The 7 Best UK Travel Credit Cards for Airline Miles

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Ever thought about leveraging your credit cards to earn free flights? It might sound too good to be true, but an airline miles credit card allows you to cash in on your day-to-day spending for endless travel perks. Yet, with so many to choose from, you might be wondering which is the best card for you.

Travel credit cards are usually linked to a particular airline loyalty scheme where customers can bag points for flights they’ve taken and other money spent with certain retailers. These points can then be cashed in for rewards like priority boarding, lounge access, flights, and upgrades. While the fares might be free, it’s important to note you’ll still have to pay airline taxes, but you could save a fortune with the right card.  

You want to have your credit situation in order first because high-interest rates can outweigh the perks if you’re not on top of your spending. Nevertheless, there’s a loyalty scheme out there for everyone and our guide contains all of the best credit cards for airline miles on the market. Let’s get into it. 

American Express Preferred Reward Gold Credit Card

amex gold card

Clinching the number one spot, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card is one of the most versatile travel credit cards available, coming with a host of key benefits and rewards. A ‘Welcome Bonus’ applies, with American Express offering 20,000 points for customers who spend £3,000 in their first three months of membership and no annual fee for the first year.

The best thing about this American Express card is getting to choose the rewards you want based on your spending. You can use points whenever you want, pay with points, and transfer your points to other travel programs. 

Gold Cardmembers can earn 1x points for every £1 spent and 2x points for all airline and foreign currency purchases on your card. You can then use your points against anything you’ve purchased with your card, or redeem them with a range of American Express travel, retail, and lifestyle partners.  

An exclusive benefit with this card is the Deliveroo loyalty scheme which allows Gold Cardmembers to claim £5 cashback on all eligible delivery orders, twice every month. Users also get two free lounge visitors a year at over 1,300 worldwide airport lounges. 

Representative APR: 61% APR variable

Annual Fee: £140 after your first year

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 25.3% variable for purchases

British Airways American Express Credit Card

British Airways American Express Credit Card

Partnered with British Airways, this card allows members to collect Avios with no annual fee on day-to-day purchases already being made. Avios is British Airway’s exclusive reward currency for members of the British Airways Executive Club. There’s a 5,000 Avios bonus when you spend £1,000 in your first three months and 4,000 Avios up for grabs when you invite a friend and they get approved. 

This British Airways American Express card also offers 1x Avios for every £1 that’s spent on purchases across the board. Members can also earn a Companion Voucher when they spend £12,000 per membership year, allowing you to bring a friend on the same flight and cabin, or receive a 50 percent discount on the Avios used for paying for the flight if you’re traveling alone. Vouchers are only redeemable through British Airways when you book with the airline. 

Add a family member or partner to your account to earn Avios faster. Around 10,000 Avios is enough for a one-way economy flight to over 25 destinations, while 30,000 Avios can amount to an off-peak return from London to over 50 destinations, with an added fee of just £1 per passenger. You can also use your Avios against upgrades to business and first class, as well as priority boarding.    

Representative APR: 25.3% APR variable

Annual Fee: No annual fee

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 25.3% variable for purchases

Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card 

Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card 

Exclusively tied to Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, with a Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card you can earn 0.75x Virgin Points for every £1 you spend every time you shop whether it’s a coffee, the weekly groceries, or a train ticket you’re buying. You’ll also get 1.5x points for every £1 spent on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays and every point earned goes toward flights, upgrades, and other airline rewards.

On top of Virgin Points, your card can also be used to get up to 15 percent cashback with selected UK retailers. 

There’s a 0 percent representative APR variable for the first six months and a 22.9% p.a. variable thereafter. Virgin Atlantic offers no annual fee and if you spend £20,000 in one year you can unlock rewards of your choosing from companion tickets to bumping yourself up to first class on your next flight. 

Representative APR: 22.9% APR variable

Annual Fee: No annual fee

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 22.9% variable for purchases

American Express Nectar Credit Card

American Express Nectar Credit Card

If you’re a keen Nectar point collector or regular shopper in Nectar point partnership stores, then this is the travel credit card for you. When you spend at Nectar partners using the American Express Nectar Credit Card and Loyalty Card, you can earn a minimum of 3x points for every £1 spent, and 2x points for every £1 on other purchases. 

As a welcome gift, American Express will wave the £25 annual fee for your first year and offer 20,000 bonus Nectar points if you spend just £2,000 in your first three months. When you invite a friend and they get approved for their own card, you’ll also earn 5,000 points, with a maximum of 90,000 points per year – that’s 18 possible friend referrals. 

When it comes to redeeming your Nectar points, 20,000 points amount to at least £100 to spend with Nectar partners. Nectar has a number of travel-related UK partners, including British Airways, Eurostar, Expedia, and Nectar Hotels. 

You can also collect even more points with complimentary supplementary cards which can be requested for anyone over the age of 18 on your Nectar Card. You will be responsible for any spending made on your account by a supplementary card member. 

Representative APR: 30.7% APR variable

Annual Fee: £25 after your first year

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 25.3% variable for purchases

Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus Credit Card

This Virgin Atlantic Rewards card is similar to the one mentioned above but packs even more rewards. It might come with a £160 annual fee and a 63.9 percent representative APR variable, but you’ll earn 15,000 bonus points if you make any purchase using your Reward+ card in the first three months. That’s with no minimum spend. 

This card also offers 1.5x Virgin points for every £1 spent on everyday purchases and 3x points for every £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin holidays – twice as many reward points as the Virgin Atlantic Reward Card. You only need to spend £10,000 a year to unlock exclusive benefits like upgrades, companion flights, and solo-travel discounts too. 

Cardholders also get to make use of free Boingo Wi-Fi which can be found at 1 million hotspots worldwide. Other Virgin perks include Apply Pay secure payments and no charges for foreign currency transactions. 

Representative APR: 63.9% APR variable

Annual Fee: £160 annual fee

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 22.9% variable for purchases

Barclaycard Avios Credit Card and Credit Card Plus

Barclaycard Avios Credit Card and Credit Card Plus

With a Barclaycard Avios card you can cash in on points earned from spending to claim them against flights, cabin upgrades, hotel stays, car hire, and more. New customers to Barclaycard will collect 5,000 Avios for spending £1,000 or more in your first three months on your Barclaycard Avios Credit Card, and Barclaycard Avios Plus members get 25,000 points for spending £3,000 in the same time frame, with a £20 monthly fee. 

Collect 1x Avios for every £1 spent on eligible purchases with Barclaycard Avios, but 1.5x points with Barclaycard Avios Plus. Spend £20,000 within 12 months on your Barclaycard Avios to received a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher to use on an Avios Reward Flight booking, and spend just £10,000 on your Barclay Avios Plus in one year for the same reward. 

All Barclaycard Avios Credit Cards come with five months of free Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Arcade. If you don’t have a British Airways Executive Club account, Barclaycard will set one up for you when you’re approved and transfer all Avios to your account. 

Representative APR: 23.9% APR variable / 72.4% APR variable

Annual Fee: £0 annual fee / £240 annual fee

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 23.9% variable for purchases

British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

Bigger deals, even bigger rewards. American Express partners with British Airways again with this card to bring their Premium Plus Credit Card offering even greater benefits for big spenders and real travel buffs. You’ll earn 1.5x Avios for every £1 spent on daily purchases and as many as 3x Avios for every £1 spent with British Airways and British Airways Holidays. 

Companion Vouchers or 50 percent solo travel discounts come with just £10,000 of spending each membership year on your Premium Plus card. Premium Plus Cardmembers also get access to additional reward flight seats within Club World (business) when using a Companion Voucher. 

With 30,000 Avios, you could cash in your points earned on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card for a Club Europe (business class) off-peak return from London to destinations like Milan, Amsterdam, and Geneva at just £1 extra per person. Invite a friend and if they get approved you’ll collect a 9,000 bonus Avios to put towards food on board, upgrades, and flights. 

Representative APR: 102.5% APR variable

Annual Fee: £250 annual fee

Credit Limit: Assumed credit limit of £1,200

Purchase Rate: 25.3% variable for purchases

Are travel credit cards for airline miles worth it?

If you’re a frequent flyer and tend to spend a lot, especially with specific retailers and airlines with which credit card companies have partnerships, then a travel credit card could definitely be worth it. For example, if you use Virgin Atlantic for regular business flights overseas, a Virgin Atlantic Reward or Reward Plus Credit Card could harness great benefits for you. Likewise, if you shop with Argos, Sainsbury’s, and eBay regularly, then an American Express Nectar Credit Card could get you savings with Eurostar, British Airways, and Expedia. 

However, travel credit cards, like any credit cards, are only rewarding if you have your credit under control and can rely on yourself to make regular repayments. Some cards come with very high representative APR variables, and if you aren’t able to meet repayment deadlines, your card will end up costing you more than it saves. 

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

Simply put, credit card rewards can cover a range of retailers, incentives, discounts, and subscriptions across the board, while airline rewards are more travel-specific. Some cards allow you to convert airline points into other rewards, bridging the gap. However, while you can earn points from spending with both types of cards, you can generally only earn points from your air miles with an airline rewards card. 

Are there any debit cards that earn airline miles?

There are a few remaining debit cards that offer airline rewards for uncredited payments. The PayPal Business Mastercard, the Chase Disney Visa, and the UFB Direct Airline Rewards all give their members miles, points, and cashback for spending, but on a much smaller scale than with credit cards, and rewards can take longer to accumulate. 

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Esmé is an English literature graduate and freelance writer. Originally from London, Esmé is lucky enough to call Bali home. Her travels have taken her from the far corners of the East to the islands of the Caribbean. When she's not writing, you'll find her lying on a beach somewhere, lost in a crime novel.