Recently, I have been trying to determine which is the best airline rewards program in the UK. I’ve analysed routes and redemptions, but today want to look at which offers the greatest opportunities to earn airline rewards points.
I am going to start with the top five ways to earn airline rewards and then highlight some other ways to boost your balance. These five are the ones I use most frequently to earn over 500,000 airline rewards a year.
Top Five ways to earn
Credit cards are the best way to earn miles in the UK. You can use the AMEX Gold and Platinum cards to transfer points directly to either British Airways AVIOS or Virgin Atlantic Flying Miles.
Otherwise, you can opt for branded cards with British Airways (AMEX) and Virgin Atlantic Mastercard.
In my opinion, the British Airways cards are better when it comes to branded cards. They generally offer a higher earnings rate, or better sign up bonus.
In 2018, I earned over 400,000 AVIOS from credit cards. I sign up for a new card, satisfy the spend for the minimum bonus, and cancel. I then wait six months and repeat. This is one of the quickest ways to earn a ton of miles.
Best program for earning from credit cards: British Airways
In all honesty, I earn very few airmiles from flying. However, if you are a frequent flyer for work, then this could be a huge bonus for you.
British Airways awards miles for flights based on the distance flown and the class of ticket. Economy class flights can be as low as 25% of the miles flown, whilst First class rewards with up to 300% of the miles flown.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Miles work on the same basis but have higher earnings potential. Economy earnings range from 25% to 150% of the miles flown, compared to a maximum of 100% with British Airways. For Upper Class, Virgin rewards up to 400% of the miles flown.
Best rewards for flying: Virgin
Tesco Clubcard Points can be converted into both Virgin Atlantic Flying Miles and British Airways AVIOS. Your £2.50 voucher converts into 600 AVIOS or 625 Virgin Atlantic Flying Miles.
Best rewards from Tesco: Virgin Atlantic
By changing your spending habits, you can add thousands of airmiles to your account. If you want to buy something from hotels.com, Debenhams, M & S, Halfords and hundreds of other stores, simply navigate to their website from your Top Cashback account.
The cashback deposits into your account and can be withdrawn as British Airways AVIOS. For every 1p in cashback, you will earn 1 AVIOS plus a 5% bonus. Thus £10 of cashback translates into 1,005 AVIOS.
This may sound paltry but do not be deceived. I earned over 43,000 AVIOS one year just by changing my spending habits.
Most mainstream stores feature, so you should make a habit of always starting your shopping journey on the Top Cashback site. These are free AVIOS (unless you charge for your time)!!
Sadly, Virgin Atlantic does not offer the same facility so British Airways wins this crown.
|Hotel chain||British Airways||Virgin Atlantic|
|Accor Hotels||2.5 AVIOS per €2 spent||x|
|Agoda||Up to 10,000 AVIOS per night||x|
|Best Western||500 miles per stay||500 miles per stay|
|Booking.com||4 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
|Fiesta||2,000 AVIOS per stay||x|
|Hotels.com||Up to 6 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
|Travelplus||x||2 miles per £1 spent|
|Hilton||x||Up to 2 miles per $ spent|
|Marriott||Up to 2 miles per $ spent||Up to 2 miles per $ spent|
|IHG||Up to 2 AVIOS per $ spent||Up to 500 miles per night|
|Hyatt||500 miles per stay||750 miles per stay|
|Langham hospitality group||Up to 500 AVIOS per night||x|
|Mandarin Oriental group||800 AVIOS per qualifying stay||x|
|Radisson||Up to 500 AVIOS per qualifying stay||x|
|Yotel||x||Up to 500 miles per night|
|Rocketmiles||Up to 10,000 per night||Up to 10,000 per night|
|Kaligo||Between 5 and 20 AVIOS per £1 spent||Up to 10,000 per night|
|Pointshound||x||Up to 5,000 per night|
|Shangri-La||500 per qualifying stay||x|
|World Hotels||x||500 miles per stay|
|Edition||x||2 miles per $ spent|
|Virgin Hotels||x||1,000 miles per stay|
|Trip.com||3 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
|British Airways hotels||1 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
It is hard to determine a clear winner in this category. British Airways have more links in place but sometimes they do not offer better terms than Virgin Atlantic. Clearly, if you are booking hotels, it pays to check both to see which will offer the best deal on the day.
At this point, it is fair to say that of the five main ways to earn airmiles, there is little to choose between the two programs. British Airways has better deals in some categories whilst Virgin Atlantic has a better offering in others.
However, what about other ways to earn AVIOS or Flying Miles? Here is a quick summary of the other options available.
Other ways to collect
|Earnings Mode||AVIOS||Virgin Flying Miles|
|Avios store||Up to 12 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
|British Airways store||Up to 30 AVIOS per £1 spent||x|
|British Airways||250 points – 250 AVIOS||250 points – 250 Flying Miles|
|Shell garages||10 AVIOS for every 20 Shell points||x|
|Virgin Atlantic store||x||Up to 10 miles per £1 spent|
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have paired with thousands of companies from financial institutions to car hire firms to offer you more ways to earn. Be sure to check the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic websites before making purchases.
Which airline rewards program is best for collecting?
Honestly, I don’t think there is much in it. Much will depend on how you plan to build your balance. If it is primarily through credit cards, then British Airways is a bit ahead but if it is through hotels and shopping there is little difference.
Remember, you can also multiply your points by using a credit card which earns miles to buy from the various shops mentioned above.
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What do you think?
I know I have some extremely experienced readers, so what are your views? Do you have a preference for reward program and why? I’d love to know.