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Best Avios Credit Cards

If you fly frequently, the chances are you’ve wised up to using a credit card to earn air miles. Which card you prefer might depend on which airline you use most regularly. You’ll earn miles on your travel spending and everyday purchases, and flights will cost less of your actual hard-earned cash.

For those of us who travel internationally, there are some fantastic airmiles/points programs – and these are certainly better than many of the US frequent flyer programs (have you noticed how these just aren’t worth as much as they used to be?).

In this article, I look at what I think is the best credit card rewards program right now – Avios. What is it, how does it work, and most importantly, what are the best Avios credit cards to use to take advantage of it?

SNAPSHOT VERDICT

What is the ideal credit card if you want to earn valuable Avios points?

Whether you’re loyal to British Airways, frequently fly between the US and Ireland, or prefer Iberia’s European routes, there’s a card tailored for you. 

Choose a branded airline credit card to benefit from perks ranging from companion tickets to exclusive flight discounts and significant travel credits, or leverage the flexibility of credit cards from Chase, American Express, or HSBC – great for both travel and everyday spending, with options to transfer points to an Avios program and boost those benefits.

If you choose the best card for you, and then use it strategically, the sky is your limit!

What is Avios?

Those who know me know that I’m not a big fan of cryptocurrencies. But this doesn’t mean I don’t like alternative ‘currencies’ – and one of my favorites is Avios points (‘Avios’). 

Why? Because Avios has real, and known, value.

You collect Avios when you spend on some select credit cards, including everyday purchases. You can then use your Avios to pay for flights, hotels, and other travel-related purchases.

It’s like being on a carousel, and every time you complete a once-round trip, you get rewarded. The more you go round, the more you gain – and the less your travel costs. Great news for frequent flyers!

How Does Avios Work?

Avios works kind of like other rewards cards, except that you redeem the Avios you have earned through Avios partners. Here’s how the scheme works in a nutshell:

  • Sign up to the Avios partner program that most closely matches your travel persona
  • Use a credit card that rewards you with Avios when you spend on it
  • Spend your Avios through the Avios partner

Your 4 Avios Programs

There are four Avios programs. Let’s take a look at them individually:

1. British Airways Executive Club

Use your Avios to book flights with British Airways, or for reward flights with one of its many partner airlines, booking directly through the British Airways website.

Also, you can use your Avios to pay for hotels, car rental, and travel experiences.

Each time you fly with British Airways and its partner airlines, you receive Tier Points – the more points you get, the higher up its tiers you move, which gives you more exclusive benefits.

2. Iberia Plus

Use your Avios to pay for flights booked with Iberia and other select airlines, as well as hotels, car hire, and more.

When you fly with Iberia or its partner airlines, you will also receive Elite Points, unlocking further benefits, including extra Avios on Iberia and partner airline flights.

3. Aer Lingus AerClub

Use your Avios to pay for Aer Lingus flights, as well as British Airways and Iberia flights.

4. Vueling Club

Use your Avios to pay for your Vueling flights.

Tip

When paying for your flights using Avios, only Vueling allows you to use Avios to pay for taxes, fees, and charges. Then again, Vueling only flies to destinations in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East.

Which Avios Program is Best For You?

When deciding which Avios program is right for you, you’ll need to consider a range of factors, like your travel habits, preferred airlines, and best credit card. So for me, Vueling is a good pick – most of my personal travel is in Europe, and I can use Avios to pay for taxes and fees, too.

Here are a few questions to help you select the program best suited to you:

  • Where do you fly from and to mostly?
  • Which airline do you use most often?
  • Which program offers elite rewards if this appeals to you?
  • Do you plan to use your Avios to pay for things like hotels and car rental?

Tip

If a lot of your air travel is like mine, in Europe, the Vueling Avios program is a no-brainer. But here’s the thing – you can sign up for all four programs, because Avios are transferrable between all the programs. I like to cover all my bases!

What are the Best Avios Credit Cards?

The easiest way to earn Avios is to use one of the three dedicated Avios credit cards:

  1. British Airways Visa Signature® Card
  2. Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card
  3. Iberia Visa

There are some key similarities between these cards, as well as some crucial differences:

Feature/BenefitBritish Airways Visa Signature® CardAer Lingus Visa Signature® CardIberia Visa
FDIC Membership
Foreign Transaction FeeNoneNoneNone
Baggage Delay Insurance
Purchase Protection
Lost Luggage Reimbursement
Extended Warranty Protection
DoorDash DashPass MembershipFreeFreeFree
Avios on Airline Purchases3 Avios per dollar3 Avios per dollar3 Avios per dollar
Avios on Hotel Accommodations2 Avios per dollar2 Avios per dollar2 Avios per dollar
Avios on Other Purchases1 Avios per dollar1 Avios per dollar1 Avios per dollar
Annual Fee$95$95$95
Welcome Offer75,000 Avios for $5,000 spend in 3 months75,000 Avios for $5,000 spend in 3 months75,000 Avios for $5,000 spend in 3 months
Annual Spending Incentive (Companion Ticket)Yes (Travel Together Ticket)Yes (Economy Companion Ticket)Yes ($1,000 Discount Voucher)
Additional Benefits10% Discount on British Airways flights – Up to $600 credit annually for award bookingsPriority Boarding on Aer Lingus flights10% Discount on Iberia flights
Specific Airline FocusBritish AirwaysAer LingusIberia

Key Similarities

As you might expect, each card has a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) member, meaning you’re protected against uninsured losses of up to $250k. Perhaps less expected, when you travel abroad and use these credit cards you won’t be charged a foreign transaction fee.

Other Card Bonuses

With each card, you also receive:

  • Baggage Delay Insurance, providing coverage in case of baggage delays
  • Purchase protection on new purchases
  • Lost luggage reimbursement, ensuring you are recompensed financially for lost luggage
  • Extended warranty protection on eligible items purchased with the card

If you like food delivered to your door at home, you’ll love the free DoorDash DashPass membership available with these cards, too.

Earning Structure

The Avios earnings structure is the same, too:

  • 3 Avios per dollar on airline purchases – All three cards offer the same earning rate of 3 Avios for every dollar spent on purchases with their respective airlines and partner airlines, including Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus.
  • 2 Avios per dollar on hotel accommodations – Each card provides 2 Avios for every dollar spent on hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel.
  • 1 Avios per dollar on other purchases – For all other purchases, cardholders earn 1 Avios per dollar.

On top of this, each card also offers the same annual spending incentive. There’s the companion ticket for cardholders who spend $30,000 or more in a calendar year. The specifics of the companion ticket vary slightly between the cards, but the spending threshold is consistent.

The fees and welcome offers are also the same, with a $95 annual fee, plus 75,000 Avios after spending $5,000 within the first three months of the account opening.

Crucial Differences

Though so many features and benefits of the three cards are the same, there are also some key differences:

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

  • Travel Together Ticket: Earn a companion ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year. This ticket allows a companion to join on a British Airways mainline flight, with applicable taxes and fees.
  • 10% Discount: Get a 10% discount on British Airways flights starting in the US when booked through a dedicated website.
  • Reward Flight Statement Credits: Up to $600 in credits annually for award bookings (on taxes and fees) – $100 for economy/premium economy, and $200 for business/first class (up to three credits annually).
  • Specific Airline Focus: Targeted towards British Airways frequent flyers.

Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card

  • Economy Companion Ticket: Receive a companion ticket for economy class on Aer Lingus after spending $30,000 annually.
  • Priority Boarding: Get priority boarding on Aer Lingus flights from the US and Ireland.
  • Specific Airline Focus: Best suited for those who frequently fly Aer Lingus, especially on US-Ireland routes.

Iberia Visa

  • $1,000 Discount Voucher: Earn a voucher after spending $30,000 within a calendar year, valid for two tickets on the same Iberia flight.
  • 10% Flight Discount: Save 10% on Iberia flights booked through a specific promotional link.
  • Specific Airline Focus: Designed for frequent flyers of Iberia.

Best Credit Cards with Transferrable Points

Though I like all three of the Avios credit cards, I also like to stay a bit flexible. Which is why I love cards that allow you to switch their rewards points to Avios.

Here, you get the best of both worlds – being able to choose what I use my credit card rewards for is important to me. I’m a regular traveler, but I’m also a regular shopper!

If you want the same flexibility with the option of racking up your Avios when you need to, I think these are the best credit cards to opt for:

Feature/BenefitChase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire PreferredAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express Gold CardCapital One Venture RewardsCapital One Venture X RewardsHSBC Premier Credit Card
Annual Fee$550$95$695$250$95$395No annual fee
Welcome Bonus60,000 points after $4,000 spend in 3 months60,000 points after $4,000 spend in 3 months80,000 points after $8,000 spend in 6 months60,000 points after $6,000 spend in 6 months75,000 miles after $4,000 spend in 3 months75,000 miles after $4,000 spend in 3 months35,000 points after $3,000 spend in 3 months
Points Earnings10x on Chase dining, hotels, and car rentals.
5x on air travel.
3x on travel.
1x on other purchases
5x on travel through Chase.
3x on dining, streaming, and online groceries. 2x on other travel.
1x on other purchases
5x on airfare and prepaid hotels through Amex Travel.
1x on other purchases
4x at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year)/
3x on airfare.
1x on other eligible purchases
5x on hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel.
2x on all other purchases
10x on hotels and rental cars.
5x on flights through Capital One Travel.
2x on all other purchases
2x on travel purchases.
1x on other purchases
Avios Transfer Rate1:11:11:11:11:1 (watch for transfer promotions)1:1 (watch for transfer promotions)1:1
Value per Point/Mile1.5 cents1.25 cents1 cent (variable)1 cent (variable)1 cent (variable)1 cent (variable)More than 1 cent in air travel
Other NotesHigh points earning in specific categoriesLower rewards compared to Sapphire ReserveHigh annual feeLower annual fee, good for lower spendersGood miles payout for lower annual feeHigher benefits and annual fee than VentureGood for avoiding fees, starting Avios journey

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening a Chase Sapphire Reserve account, and you’ll receive a 60,000 points bonus – that’s $900 of value when you book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

The points you can earn vary depending upon your spending:

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Chase dining purchases 
  • 10 points per dollar spent on hotel stays and car rentals 
  • 5 points per dollar spent on air travel 
  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel 
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

You’ll also get travel credit of up to $300 for expenses like taxi rides and train fares, and – something I love – Chase airport lounge access at more than 1,000 airports around the world.

Now, for that Avios transfer value – at 1:1, you’ll get full value when you transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points to Avios. At a value of 1.5 cents per point, that’s pretty cool.

The downside? With an annual fee of $550, you’ll need to accumulate around 37,000 points to make it pay. Plus, you’ll only earn the highest points if you book things like dining and travel through the Chase poral.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

If the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a bit steep for you, then you might consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred card – much less expensive at an annual fee of $95. However, the rewards aren’t quite as exciting:

  • 5 points per $1 spent on all travel purchased through Chase 
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Chase dining
  • 3 points per $1 spent on select streaming services
  • 3 points per $1 spent on online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through Chase
  • 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases

Now, though your points can be exchanged for Avios at a 1:1 value, because of the lower points rewarded on your spending, the value of each point is really only 1.25 cents – so you’ll need to spend much more on your card to get the same value when you transfer to Avios.

American Express Platinum

You can earn a bonus 80,000 points, when you spend $8,000 in the first six months of opening your account. On top of this, you earn points as follows:

  • 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel
  • 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases

However, the annual fee of $695 may be a little rich for some pockets, even though you can exchange your Membership Rewards points at 1:1 for Avios.

American Express Gold Card

With a lower annual fee of $250, the Gold Card might be more appealing to you. But the account opening bonus isn’t as good, and how you earn points differently.

About the bonus: you’ll need to spend $6,000 within six months of opening your account to earn a 60,000 points bonus. That’s less than the 80,000 points bonus you could earn on the Platinum Card, but better if you are a lower spender.

Here’s how you can earn points with the American Express Gold Card:

  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets – this is great, though its on ‘only’ the first $25,000 purchases in any calendar year. After this, you’ll revert to 1 point per dollar.
  • 3 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or via Amex Travel
  • 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases

You can exchange your Membership Rewards points at 1:1 for Avios.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

There are several features I really like about the Venture Rewards Card. These include:

  • A 75,000 miles bonus when you spend just $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account
  • 5 x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2 x miles for every dollar spent on other purchases

For only a $95 annual fee, this is a pretty good miles payout rate. Plus, you’ll be eligible for other perks like a $50 experience credit and room upgrades when booking travel through Capital One Travel.

Confused between miles and points? Don’t be, Capital One transfers at a rate of one mile for one Avios. (Watch for the transfer bonus promotions, too.)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

If you want to upgrade on your benefits and miles rewards, then the Venture X card could be the one for you. The miles earnings rates are really ramped up:

  • 10 x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5 x miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2 x miles on all other purchases, every day

Like the Venture card, you’ll earn a bonus 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Plus, you’ll also receive a 10,000-mile bonus on each anniversary of your account opening, and $300 travel credit for booking through Capital One Travel each year.

For all this, the annual fee is a reasonable $395.

HSBC Premier Credit Card

This is a great card if you want to avoid annual credit card fees and/or you’re just starting out on your Avios journey. With no annual fee, you can access benefits like cashback, gift cards, and exclusive deals in a range of branded goods.

You’ll receive 35,000 rewards bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening your account, and earn points as follows:

  • 2 x points on travel purchases, including airline tickets, hotels, and car rentals
  • 1 x points for every dollar spent on other purchase

HSBC calculates that its points are worth more than 1 cent each in air travel, and can be exchanged for Avios at a rate of 1:1.

7 Tips for Choosing Your Credit Cards to Earn Avios

The first step in your Avios-earning journey is to choose the best cards for you. Here are my tips to help yo do this:

1. Consider How You Travel

Do you fly most often with British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus? Choose cards that align with your usual travel choices (especially for long haul flights).

2. Consider Your Spending Habits

How do you spend your money? Do you spend a lot on dining or travel, or is it mostly everyday spending? Choose the card that rewards you best for how you typically spend.

3. Balance Annual Fees vs Benefits

While annual fees can be high, you’ll usually find that you get what you pay for. This is especially the case where benefits are concerned. A higher fee might be worth it for the extra perks and higher earning potential.

4. Look at Welcome Offers

A significant welcome bonus can be a huge advantage – but you’ll need to compare introductory offers, spending requirements, and other benefits.

5. Compare Avios Earning Rates

Those higher annual fee cards might sound expensive but, when you consider how many points or miles you can earn with the same spending patterns, you could find the Avios earnings outweigh the annual fee.

6. Are There Additional Perks Available?

Different cards offer different perks – companion tickets, travel insurance, access to airport lounges, no foreign transaction fees, and more. Ask what is most important to you before you open your first Avios-earning credit card.

7. Check Avios Transfer Options

If flexibility is important to you, consider cards that allow you to transfer points to Avios, such as Chase Sapphire or American Express cards.

7 Tips for Using Your Credit Cards to Earn Avios

It’s not only the card you use, it’s how you use it that will make all the difference.

One of my friends is an Avios pro. Compared to him, I’m a baby-Avios earner!

He’s recently been on a month-long round trip that included Missouri, New York, London, and Barbados – and he took full advantage of Avios, including flight upgrades and top-class hotels throughout, for doing no more than spending wisely throughout the year on his credit cards.

Together, he and I came up with this list of tips for using credit cards to get the most out of Avios:

1. Meet the Welcome Bonus Requirements

The welcome bonus is a big payout. You’d be mad to miss out.

2. Use the Card for Everyday Purchases

This will maximize your Avios earning potential – put everything on your Avios-earning cards (groceries, gas, and recurring bills).

3. Pay Off Balances in Full Every Month

Whatever type of credit card you use, the interest rate can be a killer, and missing payments will damage your credit score. Always pay your balance in full every month.

4. Leverage the Card’s Benefits and Perks

Know what benefits and perks your card offers, and take full advantage of them. For example, there is no need to pay for travel insurance if your card has you covered.

5. Use the Card for Travel Bookings

If your card offers higher points for travel bookings, use it for all your airline, hotel, and car rental reservations.

6. Regularly Check Your Avios Balance

Keep an eye on your Avios balance and be aware of any expiration dates.

7. Plan Points Transfer and Avios Redemptions Wisely

Some cards run Avios transfer promotions – when you’ll receive more Avios than is usual. Keep an eye open for these, and you’ll boost your Avios rewards even further.

Additionally, when you come to redeem your Avios, look for high-value options – like upgrades or flights on which Avios gives better value than parting with your hard-earned dollars.

Bonus Tip

Remember, you don’t need to limit yourself to a single credit card.

If you have a major trip planned, there is nothing to stop you owning three or four Avios-earning credit cards. Just imagine a whole year of welcome bonuses, from four different credit cards! That trip of a lifetime could be much cheaper than you think.

So, What’s the Best Credit Card for Earning Avios?

When you join an Avios program, you will start to see tangible benefits, earned through doing no more than spending as you normally would, whether on travel or everyday purchases.

The Best Avios credit cards for you depend on several factors. These include your airline preferences, travel habits, and spending patterns. Maximizing your Avios benefits depends on first choosing the best cards for you, and then using them strategically.

If you’re a frequent flyer and regularly fly with one of the Avios partner airlines – British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Liberia – then one of their branded credit cards is likely to offer you the highest Avios value.

This said, you mustn’t discount flexible card options. Cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Platinum, American Express Gold Card, Capital One Venture Rewards, Capital One Venture X Rewards, and HSBC Premier Credit Card allow transferring points to Avios.

Each card has its own set of perks and points-earning potential – all you need to do is choose which is best for you to fast-track your Avios journey.

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