How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK?


How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK? – that will be the topic of today’s article.

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In the UK, Travel Credit Cards refer to the credit cards that are best for spending abroad.

The terms of travel rewards credit cards in the UK are Miles Credit Cards, Airline Credit Cards, Air Miles Credit Cards, and Points Credit Cards.

Why do you need this? To begin with, they offer some great travel-related benefits. These travel-related rewards come in handy for people who travel very often.

In general, people who travel a lot tend to spend a lot of money on plane tickets alone. Then, you must also consider the foreign transaction costs while spending abroad as well.

Therefore, I will focus on some of the best credit cards in the UK, which offer great travel rewards. As an added bonus, I will also mention some travel credit cards and debit cards, which are helpful while spending abroad.

Before we get to the good part, i.e., Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards in the UK, let us discuss some general info.

Air Miles Credit Card

After the pandemic, now, almost many countries have opened their borders to travellers from other countries. This is actually great news for people who love to travel around the world.

Such travellers spend a ton of money on flight tickets alone, which might seem a bit inconvenient. With the help of an air miles credit card, you can get advantages such as free flights or discounted flights.

Such benefits are offered when you spend money using that credit card and earn points. There will be welcome bonuses as well, which are extremely beneficial and very lucrative.

Air miles are the points, which are offered by such credit cards to be used for travel. Usually, such credit cards are run by airlines or credit card companies for catering to frequent travellers.

Such airlines and credit card providers also partner up with other hotels, car rentals, etc. Why? So that the cardholder can have more than one way to earn or spend the points.

In many countries, American Express is known to be one of the best when it comes to travel rewards credit cards. Most credit cards offered by American Express are known to offer attractive bonuses and rewards.

How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK? 9

The points earned on an AMEX credit card are useful for seat upgrades, vouchers, free hotel stays, and other travel rewards. But depending on the credit card provider you choose; the actual bonuses and rewards may differ.

Advantages and disadvantages

Let us start by shedding some light on the benefits you will get from a travel rewards credit card.

Usually, the rewards are offered on travel purchases, which travellers already spend. Therefore, travellers can find such cards to be advantageous.

Such points do come with the possibility to merge with other rewards programs. Because of that, cardholders can quickly reach the rewards milestones and redeem them.

If you don’t want to spend the points on travel purchases, you can redeem them for other rewards (if possible).

Now let us have a look at some of the drawbacks of these types of credit cards.

Air miles can often be used only for covering travel-related expenses unless suggested otherwise.

Even when you are offered great travel-related benefits, you would still have to pay certain fees and taxes.

The availability of booking a flight is limited when using air miles, in contrast to booking with cash.

One of the major drawbacks of air miles credit cards is that they come with huge fees. Unless you make the most of your credit card, you will be subject to a loss.

Some credit cards may not be accepted universally, which tends to be a problem for international spending.

There might also be a possibility for foreign transaction fees unless the provider offers relevant benefits.

Other details

Don’t go out of your budget and spend a lot of money just so that you will get more miles. While choosing a card, make sure that you will reap benefits on your normal expenses.

Also, make sure that you repay your credit card balance on time every month to avoid interest charges. If you fail to make timely payments, it will result in huge interest and leave you at a loss.

In such circumstances, the whole purpose of getting rewards against your spending is defeated, and your credit score will also be impacted. You should remember that credit card rewards are different from airline-related rewards.

Usually, credit cards come with a wide range of offers, discounts, and rewards. However, airline credit cards primarily focus on travel-related rewards. Depending on your credit card issuer, you may even be allowed to convert your airline points to other rewards.

Cash-back cards are a great alternative to travel rewards credit cards, as they come with more benefits. Nevertheless, most UK-based banks stopped offering cash-back credit cards. Hence, you can get one only from a provider such as American Express.

You might hear the name ‘Avios’ frequently while talking about airline rewards programs. Avios refers to the rewards currency which can be used for booking with British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.

How to make the most of your air miles credit card?

There are some proven methods through which you can collect more rewards.

First of all, individuals who are loyal to a specific airline may get more benefits compared to others.

Let’s say that you often travel a lot to one particular place using a specific airline. In such situations, try getting a credit card that is associated with that airline.

Most airlines are known to offer their own frequent-flyer programs. Always try to use your credit card when you are making purchases as it will help you earn more points.

Try avoiding interest charges and always make timely payments on your credit card balance. Having discussed the general information, let us take a look at the best travel credit cards available.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

Welcome Bonus – This card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending £3,000 in the first 3 months.

APR – 69.2% Representative APR (variable) and 26.6% purchase rate p.a. (variable).

Annual Fee £160 following an intro offer of £0 in the first year.

Details – This card offers 3 points per each £1 spent on American Express Travel.

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You will also get 2 points per £1 on purchases made directly with airlines or money spent in a foreign currency. For spending in foreign currency, you will incur a foreign transaction fee of 2.99%.

For all other purchases made with this card, you will get 1 point per each £1 spent up to 12,500 points per year.

Two annual lounge passes to over 1,200 lounges worldwide, while the visits must be made through Priority Pass Network.

You will also get two £5 credits for Deliveroo every month. The Membership Reward points from this card are transferrable to other currencies and can be shifted to 17 Amex partners.

There is also a referral program for this card, where you can 6,000 Membership Rewards points per person. The limit for earning referral points is capped at 90,000 points per year.

Disadvantages – Given below are the disadvantages of the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card.

An annual fee of £160.

To receive the bonus points, individuals might have to wait for a month.

The APRs are also considered to be high on this card.

Foreign transactions incur charges, which may not be beneficial for international travellers.

To get access to the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card, click here.

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Welcome Bonus – This card offers 25,000 bonus Avios as a welcome bonus after spending £3,000 in the first 3 months. Only for new customers.

APR – 72.4% Representative APR (variable) and 23.9% purchase rate p.a. (variable).

Fee – A monthly fee of £20.

Details – Keeping the welcome bonus aside, you can earn up to 100,000 Avios as a bonus. For this, you must open a Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card along with a Premier current account (conditions apply).

On every £1 spent on eligible purchases, you will receive 1.5 Avios (conditions apply).

Upon spending £10,000 within one year, you will get a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher. This voucher can be used on an Avios Reward Flight booking.

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Disadvantages – Given below are the disadvantages of the Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card.

A monthly fee of £20.

There is a requirement for a minimum annual income, which is set at £20,000.

The opening credit limit can be as low as £50.

The welcome bonus can only be availed by members who are new to Barclaycard.

Foreign transactions incur charges, which may not be beneficial for international travellers.

To access the Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card, click here.

British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Credit Card

Welcome Bonus – This card offers 25,000 bonus Avios as a welcome bonus after spending £3,000 in the first 3 months. Conditions apply.

APR – 104.8% Representative APR (variable) and 26.6% purchase rate p.a. (variable).

Annual Fee – £250.

Details – You will get 3X Avios on every £1 spent with British Airways or BA Holidays. For all other purchases, this card offers 1.5 Avios per every £1 spent.

With an active membership, you will get a Companion Voucher upon spending £10,000 every year. This is useful for taking a companion along with you or getting a 50% discount on the Avios price.

These vouchers can be redeemed at any cabin for booking a British Airways Reward flight.

You can even get additional Reward flight seats within Club World if you book with a Companion Voucher (conditions apply).

However, there are taxes, fees, and carrier charges apply to each person.

This card also offers Travel Inconvenience Insurance, Travel Accident Insurance, and Global Assist®.

How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK? 12

Disadvantages – Given below are the disadvantages of the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card.

A high annual fee.

Only the people who spend a lot and clear balance in full every month can find this beneficial.

When there is an outstanding balance month-to-month, the higher interest rate will rule out the available benefits.

The welcome bonus is only for new members who did not have any Amex card in the past 2 years.

Foreign transactions incur charges, which may not be beneficial for international travellers.

To access the British Airways American Express Premium Plus credit card, click here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

Welcome Bonus – This card offers 15,000 bonus Virgin Points upon making a purchase within the first 3 months. No minimum spending requirement.

APR – 63.9% Representative APR (variable) and 22.9% purchase rate p.a. (variable).

Annual Fee – £575.

Details – You will get 3 points on every £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays (conditions apply). For all other purchases, this card offers 1.5 points for every £1 spent (conditions apply).

This card also offers a promotional rate for balance transfers and money transfers. For the first 6 months, they are free (with a 3% fee), and following that, there will be a variable rate of 22.9% p.a.

As this card is MasterCard, the chances are likely for it to be accepted at many places compared to an Amex card.

You will get a companion ticket or an upgrade upon spending £10,000 every year.

You will also get free entry to Virgin Money lounges and free Boingo Wi-Fi access.

How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK? 13

Disadvantages – Given below are the disadvantages of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card.

An annual fee of £160 is nothing something to be taken lightly.

Unless you pay off the balance in full and claim all the rewards, you won’t find this card beneficial.

To earn an annual reward, the minimum spending is £10,000 which is higher compared to the standard Virgin Atlantic Reward card.

To access the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card, click here.

American Express The Platinum Card

Welcome Bonus – This card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards® points upon spending £4,000 in the first 3 months. Terms apply.

APR – 443.9% Representative APR (variable) and 26.6% purchase rate p.a. (variable).

Annual Fee – £575.

Details – Get 2X points when you spend £1 on Amex Travel and 1X points on all other purchases.

How to travel for free using credit cards in the UK? 14

These Membership Rewards® points can be utilized for shopping, travel, etc.

Complimentary lounge access to more than 1,400 airport lounges in more than 140 countries.

You also get £150 as a statement credit for dining in the UK per year, and another £150 for spending abroad.

Other perks of The Platinum Card have been listed below:
Hotel Benefits
Car rental Benefits
24/7 Global Assist®
Worldwide Travel Insurance
Lodging Benefits
Airfare Benefits
Platinum Concierge
Harvey Nichols Lifestyle Credit
American Express Experiences
American Express Offers
Platinum Service via Amex App
Metal card
Complementary Supplementary Card

Disadvantages – Given below are the disadvantages of American Express The Platinum Card.

The annual fee of £575 is extremely high compared to all the cards mentioned in this list.

The point-earning system is also not as effective as the other cards we discussed previously.

There is an introductory offer that waives the annual fee or the APRs. The representative APR is also extremely high, which is 443.9% (variable).

Foreign transactions incur charges, which may not be beneficial for international travellers.

To access American Express The Platinum Card, click here.

Other Cards

Alternative Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Some other credit cards that are available for those seeking travel-related benefits are provided below.
Barclaycard Avios
British Airways American Express
American Express Nectar
Virgin Atlantic Reward
Tesco Bank Mastercard

These also offer some of the best travel perks to individuals apart from these we discussed earlier.

Travel Rewards Debit Cards

There are a few debit cards which also offer airline rewards upon making uncredited payments using the card.

A few examples include PayPal Business Mastercard, the Chase Disney Visa, and the UFB Direct Airline Rewards.

Such cards offer miles, points, and cash-back rewards upon spending using them.

However, such rewards are comparatively lower than what can be obtained from credit cards. The rewards from debit cards also take much longer to be obtained.

Travel Credit Cards for international travel

Some credit cards, even though they don’t offer specific travel benefits, are handy for travellers.

How? Well, they don’t charge any foreign transaction fees while having minimum withdrawal fees. This makes them a great choice for people who wish to use their credit cards overseas.

Some of the best Travel Credit Cards for international travel has been listed below.
Barclaycard Rewards
NatWest Credit Card
118 118 Money Credit Card
Virgin Money Travel Credit Card

Prepaid Travel Cards

These cards are generally accepted internationally and are considered the best option while spending money abroad.

Usually, the options available for travellers to spend money in other countries are cash, cheques, and credit/debit cards.

Normal credit cards are debit cards that often incur foreign transaction fees and other charges. This leaves the traveller in a scenario where they end up paying more than what they spend.

To deal with the issues, travel prepaid cards are advantageous as they don’t have foreign transaction fees.

Some cards don’t even incur an overseas ATM withdrawal fee, which is extremely beneficial.

With a prepaid travel card, you can either spend money directly or withdraw cash from ATMs. In most cases, these are globally accepted at various hotels, restaurants, stores, and other outlets.

Some of the best prepaid travel cards available in the UK have been mentioned below.
Caxton Currency card
Currensea Travel debit Card
FairFX Currency card
Caxton Red Account Card
Wise Multi-Currency Account

These are a great deal for travellers if used alongside the air miles credit cards so that they can feel free to make transactions overseas.

Best Cash Back Cards

A great alternative for people who want something other than travel rewards credit card is a cash-back card.

These offer a specific percentage of cash back to the individual every time they spend money using the card.

The cashback earned from such cards would generally be paid as a credit on the bill or gets deposited into your account.

Some of the best cash-back credit cards available in the UK are as follows.
American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card
American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card
Santander All-in-One Credit Card

These are the credit cards and debits that can be used as alternatives to travel rewards cards. Sometimes they can be used along with your credit card while travelling globally.

Bottom Line

Remember that an airline credit card, just like a normal credit card, will incur APRs and annual fees. You should use them carefully and pay off the credit card balances every month to avoid fees and charges.

Sometimes, when there is a credit card due, the rewards won’t be made available. This may defeat the entire purpose of getting benefits from an airline credit card towards travel rewards.

Following that, never ever go for a card with rewards that are hard to get or a card with higher APRs and fees. Always make sure that you will be able to earn rewards from what you would normally spend.

Having said that, the details provided by me are accurate and up to date at the time of writing this article. However, they are subject to changes, and the actual rates, offers, and fees may differ while you read this.

I have provided the relevant links, which will redirect you to the credit card website. From there, you can get all the information you want or even apply for a card.

You should remember that I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies and neither do I endorse them.

Even the links provided in this article are not affiliated links, therefore making this a general review article.

I strongly hope that the information provided in this article was helpful to you in finding relevant information.

Are you seeking the help of a financial professional to cater to your wealth management needs? Do you want financial advice that can help you in achieving financial freedom?

I’m here to help. You can get access to some of the best financial services I offer.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need Financial Advice or Wealth Management/Investment Management services.

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 694.5 million answer views on, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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