Platinum Card, but want to keep your Membership Rewards points intact.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free British Airways American Express card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 on the British Airways American Express card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for one year.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. It could save you 150,000 or more Avios when used for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

If you want more flexibility, the voucher issued with the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is valid for two years and only requires 10,000 of annual card spend.  The Premium Plus card also has a higher earning rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 on general spend and 3 Avios per £1 on spend with British Airways and BA Holidays.

Sainsbury's Nectar credit card

IHG Rewards Mastercard

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards
  • Points from spend count towards elite status
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You receive 10,000 IHG Rewards points as a sign-up bonus when you spend £200 within 90 days.

There are no restrictions on receiving the bonus if you have previously held this card or the (no longer available) IHG Rewards Premium Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All IHG Rewards cardholders receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards for as long as they hold the card.

This is the only UK travel card where the points you earn from spending count towards elite status.  The 10,000 points you receive as a sign-up bonus do not count towards elite status, however.

HSBC Premier Mastercard

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Only available to HSBC Premier account holders
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 18.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the sign-up bonus +

There is no sign-up bonus on the HSBC Premier Mastercard.

There is a bonus on the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard.  This is worth 40,000 HSBC points (worth 20,000 Avios or other airline miles) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 miles) for spending £12,000 within twelve months.  The annual fee is £195 and you need to pay the fee for the second year in order to receive the second half of the bonus.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The points earned with the HSBC Premier Mastercard can be transferred to four airline frequent flyer schemes – British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

They can also be redeemed for other items including retailer gift cards.

Cardholders can access any airport lounge in the LoungeKey network for a fee of £20 per visit.

Frankly, it would be madness to try to do a comparison chart so instead I want to pick out the key reason for getting each of the cards – if there is one ….

Cards with a specific ‘best in class’ reason to get them:

If you are looking for your first Avios credit card, I recommend one of these three:

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 theseThis is the best Avios card if you know you will qualify for, and use, the 2-4-1 voucher each year. Apply here.

(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 free Priority Pass airport lounge passes among other benefits, valid at 1,300 lounges globally.  This is the best Amex card for beginners to the miles and points hobby. You will still qualify for the bonus on the BA Premium Plus if you choose to trade up later. Apply here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard – 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:

These cards are less popular with Avios collectors but there are reasons why you may choose them:

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. Apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express – you should seriously consider applying for this card. Don’t focus too much on the £575 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 and the Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite, Hilton Honors Gold, MeliaRewards Gold and 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, such as £10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit. Apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express – the day-to-day rate of 2 Marriott Bonvoy points (= 0.66 Avios) per £1 isn’t great, but you get the flexibility to convert to 40+ different airlines as well as using your points for Marriott hotels.  You also get an enhanced conversion rate of 0.825 Avios per £1 when you convert in chunks of 60,000 Bonvoy points.  The sign-up bonus is 20,000 Bonvoy points, which converts to 6,666 Avios.  The £75 annual fee is refunded pro-rata if you cancel. Apply here.

Amex Rewards Credit Card – as I explain in this article about the American Express Rewards Credit Card benefits, the ARCC card is an excellent option if you already have a 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. Apply here.

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

There is nothing wrong with these two credit cards, but they are not your best choice if your target is earning Avios:

Nectar American Express – this is basically a half-way house between the two British Airways American Express cards. The free BA Amex earns 1 Avios per £1. The £195 BA Premium Plus Amex earns 1.5 Avios per £1. The Nectar Amex has a £25 annual fee and earns 1.25 Avios per £1 if you convert the Nectar points. The snag is that there is no option to earn a 2-4-1 voucher on the Nectar Amex and this is most valuable feature of the British Airways cards.

IHG Rewards Mastercard – this card is OK if you want to earn IHG Rewards points for free hotel stays. If your aim is to convert them into Avios, the rate is weak (0.2 Avios per £1, based on 5 IHG points converting into 1 Avios).  In fact, the Avios rate is so weak that I would recommend that you don’t bother. Take a look at the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard (apply here) instead, which earns an impressive 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 spent. My full review of the free Virgin Atlantic credit card is here.

Don’t forget that our directory of all UK airline and hotel credit cards can be found here.

PS. Do you run a small business?

If you are a sole trader or run a small business, you may also want to check out these cards:

Amex American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

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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