Home / AVIOS / Which Is The Best Air Miles Credit Card In The UK?

Which Is The Best Air Miles Credit Card In The UK?

Despite airport lounge, air miles credit cards are still the best way to earn tons of AVIOS in the UK. The problem is that there are lots of credit cards with air miles and some are considerably better than others. Dare I say it, but some UK air miles credit cards may turn out to be a waste of time.  This post gives you the lowdown on all the options and will then try to highlight the best air miles credit card in the UK.

More ways to earn air miles with UK airline credit cards

You may wish to download this useful infographic which highlights some great ways to earn more air miles using credit cards. Then which card will be the best air miles credit card for you depends on:

  1. whether you are willing to pay an annual fee
  2. which airline you wish to accumulate points for (see this handy airline alliance infographic if you are unsure. This post explains more about how airline alliances can be your best friend)
  3. whether you want to be able to choose from more than one airline when you redeem points
  4. whether you can meet the minimum spending requirement in the allotted time
air miles credit card UK
Source: Pixabay

Let’s take a look at all the available UK airmiles credit cards currently before we come to any conclusions.

UK air miles credit card options?

UK American Express air miles credit cards

American Express (AMEX) cards allow you to earn membership rewards which can be converted into air miles with many frequent flyer programmes. These include British Airways AVIOS, Etihad Guest, Emirates Skywards, Singapore Airlines, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can see the full list on the AMEX membership rewards page which looks like this.

AMEX membership rewards airline partners
AMEX membership rewards airline partners

This offers great flexibility as it allows you to defer the decision as to which airline you wish to use until you are ready to book. Membership rewards can then be converted to any of the partner airlines at a 1:1 conversion rate.

WARNING: if you plan to churn and burn your air miles credit cards to maximise the miles you earn, don’t forget to transfer any stray points before you close any AMEX card accounts. Use them or lose them!

American Express Gold air miles credit card

There are a number of options in the UK but the best air miles credit card in the UK, in my opinion, is the American Express Gold. It does not have the highest reward rate but offers flexibility, no annual fee for the first year and a few ancillary benefits.

AMEX gold card close up
AMEX Gold card membership rewards can transfer to Virgin – woo hoo!

American Express Gold card benefits

The American Express Gold card* offers 10,000 Membership Rewards when you sign up and spend £3,000 within three months. If you use this referral link, you earn an additional 2,000 points.

You then earn 1 point for every £1 you spend on the card, which increases to three if you book travel through AMEX Travel. The card is hugely flexible with a selection of partner airlines and includes two complimentary airport lounge passes.

There is an annual fee of £140 which is waived in year one so it seems sensible to churn this air miles credit card before the annual anniversary. Note, however, that if you have held an American Express card in the last 24 months, the terms and conditions state that you will not qualify for the sign-up bonus if you cancel and reapply.

frustrated lady looking at finances

If you do retain the card, you can earn an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards for each year of membership.  To qualify for this bonus, you must spend £15,000 during the year. Obviously, these 10,000 rewards cost you £140 as you will then incur the annual fee.

Recycle your air miles credit card

I usually forego them, because I regularly recycle my air miles credit cards. However, this is less attractive since the introduction of the 24-month rule.  One other option is to call American Express and ask them to waive the fee in year two. If they say no explain that you will cancel and reapply for the American Express Gold card. Whilst you will not earn the sign-up bonus, you won’t pay the annual fee. If they are being commercial, they will probably recognise that the cost to cancel an existing card and issue a new card is likely to exceed the £140 fee.

American Express Gold fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £140 per annum from year two
APR 57.6%
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro Flexibility and reasonable sign-up bonus
Con £140 fee from year two (but refer your spouse, then cancel and reapply again in 2 years!). Note you can reapply sooner but you will not earn the sign up bonus again. You will, however, avoid the annual fee.

Get your Gold Card now

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum card offers 30,000 points when you sign up and spend £4,000 in the first three months. You also earn Membership Rewards at the same rate as the American Express Gold card.

It offers a huge range of extra travel benefits including unlimited airport lounge access, concierge service and tier status in many hotel chains. There is however a whopping annual fee of £575. Check out my review of the American Express Platinum card to see if it is worth the investment.

American Express Platinum Card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £575 per annum
APR Charge card so the balance must be paid in full each month.
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro Generous sign up bonus
Con Eye watering annual fee

Read more:

https://frommilestosmiles.com/american-express-platinum/

The American Express Card

The American Express Card offers no sign up bonus, the same earnings rate as the cards above and basic travel insurance. You can get a better deal elsewhere!

In my opinion, you would be better applying for the American Express Gold card and recycling before the anniversary if you wish to avoid the annual fee.

American Express card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £60 per annum
APR Charge card so the balance must be paid in full each month.
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro None that I can see!
Con Too many to mention!!

UK white label air miles credit cards

American Express offers white labelled credit cards which allow you to earn points for a specific airline such as British Airways. Points earned from using these UK credit cards automatically transfer to the relevant programme. You do not have the option to transfer them to a different airline. Sadly, your options are limited followed the changes in EU legislation which have meant that many cards have been withdrawn.

British Airways American Express Premium Card

The British Airways Premium Card pays a whopping 25,000 bonus (or 26,000 if you apply using this referral link) Avios when you spend £3,000 within the first three months. It also pays an attractive earnings rate of three Avios for every £1 spent with BA and 1.5 Avios for every £1 spent elsewhere.

You earn a companion voucher each year when you spend £10,000 meaning you only need to redeem enough points for one person to fly (albeit you do pay taxes and fees for both travellers!).

There is an annual fee of £195 which discourages some people. However, I have earned companion vouchers for travel in business or first class to Montreal, India, BeijingSouth Korea, Abu Dhabi and Japan to name some highlights. I paid less than the cost of economy tickets each time. If you are not convinced, read this post which explains why you should NOT opt for the FREE British Airways Card which is next up on the list.

Get your British Airways Premium Plus Card now

British Airways American Express Premium Card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £195 per annum
APR 76%. This is a terrible option if you are not disciplined enough to pay off the balance each month.
Earnings 1.5 membership reward per £1
Pro Generous sign up bonus and the companion voucher. The companion voucher is valid for 2 years after £10,000 spend and is the only decent companion voucher in the UK. The new Virgin cards offer a Virgin Atlantic companion voucher but it is poor value for anyone who does not have tier status. Also the earnings rate is the highest of all UK air miles credit cards.
Con Annual fee but this pays for itself when you redeem for business class flights. It is not worth playing the travel hacking game in the UK to redeem for economy flights as you still have to pay taxes and fees which account for a large % of an economy ticket. You will get much better value (and more enjoyment) from flights in Business Class or First.

British Airways American Express Standard Card

The British Airways American Express standard card companion voucher is perfect for those wishing to earn a companion voucher and avoid an annual fee. You will need to be flexible with your travel plans however as you only have 12 months to redeem this voucher.

This American Express air miles card has a lower earnings rate of one AVIOS for £1 of spend. It also has a lower sign up bonus of 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in three months. Finally, it has a higher spending threshold of £20,000 to achieve the companion voucher and the voucher is only valid for 12 months.

That £20,000 spend earns you 25,000 points including the sign-up bonus whereas the premium card will earn you 56,000 points for the same amount of spend (don’t forget to use our referral link for the BA Premium card, otherwise it will be 55,000). Sorry, I don’t have a referral link for this card because I don’t think it is good value as I explain in this post.

Get your British Airways Card now

British Airways American Express fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0
APR 22.9%.
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro No annual fee but you can still earn a companion voucher
Con The companion voucher is only valid for one year. BA often only have 2 business class reward seats on a flight so availability can be an issue given the shorter timescale.

Virgin Atlantic Credit card

The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card rewards cardholders with 5,000 Flying Club miles after one purchase during the first three months.

Virgin Atlantic UK air miles credit card
Source: Virgin Atlantic

Source: Virgin Atlantic

You will then earn 0.75 Flying Miles per £1 spent which looks good value compared to the other non AMEX cards. You can select from a choice of rewards also once you have spent £20,000 in a policy year but the Virgin Atlantic companion voucher is a real let down.

Read more:

https://frommilestosmiles.com/virgin-atlantic-credit-cards/

Virgin Atlantic Credit card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0
APR 22.9%.
Earnings 0.75 membership reward per £1
Pro No annual fee but you can still earn a companion voucher
Con The companion voucher is only valid for economy class unless you have tier status with Virgin. You won’t save much with this voucher.

Virgin Atlantic Reward + Credit card

This card offers a much more attractive sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles after your first purchase in the first three months. For every £1 you spend you will also earn 1.5 Flying Miles and once you spend £10,000 you will receive additional rewards. These are still not very attractive however unless you hold tier status with the airline.

If you do not yet have the card, now might be the time to invest. This UK airline credit card has an offer on until the 28th February 2020 which allows you to turn ‘your flat whites into flights‘ (I do love Virgin marketing!!). You will receive an extra 10,000 miles if you apply on or before this date and then spend £3,000 within 90 days of opening your account.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £160
APR 22.9%.
Earnings 1.5 membership reward per £1
Pro High earning rate and current bonus air miles on the Reward + Credit Card. My personal experience is that it is also easier to redeem for business class flights.
Con The companion voucher is only valid for economy class unless you have tier status with Virgin. You won’t save much with this voucher. The route choice is also much more limited than with British Airways.

Lloyds Bank Air Miles Rewards Credit Card

Whilst you may come across people who own a Lloyds Bank credit card for air miles, these cards were withdrawn for new customers some time ago. People new to collecting air miles with UK credit cards cannot access them.

Flybe Credit Card

This card has also been withdrawn for new customers.

Tesco Bank Clubcard Credit Card Account

Tesco offers several credit cards which are not air miles credit cards. They do however allow you to convert your Clubcard vouchers into AVIOS.

The earnings rate is poor across all cards as you earn 1 Clubcard point for every £4 of spend in Tesco and 1 point per £8 of non-Tesco spend. This means you need to spend £1,000 in Tesco to secure a £2.50 voucher which converts into 600 AVIOS with British Airways or 625 Flying Miles with Virgin.

Compare this with the American Express Gold card which would earn 1,000 air miles for the same spend, or the British Airways Premium Plus card which would earn 1,500 AVIOS. If you want a back up card (i.e non-AMEX card), you would now be better off with the Virgin Atlantic cards than the Tesco cards.

So which is the best airmiles credit card in the UK?

Considering the UK air miles credit card market has been decimated in recent years, here are the two best credit cards for air miles in my humble opinion.

Sign up bonus and earnings rate: British Airways Premium Plus card

Flexibility: American Express Gold

Have your say

Which card do you think is the best airmiles credit card in the UK? And why? I would love to know.

 

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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32 comments

  1. Seymour Travels

    But think about how you will use the points. Sometimes you can buy a flight for a few quid more than the taxes. One other thing to remember is that partners and routes can change. I started collecting avios on BA Amex but suddenly you need millions of points to get to Australia and I don’t think you get good value redeeming short haul with BA so I switched and now I have saved enough Virgin points for a business class return to Australia/NZ but when I go to book I discover Air New Zealand are no longer flying to uk from June/July 2020. Singapore don’t do Business class rewards to uk and whilst I can book LON-HKG on Virgin and HKG-SYD Virgin Australia but it’s classed as two trips so nearly double the mileage of Air NZ! DOH – back to the drawing board.

    • Totally agree short haul is a bad move for redemptions. I’d even go one further and say that economy isn’t a good redemption. I cover this topic in the long haul v short haul post.

      Sadly there is no getting over the sad fact that companies can and do move the goalposts at times. I take it you don’t have enough AVIOS and/or a BA companion voucher?

  2. American Express Gold one the best credit card for miles

  3. Hi

    Airmiles helps for those who are frequent travelers, but its good with all the details you have provided. I believe you had done a lot of research for CC before posting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for this great credit card advice! I fly British Airways quite a bit, so I may consider the AMEX Standard Card for the reasons you’ve pointed out.

  5. I currently have a Amex Platinum card and IHG Platinum which I like and want to keep. I spend between £20-25k per year. I thinking of getting the BAPP. Once i get the 241 voucher and sign up bonus, should I just cancel the card and get the Amex gold? Am I better off with the Amex gold card in the long run, If I rarely use 241 voucher. Is the gold card better value using for booking Cathay Pacific? I always fly Cathay Pacific, because there’s no direct BA fly from Manchester…..

    • Hi Vincent thanks for stopping by and asking this question. With the BAPP it would be wise to hold on to the card until you have used the voucher. I will need to check but I don’t think you lose it if you cancel but I would definitely check. You can always downgrade after you have secured it, get a refund of your annual fee (Pro-rated) and then cancel once you use the voucher which I have done before. The Gold card gives you more flexibility than the BAPP as obviously you can redeem with a greater choice of airlines including those that are not Oneworld but the cost of redemption won’t be any difference as you transfer points to your chosen programme and then redeem. I tend to fly Manchester to London and onwards with BA but only because I have to fly BA to redeem the voucher which is something else to be wary of. If you do definitely want to fly Cathay you will not be able to use the voucher for that purpose. Give me a shout if you think of anything else.

    • Hi Vincent, check out my updated video about how to maximise your points moving over from an MR card to BA Premium Plus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBWHUxF9tc4

  6. Wow! Such an informative post, Anne. Your post has given me food for thought! This list is truly helpful! 😉

  7. I was just thinking about signing up for a credit card with air miles! I don’t why I didn’t do it years ago! I am going to look into the Lloyds & Amex as these work with the airlines I fly with.

  8. Interesting to read this post, I was just having a conversation with my family about travel hacking yesterday. I always just thought this was something reserved for Americans, but I see several Canadian credit cards (and British too now it seems) got on the travel reward bandwagon. Being a frequent traveler, I really need to read more closely into this!

  9. Rosemary Swift

    I signed up for the Virgin/MBNA credit cards nine years ago just so as to be able to fly and spend my way across Australia for my fiftieth birthday, I have since added my husband and daughter onto the account so we get triple spending and we have saved up all our flying club miles which to date is over 200,000. My next dream trip is to The Great Wall of China and India’s Taj Mahal, I was told this very evening with this many miles I could fly in the upper cabin to anywhere in the world WHOPPEE1111

    • Now that is a definite result. I started collecting with Virgin but there are so fewer opportunities to earn miles, I reverted back to British Airways. I definitely want to check out their Upper Class though so may take another look.

  10. I need to get on this! Thanks for sharing this guide and some tips for your fellow travelers! Happy travels!

  11. Wow, this list is awesome and a great resource. I wish we had this many choices too. IT would really be helpful

  12. Great tips and suggestions. Cards are definitely a great way to get a bunch of points! We signed up for the British Airways card when it was a 100,000 mile bonus–it was amazing! It was a card offered in the states though, so not sure if they ran that in the UK. Glad to hear there are so many great options in the UK as well!

    • Definitely never been a 100,000 bonus in the Uk while I have been travel hacking (last five years mainly!) sob sob, that would be awesome!

  13. The many travel benefits of credit cards never ceases to amaze me. Although they do require a bit of effort, thank you for breaking it down!

  14. Super helpful, thanks for sharing! I need to look into some of these.

  15. A great round up for those in the UK thanks!

  16. Wow, these are great tips and suggestions, now what would you recommend for cards for US based travelers? Loved the thorough details you provided for UK clients.

  17. That is a very extensive and helpful list! I just signed up for a Chase preferred card and I receive 50,000 bonus points if I reach 4k spending in 3 months, which means I get a free roundtrip flight! I also want to get into travel hacking a bit more. I’m also interested in the American Express card that you mentioned as well.

  18. As always, what a great post, Anne!!! I absolutely love that I have a full website to direct UK travel hackers too, but this one takes the cake with specific cards that can get people travel hacking ASAP!

  19. awesome list!! i wish Canada had this many options! We do try and use rewards programs here to our benefit as well and i was able to get a free Disneyland Ticket and a Free Car Rental for our So Cal trip later this month!

  20. We just booked free tickets to Asia using credit card points.

  21. I’m not sure of the differences between UK and US travel credit cards. But, I will say that I use a travel credit card for my go-to airline, and though I haven’t earned a free flight yet, I have enjoyed the other perks of having the credit card. For example, I don’t have to worry about a baggage fee, which is one less travel expense when on the road … or in the air, as the case may be!

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