Making the most of credit cards for travel purchases is one of the most underrated travel hacks that exists today. Many credit cards offer rewards in the form of points that can be redeemed later on, and for frequent-flyer families, this can quickly add up. Adding an air miles card to your travel toolbox can lead to regular upgrades, free flights, and just an overall better travel experience.
Choosing an Air Miles Credit Card
Before looking at the specific cards available, it’s a good idea to consider what exactly you should be looking for. At their core, most air miles cards are very similar, so choosing the right one will largely come down to your personal situation, but there are some things to look out for.
Card fees, sign-up bonuses, reward rates, and extra perks are the four key areas to focus on, and how much weight you give to each category depends on how you travel. For example, if you frequently travel with kids, you might value being able to completely relax on flights so you can hit the ground running once you get to your destination.
In this case, prioritising cards with high earning rates and strong sign-up bonuses might be the best choice. This way, you can quickly accumulate points that can be redeemed for upgrades to business or first class.
On the other hand, a young solo traveller might be more inclined to go with the flow and not want too much planned in advance. In their situation, choosing a card that gives them the ability to change flights on short notice without penalty and access many different airport lounges might be the best choice.
#1: Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card
To kick the list off, the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card is designed with frequent flyers in mind and comes packed with a number of different benefits that can make your travels more rewarding.
One of the key features of this card is its generous sign-up bonus. As a new cardholder, you have the potential to earn up to 15,000 bonus points as a welcome gift. That’s enough for several short-haul flights or a significant discount on a long-haul trip.
The earning rate is also impressive. For every £1 spent using this credit card, you’ll receive 1.5 miles. This spending can be on anything, whether it’s everyday shopping, bills, or even your rent or mortgage. This rate increases to three points for every £1 for any purchases made to Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. If you favour travelling with Virgin, this perk could make this card the best choice.
This card does come with an annual fee of £160. A lot of cards come without fees, but often if you run the numbers you’ll find the fee is just a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll get in return. Another perk of the card is that there are no foreign transaction fees, which means this is a good card to use while you’re travelling internationally.
Your earned miles can be put towards flights with Virgin Atlantic and their partner airlines, as well as hospital stays and even car rentals. You’ll receive discounted access to airport lounges, too, and access to companion tickets and travel insurance.
#2: American Express Gold Card
When you sign up for the American Express Gold card, there’s an attractive bonus of up to 25,000 Membership Rewards points waiting for you, double that of the Virgin Atlantic card. You will then earn one Membership Reward point for every £1 you spend, and although this is not a direct air miles credit card, Membership Reward points can be transferred to a number of airline partners.
When you make travel-related purchases through American Express Travel with this card, you’ll receive an additional two points for every £1 spent. This includes pre-paid hotels, flights, and car hire, but you’ll need to crunch the numbers as to whether buying through them is worth it over a different booking platform.
The card comes with four complimentary airport lounge passes via Priority Pass, which gives you the choice of 1,300 different airport lounges around the globe. Members also receive access to unique experiences of all types that are offered by American Express.
All the points you accrue can be transferred to British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Emirates, and the card comes with some annual allowances to spend on food delivery with Deliveroo.
This card does come with a fee of £195 per year, and this fee is waived for the first year. All in all, this is a pretty solid card, especially for the first year when you factor in the sign-up bonus.
#3: British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
Next up is the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card, an extremely popular choice for frequent-flyer families in the UK. It comes with an annual fee of £250, which may seem a bit steep, but as we’ve mentioned a couple of times, the annual fees are often a bargain when all is said and done. This card also allows you to supplement other benefits of flying with British Airways, such as their multi-tier membership scheme that provides benefits like flight upgrades and lounge access.
One of the major benefits of this card is the impressive sign-up bonus of up to 25,000 Avios points, which can be redeemed to purchase flights on British Airways, an airline known for its amazing service, dependability, and ability to cater to flyers of all types. Avios is the currency of one of the leading airline loyalty schemes, and these points can be redeemed to fly with other airlines within the Oneworld Alliance, as well.
Your earning rate on this card is very straightforward, with 1.5 Avios points for every £1 spent, and this doubles to three points when you spend with British Airways or British Airways Holidays. Beyond flights, you can choose to redeem points for accommodation and rental cars, and even a range of different experiences in multiple locations around the world.
As with most cards of this type, different kinds of travel insurance, lounge access, and companion tickets are available. Companion tickets come in the form of a voucher once your spending exceeds £10,000 in a year. This allows you to bring someone along with you, and these vouchers are redeemable when you book British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia flights.
#4: HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
Shifting our focus to the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, this card has strong claims as the best card on the list for families who travel often. It has the same £195 fee as the British Airways card we just discussed, and cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points if they meet the spending criteria within three and twelve months.
The major benefit of this card is that instead of earning one point for every £1 you spend, you get double that amount. This is a rate that quickly adds up and is the key reason why frequent family travellers should consider this card over other ones. The card comes with all the other perks you would expect, including zero foreign transaction fees, comprehensive travel insurance, and access to 1300 different airport lounges around the world via Priority Pass.
The redemption process is good, too, with plenty of flexibility. There are 10 different airline and hotel loyalty schemes that points can be transferred to, including big players like British Airways (Executive Club/Avios), Emirates (Skywards), and Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer).
#5: Barclaycard Avios Plus
With the Barclaycard Avios Plus, you earn 1.5 Avios points per £1 on all eligible purchases, but this grows to an impressive 2.5 points per £1 when your spending is on British Airways flights and holiday packages.
This sign-up bonus on this card is another good one, with 25,000 Avios points for new members when they meet the spending requirements of £3,000 in the first three months of membership. Although we’ve mentioned several times now that card fees don’t usually matter that much, the fees on this one might make us change that stance.
There is a £20 monthly fee for access to this card, with additional foreign purchase fees of 2.99% on top of that. There are no transaction fees when you actually use the card abroad, but these fees could definitely be prohibitive.
The real value of this card lies in the higher earning rate of points when your spending is done with British Airways. If your family is loyal to BA and flies frequently, then this could be the perfect choice. For those with a different situation, one of the other cards on the list might make more sense.
Choosing the right air miles credit card really does come down to your personal situation. Before committing to any card, sit down and evaluate your travel habits. Look at where your biggest expenses lie and which airlines and hotel chains you find yourself returning to the most. Take advantage of sign-up bonuses, and don’t be afraid to switch providers if your circumstances change or a better deal presents itself.
Luciana joined our team as a mum blogger in 2020. A dedicated mum to a lively daughter and a dog, Luna, Luciana brings authenticity and passion to every post. Her expertise in parenting and lifestyle topics offers practical, relatable advice for real-life situations.