Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best Mastercard or Visa credit card to get?

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I get a steady stream of reader emails looking for advice on the best Visa or Mastercard credit card for earning Avios, airline miles or hotel points.  

The comprehensive Head for Points reward credit card guide covers many different Visa and Mastercard products.   In this article I want to run through the list and suggest possible reasons for getting each of them.

visa mastercard

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. (The Virgin Atlantic Rewards cards are free in the Eurozone but not elsewhere.)  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 usual) 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.

Unfortunately, with the IHG Rewards Mastercard closing in December 2021, there are now no Visa or Mastercard products which earn hotel points.

The HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard will be adding hotel partners in July 2022 but we don’t yet know which schemes will be involved.

Visa and Mastercards earning air miles:

Easily the best long-term card for the Avios collector:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Launched in February 2022, the Barclaycard Avios Plus card has massively changed the Visa and Mastercard market.

Until 18th July 2022, this card has an astonishing sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios. You should seriously look at applying whilst this offer is running.

Earning 1.5 Avios per £1, along with a British Airways upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year, this is a great product. You can apply here.

If you don’t want to pay a fee, and are simply looking for a free Visa or Mastercard to use alongside your British Airways American Express card, there is also a free version:

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can apply for the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard here.

Until 18th July 2022, this card has a doubled sign-up bonus of 10,000 Avios.

However, I do not recommend getting the free card. It makes more sense to apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, with its 50,000 Avios sign-up bonus until 18th July 2022, and then downgrade to the free card when you have secured the bonus.

An alternative for the Avios collector who wants the option to transfer to other frequent flyer schemes (but high income needed):

HSBC Premier Mastercard

Highest earning Visa or Mastercard for Avios, but hard to get Read our full review

You need to have a free HSBC Premier current account to get these cards. The standard Mastercard is free, albeit with no sign-up bonus, and earns 0.5 Avios per £1.

There is no point getting the HSBC cards if you want to earn Avios. The Barclaycard Avios Mastercards offer far better value with a higher earning rate per £1. The HSBC cards are only worth getting if you think that you may want to convert to Etihad Guest, Asia Miles or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer instead, as these schemes are also HSBC partners.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

The World Elite card has a £195 annual fee but comes with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Avios for spending £12,000 in your first year, free airport lounge access and pays 1 Avios per £1 spent. This is 33% less than the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard.

Best long-term card for earning Virgin Points:

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

The two Virgin Atlantic Mastercards compete with the Barclaycard Avios Mastercards. 

The free Virgin Atlantic card is worse than the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (0.75 Virgin Points per £1 vs 1 Avios per £1) …….

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

……. but the paid cards are equal, each earning 1.5 Virgin Points or Avios per £1.

The premium Virgin Atlantic card has a lower fee than the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard (£160 vs £240) but Virgin Points are far less flexible than Avios given the small Virgin Atlantic network.

You can apply for the free Virgin Atlantic Mastercard here.

You can apply for the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard hereThe paid card comes with a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points.


After a few thin years, these are vintage times for anyone looking for a new Visa or Mastercard with travel rewards.

The two new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards are EXCELLENT products and you are very likely to want to add one to your purse or wallet. The Virgin Atlantic cards also offer good value to anyone who is confident that they know how to maximise the value of Virgin Points.

We strongly recommend looking at the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard – click here – whilst it is offering a bonus of 50,000 Avios until 18th July.

Whilst there are currently no Visa or Mastercard products offering hotel points, we are looking forward to seeing what hotel programmes HSBC Premier will add in July.

Further reading: click here for our full directory of the best airline and hotel credit cards and click here to see all of our airline and hotel credit card reviews.

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.

Comments (81)

  • harry b says:

    Still no news on the Avios Plus, Mastercard World Elite benefits ?

  • Bobajob says:

    Some of us do read the small print, Rob. Went through the verification process only to be told £200 limit remained. This despite excellent credit score; high 4 figure credit limit on Amex and my bank Visa card. No manual override process available said embarrassed customer service agent … just wait until a future ‘computer review’. Why on earth would I want to continue paying £20 a month for a card that couldn’t deliver the introductory bonus? Complete waste of time and effort. Cancelled card.

    • KVNMCDD says:

      +1 to this

      Rejected on application – excellent credit score(offered to send them evidence of same), 5 figure credit on a number of other cards.

      Contacted them on rejection, stonewalled.

      • Rob says:

        If a company is willing to launch a loss-making product you can’t blame them for restricting who gets access to it. You sound like someone who is likely to spend a lot of money on the card, and therefore lose Barclays so much money that they could never recoup the losses even with an average level of cross-selling.

        • dougzz99 says:

          If this is true the right thing to do is to not offer the card. Offering the card on a basis by which a key benefit is unavailable says much.

          • JDB says:

            What key benefit are you saying wasn’t/isn’t available?

          • dougzz99 says:

            Hard to spend £10K with a £200 credit limit. Not impossible, but practically so. Also, unless the offer has changed the bonus wasn’t for signing up, but for spending £3K in 3 months. Again silly trying to do that in £200 lumps and continually paying the balance off.

        • Mikeact says:

          So who is it aimed at…obviously those that may struggle with monthly payback, despite any excellent credit scores (Not that that need have a significant impact on application. )

          • Rob says:

            I am guessing those spending a couple of grand – modest loss, easily offset with a cross-sale down the line.

  • Paul says:

    What am I missing.

    After a few thin years, these are vintage times for anyone looking for a new Visa or Mastercard with travel rewards.

    Which Visa card provides any benefits?

  • aceman says:

    Tried to “change to a different card” on the app (have the hilton barclaycard) was told I have no options available…
    If i get round to calling in, to those that have managed to change cards:
    did you keep your credit limit?
    did you get the sign up bonus?

    • Blindman67 says:

      Not yet…

    • G says:

      Yes, but the reduced 5k not full new customer bonus

    • Nick says:

      Not managed to downgrade my card, was told to do this in card offers but nothing shown. Yet Rob’s offer did state you can swap cards. No paying £20 per month for nothing as already have the voucher in my account. Disappointed with the set up!

  • Mij says:

    Hi Rob

    Slightly off topic but I’ve just noticed Barclays Avios card can now be added to Apple Pay! Happy days. I did it through the Barclaycard App

    • Rob says:

      Been working for a month but still beta so we’ve been asked not to push it.

  • Rob says:

    Do you mean IHG Mastercard closing to new applicants? I have this card and it’s still earning points. Pls can you clarify. Will I have to stop using this card?

  • RichW says:

    Curve using Virgin in background not going through to make HMRC payment , not sure if I have missed something?
    Trying to start topping up for the July payment due.
    TIA if any help out there

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