Barclays has recently launched two new Avios-earning Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit cards.
These are very, very good products with everything you could ask for, and are easily (in my view) the most attractive Visa or Mastercard credit cards in the UK. You get:
- a great sign-up bonus which the majority of HfP readers will qualify for
- a very high Avios earning rate
- an annual BA cabin upgrade voucher for hitting spending targets
Every HfP reader in the UK should seriously consider applying for one of these cards.
But which one should you get …..?
Which Barclaycard Avios credit card should you get?
Our introductory article to the Barclaycard Avios credit cards answers a lot of questions you may have. In this article, I want to give you some suggestions as to which of the two cards you should get. (You can’t have both, before you ask!)
Before I do that, let’s summarise the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards:
The free card: Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
The representative APR is 28.9% variable.
The benefits are:
- No annual fee
- A sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 5,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in three months
- You earn 1 Avios per £1 spent
- You earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £20,000 in a card year
The paid card: Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
The representative APR is 78.9% APR variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 28.9% variable.
The benefits are:
- A £20 per month fee (reduced to £15 for customers who hold Barclays Avios Rewards via their current account)
- A sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 25,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in three months
- You earn 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
- You earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £10,000 in a card year
- You receive Mastercard World Elite privileges (we’ll cover these in a few days)
Which Barclaycard Avios credit card is best for you?
If you’re a UK-based HfP reader then you should be getting one of these cards. But which?
It’s important to separate your thinking between long-term and short-term.
In the short term, I strongly recommend get the £20 per month card. This has three advantages
- a far higher welcome bonus of 25,000 Avios
- a higher earn rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
- the triggering of the cabin upgrade voucher with just £10,000 of spend
If, after a few months, you decide that it isn’t for you, you can swap to the free card.
On the other hand, if you start with the free card, you will NOT be able to get the 25,000 Avios if you upgrade to the paid Barclaycard Avios Plus card. I think it’s better to start with the paid card, bank the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus if you can spend £3,000 in three months, and then rethink later on.
Long term, which card is best?
If you’re looking for a simple answer, there isn’t one. Sorry!
Before I go on, remember that you CAN apply for the Barclaycard Avios credit cards, and get the sign-up bonus, if you have a British Airways American Express card.
Here are some scenarios:
You keep your BA Amex as your main card, because you value the 2-4-1 companion voucher, and add a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard for places where Amex is not accepted.
I think this will be the most common scenario amongst HfP readers, at least initially.
I would start with the paid Barclaycard because of the 25,000 Avios bonus. If you find that you don’t have £10,000 per year of non-Amex expenditure to trigger the cabin upgrade voucher, you can always downgrade to the free Barclaycard later.
You cancel your BA Amex card and move all of your credit card spending to the new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard.
If you have the free BA Amex credit card and do not trigger the 2-4-1 companion voucher (or you do, but never use it, especially as it is now only valid in Economy) then I don’t see any value in keeping it. You might as well move all of your credit card spending to a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard.
Logically, if you have the free BA Amex you are probably considering cancelling in favour of the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard. However, I would think about the Barclaycard Avios Plus card because:
- even if you never managed to spend £12,000 on the free BA Amex to trigger the annual voucher, you may be able to manage £10,000 of spending on the Avios Plus Mastercard with wider acceptance
- if you ignored the 2-4-1 voucher on the free BA Amex because it can only be used for Economy redemptions, you may find more value in a cabin upgrade voucher which can get you into World Traveller and Club World (but not First Class)
- in the short term, it makes sense to try the Barclaycard Avios Plus card due to the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus (£3,000 spend in three months required)
You stick with your BA Amex card and decide not to get a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
I don’t see a lot of sense in this approach, to be honest. Everyone needs an Amex alternative in their purse or wallet, and I doubt you have a more generous Visa or Mastercard than the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard which earns 1 Avios per £1.
Even if you have no chance of spending £20,000 to trigger the cabin upgrade voucher on the free Barclaycard Avios card, you should be able to earn a decent amount of Avios from merchants who do not accept American Express. Simple things like paying your council tax bill on a Mastercard – allowed by most local authorities – would earn you a four-figure pile of Avios.
Other factors to consider
Part of the decision about which card to get, and whether it should replace your existing British Airways American Express card, is the total amount of annual credit card spending you have.
How can you allocate it to trigger the optimum number of BA Amex 2-4-1 companion vouchers and Barclays Avios cabin upgrade vouchers?
What works best for you will depend on your total card spend, your mix of Amex and non-Amex card spend, the number of Avios you earn each year and the size of your family.
A family of three, for example, is a big winner. You could earn a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher and a Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher and use both on the same trip to get all three of you into a premium cabin. (You would need to make two separate bookings to do this – use the 2-4-1 companion voucher for one adult and a child, and the cabin upgrade voucher for the second adult.)
How do the Barclaycard Avios credit cards compare with other Visa or Mastercard products?
Whatever Mastercard or Visa card you currently have, the Barclaycard Avios Mastercards are likely to be better.
Got a cashback card?
MBNA Horizon, Amazon, John Lewis Partnership etc? You are getting 0.5% at best and probably 0.2% to 0.25%. The free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard earns 1 Avios per £1 which, in the worse case scenario, converts to 1.33 Nectar points worth 0.66p. This is a 0.66% return.
Got a Virgin Atlantic Mastercard?
This is less clear cut, and is obviously heavily influenced by your love of Virgin Atlantic and whether you already earn their points from other sources.
Looking purely at the credit cards, the free Barclaycard Avios card is more generous per £1 than the free Virgin Atlantic Reward card (1 Avios vs 0.75 Virgin Points). The sign-up bonus is also better (5,000 Avios vs 0 Virgin Points.) The annual vouchers are harder to compare as they offer different benefits.
For heavier spenders, the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ is on a par with the £240 Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard for the first year. The fee difference is offset by the sign-up bonuses (15,000 Virgin Points vs 25,000 Avios). The earning rate is identical at 1.5 per £1. The annual vouchers are harder to compare as they offer different benefits. After Year 1, the maths get a bit trickier and its a less clear cut decision.
Of course, even if you decide to keep your Virgin Atlantic Mastercard, you should still seriously consider getting one of the Barclaycard Avios cards purely for the sign up bonus.
Got the legacy IHG One Rewards Mastercard?
The free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (1 Avios per £1) is clearly a better deal than the free IHG One Rewards credit card (1 IHG One Rewards point per £1, worth 0.4p). You’d also pick up the 10,000 Avios sign-up bonus if you switched.
If you had the £99 IHG One Rewards Premium credit card, the overall package vs the Barclaycard Avios Plus card is more marginal. However, as the IHG card is going away, you don’t have much choice. The Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is arguably the most generous Visa / Mastercard in the UK but if you can spend £20,000 per year then the free version may do the trick – you’d still receive the annual voucher.
Got the legacy Hilton Honors credit card?
Tricky. Because this card is issued by Barclaycard, it disqualifies you from applying for the Barclaycard Avios credit cards.
1 Avios per £1 from the free Barclaycard Avios card (worth 1p+) clearly beats 2 Hilton points per £1 (worth 0.66p in total) from the Hilton Honors card. However, if you did want to switch you would need to cancel your Hilton Honors card and wait six months before you would receive a sign-up bonus on one of the Barclaycard Avios cards.
Some existing Barlaycard holders will receive a targetted offer in the Barclaycard app to switch to Barclaycard Avios. There is a small Avios bonus on offer if you do this. This offer is not available to holders of the Hilton card, unfortunately.
Got a HSBC Premier Mastercard?
The Barclaycard Avios cards trump the two HSBC Premier Mastercards even if you ignore the value of the Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher:
- the free Barclaycard earns 1 Avios per £1 vs 0.5 Avios with the free HSBC card
- the paid Barclaycard Avios Plus card earns 1.5 Avios per £1 vs 1 Avios per £1 on the paid HSBC card
The HSBC Premier cards only have value if you use them primarily to earn miles in Etihad, Singapore Airlines or Asia Miles. Even then, you may decide that earning Avios at a higher rate – plus earning the cabin upgrade voucher – makes it worth switching.
If you have the HSBC Premier credit cards then, by default, you have a HSBC Premier bank account. Now that you no longer need the HSBC credit card, you could move to Barclays Premier and Barclays Avios Rewards, earning a second annual cabin upgrade voucher.
The launch of the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards is likely to reshape your miles and points strategy. You no longer need to have a secondary programme purely because you need somewhere to put points from your non-Amex card spend.
If you are a HfP reader, it is highly likely that one of these two new Barclaycard Avios Mastercards should go in your purse or wallet.
Long term, you need to decide – based on your annual card spend, the size of your family, the number of Avios you earn each year and your willingness to pay card fees – whether you go ‘all in’ with Barclaycard Avios or only use it to fill the gaps when you can’t use an Amex.
In the short term, I think you should look seriously at the Barclaycard Avios Plus card because of the 25,000 Avios bonus.
Remember that you need to spend £3,000 in three months. With the fee paid monthly, it is easy to trade down to the free card later if you find you are not getting full value from it.
How to apply
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.