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.
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:
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:
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):
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.
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:
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) …….
……. 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 £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard here. The 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.
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.