Which are the best air miles credit cards – and should I get one?

9 min Read Published: 04 Apr 2024

What is an air-miles credit card - and should I get oneAn air miles credit card allows you to earn points on your everyday spending that can be used to book flights, upgrade your seat and pay for other travel costs. This means that the more money you spend on the card, the more rewards you can earn. In this article, we will show you the best air miles credit cards and help you decide if it is worth getting one.

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What is an air miles credit card and how does it work?

An air miles credit card can be used like most other credit cards, but you will earn points for each pound you spend. Cards are linked to a particular loyalty scheme and the points you earn can be redeemed against flights, upgrades and other perks with airlines that are partnered to the programme. Keep in mind that even if you earn enough points, you may still need to pay the taxes and charges for your flight. This could be as much as a few hundred pounds for a transatlantic flight, so you will still have to pay something for your ticket.

Which air miles credit card is best for you?

Money to the Masses uses Creditec*, an online comparison service that enables you to find credit card deals tailored to you without affecting your credit score. You will want to compare as many different options as possible before you get a new credit card, so it is a good idea to do a fast online comparison. With only a few basic details, the Creditec tool will build a personalised list of credit cards suited to your needs to help you navigate the huge number of options out there. You can then pick the result that suits you best. None of this will affect your credit score as the eligibility process uses a soft credit check. Click here to start your comparison*.

What are the best air miles credit cards? - April 2024

Card Annual fee Introductory offer Representative APR (variable) Good for Check your eligibility before you apply?
 

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

£195 (no fee for first year) 20,000 bonus points (minimum £3,000 spend in first 3 months), which can be used with airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad 88.8%
Those who want access to multiple air miles schemes
American Express Rewards Credit Card No fee 10,000 bonus Amex points (minimum £2,000 spend in first 3 months), which can be used with airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad 31.0%
Those who want access to multiple air miles schemes and no annual fee
 

British Airways American Express Credit Card

No fee 5,000 bonus Avios (£1,000 minimum spend in first 3 months) 31.0% A companion voucher (if you spend £12,000 each year) on a fee-free card Yes - Check eligibility*
 

American Express Nectar Credit Card

£30 (no fee for first year) 20,000 nectar points (£2,000 minimum spend in first 3 months), which can be converted to 12,500 Avios 37.8%
Collecting Nectar points that can then be converted to Avios
 

Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card

No fee Spend £20,000 in the first year to earn exclusive rewards including companion vouchers and upgrades 26.9% No fee, lower APR and the ability to earn rewards each year No
 

Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus Credit Card

£160 per year 15,000 bonus points if you make a purchase on the card within the first 90 days (no minimum spend) and double points on spending up to £5,000 until the 14th April 2024 69.7% Wide range of rewards and a good level of introductory bonus including companion ticket/upgrade if you spend at least £10,000 in a year No

 

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card - Check eligibility*

  • Flexibility on how you use your points, including transferring them to 12 airline loyalty schemes, including British Airways Executive Club, Emirates Skywards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Earn 1 rewards point for every £1 you spend on the card, 2 points for every £1 spent at an airline and 3 points for every £1 spend on Amex Travel
  • Four complimentary lounge visits per year
  • £5 cashback on Deliveroo twice every month
  • No annual fee for the first year and then £195 per year
  • Invite a friend and earn 9,000 points if they are approved (you can earn up to 90,000 a year)
  • When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a. with a fee of Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £195 per annum, your representative rate is 88.8% APR (variable)

The American Express Rewards Credit Card American Express Rewards Credit Card - Check eligibility*

  • Flexibility on how you use your points, including transferring them to 12 airline loyalty schemes, including British Airways Executive Club, Emirates Skywards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Earn 1 rewards point for every £1 you spend on the card
  • No annual fee
  • Invite a friend and earn 4,000 points if they are approved (you can earn up to 90,000 a year)
  • When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 31.0% APR (variable)

British Airways American Express Credit Card British Airways American Express Credit Card Credit Card - Check eligibility*

  • 5,000 bonus Avios (£1,000 minimum spend in first 3 months)
  • Earn 1 Avios for every £1 spent on the card
  • 4,000 Avios bonus if you refer a friend and they get approved for a card
  • Companion voucher when you spend £12,000 or more in a year
  • Travel Accident Insurance
  • When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £0 per annum, your representative rate is 31.0% APR (variable)

Nectar Credit Card American Express Nectar Credit Card - Check eligibility*

  • 20,000 bonus Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 2 Nectar points for every £1 spent on the card or 3 points for every £1 spent with Nectar partners, which can be converted to Avios
  • Earn 5,000 Nectar points if you refer a friend and they are approved
  • No fee for the first year and £30 per year after that
  • When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a. with a fee of Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £30 per annum, your representative rate is 37.8% APR (variable)

Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card

  • Rewards such as a companion ticket or upgrade when you spend £20,000 or more in a year
  • Earn 0.75 Virgin points for every £1 spent on the card
  • Double points when you use your card for Virgin Atlantic flights or Virgin Holidays
  • You have to claim your reward within 24 months of the date it's issued. If you book your outbound flight to leave within 24 months, you can take the return journey after that time.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card

  • 15,000 bonus points when you make your first purchase within 90 days of opening your account
  • Rewards such as a companion ticket or upgrade when you spend £10,000 per year
  • Earn 1.5 Virgin points for every £1 spent on the card (earn double points on spending up to £5,000 until the 14th April 2024)
  • Double points also earned on Virgin Atlantic flights or Virgin Holidays
  • You have to claim your reward within 24 months of the date it's issued. If you book your outbound flight to leave within 24 months, you can take the return journey after that time.
  • Sign up to Virgin Money Back via the Virgin Money credit card app and earn up to 15% cashback with some retailers
  • £160 annual fee

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How to make the most of your air miles credit card

If you have an air miles credit card, you will want to earn as many points as possible in order to be able to get the best rewards. Ways to increase your air miles include:

  • Making sure you use your card for as much of your day-to-day spending as possible, including groceries, filling up your car and any big-ticket purchases. This should, however, be spending you would have been doing anyway: you should avoid additional spending with the goal of just earning extra air miles.
  • If possible, use the card for your business expenses, which you can then claim back from your company. This is particularly good if you travel frequently for work, as by booking your flights on your card you will benefit from extra air miles. It's obviously important to check with your company before using your card in this way.
  • Looking out for opportunities to earn extra points through "bonus days" and other incentives the card provider or air miles scheme offers.
  • Adding additional cardholders to your account as you will then earn points from the spending they do on their card. Remember you will be responsible for all spending on the account.

What to consider before getting an air miles credit card

Make sure you can pay off the balance in full each month, as interest on purchases can quickly wipe out any benefit of collecting air miles. Air miles credit cards work best for users looking to take advantage of the point they can earn, rather tha using the card to borrow money or spread the cost of purchases.

You should also check the terms and conditions of the card you want, as with some cards you lose the points if you do not use them within a certain period of time. This would mean that you cannot plan to accumulate points for a special trip a few years in the future, as your points may expire.

If you are a frequent flyer and value perks such as upgrades, companion vouchers and heavily discounted flights, make sure you choose the right card with the best rewards for your circumstances. If you have a preference for a particular airline, for example, it makes sense to choose a scheme that works with that one. Similarly, if you would like to fly to a particular location using your air miles, you will need to choose an air miles scheme for an airline that services that destination.

To get the most out of an air miles card you generally need to spend a relatively high amount on it. A rule of thumb for many cards is you need to spend over £10,000 per year to qualify for the best rewards. This is not an insignificant amount for most people and will usually necessitate using the card for much of your day-to-day spending. If you find yourself having to use the card for additional spending you wouldn't usually do just to earn points, you are spending extra to earn points that may not be worth more than the additional outlay.

Pros and cons of an air miles credit card

Pros of an air miles credit card

  • Many cards offer a bonus when you sign up, which could allow you to accumulate a lot of air miles very quickly.
  • With some providers, you will be able to get a free companion ticket, which allows you to bring along a guest when you're flying and only pay the taxes and charges for the flight.
  • Cardholders can often enjoy free airport lounge access and priority boarding, as standard.

Cons of an air miles credit card

  • There are often high annual fees associated with air miles credit cards, especially those with the most attractive offers
  • As the minimum spend on most of the cards is high - £10,000-plus per year - it is not going to be a suitable choice for everyone and the risk is, for some, it could encourage overspending.
  • There isn't as much choice of times and dates for flights you buy with air miles points, so you need to be flexible and try to book in advance.
  • As you still have to pay taxes and charges, there isn't such a thing as a free flight.

Alternatives to air miles credit cards

Cashback or rewards credit cards

One issue with air miles credit cards is the reward is very specific to travel. Another option is a rewards credit card that offers more wide-ranging perks, such as discounts at a number of retailers or access to exclusive tickets for shows or other entertainment events. There are also rewards credit cards linked to some of the major supermarkets, allowing you to collect extra points or secure discounts on your weekly grocery shop. This may offer more value to a family on a day-to-day basis than the potential for discounted flights.

Similarly, cashback credit cards allow you to earn cashback on the spending you do on the card, offering you a clear financial reward that is paid into your account on a regular basis.

A comprehensive guide to cashback and reward credit cards can be found in our article "Compare the best cashback and reward credit cards".

Travel credit cards

An alternative to air miles credit cards is travel credit cards, which offer broader travel-related benefits. They are designed for frequent travellers who want an efficient way to pay for goods and services abroad. They often don't charge a foreign exchange fee, have a low or no fee for cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad and sometimes also provide travel insurance at a discounted rate.

For our guide to the best travel credit cards, read our article "Compare the best travel credit cards".

 

 

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