This is my review of the free British Airways American Express credit card.
It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
(EDIT: This review was updated in July 2015 and all the information is correct as of that date. The refer-a-friend bonus is still available.)
Key facts: No annual fee, £20000 household income requirement
The representative APR is 15.9% variable.
About the card
The British Airways American Express card is issued directly by American Express. This analysis is focussed on the free version of the card – I write about the Premium Plus version separately.
The general American Express rule is that you can hold two charge cards and two credit cards at the same time. Platinum and Gold are the two widely-held charge cards, whilst the credit cards include the Starwood SPG, Nectar, Costco and Harrods Amex cards.
Any American Express you may have which are issued by Lloyds, Barclays, TSB or MBNA will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.
What is the sign-up bonus?
3,000 Avios when you spend £500 within three months.
A larger bonus of 4,000 Avios is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder. Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.
Any other benefits?
When you spend £20,000, you receive a voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for one year.
I strongly recommend, however, that you do NOT get this card if you are interested in the 2-4-1 voucher. You are SUBSTANTIALLY better off getting the Premium Plus card instead if you are willing to pay the annual fee for that card. This post explains why the companion voucher on the basic British Airways Amex is not worth having (in my view). The lower earning rate on this card and the one year validity of the voucher – compared to two years for the Premium Plus voucher – makes a huge difference.
What is the annual fee?
The basic British Airways American Express card is free.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
You receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on the card.
You do NOT receive bonus Avios when booking BA flights. This benefit is only available with the Premium Plus card.
What is an Avios point worth?
How long is a piece of string!
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the Asda card, which pays 0.5%. The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.
On this basis, the free British Airways American Express card performs OK, depending on the value you place on an Avios point.
Other points to note
You will not receive a sign-up bonus if you have previously held a BA Amex in the previous six months. You will not have a problem if you have any other American Express card, including Amex Gold.
For clarity, you WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you currently hold, or have held, the Lloyds Avios Rewards cards – this is not a problem.
If you have the card, you can upgrade to the Premium Plus fee-paying version at any time. However, you will not receive another sign-up bonus. Any spend you have done towards the 2-4-1 voucher to date will be carried over.
You can also do this in reverse – once you have triggered your 2-4-1 voucher, you can call American Express and downgrade to the free card for a few months (receiving a pro-rata fee refund) until your new card year starts and your spend starts counting towards the new voucher.
There is a £20,000 household income requirement.
How else can you earn Avios points from a credit card?
The obvious options are the two Lloyds Bank-issued Avios cards and the two TSB-issued cards.
Don’t forget these less-obvious options though:
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 20,000 Avios points.
The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 30,000 Avios points. It has a £450 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card offers 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points for signing up. These convert to 10,000 Avios points. It has a £75 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
3,000 Avios (or 4,000 if I refer you) is a fair sign-up bonus for a free card. Occasional promotions can see this figure rise slightly but there is no offer at the moment.
In terms of on-going earning rates, 1 point per £1 is not outstanding, and not receiving double points on BA spending (as offered by the Premium Plus card) is unattractive or anyone with British Airways expenditure. The terms and conditions of the 2-4-1 voucher make it less attractive than the voucher offered by the Premium Plus card.
(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 and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.