Best UK Cards for Earning Air Miles and Points in 2021

With so many point building cards on the market today it can feel very overwhelming. Some cards are free, and worth joining today, others are credit cards and you may want to research these a little further to make sure they are right for you – and also you may want to limit credit applications due to credit scoring etc…

I’ll run through with you the better UK cards on the market today for earning points and air miles. Some of the cards listed below are free ‘store’ type cards, but if you start building points with these today you’ll find they come with a lot of value. For these free store cards I’d recommend just opening each of them today.

Other point earning cards are credit cards, and I’ll explain as many benefits as I can to help you choose.

 

As a whole, here are the best UK cards for earning air miles and points:

  • BA Amex Premium Credit Card
  • Virgin Atlantic Plus Credit Card
  • IHG Rewards Club Credit Card
  • Nectar Points Card
  • Tesco Clubcard
  • Marriott UK Amex BonVoy Credit Card
  • BA Amex Credit Card
  • Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

 

Let’s look at each card, potential costs, and benefits for each

 

 

BA Amex Premium Credit Card

BA Amex Premium Credit Card

BA Amex Premium Credit Card

 

The British Airways Premium Credit Card is premium for many reasons. If you’re serious about collecting Avios Points, this is truly the credit card to apply for.

The sign up bonus of 25,000 Avios Points is enticing enough, and just enough of a bonus to divert your eyes away from the high £195 annual fee.

You will need to spend £3,000 in the first 90 days of your account opening, but if you can plan your application and first use around a large ticket item such as holiday, house appliance etc… you should hopefully find you can cover the balance in your usual day to day shopping.

For every spend on your credit card you’ll earn 1.5 Avios Points. Spend £1,000 a month on your card (and pay off before the billing period to avoid fees and interest) and you’ll earn 18,000 Avios each year.

If you add this to your signup bonus, you’re first year could see 43,000 Avios hit your account in year one.

One really good incentive for this card is the free companion flight voucher if you spend £10,000 in a single year.

This means if you book a flight using your Avios Points you can get a second seat on the same flight for free. Book a return flight to New York in Business Class for 120,000 Avios Points and you can take a friend or spouse with you.

Like all good benefits there are caveats. Reward flights only give you your seat for free, you will still need to pay airport taxes and fees – and this applies to both passengers if you use a free companion voucher.

This may work out at £1,200 for two seats but considerably cheaper than then average of £4,000 cash price for the same flights.

APR is set at 74.7% and although I am not, and do not claim to be, a financial advisor this APR looks to be based on an average of £1,200 credit card balance plus the £195 annual fee.

Ongoing purchases are based on a 22.2% APR variable fee.

 

Summary:

  • 25,000 Avios Signup Bonus, if you spend £3,000 in the first 90 days
  • 5 Avios for every £1 spent
  • 3 Avios for every £1 spent on a BA Holiday
  • Free companion flight if you spend £10,000 in a single calendar year
  • £195 annual fee
  • 7% APR variable
  • 2% APR for purchases

 

To find out more about the BA Amex Premium Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

Virgin Atlantic Plus Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

 

We’ll now turn attention to Virgin Atlantic’s premium credit card offering – this one a direct comparison to the last credit card we looked at.

If Flying Club Points is your target, then this credit card will be one of the quickest ways of getting to your goal.

The sign up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points is less than BA’s bonus (25,000) but you’ll get you’re 15,000 Points as long as you make a purchase of any value in the first three months. This is ideal if you’re not planning any large spends in the near future.

There is an annual fee on this card of £160, but you’ll earn 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 spent and 3 Points for every £1 spent on a Virgin Holiday.

If we again look at the same £1,000 a month spending, it’ll give you 18,000 Virgin Points per year – add this to the 15,000 sign-up bonus – and with 33,000 points you’re on your way to a free flight.

Just like with the BA Premium card, the Virgin Plus credit card also offers you a choice of rewards if you spend £10,000 in a single calendar year, and one of those rewards is a free companion voucher.

Two people can fly for the price of one, as long as you book your flight using your Virgin Points. Just like with BA you will need to pay the airport and taxes for both passengers.

One very strong caveat I want to mention here is regarding redemption. If you decide you want to use your free companion flight in Business Class (Upper Class on Virgin) you will need to use 50% more Virgin points than normal – which really means you are getting a 50% off companion voucher.

If a return flight to New York in Upper Class usually costs 115,000 Virgin Points, if you want to use your free companion voucher in Upper Class you’ll need 172,500 Virgin Points.

This 50% point additional fee doesn’t apply in economy or premium economy.

The APR is 63.9% based on a £1,200 balance, which includes the £160 annual fee. Ongoing purchases have an APR of 22.9% variable.

Virgin Points can be collected and spent across a number of Virgin brand companies. If Virgin Points is your target and you want to earn them as fast as possible, then this is the card to have. There is a Virgin credit card that comes with no annual fee that will still give your points balance a boost, which we will come on to a little further in this article.

 

Summary

  • 15,000 Virgin Points signup bonus with a single spend in the first 3 months
  • 5 Virgin points with every £1 spent
  • 3 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on a Virgin Holiday
  • Free companion flight voucher if you spend £10,000 in a single calendar year
  • £160 annual fee
  • 9% APR variable
  • 9% APR for purchases

 

To find out more about the Virgin Atlantic Plus Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

IHG Rewards Club Credit Card

IHG Rewards Club Credit Card

IHG Rewards Club Credit Card

 

We turn our attention away from airline credit cards and on to hotel point earnings. Not all points are collected for flying purposes, you may like to stay grounded and travel around the UK in style.

The IHG Rewards Club Credit Card is one way to help you achieve your goals.

The IHG brand group of companies is quite large. It covers Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental– just to name a few. The hotel chain is worldwide so plenty of options for point spending.

When you first open an account and apply for your credit card, you’ll be given a 10,000 IHG Rewards Point bonus if you spend £200 in the first three months of opening.

10,000 points is the starting IHG Points needed for a free hotel night. This does depend on the hotel, availability, and day you stay but it is possible to find stays this cheap. If not, you could use your points towards a Points plus Cash booking.

Not only that but you’ll also earn 1 point for every £1 spent almost everywhere, and 2 points for every £1 spent when booking a hotel within the IHG chain.

One really nice touch for this annual fee free card is once you open your credit card, you’ll instantly be upgraded to Gold Elite status.

I was a Gold Elite status member for a while, and you do notice the difference – it’s a nice touch. Gold Elite status is the first step up on the IHG status ladder after the introductory Club status.

 

The Gold Elite status benefits include:
  • Extended check out until 2pm
  • Points do not expire for Gold Elite status members
  • Priority check-in
  • 10% bonus IHG Points above base rate

 

As I said for an annual fee free credit card, this is a nice little add on.

 

Summary:

  • 10,000 IHG Points if you spend £200 in the first 3 months
  • 1 Reward point for every £1 spent
  • 2 Reward points for every £1 spent at IHG Hotels
  • No annual fee
  • 0% interest for 12 months if you transfer the balance from another credit card in the first 3 months
  • 9% APR variable

 

To find out more about the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

Nectar Points Card

Nectar Card

Nectar Card

 

It’s not fair only credit cards take centre stage. There are good point earning cards that can ease your travelling that are free to join, easy to collect and then convert to airline points after.

The Nectar Card is one that allows you to do just that.

Since the Tesco and British Airways relationship ceased, and you can’t transfer Tesco Clubcard to Avios anymore, if you still want to boost your Avios with grocery shopping and petrol fill-ups, you’ll need to start shopping at Sainsbury’s and opt for the Nectar card.

The point converting to Avios is no where near as good as it used to be with Tesco. You could collect around 10,000 Avios per year shopping at Tesco and converting to Avios – whereas with Sainsbury’s and Nectar a similar spend will mean a collection of nearer 4,000 Avios.

Still, if Avios is your target this is the best on the market at the moment.

Joining Nectar is of course free, and if you don’t have a Nectar card then go and open one right now and set your point redemption to automatically convert to Avios!

You can collect 1 Nectar Point with every £1 spent at many retailers including Sainsbury’s, Argos etc… it’s surprising how quickly you can boost your points and see a nice increase to your Avios balance.

 

Summary:

  • Free to join
  • No credit application
  • 1 Nectar Point for every £1 spent at a number of retailers
  • Convert 400 Nectar Points for 250 Avios

 

Sign up for a Nectar account at the Nectar website

 

 

Tesco Clubcard

Tesco Clubcard

Tesco Clubcard

 

Another free points card for the list. Tesco Clubcard scheme first started in 1995 (yes over 25 years ago now!) and has been one of the most popular supermarket points cards in the UK.

Millions of people in the UK add points to their Clubcard balance every day which can be redeemed for vouchers towards Tesco shopping (handy to save for a large Christmas spend), or you could use those points and convert to vouchers to spend for activities, days out etc… – or you can convert your Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Points.

Up until January 2021 you could convert your Clubcard points to either BA Avios or Virgin Points, but the Tesco and British Airways partnership is no more, frustrating many Avios point collectors.

If though you are focusing on Virgin Point building, then shopping at Tesco is the way to go.

You’ll collect a healthy 625 Virgin Points for every £2.50 in Clubcard Vouchers (250 Points).

This gives you a much healthier return than the Sainbsury’s to BA Avios conversion.

 

Summary:

  • Free to join
  • No credit application
  • 1 Tesco Clubcard point for every £1 spent instore and online
  • Convert 250 Tesco Clubcard for 625 Virgin Points

 

Sign up for a Tesco Clubcard account at the Tesco website

 

 

Marriott UK Amex BonVoy Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card

 

The second hotel based credit card on the list, this one for the Marriott hotel chain through American Express.

Historically there has always been a concern of trying to use American Express in the UK. Worldwide Amex is used extensively but, in the UK, the higher merchant fees Amex charges have often detracted many UK based retailers from refusing to take payment using them.

Although retailer’s fees are still higher than with Visa or Mastercard, more and more retailers are relenting. The number of UK retailers accepting Amex is growing including all major supermarkets and the large online retailers.

On to the Marriott’s credit card review.

A welcome bonus of 20,000 Bonvoy points is yours if you spend £3,000 on your credit card within the first three months of your account opening. This gives you a nice boost and is enough for a free night in certain hotels.

Large hotel chains often have a tier level status incentivising loyalty with added benefits. The Marriott UK Bonvoy card helps you get to those higher tier levels faster.

Just for taking out the card you’re instantly granted Silver Elite status and if you spend £15,000 in a calendar year on your credit card you will automatically be upgraded to Gold Elite status.

Let’s look at what those elite status benefits give you:

 

Silver Elite
  • Priority late checkout
  • Free WiFi during your stay
  • 10% additional Bonvoy Points above base rate

 

Gold Elite
  • Room upgrade for each stay, subject to availability
  • 2pm late checkout
  • Extra gift points when during check-in (between 250-500)
  • Free Premium WiFi
  • 25% additional Bonvoy Points above base rate

 

The Bonvoy credit card does carry with it a £75 annual fee. This may be worth it for some just to keep the Silver Elite status, but if you regularly spend £15,000 each year it is definitely worth the Gold Elite status upgrade.

You’ll also be given 15 Elite Night bonuses each calendar year to also help you reach the next tier.

If you spend £25,000 in a single year on your card, you’ll also be given a free night award that can be spent at any hotel with a 25,000 Bonvoy point or less redemption rate.

You’ll also collect 2 Bonvoy Points for every £1 spent almost everywhere and 6 Bonvoy points for every £1 spent at a Marriott hotel.

This is a really enticing card if Marriott is your preferred hotel chain, and if you can see past the £75 annual fee it could be one of the more lucrative hotel point reward cards on the market.

 

Summary:

  • 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points if you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2 Bonvoy points for every £1 spent
  • 6 Bonvoy points for every £1 spent at Marriott Hotels
  • £75 annual fee
  • 8% APR variable
  • 2% APR variable for purchases

 

To find out more about the Marriott UK BonVoy Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

BA Amex Credit Card

BA Amex Credit Card

BA Amex Credit Card

 

We’ve already covered the premium BA Amex credit card, but as promised, here is the standard BA Amex credit card which gives you Avios earning potential without the annual fee.

This standard credit card comes with some really good benefits and features to help boost your Avios Points.

To begin with if you spend £1,000 in your first three months, you’ll collect a welcome bonus of 5,000 Avios Points.

You’ll also collect 1 Avios Point for every £1 spent almost anywhere. With a £1,000 a month spend and your welcome bonus, your first year could see you collect 17,000 Avios Points.

If you read the review of the BA Premium card you will have seen that as a card holder you have the chance to earn a free companion flight voucher. This is possible with the standard card too, but you’ll need to spend £20,000 a year on this standard card, rather than £10,000 on the premium card.

If you believe you would spend £10,000 a year on your card, and the companion flight looks appealing to you, it could be worth the £195 annual fee for the Premium card instead.

There is no annual fee for this card, and APR is 22.2% APR based.

If you don’t fancy the premium card with yearly fee, this is the next fastest way to earn extra Avios Points towards your dream flight.

 

Summary

  • 5,000 Avios Signup Bonus, if you spend £1,000 in the first 90 days
  • 1 Avios for every £1 spent
  • Free companion flight if you spend £20,000 in a single calendar year
  • No annual fee
  • 2% APR variable
  • 2% APR for purchases

 

To find out more about the BA Amex Premium Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

 

Just like BA, Virgin Atlantic – through Virgin Money – also have a standard credit card for those who do not want to pay the yearly fee, but still want to collect bonus Virgin points.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a sign up bonus. This really is missing ‘plus point’ in my view when considering whether to focus attention on either BA Avios or Virgin Points.

The signup bonus is one of the most attractive incentives and is missing here.

That being said you will still collect 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 spent almost everywhere and 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 spent with Virgin Holidays on your card.

You’ll also receive a nice reward of the free companion flight voucher if you spend £20,000 in a single calendar year. Just like though with the Plus Credit Card if you plan to use your companion voucher in Upper Class you will need 50% more Virgin Points than normal.

There is no annual fee for this card, as mentioned, so can be a nice way to build your Virgin Points balance that bit faster – especially if you utilise some of the other method and tactics you’ll see on throughout The Points Insider website.

 

Summary

  • No signup bonuses points available with this card
  • 75 Virgin points with every £1 spent
  • 5 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on a Virgin Holiday
  • Free companion flight voucher if you spend £20,000 in a single calendar year
  • No annual fee
  • 9% APR variable
  • 9% APR for purchases

 

To find out more about the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card visit the official website

 

 

 

Best UK Card and Points Cards – The Insider’s Notes

The Avios Premium card is one of the fastest ways to build up airline air miles and points. It gives the biggest signup incentive and if you can get past the £195 annual fee, and spend £10,000 in a year, your free companion flight can be used in Business Class or First without any additional points above base spending needed.

Virgin’s credit cards are not as incentive rich as BA although the large 15,000 Point signup incentive only requires a spend in three months, rather than £3,000 with BA.

If you shop regularly with Tesco, you can only now convert Tesco Clubcard to Virgin Points – you can’t convert to Avios any longer.

Marriott has a very attractive credit card offering through Amex for a low annual fee.

The IHG credit card has some good incentives, as well as Gold Status tier and a signup bonus, despite being a no annual fee credit card.

Tesco Clubcard and Nectar are both free to join, come with no risks or credit checks, and mean you can collect points day to day and convert to airline air miles and points. Make sure to set your cards to automatically convert your points to airline points.