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

Despite changes to many credit card rewards programmes, air miles credit cards are still the best way to earn air miles in the UK unless you happen to be a frequent transatlantic flyer. The problem is that there are lots of air miles credit cards and some are considerably better than others. Some UK air miles credit cards are so restrictive they may turn out to be a waste of time.  This post shows you the various options and highlights the best air miles credit card in the UK (in my opinion).

Which is the best air miles credit card in the UK Pinterest

The best air miles credit card for you

To help you decide which is the best air miles credit card for you, you need to consider;

  1. Whether you are willing to pay an annual fee – it can be worthwhile!
  2. Which airline you wish to accumulate points for (see this handy airline alliance infographic if you are unsure. This post also explains the benefits of airline alliances
  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

Once you have considered these questions, read on to find out more about your options.

Multiple credit cards
Source: Pixabay

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.

This offers great flexibility as you can defer the choice of airline until you are ready to book. Membership rewards can then be converted to any of the partner airlines at a 1:1 conversion rate. It also means you can book reward flights with one of your favourite airlines.

The American Express Rewards Credit Card

The American Express Rewards Credit Card offers a sign up bonus of 10,000 membership rewards when you spend £2,000 in your first 3 months of membership!

It has no annual fee and you earn 1 reward point for every £1 you spend. This card is fine if you do not want to pay an annual fee but it will take a long time to earn enough rewards for a long haul flight in business class.

American Express Rewards Credit card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0 per annum
APR 26%
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro Sign up bonus and no annual fee
Con Lower earnings rate than other cards and lower sign up bonus
AMEX gold card close up
AMEX Gold card membership rewards can transfer to Virgin – woo hoo!

American Express Gold card

The American Express Gold card does not have the highest reward rate but offers flexibility, no annual fee for the first year and a few ancillary benefits.

American Express Gold card sign up bonus and earnings

The American Express Gold card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards when you sign up and spend £3,000 within three months. If you use this referral link, you earn 2,000 more reward points which gives you a huge 22,000 Rewards in your first 3 months.

You also earn;

  • 1 point for every £1 of standard spend on the card
  • 2 points for every £1 spent on airlines and foreign currency exchange.
  • 3 points 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 per annum worth at least £50.

Manchester Airport Escape Lounge
Manchester Airport Escape Lounge

American Express Gold card annual reward bonus

There is an annual fee of £140 which is waived in year one so I recommend you churn this air miles credit card before the annual anniversary. Then wait 24 months, and reapply to benefit from another sign up bonus and avoid the annual fee. Note, if you have held an American Express card in the last 24 months, you will not qualify for the sign-up bonus so please read the small print.

If you do retain the card, you can earn an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards for each year of membership.  However, to qualify for this bonus, you must spend £15,000 during the year and pay the £140 annual fee.

In my opinion, it is better to bag the points after you have spent the £3,000 and cancel the card. You then only need to spend £3,000 when you reapply to earn the same amount of rewards you would earn if you held onto the card for 2 years and spent £15,000 per annum. Not good value!

American Express Gold card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £140 per annum from year two
APR 61.8%
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1 up to 3 for certain spend
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 card now

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum card offers an absolutely huge 60,000 points if you sign up before 25th October (normally 30,0000) and spend £6,000 in the first six months. The current offer also offers new cardholders a £200 Credit with Amex Travel Online.

You earn Membership Rewards of;

  • 1 per £1 of standard spend
  • 2 per £1 of spend on Amex Travel

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

American Express Platinum Card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £575 per annum
APR 439.9%
Earnings 1 membership reward per £1
Pro Generous sign-up bonus
Con Eye watering annual fee

PLatinum card

British Airways American Express Standard Card

The British Airways American Express standard card 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 and you can only use it in economy class.

This American Express air miles card has the same earnings rate as the Gold card of one AVIOS for £1 of spend. It has a lower sign up bonus of 5,000 Avios however when you spend £1,000 in three months. Although, when you spend £12,000 in a policy year you earn a companion voucher.

That £12,000 spend earns you 17,000 points including the sign-up bonus whereas the British Airways Premium card will earn you 44,000 points for the same amount of spend (don’t forget to use our referral link for the BA Premium card, otherwise it will be 43,000). 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.

British Airways American Express fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0
APR 26%.
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 in economy class and you can only redeem for flights with British Airways.

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!).

Skiing in Alpensia
Alpensia ski resort in South Korea funded by our Premium card companion voucher

There is an annual fee of £250 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 using this card. 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 American Express Card.

Get your British Airways Premium Card now

British Airways American Express Premium Card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £250 per annum
APR 103.7%. 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 companion voucher. The companion voucher is valid for 2 years 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. You will generally get much better value (and more enjoyment) from flights in Business Class or First. You can only redeem for flights with British Airways.

British Airways AMEX Nectar card

Although this card is not really an air miles card, it has been included because you can convert every 400 Nectar points to 250 AVIOS.

For new cardholders who spend £2,000 in the first 3 months, you will earn 20,000 bonus Nectar points. If you convert the whole amount into AVIOS, this bonus is worth 12,500 AVIOS and has a lower spend threshold than some of the other AMEX cards.

You also earn 2 Nectar points for every £1 of spend and 3 Nectar points for spend at Nectar partners.

Although this card offers better value than the AMEX Standard card, it still falls short of the American Express Gold card. If you spend £10,000 on this card and qualify for the sign up bonus, you earn:

  • 20,000 sign up bonus
  • 20,000 Nectar points based on spend
  • This converts to 25,000 AVIOS

The same spend on the American Express Gold card would give up a 22,000 sign up bonus plus 10,000 of rewards from spend which could be converted to 32,000 Avios.

British Airways AMEX Nectar card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £25 per annum but free for the first year
APR 31.9%.
Earnings 2 to 3 per £1 of spend
Pro 20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months of membership.
Con No other additional benefits but if you want a cheap card with a decent rate, it is worth considering.

UK white label air miles credit cards

Barclaycard Avios

This is definitely a good alternative to the British Airways American Express card as it has the same sign up and earnings rate but the upgrade voucher is valid for 24 months.

When you sign up for the Barclaycard AVIOS card you collect 5,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in your first three months. You then collect 1 Avios for every £1 spent on eligible purchases and if you spend £20,000 on the card within 12 months, you will receive a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher to use on an Avios Reward Flight booking.

Cardholders also benefit from up to five months of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade for free with your new Barclaycard.

Barclaycard Avios fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0 per annum
APR 23.9%.
Earnings 1 Avios per £1
Pro Sign up bonus and upgrade voucher plus free trial subscriptions with a number of services.
Con £20,000 spend to earn the upgrade voucher.

Barclaycard AVIOS Plus

The Barclaycard AVIOS Plus is an alternative to the British Airways American Express Premium Card but just not as good. If you’re new to Barclaycard, you’ll collect 25,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in your first three months which is the same as the AMEX card (if you don’t use our referral link). You also collect 1.5 Avios for every £1 spent on eligible purchases but do not earn a higher rate for select spend as you do on the AMEX card.

The card has a £20 monthly fee so is a comparable cost to the AMEX card but instead of a companion voucher, you will earn an upgrade voucher when you spend £10,000 on the card within 12 months. This could be useful for short haul economy class flights but less useful if you want to use your Avios to fly business.

You also benefit from up to five months of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade for free with your new Barclaycard.

Barclaycard Avios Plus fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £240 per annum
APR 72.4%.
Earnings 1.5 Avios per £1
Pro Sign up bonus and upgrade voucher plus free trial subscriptions with a number of services.
Con Upgrade voucher rather than a companion voucher.
Virgin Atlantic credit card
Source: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Credit card

The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card offers no sign up bonus and a relatively poor earnings rate of 0.75 Flying Miles per £1 spent or a higher rate of 1.5 Flying Miles for spend on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.

You can select from a choice of rewards once you have spent £20,000 in a policy year but the Virgin Atlantic companion voucher only allows you to book seats in Upper Class if you have tier status or wish to pay an extra 50% in Flying Miles.

Both Virgin cards now also cap the Virgin Points you can earn each month based on your credit limit. So if your credit limit is £5,000, you’ll earn points on the first £5,000 of card purchases in a month but nothing on the excess.

Virgin Atlantic Credit card fast facts

Headlines Notes
Fee £0
APR 22.9%.
Earnings 0.75 membership reward per £1
Pro No annual fee and you can still earn a companion voucher
Con No sign up bonus and the companion voucher is only valid for economy class unless you have tier status with Virgin. The cap on earnings is a real negative too.
Virgin Airlines staff and credit card
Source: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Reward + Credit card

This card offers a 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 3 Miles for every £1 spend on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.

Once you spend £10,000 you will receive additional rewards. These are still not very attractive unless you hold tier status with the airline. See the small print for full details.

I would always opt for the British Airways Premium Card in preference to this card. Although the annual fee is more expensive, the redemption potential is so much greater.

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.
Con The companion voucher is not great and the earnings cap applies in the same was as for the Reward Card.

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

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 card

Have your say

Which card do you think is the best airmiles credit card in the UK? And why? I would love to know so feel free to have your say in the comments.

Important notice

From Miles to Smiles is a travel blog. None of the above commentary should be regarded as financial advice, and it is your responsibility to ensure that a credit card you apply for is appropriate for your circumstances. You should read the full terms and conditions of any credit cred before you sign up.

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

37 comments

  1. The BA card allows the avios to be used in one world flights not just BA. Only the companion voucher has that restriction.

  2. I think this is an informative post and it is very helpful and knowledgeable. So I want to thank you for your efforts in writing this article. All content is well thought out.

  3. very useful post about credit card, thanks for sharing

  4. Thanks for sharing this information

  5. Sometimes I use my credit card. But,mostly i use debit card.

  6. 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?

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

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

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

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

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

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

  26. 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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