Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best Avios credit card?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

There are nine UK credit cards which earn Avios points at a rate of at least 1 Avios per £1 spent so it isn’t an easy choice.

What is the best Avios credit card?

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 are my options for an Avios credit card?

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

Bonus: 80,000 points

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 80,000 points 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 or hotel points) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further 40,000 HSBC points (=20,000 points) 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 11 airline and hotel loyalty schemes – Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club / Avios, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Finnair Plus, Flying Blue (Air France KLM), Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, TAP Miles&Go, IHG One Rewards and Wyndham Rewards.

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.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 60,000 points + £200
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,400 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • £300 per year of restaurant credit
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols
  • Annual fee: £575

Representative 439.9% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £575 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 26.0% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 60,000 points + £200 sign-up bonus +

You will receive 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and a £200 Amex Travel credit as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within six months of signing up.

This is a special offer which runs to 25th October 2022.

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 your supplementary cardholder, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,400 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

£150 per year to spend in over 160 UK restaurants

£150 per year to spend in over 1,200 international restaurants

£100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, instore or online (no minimum spend required)

£300 per year of dining credit – £150 to be spent at 150+ UK restaurants and £150 to be spent at 1,200+ restaurants outside the UK

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: £240, charged at £20 per month

Representative 72.4% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £20 monthly fee.  Interest rate on purchases 23.9% 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 Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard credit 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 six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

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

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

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
  • The voucher is valid for flights in any cabin
  • Annual fee: £250

Representative 103.7% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £250 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 26.0% 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 and is valid in ALL cabins.  The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card is only valid for one year and can only be used for Economy flights.

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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Bonus: 20,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
  • Get two free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further two each year
  • 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 61.8% 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 of the 1,400 lounges 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.

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.

American Express Nectar credit card

Nectar American Express

Bonus: 20,000 points

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 31.3% 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 Rewards

Bonus: 10,000 points

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 26.0% APR variable

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

You will receive 10,000 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 20,000 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.

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 23.9% 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 Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit 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 six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

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

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

British Airways American Express

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £12,000 in a card year
  • The companion voucher is only valid on Economy flights
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 26.0% 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 £12,000 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.)

The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card can only be used on Economy flights.

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, only requires £10,000 of annual card spend and is valid in ALL cabins including Business and First.  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.

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. A solo traveller receives a 50% discount on the Avios neeed for a redemption. 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.

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard – the key attraction here is an Avios upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year. This lets you book 1 x return flight or 2 x one-way Avios flights for the cost of the next cheapest cabin. This card is particularly attractive to solo travellers. Apply here.

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard – the free Barclaycard has a lower Avios earning rate and a far lower sign-up bonus. For many people, however, it will be the perfect product to use alongside a British Airways Premium Plus American Express. That said, I strongly recommend getting the Plus version for the 25,000 Avios bonus and downgrading later. Apply here.

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, valid at 1,300 lounges globally, and £120 of annual Deliveroo credit among other benefits.  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.

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:

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 £300 per year of restaurant credit (yes, £300, although terms apply) and £100 per year of Harvey Nichols credit. Apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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:

British Airways American Express – there is little point getting this card now that the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is available. The paid BA Amex has a far better annual spend voucher, whilst the Barclaycard earns the same 1 Avios per £1 and benefits from being accepted in more places than an Amex. Apply here.

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 £250 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 the most valuable feature of the British Airways cards.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard – there is a lot to like about this card, especially the airport lounge access. However, looked at purely for its ability to earn Avios, the new Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard now outguns it with a 50% higher earning rate per £1.

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, all of which earn Avios or points which convert to Avios:

American Express Business Platinum

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

American Express Business Gold

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

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.