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Best Air Miles Credit Card in the UK

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated September, 2, 2022

Frequent flyers would benefit a great deal from the best air miles credit card UK has to offer, earning points and redeeming them for cheaper flights, upgrades and lounge access.

Below you will find our top picks as well as a few helpful tips and tricks on how to get the most out of air miles credit cards.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

  • Earn rate: 1 – 3 points 
  • Representative APR: 61.8% 
  • £0 annual fee for first year
  • Sign-up bonus: 20,000 points
  • £5 cashback on Deliveroo 2x month

British Airways (BA) Amex

  • Earn rate: 1 Avios point on every £1
  • Representative APR: 26.0% 
  • No annual fee
  • Sign-up bonus: 5,000 Avios 
  • Free companion voucher

Amex Nectar

  • Earn rate: 2 – 3 points per £1 
  • Representative APR: 31.3% 
  • No fee for first year
  • Sign-up bonus: 20,000 points
  • Earn & redeem Nectar points

Barclaycard Avios Plus

  • Earn rate: 1.5 Avios per £1 
  • Representative APR: 72.4%
  • Annual fee: £20/mo 
  • Sign-up bonus: 25,000 points
  • Free cabin upgrade voucher

Virgin Atlantic Reward Card

  • Earn rate: 0.75 – 1.5 points 
  • Representative APR: 22.9% 
  • No annual fees
  • Great value, low costs
  • Free companion ticket & premium upgrade

British Airways Premium Plus Amex

  • Earn rate: 1.5 -3 Avios points 
  • Representative APR: 103.7%
  • Sign-up bonus: 25,000 points
  • Travel inconvenience & accident insurance
  • Free companion voucher

Barclaycard Avios

  • Earn rate: 1 Avios for every £1 
  • Representative APR: 23.9% 
  • No monthly fees 
  • Sign-up bonus: 5,000 points
  • Free Apple subscriptions for 5 months

What Is an Air Miles Credit Card and How Do They Work?

Airline miles credit cards let users earn frequent flyer points when they charge purchases on the card. Once you collect enough points, you can convert them and get a lower-priced flight or other travel perks, such as discounts on car hires and hotels, priority boarding or seat upgrades. 

An air miles credit card is usually linked to a specific airline’s loyalty program. For example, the Avios rewards scheme allows you to convert your points into British Airways air miles.

That said, each card comes with its own set of rules and rewards. For instance, some airline credit cards give you the chance to exchange your points for air miles with several companies (like the American Express Gold card does with Delta and Virgin airlines), giving you more flexibility when it comes to using your points.  

The way points are accrued also varies from one credit card provider to the next. Certain airline credit cards in the UK give you one point for every £1 you spend at retailing partners, while others may give you two points or more when you pay for flights with the card. Although as a general rule, the more you spend the more points you will get. 

When choosing which airline miles credit card to sign up for, be sure to consider that the cost does not outweigh the value of the rewards and perks you can get. Airline miles credit cards work best for users who tend to settle their account balances each month in full. Otherwise, the interest you get could be much higher than any benefits or rewards. 

How to Earn Air Miles on Your Credit Card in the UK?

Here are some of the most common and easiest ways to boost your points balance.

Use the same airline

Many airlines have frequent-flyer rewards programs aimed toward loyal customers. So, if you are flying on a regular basis, use the same airline to get more points and thus more rewards.

Use your rewards credit card for grocery shopping 

One of the fastest ways to collect extra points is by using your credit card when doing the daily food shop or filling up your car with petrol. You get your groceries and your points, so it’s a win-win. 

Use the loyalty programs of other companies

An airline’s credit card is not the only way to get points. You could opt for a rewards scheme from companies in other industries that let you exchange the points you accrued for air miles. 

For instance, with Sainsbury’s loyalty card you can convert Nectar points to Avios points. You just need to calculate how much your Nectar points are worth and use them as air miles. The Tesco Clubcard runs a similar program—they partner with Virgin Atlantic allowing customers to exchange Tesco for Virgin points.

Sign up for a premium rewards credit card

Getting a premium rewards credit card can earn you a lot of bonus points provided you meet the conditions. Eligibility criteria usually require you to spend a given amount of money—the American Express premium card, for example, offers 20,000 bonus points if you spend £3,000 in the first three months. 

Since it might be tempting to spend the money on something you don’t really need just to get the points, it may be best to opt for a premium credit card if you have a big purchase already in mind. 

Add additional cardholders 

Some airline miles credit cards allow you to add a family member to your account thus boosting your air miles points from their spending as well. However, you are still responsible for paying off the outstanding balance, so be careful who you add to the account.

Use up all the bonuses

Most credit card companies offer sign-up or referral bonuses which can help you earn more points faster. Also, be on the lookout for seasonal promotions and special offers which can get you points on your rewards card as well as some additional shopping perks. 

How to Redeem Credit Card Air Miles?

Redeeming points varies according to the airline and your credit card provider. BA, for example, has a flight finder tool on their website that will show you available destinations based on your points while American Express cardholders will need to exchange points for air miles through their online portal before booking a flight. 

Most points can be redeemed online, however, if you are having issues you can always contact the customer support team over the phone or by email. 

Unfortunately, free flights with air miles are a myth. While you might be able to get a discount on the price, there are still taxes and charges associated with the flight that you need to pay. 

Bad credit and low income might not make you a suitable candidate for an air miles credit card, but there are other options you can consider. 

What to Consider Before Getting an Air Miles Credit Card in the UK?

There are several advantages to signing up for one of the best airline miles credit cards. You get cheaper flights by simply paying for daily essentials as well as the chance to enjoy other travel perks, ranging from lounge access to companion tickets. 

Redeeming points is quite flexible as well, you can get a discount on a flight using your points and pay for the rest in cash. 

That said, there are some things to think about. 

  1. No matter how many points you collect, you will not be able to get a flight for free as you will still need to pay taxes and charges. 
  2. You will also get limited availability of flights, whereas if you pay for the flight directly you can choose when and where you travel to. 
  3. Rewards are limited. You can collect points when shopping in supermarkets, but you can only redeem them for flights and other travel perks. 
  4. You could be tempted to spend more than you have to just to collect rewards and points. 
  5. Airline credit cards are not suited to people who don’t travel often. If this is you, you may want to consider credit card rewards instead of air miles. 
  6. Each card has a specific set of terms and conditions, with some imposing a time limit on point redemption. You might have been saving up your points for a big holiday abroad, only to find out that you have lost out on the promotion. 

Still, the biggest drawback is that even the best credit card for air miles comes with expensive annual fees and high-interest rates which is why you should always repay a rewards card in full every month. 

How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Airline Miles in the UK?

When choosing the best credit card for air miles you need to compare the following factors.

  • The most important thing is to make sure that the credit card provides more value than it costs. There is no point in getting a rewards card that will end up costing you more in fees and interest than what the perks are worth. 
  • How many points you get for each purchase will determine how quickly you boost your balance and redeem your points. However, bear in mind that credit cards with higher earn rates also have higher annual fees. While you are at it, check if there is a cap or time limit on the points you can earn or redeem—it’s always good to have this information in advance. 
  • Look into late payment, administrative, cash advance, foreign transaction fees and other charges that you might have to pay. Make sure that there are no hidden costs that might surprise you along the way. 
  • If you don’t travel that often you might not have any use of cheaper hotels or priority boarding. Make sure the benefits you get from the airline miles credit card match your lifestyle. 
  • Go for a credit card from an airline with several partners including other airlines, shops and retailers. The more places there are to collect points, the faster you can start reaping the rewards. 

What Are the Alternatives to an Air Miles Credit Card in the UK?

If you feel that a credit card for airline miles has too many drawbacks and not enough perks, there are other loyalty schemes you can try out.  

Rewards credit cards

The biggest difference between a rewards credit card and an air miles credit card is that the latter only gives you travel perks. Rewards credit cards, on the other hand, can get you discounts at shops, e-vouchers and cashback. 

Keep in mind though that rewards credit cards come with more or less the same risks as credit cards with airline miles. 

Cashback credit cards

These are similar to rewards credit cards, but they only offer cash back instead of multiple rewards. Cashback credit cards typically give you 1% to 4% cash back on everything you spend. 

Other options include signing for one of the best cashback apps and sites that work similarly to cash back credit cards, although you won’t have to pay interest, or getting a 0% interest credit card, which does not charge interest on purchases for a limited period of time. 

Travel credit card

Those who travel abroad frequently could consider signing up for a travel credit card, most of which do not have any foreign exchange fees, have low or no fees for ATM withdrawals and even offer discounted travel insurance. 

Balance transfer card 

These cards allow you to pay off the outstanding debt by transferring it from the card you are paying interest to a new one. You won’t be charged any interest rate for a specific amount of time enabling you to repay the debt faster.  

Is an Air Miles Credit Card Right for You?

Before you sign up for the best airmiles credit card, you need to consider if it is the right choice for you.

Are you a frequent flyer? Can you make regular repayments in full? Do you spend at least £10,000 on your credit card annually? Can you resist the urge to overspend just to get some nice travel perks?

If this is true, you will get the most out of a credit card for airline miles. If not, it might be a better idea to try a rewards or cashback card instead. 

                           

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What is the difference between credit card rewards and airline rewards?

They tend to work in very similar ways, however, the biggest difference is that rewards credit cards offer points and vouchers which then can be used in different stores and with certain retailers, whereas points on airline miles credit cards can be redeemed for travel-related expenses only. 

How do I check my air miles points balance?

To check your balance log onto your account on the airline’s site rather than the credit card issuer. 

Will I get approved for an air miles credit card?

Eligibility criteria depend on the credit card company, although in general you would need to be 18 years of age, have a good or great credit score and a valid bank account. 

Keep in mind that even the best air miles credit card in the UK may have income requirements, so it is best to check before you apply. The check is a few minutes long and will not affect your credit rating.

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.