From backpacker to people with bag packers…

Credit cards scare people, annual fees scare people – but like many things in life, it’s all about how you use them. Regardless how steep the annual fee, the best travel credit cards can help travelers come out far ahead on their annual travel expenses, while opening up new levels of service and luxury. Here are the best UK travel credit card options, whatever type of traveler you are.

Best All Around – American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Not sure whether you need airline miles or hotel points? This card is one of the most flexible on the UK market, with the ability to create Amex, Virgin, Emirates, Hilton and other points instantly, but with the added safety of being able to transfer your points to many different airline or hotel programs, rather than commit to one. Members earn 3x points when they book with Amex Travel, 2x points when they book flights directly with an airline and earn 2 lounge passes each year.

Good for: Non to semi frequent travelers who don’t book business class flights outright.

Annual fee: Waived for first year. £140 after that.

Sign up Bonus: 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points after £2k in the first 3 months. 10,000 bonus points each year you spend £15,000 in a year, for at least 25,000 points a year ongoing. Plus, earn 9,000 points for every friend you refer.

Earning: 1x points on everything, 2x on flights booked with airlines, 3x with Amex Travel.

Key benefit: 2 Airport VIP lounge passes annually, doesn’t matter what airline you’re flying.

Best Value Miles Earner – HSBC Premier World Elite

This is a card that competes with Amex Platinum, with half the annual fee and greater acceptance. The benefits are clever, the earnings are powerful and most importantly, it looks great. This is a brilliant card if you’d like to earn flexible points, which are convertible to a variety of airlines, or wish to simply redeem for a great travel rebate, good toward any purchase. If you can get approved with the strict criterion, it’s a no brainer.

Good for: High net worth spenders who enjoy lounge access when flying a variety of airlines, and want options when they cash in their points via multiple airline choices. Read criterion here.

Annual fee: £190, with option to add up to three supplementary cardholders for £60.

Sign up Bonus: 40,000 HSBC Points when you spend £2k in the first 3 months of card opening, plus an additional 40,000 when you spend £12k in the first 12 months. 80,000 HSBC Points equal 40,000 airline miles with British Airways, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore and Etihad.

Earning: 2x points (1 airline mile) per £ on everything, 4x (2 airline miles) on foreign transactions.

Key benefit: Unlimited annual airport lounge visits, iPass wifi subscription (in flight wifi too).

Best For Points Nerds – Starwood Preferred Guest Amex

Have you read some blog posts about obscure frequent flyer programs, where there’s no way to create points other than actually flying, or by converting SPG Points? This is your card. Though this card will change after August 1st, getting it now will bring the best value going forward. You can do incredible things with SPG Points, from hotel stays with Marriott to converting 1 point into 1 airline mile, with more than 35 airlines! Here are the coolest airline tricks you can only unlock with SPG, in case you’re curious!

Good for: Points nerds looking to use the fewest points for the greatest flying experiences, and people who want a strong earning card for free hotel stays. The more you spend, the better.

Annual fee: £75 per year.

Earning: 1 SPG Point for every £1 spent on the card. 1 SPG point = 1.25 airline miles, when you redeem 20,000 points at a time. Earn 2 points at all Marriott and Starwood properties.

Sign up Bonus: 10,000 SPG Points after £1000 in spending in the first 3 months. Earn SPG Gold after £15k per year in spend, and a free night award after £25k in spend per year.

Key benefit: Convert points to airline miles with 35 airlines, all from one card.

Best For Luxury Travel – American Express Platinum

With an annual fee of £450 a year, you’ll undoubtedly be expecting a lot from this card. And if you travel frequently, and enjoy luxury travel – you’ll get it. The Amex Platinum is the Swiss Army Knife of luxury travel, unlocking hotel upgrades, a fast track to amazing frequent flyer status, discounts and flight benefits, all while offering perks like airport lounge access. Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts unlocks buy 2 get 1 free offers, dining credits with each stay and other perks which can more than offset the annual fee in a single transaction. The card also comes with complimentary SPG Gold Status, Hilton status and a Shangri La status you can parlay into Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer status.

Good for: People who spend money on luxury hotels, enjoy instant, complimentary elite hotel guest status and enjoy airport lounge access, regardless of airline or cabin.

Annual fee: £450 per year.

Earning: 1x points on everything, 2x with Amex Travel. 18,000 points per card referral.

Sign up Bonus: 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points after £2k in the first 3 months. These points can be converted into hotel points or airline miles, with a variety of choices.

Key benefit: Fast track to Star Alliance Gold, lounge access, hotel discounts and upgrades.

Best For Free Flights – Virgin Atlantic Premium Mastercard Or British Airways Premium Amex

British Airways or Virgin Atlantic? For the easiest route to unlock free flights from the UK, both cards offer great value and a very similar proposition. The benefits are slightly different, but each card offers an opportunity to earn the most points with each respective airline for each purchase, including your morning coffee. In addition, you can unlock 2 for 1 offers where two people can travel for the miles needed for just one, upgrades and other perks. If you’re a loyalist to either airline these cards make a lot of sense. If you travel across tons of airlines, perhaps one of the above.

Good for: Loyalists of either airline, who stick (as much as possible) to the program.

Annual fee: British Airways Amex is £195 per year. Virgin Atlantic Premium is £160.

Sign up Bonus: The British Airways Premium Amex offers 25,000 Avios points after £3k in spending within the first 3 months. The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard offers 15,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles after your first purchase, within 90 days of card opening.

Earning: The British Airways Premium Amex offers 1.5 Avios per £ on all purchases and 3 on British Airways purchases.The Virgin Atlantic Premium Mastercard also offers 1.5 Flying Club Miles per £, and 3 miles on Virgin Atlantic purchases.

Key benefit: Both cards offer a 2 for 1 voucher when you spend £10,000 in a year. The British Airways version is good for any cabin, whereas the Virgin Atlantic version is only good for economy, unless you’re a Silver or Gold Virgin flyer. The Virgin Atlantic card however also offers more choice for rewards, like an upgrade to Premium, or lounge passes, if you don’t need a companion.

What’s your favorite UK Travel credit card?

Featured image courtesy of the St. Regis Bora Bora.