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Across the board, when it comes to earning points and miles, the easiest way to do so is through credit cards. For the right people, credit cards offer a way to increase your point balances quickly in order to get you on your way to travelling for (almost) free. There are some great cards out there, with exciting benefits available in the UK market, and here are my three personal favourites!

Before making your choice at which to apply for, I strongly recommend checking out the full reviews of each of the cards below. And it’s also key to fully understand American Express’ new welcome bonus restrictions, which may influence your Amex strategy. But without further ado…

1. American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

  • Welcome bonus: 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending £3,000 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, then £140
  • Earning rate: 1 Membership Reward point per £1 spent on all purchases; 2 Membership Rewards points per £1 spent directly with airlines or in a foreign currency (though you’ll have to pay a 2.99% foreign transaction fee); 3 Membership Rewards points per £1 spent at American Express Travel
  • Other key benefits: Two annual lounge passes to make your airport experience more enjoyable. The visits must be made in the Lounge Club network, which boasts more than 700 lounges worldwide. Member lounges include the No1 Lounges at London Gatwick (LGW), and Plaza Premium lounges at Heathrow Airport (LHR), among others.
  • Representative example: This card has a representative APR of 57.6% variable and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
  • Why it’s great: The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card is my top pick for the beginner to the miles and points game. A 10,000 Membership Rewards-point welcome bonus, no fee for the first year and great point-earning structure make this card a no brainer. Plus, you’re earning Membership Rewards points, which are a transferable currency, allowing you to shift your points to any of Amex’s 17 partners. For example, 10,000 MR points can be transferred to British Airways Avios for a return flight to many destinations in Europe.
  • Full review

2. British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

Key Facts:

  • Welcome bonus: 25,000 British Airways Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: £195
  • Earning rate: 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on all purchases; 3 Avios per £1 spent directly with British Airways or BA Holidays
  • Other key benefits: 2-for-1 Companion Voucher earned after £10,000 in annual spend on the card. The Companion Voucher is the most valuable credit card benefit out there, allowing you to take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Of course, taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to the companion. When earned with this card, the Voucher is valid for two years. (Stay tuned for a separate 2-for-1 Companion Voucher guide.)
  • Representative example: This card has an APR of 76.0% variable and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
  • Why it’s great: The 2-for-1 Companion Voucher is the most valuable benefit in the UK reward credit card market. And subject to various rules, it gives you a free ticket when you make a redemption using your Avios, effectively doubling the value of your pool of Avios if used correctly. Plus, the 25,000-Avios welcome bonus can get you an upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World or three return flights to many destinations in Europe.
  • Full review

3. Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

Key Facts:

  • Sign-up bonus: 30,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. 15,000 after making one purchase on your card within 90 days, then a further 15,000 after spending £3,000 within 90 days.
  • Annual fee: £160
  • Earning rate: 1.5 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per £1 spent on everyday purchases; 3 Flying Club miles per £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays
  • Other key benefits: You’ll unlock a ‘Virgin Atlantic reward’ after spending £10,000 annually. Options vary, depending on the level of status you have with Flying Club. The value of the Virgin Atlantic reward is highest if you’re a Flying Club Gold member, where you can effectively get a companion voucher on any redemption flight in any cabin of service.
  • Representative example: This card has a representative APR of 63.9% variable, and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
  • Why it’s great: Because this is a Mastercard, you’ll have a back up in situations where Amex may not be accepted. With a fantastic sign up bonus and ongoing earning rate of 1.5 miles per £1 spent on everyday purchases and double that for purchases made directly with Virgin or Virgin Holidays, you’ll have an expedited way to getting an Upper Class redemption.
  • Full review 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to earn your way to a redemption in the near future, credit cards are your best way of getting there. This trio of cards — highlighted by the fact that you’re earning three different and important point currencies — will cover the needs of most UK miles and points collectors, and have you well on your way to maximising your returns.

Know before you go.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.