09:16 26 April 2013
Going on holiday - especially if you have a family - can make a major dent in your finances, but pick the right plastic and you might be able to fly for free.
Several credit cards offer generous reward schemes which enable you to redeem points against flights. What's more, the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit card has just launched a deal which gives customers a bumper bonus of 15,000 Avios points if they spend £500 a month for the first three months on their Lloyds TSB Duo Avios American Express card.
Here, we take a look at some of the best airline credit cards and how far the points you collect on them will take you...
Lloyds TSB Duo Avios and Premier Duo Avios credit cards
As its name suggests, the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit card is in fact two credit cards, an American Express card and a MasterCard. Cardholders collect one Avios point for almost every £1 spent on the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios American Express Card and one Avios point for every £5 spent on the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios MasterCard. You get double Avios points for any spending abroad.
So if you spent an average of £180 per week on your Duo Avios American Express Credit Card you would collect 9,360 Avios every year. This would be enough for a return flight to Paris or Prague, although you will still have to pay airline taxes, fees and charges.
Alternatively, provided you've collected at least one Avios mile in the past 12 months, you can pay what is known as the 'Reward Flight Saver' cost instead. This includes airline taxes, fees and charges and is available on certain British Airways and Iberia flights at a cost of £30 per person in economy.
You usually need around 9,000 points to qualify for a free flight, but if you haven't got quite enough, you can buy up to 24,000 Avios points a year through the Avios site. These start at £31 for 1,000 points, but the more you buy, the more you get free, so 3,000 will cost you £63.
To give some idea of the number of points you need to get to different destinations, you'd need:
This card has a representative annual percentage rate (APR) of 17.9%, so you should try to pay off your balance in full every month. In fact, if you don't the rewards you gain will soon be wiped out.
Lloyds TSB also offers a Premier version of its Avios Duo credit card, which has a £50 annual charge. Cardholders collect 1.25 Avios points for every £1 they spend on the Premier Duo Avios American Express Card and 1.25 Avios points for every £5 they spend on the Premier Duo Avios MasterCard.
For a limited period, if you spend £500 a month for the first three months, you'll get 20,000 Avios, enough for two return flights to selected destinations in Europe.
If you spend over £15,000 on your cards in a year, you'll get a 'Companion Ticket' so you can take someone away with you on holiday. You can also put points towards days out and holidays.
Bear in mind that this card has a representative APR of 23.7% (variable), so you should make sure you clear any balance transferred within the introductory period, and pay off any other spending in full each month.
American Express British Airways Premium Plus
The American Express British Airways Premium Plus card also enables users to collect Avios points when they spend, and offers a generous 18,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in the first three months - enough for two return flights to Paris.
After that you collect 1.5 Avios points for virtually every £1 you spend on top of that and three Avios for virtually every £1 you spend direct with British Airways or BA Holidays.
If you spend £10,000 or more on your card over the year, you'll receive a 'Companion Voucher' valid for 24 months, so you can redeem two vouchers at the same time when booking two reward flights.
This card has a hefty £150 annual fee however, which pushes the representative APR up to a very steep 56.4%. You also need an annual household salary of £30,000 to apply for this card, so it won't be for everyone. However, if you are a big spender, you should be able to build up a significant points balance in a relatively short period of time.
Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card
The Virgin Atlantic Black Credit card is aimed at frequent Virgin flyers who want to earn points on their spending which they can put towards flights and other rewards. Like the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit cards, the Virgin Black card is in fact two credit cards.
You get an American Express card that rewards you with two Flying Club Miles for every £1 spent, or four miles for every £1 you spend direct with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, as well as a Visa card. The Visa card gives you one Flying Club Mile for every £1 you spend, or two miles for every £1 you spend direct with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.
The cards have a 0% introductory offer on balance transfers for the first six months, subject to a 2% balance transfer fee. There is a £140 annual fee however, so, as a result, the cards' representative APR is 52.1% (variable), which means you'll need to make the most of the benefits on offer and clear your balance every month to avoid interest charges.
One of the biggest perks of this card is that you get 6,000 bonus Flying Club miles when you make your first purchase on either card.
In addition, if you spend £5,000 on your American Express card over the year, you can get a Premium Economy reward upgrade. You can earn up to two upgrades a year. If you spend £7,500 on this card in a year, you'll receive a complimentary companion reward flight when you purchase a full fare qualifying flight. Cardholders get complimentary Regus Businessworld Gold Membership too, which is worth £199 a year and gives access to 1,100 lounges and cafes in cities worldwide.
Another benefit of this card is that you don't just have to put the miles you earn towards flights - for example, 30,000 Flying Club Miles will enable you take a balloon flight over the English countryside.
MBNA AAdvantage Credit Card Account
The MBNA AAdvantage Credit Card Account is designed for those who fly frequently with American Airlines and again consists of two cards, an American Express and a Visa card.
Cardholders will earn 1.5 award miles for every £1 spent on their AAdvantage American Express Credit Card and 1.5 award miles for every £2 spent on their AAdvantage Visa Credit Card.
You can also earn double miles for any spend on fuel, supermarket shopping and American Airlines purchases.
There is also a welcome bonus of 5,000 award miles just for spending on your card within the first three months, and you can earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles if you spend a minimum of £1,500 within this period. If you spend £5,000 within 180 days of opening the account, you'll get an extra 20,000 bonus miles.
To give some idea of how far these points could get you, you'd need:
You will need a higher number of points if you are flying at peak holiday times.
The card has a representative APR of 17.9% (variable), but there is a 0% introductory rate for flights booked through Americanairlines.co.uk.
Several other airlines including BMI, Easyjet, Flybe, Ryanair and Virgin offer airline credit cards that also allow you to collect miles as you spend, with reward schemes varying depending on which airline you choose.
Remember, however, that you should only take out an airline credit card if you can afford to pay off the balance in full each month, otherwise any interest you pay will quickly outweigh the value of any miles you collect.
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