Credit Card Reviews 2014 (5): British Airways American Express Premium Plus

(EDIT, September 2014 – this article has been updated to reflect the current bonus offer.)

This is the 5th of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts 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.

Link: British Airways American Express Premium Plus official page

About the card

The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is issued directly by American Express. This analysis is focussed on the paid version of the card – I wrote about the free BA Amex card in a separate article.

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 card, 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, TSB, Barclays or MBNA will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.

The representative APR is 56.4% variable, including the fee, based on a typical £1,200 balance.  The interest rate on purchases is 19.9% variable.

BA Premium Plus - NEW

What is the sign-up bonus?

25,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 within three months.  This offer runs until 30th September 2014 at which point it will probably drop back to the usual 18,000 Avios.

A larger bonus of 26,000 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 link emailing to you.

Any other benefits?

When you spend £10,000, you receive a voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for two years.

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. I attempted to calculate the value of the British Airways American Express companion voucher in this post.

What is the annual fee?

The BA American Express Premium Plus card has an annual fee of £150.

You will receive a pro-rata refund of your annual fee if you cancel. American Express is the only UK card issuer to offer this.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

You receive 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on the card. You receive double Avios (3 per £1) when booking flights or holidays directly with British Airways.

What is an Avios point worth?

How long is a piece of string!

This article is my best attempt to calculate the value of an Avios.

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 British Airways American Express Premium Plus card performs very well, even if you have a conservative valuation of your Avios.

Other points to note

You will not receive a sign-up bonus if you have previously held a BA Amex (free or paid) 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 downgrade to the free version at any time. You may want to do this if you have triggered your 2-4-1 voucher but not yet redeemed it, and do not want to continue paying the annual fee.

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 useless 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.

The Head for Points Verdict:

Score for the sign-up bonus – 9/10.  25,000 Avios (26,000 if I refer you) is an excellent sign-up deal and 7,000 Avios higher than the usual offering

Score for on-going earning – 10/10.   1.5 Avios points and the 2-4-1 voucher when you spend £10,000 make this an unbeatable package for your long-term spending, as long as you are confident of hitting the £10,000 target.  If you won’t spend £10,000 on the card each year, it is not worth the fee after the first year.

(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.)

How I stayed in Paris for free and why I don't write about Best Rate Guarantees
100 Clubcard points with an Esso car wash!
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, airline miles and hotel points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our emails via the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Hi,
    I hold this card with my UK Address but my BAEC is registered in Europe. Therefore, Amex says they cannot credit the few 10’s of thousand miles I have accumulated with Amex BA card and also the voucher they offer when you spend in excess of £10k.
    The issue is I wish not to transfer the card back to UK ( I genuinely spend my time equally in UK and Europe) to take advantage of reduced tier points for Gold, which I had for few years now.
    Any solution for me?
    Any help will be greatly appreciated

    • I didnt think the reduced TP for gold in europe existed anymore. SOund like you need a BAEC account with a UK address on it.

      • Oly,
        you can if you were already Gold when they made the change back in March 2012 I think. Soft landing allows european members to only require 900TP for few years to remain gold.

    • This is the last year of reduced tier points, as you know, so your problem goes away in 2015.

      Nothing you can do about the 241s. However, the Avios will be held by Amex and you will – eventually – get them when you move your account back.

      • They already extended the soft landing by one year and there is no reason to say that they won’t do that again. Also one needs to consider the annual Europe promotion which normally runs from Sep to Dec which often allows you to get 100,000-200,000 extra Avios just for taking a few flights. Depending where you fly to with the 2-4-1, the extra Avios may actually be worth more, although you do need to take a few longhaul BA flights in J/F to get them. There is actually a German Visa card from Barclays which also gives you a 2-4-1 voucher for spending €20,000 in a year and a 20,000 Avios sign-on bonus, but you need a German address and bank account.

        • I currently use the Amex SPG card, having cancelled my gold card last month. But having put already 10K through the SPG since Jan, i m tempted by the BA card as earning a 2-4-1 is more valuable then getting SPG gold status( which i already have)
          But as i have a European BAEC address (not benefiting from lower TP thresholds, I became gold through BMI), i did earn a lot of avios last autumn with their Europe promotion.
          So while i m tempted by the voucher, i might earn more avios with a Europe promotion. I also would not be limited to redeeming on just BA.
          (FYI, I booked this week C award tickets on Turkish Airlines to the Maldives in anticipation of their major devaluation. I did compare with BA: return ticket 100K miles and no availibility, TK 2-3 flights a week available for 50 K (although finding seats to Istanbul is more difficult). So giving up a potential europe promo for a voucher i might struggle to put to best use is maybe not the best trade off.

  2. I have this card and yes it is the best IMO. after I hit the 10,000 spend and get the 241 I apply for the Gold Amex, hit the sign up bonus for it and use it until my BA card’s anniversary, then I cancel the Gold. repeat.

    • Oly, something to watch out for – Amex may be onto the cancel and re-sign lark. I’ve tried applying for the Starwood Amex and the Gold Charge card in recent months to pick up the signing bonus. Both were rejected by Amex because “I didnt meet their scoring criteria” – mind you, I score 999/1000 on Experian, not a single negative thing against me, and I actually hold one less card than I used to (I ditched the Platinum cashback credit card about 18 months ago). I pay all my cards in full each month. I can only infer from this that either (1) they are on the lookout for bonus tarts like us (2) they prefer to sign up people who dont pay off in full each month (3) they’ve changed their evaluation criteria somehow

      • Interesting – I certainly hope this isn’t the case! I’ve had 3 SPG card and a BA and BAPP along with a Plat CC. Mind you I’ve kept my Plat Charge card going the whole time, not sure if that helps at all…

  3. Hi raffles,
    I earnt a 2 for 1 voucher with my BAPP an downgraded to the standard BA but last month cancelled that. You imply above that I can no longer use my voucher even though it shows up on the BA site as an option to use. Can you clarify as concerned I can’t use the voucher now.
    Thanks
    Phil

    • blenz101 says:

      You will be able to use the voucher provided you hold an Amex with which to pay the taxes and fuel surcharges associated with your vouchers booking.

      Amex is the only payment method accepted when using a 241.

    • After weeks of back and forth (for which Amex gave my 2k Avios for the inconvenience) I finally managed to receive written confirmation that cancelling the card does not cancel the earned voucher. As others have confirmed, you will need an Amex at the time of booking.

    • If the voucher is still there, you can use it. If you then cancel the redemption flight you book, though, it may well not be returned to your account for re-use.

  4. Mummy55 says:

    I am about to apply for this card. Can anyone tell me,will my Amex Platinum travel insurance still cover travel ect. booked on the B A card , or is it that you are still only covered by the insurance of the card on which you buy the tickets .(hope that makes sense).

  5. “You will not receive a sign-up bonus if you have previously held a BA Amex (free or paid) in the previous six months.” I cancelled my regular BA Amex in December 2013 after paying it off when I sold my house. I was approved for the Premium Plus version at the beginning of March and have already plowed £7k onto it. Have received the 25k miles and am only £3k from my companion voucher, so the signup bonus is possible.

    • did you apply for the card at your new address? This may be the reason as i know someone who has received an MBNA bonus more than once for the same card, after they had moved.

    • Oh yes, Amex’s IT system is not infallible. But it would be wrong for me to encourage people to do stuff which has only a chance of working, especially when they can wait a little longer and be 100% sure they will be OK.

  6. So if I get a 2-4-1 then downgrade does the period I have to use it in also get downgraded (from 2 years to 1)?

    • No, it stays at 2 years. There is less experience of what happens if you were to book a trip then cancel, but again it seems to reappear in your account with the original expiry date.

  7. I am coming to the end of my first 12 months owning the BAPP and currently comparing the pros and cons. Having read the article, I understand if I renew for year 2 I have possibility of another 2 4 1 voucher? This would be an immense entry into the con column ! Could someone confirm or deny?

    • Yes, from your anniversary you can start earning towards your next 241, every year the same. Are you suggesting this is a bad thing? The only way to better this is to refer your partner (if applicable) for their own card, collecting the referral/sign-up bonuses and 241 on that card, and downgrade your own card to the free one.

      • Oops! I meant pro column – Auto correct!

        Thanks for that. Agreed, I value the 2 4 1 most lucrative deal of all the cards.

    • Yes, you get a 2-4-1 each year as long as you spend £10,000.

  8. What is a pro-rata refund? And how do I claim back the maximum refund from the £150 card fee?

    • A refund proportional to your time as a member – so cancel after two months and you get 10/12ths of the fee back.

      If you cancel within a month, probably within 6 weeks as Amex is generous with these, you would almost certainly get the full amount back.

  9. Quark999 says:

    Slightly off-topic, but does anyone have strategies as to how to hit the companion voucher spending limit?

    The usual suspects are Council Tax and Mortgage bills, but they both don’t take Amex for me. Even Sky doesn’t seem to take Amex.

    Other than my monthly stockpiles of loo roll from Costco – do I really need to change all my other grocery spend to Amex?

    • Sky still takes 3V cards so you could buy some of these to pay your Sky bill.

      • Are Sky still taking them? When the status of the 3V cards changed I had transaction(s) to Sky reversed back to the 3V cards, as did others.

        Edf accept them, so does British Gas – both allow refunds of overpayments after the government gave them a kicking. Assume other some other utility providers will be same.

        Also buy Amazon gift card with them – I buy myself a few e vouchers and maintain a credit balance with them. It’s surprising how much I seem to spend on Amazon.

        • Sky, bt, amazon, spark electricity, etc etc are taking them….just try all your utilities, it either accepts or rejects the payments.

        • Sky still take them if it is to pay off an actual balance.

          They reversed a few of mine when I tried to use them to prepay future bills as payments on account but I have used them since to pay off genuine monthly Sky bills and they have gone through fine.

          • I pre pay with 3 cards every month, they don’t reverse any more,,like what happened last December. If you do it around the time the bill is due, it definitely works.

    • Best to use your amex for all food and Petrol anything that takes amex.
      As well as buying the £50 Visa cards, with a £3.95 fee, which is currently covered by the helping hands vouchers of £5 when you spend £20 or whatever at the moment. Best of course if you can find 3v Visa cards, which are accepted at some utility companies. You can even call up and they will take them over the phone, bt will accept them. Buy any foreign currency you may need. Very very last resort buy ameX forex website, UK traveller cheques over £500 no fees, and pay me back into your account, maybe do that with a space of a month or two. Really no other way . All the time earring avios via your card and club card points. Make sure you pay with amex and scan club card, more than doubling your avios too. Hope that helps.

      • Maximus says:

        “As well as buying the £50 Visa cards, with a £3.95 fee, which is currently covered by the helping hands vouchers of £5 when you spend £20 or whatever at the moment”

        The T&Cs of the helping hands vouchers state that gift cards are exempt (along with a list of other merchandise), so you would still need to spend the requisite amount on other items.

        • Indeed – although let’s just say the T&Cs and the IT programming of things don’t always coincide ;)

        • That’s rubbish.

          The T&C’s actually mean that you can’t use them on TESCO gift cards. All other gift cards are OK. However, most check out staff do not know this, and a lot will try to stop you using the voucher. If they scan it, though, it WILL work OK.

          The best thing to do is throw in a few grocery items with your gift card, putting the card through first. Most check out staff forget about the gift card at that point!

          • Maximus says:

            I stand corrected! Just been for a quick Esso car wash and popped in to Tesco get a couple of Visa Gift cards. I used my “Helping Hand” voucher, which was accepted. I did not buy anything else. No problem.

            I shall be using the cards to pay my uni fees, bit by bit. The Helping Hand voucher discount makes it a good deal. Also cranks up my Tesco Fuel Save to 20p off/ litre.

  10. Vardster says:

    Does anyone know what were to happen if you had the basic card, spent £10k, then upgraded to the premium card, received the 2-4-1 voucher, then downgraded to the basic card again?

    • Vardster its valid for 2 years, i have done it 3 times. If you upgrade right at the end of the 12 months it possible to earn 2 vouchers very quickly then downgrade so only pay 4/5 months at premium level every 2 years

  11. Is this 2 for 1 on economy only? Or any class?

    • Any class. We got first..but you have to check every day.. Availability slim . Bit of a waste on economy.

  12. George P says:

    For me the Nationwide select credit card is the best non fee credit card. It gives 0.5% cashback plus commission free purchases abroad. You have to have a nationwide current account though.

    • +1 this is the card I always use abroad when my company is not paying. Also if you have the Nationwide Flex Plus you have commission free cash withdrawals.

  13. For those using 3v cards with EDF, how are they refunding your overpayments? And does it impact your direct debit discount? The discount is 6% so not worth losing for a handful of extra Avios.

  14. Apologies, dumb question alert. Does the 10k spend target (to acquire a 241 voucher) have to be done within one year? i.e. does the “spend” (if less than 10k) revert to zero on day 366 ? Ta

  15. ComeFlyWithMe123 says:

    I was considering cancelling my BAPP as I have already earned the voucher but not used it and have just been issued with my latest bill which includes the £150. Note that I upgraded to this card last year and this is the first time I have been charged the £150 membership fee. Maybe they don’t (or forgot to) charge on upgrade.

    Anywhoo, I asked to downgrade as I couldn’t justify the £150 fee seeing as already had a voucher in the bag. The CS assistant said that downgrading would be the only way to keep hold of the voucher and keep the 2 year expiry date. Without me asking, she did say by cancelling altogether, I would lose the voucher. Not sure if that is true or if she gets commission on the downgrade but I wasn’t for taking the risk :)

  16. Georgie says:

    You did the right thing, otherwise you would have lost the 2 4 1 voucher by cancelling completely.

  17. Another bonus of the 241 as far as I am aware is that if you have 2 vouchers you can use them both on one booking and so book 4 seats for the same Avios as 2 seats.

  18. Raffles, or anyone, is it possible to get all the way to Australia or New Z on BA 241 ticket? Thanks

    • Only to Sydney (LHR – SIN – SYD) but not New Zealand. Availability is dire though.

      • Thank you, any idea when ais any good for availability? Talking 2015 of course!

        • Maximus says:

          at a guess, our summer, their winter and not during the school holidays. Or during the week if you wanted CW or F. Call and ask when they have availability? I have done this for VS to Tokyo and were very helpful (though not sure if BA will be as patient as the Virgin chap was with me!).

  19. Is it still possible to get the card when one already has the BA co-branded Visa card in the US? I’m moving to the UK, therefore would appreciate some suggestions! Should I keep my Chase BA Visa card, which has 2-4-1 voucher for $30k spending and $95 annual fee, or get this BA Amex card?

  20. How long does it take after you hit the 10k spend for the voucher to appear?

    • About 2 days after the spend hits your Amex statement – it will when you log in at ba.com. Remember the £150 card fee does not count towards the 10k.

  21. Raffles, would you recommend cancelling BA Premium Plus card after receiving the sign-up bonus and companion voucher in case this has been achieved in 5 months? The idea is to cancel now, get part of the fee back and then apply again in 6-7 months… Would this work? Any hidden issues/problems? Or would it be better to just stop spending on this card and rather apply for something else?

    • Have you redeemed your voucher? If so, yes you can cancel. If not, your voucher will not be taken away – although if you later book and cancel a redemption flight there is a chance that the voucher does not get credited back.

      Plan B is to downgrade to the free card, although that would not let you reapply in 7 months for another bonus. You would save the £12 monthly fee though.