Credit Cards & Avios

Below is my mini review of some of the top credit cards in market for collecting Avios – or in some instances, reward points – that can then be converted to Avios (or other airline reward programs).
There are a whole plethora of cards in market, but have limited this review to ones that are more obtainable for the average spender.

British Airways Avios Credit Cards

BA American Express Credit Card
This the most common ‘free’ Amex that links directly to your BA Executive Club account.

Pros: No annual fee. Earn 1 avios for every £1 spent. Work towards a 2-4-1 voucher (£20,000 annual spend)

Cons: APR isn’t great for a credit card if you aren’t paying it off straight away. £20,000 annual spend for companion voucher is likely unobtainable.

  • Annual Fee:
  • Welcome Bonus:
    5,000 Avios  (or 6,000 if you have been referred by an existing card holder) when you spend £1,000 within 3 months of opening card.
  • Spend Ratio:
    £1 : 1 Avios
  • Representative APR:
  • Things to consider:
    1. Spending £20,000 in a year from card opening triggers the 2-4-1 voucher. A benefit, but the annual spend is obviously very high. The Premium Plus Card may be a better option2. Cashback bonuses when joining via Topcashback (often £10 but does vary). This can be converted to Avios from Topcashback gaining a £1:100 Avios ratio. i.e. your £10 sign up cashback is worth a further 1000 Avios.
    The usual warning applies – you won’t be entitled to cashback if you have been referred. Don’t try to cheat the system, it won’t work and you risk not getting either bonus.
    Check the latest cashback rates here.

BA American Express Premium Plus Card
This is arguably the best card for rewards due to the high welcome bonus and comparitively low spend required to unlock the 2-4-1 voucher.

Pros: High welcome points bonus. Lower amount of annual spend required (£10,000) to hit the 2-4-1 voucher.

Cons: APR is painfully high. Value only gained by paying off payments straight away. Annual fee is also high.

  • Annual Fee:
  • Welcome Bonus:
    25,000 Avios  (or 26,000 if you have been referred by an existing card holder) when you spend £3,000 within 3 months of opening card.
  • Spend Ratio:
    £1 : 1.5 Avios or £1 : 3 Avios on bookings via British Airways.
  • Representative APR:
  • Things to consider:
    1. Spending £10,000 in a year from card opening triggers the 2-4-1 voucher. If you are able to hit this spend quickly and trigger the companion voucher you can then apply to downgrade from the Premium Card to the Free Blue version. The annual fee is then refunded back to you pro rata. So for example, if you did this after 6 months, you would only pay half of the annual fee of £195 (£97.50).
    Doing this is essentially like opening a new account, you would then actually be entitled to the welcome bonus on the Free Blue card you have downgraded to.
    2. Cashback bonuses when joining via Topcashback (often £40+ but does vary. As per above this offers an additional sign up bonus.
    Check the latest cashback rates here.

American Express Platinum Card
Very incentive rich card, with an annual fee to match. Note this is a Charge Card, not a Credit Card, so the balance you put on it must be cleared in full every month.

Pros: The highest welcome bonus across any Amex cards at 30,000 points (or 35,000 if referred). Loads of added perks, such as Lounge access, Hotel Benefits and Travel Insurance.

Cons: High annual fee of £450. Charge Card, not Credit, therefore balances have to be cleared in full every month. Average £ to Avios ratio given the high annual fee.

  • Annual Fee:
  • Welcome Bonus:
    30,000 Avios  (or 35,000 if you have been referred by an existing card holder) when you spend £2,000 within 3 months of opening card.
  • Spend Ratio:
    £1 : 1 Avios
  • Representative APR:
  • Things to consider:
    1. Spending £10,000 in a year from card opening triggers the 2-4-1 voucher. If you are able to hit this spend quickly and trigger the companion voucher you can then apply to downgrade from the Premium Card to the Free Blue version. The annual fee is then refunded back to you pro rata. So for example, if you did this after 6 months, you would only pay half of the annual fee of £195 (£97.50).
    Doing this is essentially like opening a new account, you would then actually be entitled to the welcome bonus on the Free Blue card you have downgraded to.2. Cashback bonuses when joining via Topcashback (often £40+ but does vary. As per above this offers an additional sign up bonus.
    Check the latest cashback rates here.

BA Companion Voucher Tips

One of the big benefits of collecting Avios is activating ‘companion vouchers’ – also known as a 2 for 1 voucher which enables you to redeem rewards flights using Avios for 2 people – but only using the Avios for 1.

The companion is activated via British Airways American Express Credit Cards – either the Premium Plus (PP) or Standard (Free) version. Read the review of each here.

How do you activate the 2-4-1 Voucher?

The voucher is activated by meeting the required spend threshold. £10,000 per year on the Premium Plus card of £20,000 on the Standard.

Can you have an additional cardholder on the credit card?

Yes! Adding a supplementary card holder means you essentially have two people spending towards the required annual limit.

Can you get more than 1 voucher per year?

No. Not individually anyway.
I’ve tried and only one voucher is allocated to one Primary card holder per annum. Note if you take a BA PP card and hit the £10,000 threshold, you can then ‘downgrade’ to a Free card (and in doing so receive a pro-rata refund for the annual fee you will have paid on the PP card).
When downgrading, it will carry over your spend from the PP card to the Free one. Meaning it will look like you have spent £10,000 of the £20,000 threshold. Note – even if you do then spend up to £20,000 per year, Amex will appear to credit you another voucher but BA (who process the vouchers) will not do this because you have hit your annual limit.
The only workaround is to refer your friend/partner who can then start spending towards their own voucher.

What should I do once I hit my spend threshold and activate a voucher?

If you find you have hit £10,000 spend on the PP card and activated the voucher, you have a few options.

  1. Downgrade the PP card, to receive a pro-rata refund and then spend on the Free Amex card. Note you will drop in £ : Avios ratio for any spend on your card but this is a marginal loss
  2. Cancel the PP card, and look to use another Amex card to work towards other reward bonus (Like an Amex Platinum, Gold or Green). You then can re-open the PP card after 6 months to be eligible for the 25,000 Avios welcome bonus. Note cancelling or downgrading the card does not affect the voucher.
  3. Refer your partner for a PP card, so you can both start spending on your partner’s new card and annual spend limit.
  4. Do nothing. Keep the PP card and wait until your 1 year anniversary has lapsed so you can then work towards another voucher. Although this doesn’t have a lot of value if you consider point 1

How long do I have to use the voucher?

2 years if gained through a PP card or 1 year via the Free version

What flights can I redeem my voucher on?

Any flight that originates and returns to the UK. Only flights that are flown directly with BA are eligible i.e. flights via OneWorld partners are excluded

Where can I check what flights are available?

Either through here or through the Avios portal. I personally prefer the ease and usability of the Avios site. Its easier to navigate around and see what flights/classes are available.

Are there any restrictions on what dates I want to redeem on?

No. However, booking as far out as possible returns more availability as you would expect. That said, flight availability is extremely volatile in my experience so you may think that a certain day/flight class is unavailable and suddenly it can appear!

Can you change your booking with a voucher?

Yes, you can easily change any flight booking you have 24 hours before departure. The cost is £35 per change, per person (plus any changes in taxes which can be both incremental costs or part refunds due to constant changes in airport taxation), so as there would be two of you travelling it would cost £70.
I have done this to upgrade my flight class which wasnt available when orignally booking but became available at a later date, and it actually cost me next to nothing as I got a refund on already paid taxes! So a few extra Avios and around £20 meant I could fly First instead of Business.

Can I fly to and from different locations?

Yes! A lot of people think you cannot do this, as there is no option online to book it. To book an ‘open jaw’ flight you will need to phone BA. Its simple enough to do and you can use the BA/Avios sites to get an idea of the individual flight availability and cost before booking.

You can contact BA directly on: 0844 493 0 747 option 2 (from the UK)

They are available: Daily 07:30 – 20:00

Boosting Your Avios

Below are some tips to help boost your Avios totals. Some of these tips require more work than others, but as mentioned before they all need you to do one thing. Spend money!

Credit Cards

Taking out Avios-linked credit cards is where you will see the biggest Avios reward and (depending on your spend habits) can see you rack up points quite quickly. This is where the patience and effort come in though. The trick is using your card as your default payment method where possible (shopping, bills, coffee, everything where you can!) and juggling your finances so you avoid unwanted interest penalties. Nowadays with almost all credit cards being managed on apps, you can pay these off quicker and easier than ever before.

Check out my card review which details some of the most popular cards in the market so you can check which one is right for you.

One big limiting factor on which card you should opt for is how liquid you are with your cash i.e. how fast can you pay off the card balance.
For years, my two biggest Avios sources were the Tesco Credit Card (low-interest rates with Clubcard points being convertible to Avios) and the British Airways American Express Card (the free Blue one). The reason was simple. During my early airmiles days, I also spent a lot of time (and money) renovating properties so my outgoings were high. However, in doing so, I had to phase my spend meaning I needed to rely on the credit facility of the card, so wouldn’t be able to clear everything off so quickly.
Property renovation requires a high level of cash liquidity, so credit options are handy – opting for the Tesco Credit Card (which had zero % interest) and the Blue BA card meant I wasn’t stung in interest payments. The downside is even with high spend, I would be getting 1 Avios for say, every £3/4 worth of spend. On the Premium American Express Cards, this is generally a 1 to 1 ratio effectively meaning I would get 3 or 4x more than I was. However, circumstances dictated this for me in this instance, and when selecting your preferred card route, your circumstances should dictate this for you too. Don’t get stung with interest!

Tip: How to gain 50k+ in Avios ‘quickly’

One major benefit credit cards that are linked to airmiles have is the rewards they offer on spending.
Here’s an example of how to rack up a meaty amount of Avios and where it helps if you have a partner in crime. You can also have a supplementary card holder, so you essentially have two people spending on the same account. I’m going to make a few assumptions when it comes to spending limits.

Person A – sign up for BA Premium Plus (BA PP) Card which offers 25k Avios after £3k of spend in 3 months. 25,000 Avios gained

Person A – signs up for the card via Topcashback where cashback rewards can be up to £60+ (convertible to Avios at a £1:100 Avios ratio). 6,000 Avios gained. See below for more info on cashback sites.

Person A – once the £3k reward threshold has been met then refers Person B for a BA PP card. Person A received 9,000 Avios for referring

Person B – spends £3k in first 3 months to trigger their own 25k, which actually becomes 26k as they have signed up via referral. 26,000 Avios gained.

In this scenario, collectively this accumulates 66k Avios and of course the more people you refer the more Avios you can gain. This scenario also has benefits if you are working towards a companion voucher. More info on that found here.
Remember, to trigger the rewards – it makes no difference if you spend the reward limit on the last day of month 3 or the first day you received the card.

Online Shopping with the Avios e-store 

Once you have registered with the BA Executive Club, another nice way to collect Avios is by using the Avios e-store (also known as Gate365). Essentially this operates like online cashback, but you get Avios instead of cash! When making purchases, you should always compare the two to see what is most rewarding.
My biggest success was purchasing a new Apple computer. Apple do not (or certainly did not at the time) pay any online cashback or offer discounts. However, they did offer Avios via Gate365 so I was able to secure over 15,000 Avios on a purchase I was going to make anyway. That’s a return flight to somewhere in Europe!

Online Shopping with Cashback Sites

This works as above, but rewards in cash instead of Avios. Some people will prefer the cold hard cash but in the world of airmiles, anyway of converting this over should be taken advantage of. I prefer TopCashBack as I find it more reliable than others like Quidco and its also easy to convert cash to Avios and in doing so you also get 5% bonus too. The ratio of £1:100 Avios is extremely favourable.

WARNING! You will not be able to use Gate365 and Cashback on the same transaction. These sites use cookies to track your purchase journey. Advertisers will not pay out on both if two different Affiliate programmes are used and may even decline both.
See which one suits you for your transaction – clean your cookie history – then go and make your purchase, just to be safe!

Pay via. Paypal

This is kind of a hybrid one. One thing I hear alot is that American Express isn’t accepted in alot of places. Therefore its hard to hit spend limits and collect Avios. Its probably fair to say its more limiting as a payment method than Visa or Mastercard but over the past few years its become much more widely accepted.
One cheeky way around this, is to link your Amex to your Paypal account and use Paypal if its accepted where Amex is not!
That way you are collecting Avios albeit via Paypal.

There is a secondary part to this which is even sneekier, but does come with a financial risk to it. You can do the same as above but instead of paying a company, you can opt to send cash to a friend (or even yourself if you are uber cheeky!).
This is useful if you are struggling to hit your spend limits to activate rewards, but does come at a cost. I’ve only done this once as a test and there was a 5.4% fee on top. So my £10 test transfer to my girlfriend, ended up £10.54. If you’re really up against it, it could be worth it though.
American Express block any reward points being offered on cash withdrawals. This is essentially a work around to that – albeit it with 5.4% (possibly more the higher you go) interest on it.

Buying Avios Directly

I’ve purposely put this as the last scenario as we really want to try and get Avios on spend we were doing anyway. Buying Avios has the obvious advantage in that in can top up your balance if you are short of say a certain Avios amount for a reward flight, but has the obvious disadvantage of adding cost to your redemption.
You can buy them directly from BA but note – this is seldom worth it. 1000 Avios, for example at time of writing, costs £31.
For context, the cashback ratio I mentioned earlier would cost you £10.
There is one consideration here though. BA do offer extra Avios on purchases during their ‘sale’ periods. These appear quite cyclical from what I have seen so generally every other month there will be an offer to get an extra x% more Avios on different purchase amounts.

If you hold an Amex Platinum, Gold or Green card you are able to purchase up to 10,000 reward points every 12 months (which can be converted to Avios for free – or any other scheme of course).
This costs £150 (or £15 per 1,000 reward points), which is another route and can be cheaper than buying directly from BA/Avios. This isn’t written about too much online so in order to buy, you will need to phone Amex directly or speak to their web chat agents when logged in and they can process it for you that way.

Why Avios?

Let’s start at the beginning. Collecting airmiles can be a great way to travel the world for reduced air fares, whether it be slummin’ it in Economy or drinking champagne in First.
The first thing to note, is there are plenty of mileage/loyalty schemes by a whole plethora of airlines.
In this blog are tips on how to collect and spend Avios points. Avios being the loyalty scheme of British Airways in particular, but due to BA being part of the OneWorld alliance – you can redeem and enjoy flights with a number of different airlines. 17 in fact.

Why bother collecting air miles?

Here’s why I collect.
One of my first jobs was working in Savings and Investments (which is as exciting as it sounds). Its a fairly mundane world. But I took a few life lessons from it. One key one – always make your money work for you…because you can be sure that financial companies do!
Whether it be maximising the interest gained on savings, airmiles on credit cards or loyalty points for your shopping at your local supermarket, always get something back.
The amount of people out there who spend huge percentages of their income and get nothing in way of rewards or benefits is scarily high. You work hard your money, so make it work hard for you.

But anyway, why Avios for me?

A bit of background. I am UK based and a casual traveller (meaning I dont travel for work and therefore don’t accumulate that way), and personally chose Avios for a few reasons.

Firstly, my nearest airport is London Heathrow. The hub of British Airways. I’ll park the debate around whether BA is a good airline or not, but what BA conveniently offers for me is flights to most European and International destinations.
Secondly, as touched on above, being part of OneWorld, the redemption of Avios can be done across different airlines on an endless amount of worldwide routes which makes Avios even more appealing to me personally.
In the last couple of years alone, I’ve been able to fly First class to a number of destinations such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, Business to San Francisco on BA plus a load of flights within Club Europe (BA’s Business Class offering in Europe which is a debatable product) as well as experiencing Business Class on Cathay, Japan Airlines, Air Canada amongst others.
I’ve not done the maths on the total cash saving I have managed to accumulate over the years, but a recent trip in First Class to Hong Kong & Japan cost £550 return (plus an Avios contribution). The equivalent cost on the British Airways website was just over £7,000.

My first bit of advice is to align yourself with one scheme (whether it be Avios or Another).

Collecting points/miles requires quite a bit of dedication (and spend), so if you are like me and a casual traveller, spreading your attention (and spend) across different schemes will make the quest for reward flights that little bit harder. Unless of course, you are a frequent traveller across different airlines already in which you will probably find you can accumulate loyalty rewards quicker than those who are less frequently in the air.

Regardless of the airline scheme you choose. There is one commonality amongst them all. They all require you to spend money. Whether it be on flights or on credit cards. So read on, for some tips on how you can boost your Avios and Redeem to get those flights you want!