Frequent flyer credit cards

Want to earn points for flights, accommodation and other rewards? Compare frequent flyer credit cards and get to your next destination faster.

Lady sitting in airport lounge using phone

Frequent flyer (also known as “air miles”) credit cards offer you points (or “miles”) for every £1 spent, which you can then redeem for flights, upgrades and other rewards. You can also enjoy a range of additional features including complimentary travel insurance, bonus points offers, airline lounge access and promotional interest rates.

Use this guide to compare frequent flyer credit cards and learn more about them, including how these cards work, tips for earning and using points, features to compare when you’re looking at frequent flyer credit cards and insights to help you choose the right card for you.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

Finder's pick: American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

    • 10,000 Membership Rewards point welcome bonus
    • 2 complimentary airport lounge visits per year
    • No annual fee in year 1

Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with an annual fee of £140 (£0 in first year), your representative APR is 57.6% APR (variable).

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Compare frequent flyer credit cards

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Updated September 15th, 2019
Name Product Max. intro bonus Earn-rate with brand Default earn-rate Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
5,000 points
1 point per £1 spent
1 point per £1 spent
£0
22.9% p.a. (variable)
5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within 3 months of account opening. Earn 1 Avios for virtually every £1 spent. Spend £20K in 12 months and get 2 for 1 travel when redeeming Avios for a BA reward flight. Earn up to 90,000 bonus Avios points per calendar year, 4,000 points per friend/family member that successfully applies for an American Express card (Excl. Basic card) and uses the Referral Programme.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
25,000 points
3 points per £1 spent
1.5 points per £1 spent
£195 per annum
76% p.a. (variable)
25,000 Avios when you spend £3K within 3 months of account opening. Earn 3 Avios for virtually every £1 spent directly with BA, and 1.5 Avios for virtually every £1 spent everywhere else. Spend £10K in 12 months to redeem the Avios for a companion ticket on a BA flight. Earn up to 90,000 bonus Avios points per calendar year, 9,000 points per friends/family that uses Referral Programme and successfully apply for an American Express card (Excl. Basic card).
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £195 per annum, your representative rate is 76% APR (variable).
5,000 points
1.5 points per £1 spent
1 point per £1.33 spent
£0
22.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 5,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase made within 90 days of account opening. Earn 0.75 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend. Spend £20K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to premium, or a Companion ticket. Double miles when you spend directly with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays through the contact centre and online.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
15,000 points
3 points per £1 spent
1.5 points per £1 spent
£160 per annum
63.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 15,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase made within 90 days of account opening. Earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend. Spend £10K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to premium, or a Companion ticket. Double miles when you spend directly with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays through the contact centre and online.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £160 per annum, your representative rate is 63.9% APR (variable).

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How does a frequent flyer credit card work?

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Frequent flyer credit cards earn you points when you use them for eligible purchases. These cards earn a set number of points for every pound spent (e.g. one point per £1), which is known as the earn rate. This means the more you pay with plastic, the more frequent flyer rewards you can get. Depending on the type of rewards credit card you use, there are different ways to earn and redeem points. Some cards credit points directly to your frequent flyer account and others allow you to transfer points to a variety of eligible frequent flyer accounts.

Is a frequent flyer credit card right for me?

If you’re interested in getting a frequent flyer credit card, weigh up these pros and cons. Please keep in mind that these factors may vary depending on the card.

Benefits of choosing a frequent flyer credit card:
  • Redeem flights and travel upgrades faster.
    By earning points on your everyday spend you can reach your rewards goals in less time.
  • Sign up bonus points.
    Some credit cards offer introductory bonus points as an incentive for new customers. These offers boost your points balance so you can redeem rewards such as flights and holidays faster.
  • Large range of rewards.
    Use your points to redeem rewards including flights, hotels, online shopping and other lifestyle benefits.
  • Travel perks.
    Travel comfortably with flight vouchers, access to airline lounges and 24/7 concierge services.
  • Complimentary insurance.
    Save on stand-alone insurance costs and get peace of mind when travelling with complimentary insurance covers including travel insurance, flight delay protection and purchase security insurance.
Risks when choosing a frequent flyer credit card:
  • High interest rates.
    Frequent flyer credit cards often come with less competitive interest rates than other cards. As such, they are suited to cardholders who pay their balance off each month so that the accumulated interest doesn’t outweigh the value of the rewards.
  • Higher annual fees.
    As well as high interest rates, these cards often involve annual fees which can be higher than no frills options.
  • Temptation to spend.
    If you struggle to repay your credit card on time or need to consolidate a debt, a rewards card might tempt you to spend for the sake of points when you should be reigning in your purchases.
  • Offer requirements.
    Frequent flyer credit cards that come with introductory offers or complimentary insurance may have specific spending requirements you need to meet to enjoy these benefits. For example, you may need to spend £1,500 in the first three months you have a card to get bonus points, or pay for your travel with your credit card to get travel insurance.

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What is APR?

Credit card promotions have to include an Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which all card issuers must calculate in the same way.

Credit card fee structures can get fiddly, so the APR’s designed to benchmark the yearly cost to borrow, with a view to helping consumers compare cards against each other. It takes into consideration the default interest rate plus any mandatory, regular account fees.

There’s a big catch though: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that this rate must be what 51% (or more) of people accepted for a card receive. That means that up to 49% of those accepted for a credit card may end up paying a higher rate. This is why it’s often called “Typical” or “Representative” APR.

Frequent flyer credit cards often come for an annual fee, so the APR will be higher than for other type of cards. However, the APR doesn’t take the rewards you earn into account, so it’s missing a pretty big part of the story. While it’s still a handy figure to figure out the cost of borrowing with your credit card, it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when comparing frequent flyer credit cards.

How can I compare and find the best frequent flyer credit card for my needs?

The mix of frequent flyer credit cards on the market gives you a chance to compare options and find one that suits your individual goals and circumstances. Go through the checklist below to find out what factors you should consider when looking at credit cards that earn frequent flyer points.

  1. The frequent flyer programme. Choosing a credit card that earns points for a frequent flyer programme (or programmes) you already use will help you maximise your rewards. If you don’t belong to a programme yet, think about which programme you’re more likely to travel with.
  2. Points earning rate. Check the standard rate of points you’ll earn for each £1 spent on the card. Be aware that a different earn rate could apply for certain types of spending (i.e. overseas purchases). There are usually some transactions that won’t earn points, such as cash advances, so make sure you check restrictions for the cards you’re comparing.
  3. Reward values. Consider the types of rewards you want to claim, the amount of points you’ll need and how much spending that requires. Check how these values measure up between programmes so you can apply for the card that offers the greatest value based on your spending and reward goals.
  4. Annual fee. Ideally, any annual fee should cost less than the rewards and any complimentary extras on the card that you intend to use.
  5. Promotional rates and features. Frequent flyer credit cards sometimes have promotions for new customers, such as bonus points, 0% purchase rates, balance transfer offers or no annual fee for the first year. These benefits can add value to the card that you choose, but make sure you read the terms and conditions for details of the requirements and honeymoon period so that they work for you (and not the other way around).
  6. Complimentary extras. Reward and frequent flyer credit cards often come with a selection of complimentary extras such as international travel insurance, extended warranties, concierge services and airline lounge access. The value of these perks can be used to offset the cost of any annual fee – as long as you know you will actually use them. They can also be handy to have available just in case you ever need them.

How to earn and redeem frequent flyer points with a credit card

Earning Points

Points are a key factor when choosing and using a frequent flyer credit card, and there are two main options to consider:

1. Direct earn cards. These credit cards are partnered with specific airline rewards programmes, earning points that are credited directly to your associated air miles account. Direct earn cards generally have a better earn rate than other options, so you could potentially get more rewards for your spending if you’re loyal to one frequent flyer programme.

2. Indirect earn cards. These reward credit cards earn points that can then be transferred to external air miles programmes for a wider variety of rewards. Unlike direct earn frequent flyer credit cards, the point values of these cards may differ when transferred to a frequent flyer account.

The amount of points (or ‘miles’) you need for a reward varies depending on the frequent flyer programme and the type of reward you choose. There are two main categories for rewards: 1) Airport/ flight benefits and 2) retail/ lifestyle rewards.

  • Airport/flight benefits. Points can be used for reward flights, flight upgrades, lounge benefits and other frequent flyer membership benefits. Flight rewards with the programme’s associated airline usually provide a higher point value when compared to other rewards.
  • Retail/lifestyle rewards. These rewards can benefit you at home or abroad. You can use points to book hotels, car rentals or other travel experiences, as well as more general retail and lifestyle benefits including gift cards, food and wine, jewellery and other merchandise.

How to choose a frequent flyer programme

There are many frequent flyer programmes based all around the world, and you have handful of these programmes to choose from if you’re interested in getting a UK credit card that earns frequent flyer points.

  • Virgin Flying Club
  • Avios
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Miles & More

Credit cards for the Virgin Flying Club

Choosing a credit card to earn Virgin Flying Club points will depend on your spending habits, your income and the credit card features you are looking for. Frequent flyer credit cards often include additional perks, with airport lounge passes, complimentary travel insurance and bonus points offers. As a result, these cards can come with a much higher annual fee compared to other types of credit cards, so it’s important to compare and read the terms and conditions. Some of the benefits you can expect from a Virgin Flying Club credit card include:

  • Bonus points. Get a boost to your Flying Club balance with a bonus points offer. Varying from 3,000 to 18,500 club miles, these offers usually require you to spend a specific amount of money during the first few months you have the card in order to receive the points.
  • Flying Club points per £1 spent. Use your card to earn more Flying Club miles for your everyday purchases. You can earn up to four Flying Club miles per £1 spent depending on which credit card you apply for. Higher-tier cards offer more points per spend, but come with added expenses such as larger annual fees or higher interest rates.
  • Additional perks. Virgin Flying Club credit cards often provide additional benefits with exclusive shopping and dining offers, reward upgrades (subject to minimum spend) and Complimentary companion flights.

Credit cards for Avios Air Miles

The best credit card to earn Avios Air Miles varies depending on factors including your spending habits, income and the other features you want on a credit card. It’s also important to consider the costs of the card, such as annual fees and interest rates, and any specific requirements associated with complimentary extras. Reading the credit card terms and conditions will help you understand the ongoing responsibilities and charges so that you can choose a card that is convenient and affordable for you. Some of the benefits you can get with a credit card that allows you to build Avios Air Miles include:

  • Introductory bonus points and offers. Some Avios credit cards offer bonus points for new customers that can boost your account balance.
  • Avios miles for everyday spending. Earn up to 1.25 miles per every £1 of eligible spend, depending on the card you choose.
  • Complementary extras. The perks you can get with an Avios credit card could include travel insurance, Complimentary companion vouchers and exclusive offers on hotels and dining.

Credit cards for Emirates Skywards Miles

If you want to find the best credit card to earn Emirates Skywards Miles, you’ll need to consider your spending habits, income and the credit card features you’re interested in. It’s also important to consider the interest rates and annual fees of credit cards that offer Emirates Skywards Miles, so that you can make sure the benefits outweigh these charges.

  • Introductory offers. Get bonus miles when you make a card purchase within a specified number of days from your account opening.
  • Points per £1 spent. You can earn up to four miles for every £1 spent, depending on the card you choose.
  • Travel perks. As well as exclusive discounts on partner hotel and dining offers, you could also enjoy priority check in, insurance benefits and Complimentary companion rewards with a Skywards credit card.

Credit cards for Miles & More

If you want to find the best credit card to earn Miles & More points, you’ll need to consider your spending habits, income and the credit card features you’re interested in. It’s also important to consider the interest rates and annual fees of credit cards that offer Miles & More, so that you can make sure the benefits outweigh these charges.

  • Introductory offers. Get bonus miles when you make a card purchase within a specified number of days from your account opening.
  • Everyday spending. Earn up to two award miles for every £1 spent on eligible purchases.
  • Extra benefits. This programme offers fewer additional perks than other air miles credit cards, but does offer helpful extras such as no expiry date on miles, no annual fee and no discounts on partner hotel and travel deals.

Frequent Flyer alliances

Frequent flyer programmes have networks of partner and alliance airlines that let you earn and redeem points all around the world. Here are two of the most popular alliances:

These alliances and partnerships give you more options for redeeming flights and flight upgrades. So even if you choose a frequent flyer credit card that’s linked to one airline programme, you may be able to use your points for flights with another airline through these partnerships.

Credit cards have become one of the most popular ways to earn frequent flyer points, with both direct and indirect methods for boosting your point balance. Now that you know more about how they work, the potential benefits and pitfalls and what you should consider when comparing frequent flyer credit cards, you can make a more informed decision about the next credit card you apply for so that it really works for you.

Frequent flyer credit card questions from our users

Since frequent flyer credit cards provide many benefits and features, choosing one can be a challenging task. Here, we answer the most popular questions from our users about frequent flyer credit cards and how to earn/redeem air miles.

The most popular questions about earning frequent flyer points

The most popular questions about redeeming frequent flyer points

We exist to help you find better. The offers we've compared on this page are from a range of products whose details we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own financial circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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