In this feature of Rewards Canada' Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate one for earning British Airways Executive Club Avios. Avios is the currency of BAEC much like most programs have miles or points. We have always recommended that you should carry a Visa, a Mastercard and an American Express card in your wallet. The reason why is that there benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We won't go into detail here as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but here we outline one card from each brand that will help you build up those Avios faster than ever. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for an Avios portfolio but we look at one card from each issuing family that won't totally break the bank on annual fees but will provide strong Avios earning along with very strong insurance benefits.
What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate British Airways Executive Club Credit Card Wallet? It is the following three cards
The American Express Gold Rewards Card is an obvious choice as it is Canada's number one ranked travel rewards card and is the strongest earning card in terms of earning British Airways Executive Club Avios. The RBC Visa Infinite Avion is another well known earner for British Airways Executive Club mainly in part due to its twice yearly transfer bonus when converting RBC Rewards Points to British Airways Avios (more on that below!) Finally the mbna Rewards World Elite Mastercard is brought in to round out the portfolio. The reason why is there isn't a Mastercard in Canada that earns points that can be converted to British Airways but mbna Rewards points can be used to cover taxes and fees on British Airways Executive Club award tickets.
You may be asking why does a British Airways portfolio even make sense for someone in Canada? There are many reasons! First off British Airways is founding member of the oneworld alliance which means you can use Avios for flights not only on British Airways but on their oneworld partners like American Airlines, Aer Lingus, and Cathay Pacific just to name a few. Plus they are also a partner with Alaska Airlines which is a boon for those living in Alberta and B.C. or even those close to a U.S. border city with Alaska Airlines service. In particular there are a number of reasons these partnerships can provide huge value, in North America flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines don't cost a lot of Avios as well as off season flights on Aer Lingus' Toronto to Dublin route. See the following articles we have written for more details:
You can also pull great value out of the BAEC program on short haul flights in numerous areas around the globe since flights under ??? miles only cost 4,500 Avios each way (we used to enjoy this in North America but too many people were redeeming for it so it was bumped to 7,500 within Canada and the U.S.) Some examples are Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and ??? or on British Airways' flights in the Caribbean. You have many more options than this of course.
Related: Travel Hacking 101 - How to get thousands of British Airways Avios for free
How to maximize your Avios earning with these cards
Let's look at category bonuses first. The American Express Gold Rewards card gives you extra miles at Grocery Stores, Drug Stores, Gas Stations and for trave purchases including flights purchased from British Airways. How much extra? The Amex Gold Rewards gives 2 miles per dollar spent which means you are earning 2 Avios per dollar spent and no other card in Canada provides that sort of earn rate. So if the retailer you are at in these three categories accepts American Express, put that purchase on the Gold Rewards Card to earn the full 2 Avios per dollar. If they don't, then of course put it on the RBC Visa Infinite Avion as it will earn 1 RBC Rewards point per dollar spent on all eligible purchases which translates to 1 Avios per dollar. The RBC Visa Infinite Avion only has one category bonus, travel purchases but it isn't as good as the American Express earn rate. So on travel purchases where American Express isn't accepted you'll want to pull out your Avion card to earn 1.25 RBC Rewards Points per dollar or the equivalent of 1.25 Avios.
The only place you'll really look at using the Best Western Rewards Mastercard is at retailers that only accept Mastercard. The best known of those retailers in Canada is Costco. Use your Best Western card here and in reality nowhere else as you'll earn more miles with the other two cards. Can you get better value out of other Mastercards at Costco? Absolutely but if you are only focused on British Airways Executive Club Avios, then the BW card is the way to go.
All the other spending you have will be at non-category bonus retailers so those purchases can be put on either your RBC Visa Infinite Avions or the American Express Gold Rewards Card. We would recommend the latter if they accept Amex. Why? You are building a balance in your American Express Membership Rewards account (which of course transfer to 1:1 to BA) but you can utilize Amex's Pay for Purchases feature to pay for your taxes and fees on those Executive Club award tickets when you redeem for them! That's right, you've now earned tons of miles utilizing these three cards but don't need to boost your Executive Club balance more so now you can use the flexibility of Amex's Membership Rewards points to cover other travel charges like the fees on Executive Club award tickets.
Finally we recommend you do not transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points or RBC Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club until you know you are close to actually redeeming for an award ticket via British Airways Executive Club. The only time we would convert points without an award in mind is during bonus time! Both issuers run bonuses at select times of the year when you transfer to British Airways. American Express has been once per year recently while RBC is almost always twice per year. The Amex bonus tends to be up to 50% while RBC seems to switch back and forth between 30% and 50% bonuses. With that said unless you really need to transfer to British Airways Executive Club so you can get an award right away you'll want to wait until these bonus offers come along effectively giving you a minimum of 1.3 Avios to a maximum of 3 Avios per dollar spent on these cards!
The Ultimate British Airways Executive Club Credit Card Portfolio:
Other Card Options:
There are several other cards you can look to replace our picks from each of the issuers. On the Visa side you could look at the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card however in all honesty outside of the 2 Avios per dollar it earns on British Airways purchases and the companion voucher at $30,000 in spend, you are better off with Avion card as it affords a lot more flexibility and more Avios when you transfer during the bonus periods. On the Mastercard front you could look at the BMO World Elite Mastercard as it provides the same earn and redemption on travel as the mbna card but has a larger annual fee due to its excellent insurance coverage and lounge access. Although we don't think there is a better option on the Amex side, If for some reason you don't spend a lot on gas, grocery, drug store or travel purchases but do elsewhere then you could choose to go with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card as you can convert poiunts to British Airways 3:1 and when you convert 60,000 points at a time they'll throw in an additional 5,000 Aviose or you could look at The Platinum Card from American Express since it earns up to 3 points per dollar spent on all purchases which translates to 3 Avios plus all the travel and other benefits associated with this high end card. Finally you can look at the new American Express Cobalt Card which earns 5 points per dollar on food categories (dining, groceries etc.) which translates to 2.5 Starpoints which then in turn translates to 2.5 to 3.14 Avios!
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