Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Which of the two Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards is best for you?

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In February 2022, Barclays launched two Avios-earning Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit cards.

These are very, very good products with everything you could ask for, and are easily (in my view) the most attractive Visa or Mastercard credit cards in the UK. You get:

  • a great sign-up bonus which the majority of HfP readers will qualify for
  • a very high Avios earning rate
  • an annual BA cabin upgrade voucher for hitting spending targets

Every HfP reader in the UK should seriously consider applying for one of these cards.

But which one should you get …..?

You can apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card here and the free Barclaycard Avios credit card here.

Which of the NEW Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards is best?

Which Barclaycard Avios credit card should you get?

In this article, I want to give you some suggestions as to which of the two cards you should get. (You can’t have both, before you ask!)

Before I do that, let’s summarise the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards:

Barclaycard Avios card

The free card: Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

The representative APR is 29.9% variable.

The benefits are:

  • no annual fee
  • a sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 5,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in three months
  • you earn 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • you earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £20,000 in a card year

You can apply here.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

The paid card: Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

The representative APR is 80.1% APR variable, including the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 29.9% variable.

The benefits are:

  • a £20 per month fee (reduced to £15 for customers who hold Barclays Avios Rewards via their current account)
  • a sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 25,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in three months
  • you earn 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
  • you earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • you receive a DragonPass airport lounge pass which allows you to book lounges for just £18.50

You can apply here.

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card

Which Barclaycard Avios credit card is best for you?

If you’re a UK-based HfP reader then you should be getting one of these cards. But which?

It’s important to separate your thinking between long-term and short-term.

In the short term, I strongly recommend you get the £20 per month card. This has three advantages

  • a far higher welcome bonus of 25,000 Avios
  • a higher earn rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
  • the triggering of the cabin upgrade voucher with just £10,000 of spend

If, after a few months, you decide that it isn’t for you, you can swap to the free card.

On the other hand, if you start with the free card, you will NOT be able to get the 25,000 Avios if you upgrade to the paid Barclaycard Avios Plus card. I think it’s better to start with the paid card, bank the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus if you can spend £3,000 in three months, and then rethink later on.

Long term, which card is best?

If you’re looking for a simple answer, there isn’t one. Sorry!

Before I go on, remember that you CAN apply for the Barclaycard Avios credit cards, and get the sign-up bonus, if you have a British Airways American Express card.

Here are some scenarios:

You keep your BA Amex as your main card, because you value the 2-4-1 companion voucher, and add a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard for places where Amex is not accepted

I think this is the most common scenario amongst HfP readers.

I would start with the paid Barclaycard because of the 25,000 Avios bonus. If you find that you don’t have £10,000 per year of non-Amex expenditure to trigger the cabin upgrade voucher, you can always downgrade to the free Barclaycard later.

You cancel your BA Amex card and move all of your credit card spending to the new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

If you have the free BA Amex credit card and do not trigger the 2-4-1 companion voucher (or you do, but never use it, especially as it is now only valid in Economy) then I don’t see any value in keeping it. Remember that you will need £15,000 to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher on the BA Amex from November 2024. You might as well move all of your credit card spending to a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard.

Logically, if you have the free BA Amex you are probably considering cancelling in favour of the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard. However, I would think about the Barclaycard Avios Plus card because:

  • even if you won’t manage to spend £15,000 on the free BA Amex to trigger the annual voucher after November 2024, you may be able to manage £10,000 of spending on the Avios Plus Mastercard with wider acceptance
  • if you ignored the 2-4-1 voucher on the free BA Amex because it can only be used for Economy redemptions, you may find more value in a cabin upgrade voucher which can get you into World Traveller Plus and Club World (but not First Class)
  • in the short term, it makes sense to try the Barclaycard Avios Plus card due to the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus (£3,000 spend in three months required)

You stick with your BA Amex card and decide not to get a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

I don’t see a lot of sense in this approach, to be honest. Everyone needs an Amex alternative in their purse or wallet, and I doubt you have a more generous Visa or Mastercard than the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard which earns 1 Avios per £1.

Even if you have no chance of spending £20,000 to trigger the cabin upgrade voucher on the free Barclaycard Avios card, you should be able to earn a decent amount of Avios from merchants who do not accept American Express. Simple things like paying your council tax bill on a Mastercard – allowed by most local authorities – would earn you a four-figure pile of Avios.

Other factors to consider

Part of the decision about which card to get, and whether it should replace your existing British Airways American Express card, is the total amount of annual credit card spending you have.

How can you allocate it to trigger the optimum number of BA Amex 2-4-1 companion vouchers and Barclays Avios cabin upgrade vouchers?

What works best for you will depend on your total card spend, your mix of Amex and non-Amex card spend, the number of Avios you earn each year and the size of your family.

A family of three, for example, is a big winner. You could earn a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher and a Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher and use both on the same trip to get all three of you into a premium cabin. (You would need to make two separate bookings to do this – use the 2-4-1 companion voucher for one adult and a child, and the cabin upgrade voucher for the second adult.)

Barclaycard Avios credit cards

How do the Barclaycard Avios credit cards compare with other Visa or Mastercard products?

Whatever Mastercard or Visa card you currently have, the Barclaycard Avios Mastercards are likely to be better.

Got a cashback card?

MBNA Horizon, Amazon, John Lewis Partnership etc? You are getting 0.5% at best and probably 0.2% to 0.25%.

Got a Virgin Atlantic Mastercard?

This is less clear cut, and is obviously heavily influenced by your love of Virgin Atlantic and whether you already earn their points from other sources.

Looking purely at the credit cards, the free Barclaycard Avios card is more generous per £1 than the free Virgin Atlantic Reward card (1 Avios vs 0.75 Virgin Points). The sign-up bonus is also better (5,000 Avios vs 3,000 Virgin Points.) The annual vouchers are harder to compare as they offer different benefits.

For heavier spenders, the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ is on a par with the £240 Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard for the first year. The fee difference is offset by the sign-up bonuses (18,000 Virgin Points vs 25,000 Avios). The earning rate is identical at 1.5 per £1. The annual vouchers are harder to compare as they offer different benefits. After Year 1, the maths get a bit trickier and its a less clear cut decision.

Of course, even if you decide to keep your Virgin Atlantic Mastercard, you should still seriously consider getting one of the Barclaycard Avios cards purely for the sign up bonus.

Got the legacy Hilton Honors credit card?

Tricky. Because this card is issued by Barclaycard, it disqualifies you from applying for the Barclaycard Avios credit cards.

1 Avios per £1 from the free Barclaycard Avios card (worth 1p+) clearly beats 2 Hilton points per £1 (worth 0.66p in total) from the Hilton Honors card. However, if you did want to switch you would need to cancel your Hilton Honors card and wait six months before you would receive a sign-up bonus on one of the Barclaycard Avios cards.

Some existing Barlaycard holders will receive a targetted offer in the Barclaycard app to switch to Barclaycard Avios. There is a small Avios bonus on offer if you do this. This offer is not available to holders of the Hilton card, unfortunately.

Got a HSBC Premier Mastercard?

The Barclaycard Avios cards trump the two HSBC Premier Mastercards even if you ignore the value of the Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher:

  • the free Barclaycard earns 1 Avios per £1 vs 0.5 Avios with the free HSBC card
  • the paid Barclaycard Avios Plus card earns 1.5 Avios per £1 vs 1 Avios per £1 on the paid HSBC card

The HSBC Premier cards only have value if you use them primarily to earn miles with a non-Avios airline. Even then, you may decide that earning Avios at a higher rate – plus earning the cabin upgrade voucher – makes it worth switching.

If you have the HSBC Premier credit cards then, by default, you have a HSBC Premier bank account. Now that you no longer need the HSBC credit card, you could move to Barclays Premier and Barclays Avios Rewards, earning a second annual cabin upgrade voucher.

Conclusion

The launch of the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards led many to reshape their miles and points strategy. You no longer need to have a secondary programme purely because you need somewhere to put points from your non-Amex card spending.

If you are a HfP reader, it is highly likely that one of these two new Barclaycard Avios Mastercards should go in your purse or wallet.

Long term, you need to decide – based on your annual card spend, the size of your family, the number of Avios you earn each year and your willingness to pay card fees – whether you go ‘all in’ with Barclaycard Avios or only use it to fill the gaps when you can’t use an Amex.

In the short term, I think you should look seriously at the Barclaycard Avios Plus card because of the 25,000 Avios bonus.

Remember that you need to spend £3,000 in three months. With the fee paid monthly, it is easy to trade down to the free card later if you find you are not getting full value from it.

How to apply

The application form for the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (5,000 Avios bonus) is here.

The application form for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard (25,000 Avios bonus) is here.

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. 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 (99)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Camille55 says:

    Didn’t I read in a previous article (or comments) that there was a planned software workaround for holders of existing Hilton Honors Visa cards, who are apparently currently disqualified from applying?

    • NICHOLAS says:

      Not sure having the Hilton card disqualifies you from applying for the Barclaycard Avios credit cards. I got the Avios plus card when it launched and about a year later realised i still had an active Hilton card.

    • Rob says:

      Yes. 2025 though.

  • TicknBash says:

    Typo – World Traveller ‘Plus’

    if you ignored the 2-4-1 voucher on the free BA Amex because it can only be used for Economy redemptions, you may find more value in a cabin upgrade voucher which can get you into World Traveller and Club World (but not First Class)

  • Greg says:

    If it’s the airport lounge pass you are interested in, Barclays Travel Plus insurance gives you pretty good travel insurance, discounted airport parking, FULL RAC membership (inc at home) PLUS 6 Dragon Pass entries (mentioned above) with the opportunity to buy more at discounted prices. For £22.50 a month.

    • No longer Entitled says:

      HfP would benefit from some articles on packaged accounts. Over time the editorial focus around points has softened and it has allowed the site to grow. Packaged accounts that allow for some combination of free FX, lounge passes, or travel insurance seem a good fit and a complete absence of articles an anomaly.

      • Tom says:

        I absolutely agree. I’d particularly value a comparison of the benefits across premier accounts.

    • Gordon says:

      Re discount airport parking, “Your parking space” has 10% off this bank holiday weekend!

  • Robert says:

    Some questions:

    1) Can I use a companion voucher to book a reward booking and then use the Barclays upgrade voucher to upgrade cabin?

    2) can the upgrade voucher be used for both avios and cash bookings?

    3) does the upgrade voucher apply to all on a booking – ie if I book a flight for me and my wife, will the upgrade voucher be applicable for us both?

    4) is the availability to upgrade linked to reward flight availability in that cabin?

    • Rob says:

      1. No
      2. No
      3. You can do one way for 2 people or return for 1 person
      4. You need Avios availability for the cabin you want to be in

  • Dawn says:

    I had the paid Barclaycard but I have now downgraded to the free Barclaycard, just to use it to get Avios points when I can’t use the AMEX. I am not a big Avios earner and cannot earn enough Avios to use for the 2-4-1 AND the cabin upgrade vouchers. For those who are Avios rich, they are great. For me, sadly, I just can’t generate enough Avios to use the vouchers fast enough.

    • Roy says:

      Can still make sense given your can buy more Avios at an attractive rate through Balance Booster …

  • Terry says:

    Better – comparative 😜

  • Mohsin says:

    Any idea how long i need to wait for reapplying for the plus card if I I’ve held it previously but cancelled but want to be still eligible for the 25,000 sign up bonus?

  • Matthew says:

    Personally I find the cabin upgrade voucher rather naff. Forcing you max Avios, min £ on shorthaul is annoying and the fact you can’t use it starting ex UK.

    Also worth mentioning the sign up bonus for the paid card is often boosted so I won’t be diving in for 25,000 Avios bonus.

    • Rhys says:

      When you say often boosted, when was the last time? I’ve been keeping an eye out since the end of last year as I’m keen to sign up with a boosted sign up bonus but I believe it was just over a year ago that they last did this?

      • Rob says:

        Barclays, as you will have noticed, has realised that big bonuses are counterproductive and they will not be returning.

        • Kuestrian says:

          Gah, that’s a shame. So 25K is the max extraction from this card, i.e no HfP referral link or supplementary card bonuses?

        • Graham says:

          Is that a recent change? You said in January that it could be worth waiting for a 50k bonus so I’ve been holding off!

          • Rob says:

            We have a better insight now into their thinking, shall we say.

            The maths of giving you £500 of Avios to take out a card which loses them 1p per £1 you spend was never obvious 🙂

        • Rhys says:

          Amex don’t find them that counterproductive!

          • Rob says:

            Amex doesn’t have the same interchange fee restrictions.

          • Alan says:

            Amex charges retailers a lot more in fees, regularly 3%, so paying out 1-1.5% remains profitable business.

            If you go back more than a decade Mastercard and Visa charged higher fees but the EU got involved and got the interchange fees heavily reduced. Ultimately the theory is that this results in lower prices for consumers.

          • Roy says:

            I thought co-branded Amex cards were subject to the cap?

          • Rob says:

            The lawsuit was clear but no-one has ever explained to me what, if any, impact came from the outcome.

          • Roy says:

            @Rob Ah, appears the authorities and courts are still trying to figure out what, if anything, constitutes an interchange fee in the case of co-branded Amex cards.

            Looks like there was a court case late last year relating to an Amex KLM co-branded card in which the authorities tried to argue that all the money that Amex paid to KLM was an interchange fee and therefore subject to the cap and the courts appear to have rejected this argument.

            Unfortunately there is almost no information on that case I can find (in English, at least) except for one pay website. Maybe there is some coverage somewhere in Dutch?

    • Steph says:

      Normally both AMEX’s 241 & cabin upgrade vouchers provide better value for long haul. For intra-EU, there are always EasyJet, Ryan or Wizz. Also for someone that is not eligible to apply for BAPP, BC’s upgrade voucher is quite handy as you can upgrade an outbound BA flight for 2 to J and book return in economy with X, Y airliner. So it really depends on individual’s circumstances.

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