The best credit card for collecting air miles

The Barclaycard Avios and Avios Plus are more widely accepted than Amex, says Ruth Jackson-Kirby.

Barclaycard Avios credit cards
The most generous Mastercards available
(Image credit: © Barclaycard)

For years the only way to collect Avios points – the British Airways air miles scheme – has been with an American Express credit card. The issue with that has always been that many retailers don’t accept Amex. But now you can collect your Avios points with a Mastercard.

Barclaycard has launched two new credit cards that earn Avios points every time you spend. They are “the most generous Mastercard or Visa credit cards available,” according to Rob Burgess, the editor of Head for Points, a website for frequent flyers looking to maximise their rewards.

The first new card is the Barclaycard Avios. It has no fee, and you can earn one Avios point for every pound spent. If you spend £1,000 in the first three months, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 Avios. That’s enough for a flight to Paris or Amsterdam. Plus, if you spend £20,000 a year on the card, you’ll get a free flight upgrade voucher.

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Alternatively, you can pay £20 a month for the Barclaycard Avios Plus card. That gets you 1.5 Avios points per £1 spent. If you spend £3,000 in the first three months, you’ll get 25,000 bonus Avios points and spend £10,000 a year and you’ll get a cabin upgrade voucher.

On top of that with both cards you’ll get a five-month free subscription to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade. “You honestly couldn’t ask for more from a non-Amex credit card,” says Burgess.

The Amex option

The key advantage of the Barclaycard Avios cards is they are operated via Mastercard rather than American Express. Mastercard is much more widely accepted than American Express, so you won’t face the annoyance of missing out on Avios points when your Amex is rejected. That said, the Amex cards are still attractive.

The fee-free British Airways American Express card earns points at the same rate as the free Barclaycard version and has the same joining bonus. But you only need to spend £12,000 a year to get a companion voucher – that’s £8,000 less than the Barclaycard and you get a free flight (although taxes and charges apply) rather than just an upgrade.

The Barclaycard Avios Plus card is £10 a year cheaper than the Amex equivalent and certainly worth considering if you are willing to pay a fee for your credit card. It offers the same earnings rate as the BA Premium Plus Amex and the same welcome bonus. The difference is that if you spend £10,000 a year on the Amex card, you’ll again get a free companion voucher rather than just a cabin upgrade. So, it all depends on whether you want a cheap flight for a friend or to fly in style yourself.

Reward credit cards can be a great way of getting more when you shop but are best avoided if you can’t pay off your balance in full each month. The interest rates on these types of credit card tend to be high and, if you pay it, you’ll soon wipe out the benefits. Both the Barclaycard Avios cards charge interest at a 23.9% annual rate, but you can avoid this if you pay your bill on time and in full every month.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.