Do I still think that NO-ONE should spend £20,000 on the free British Airways American Express?

Back in April I ran an article which argued that NO-ONE should be spending £20,000 on the free British Airways American Express card to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher.

A reader dropped me a line to ask if I still believed this to be true after the annual fee for the British Airways Premium Plus card was increased from £150 to £195.

I thought this was a fair point and wanted to look at it again today.  Which is the best British Airways American Express card?

BA AmexFirst, let’s remind ourselves of the rules on each of the two BA Amex cards:

The BA American Express card has no fee, earns 1 mile per £1 spent and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £20,000. The voucher lasts for 1 year.

The BA Premium Plus American Express now has a £195 annual fee, earns 1.5 miles per £1 spent (3x on BA flights) and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £10,000. The voucher lasts for 2 years.

Why did I originally say that getting the 2-4-1 voucher via the free BA Amex card such a bad idea?

Well, for a start, triggering the voucher means spending £20,000 on the free BA Amex.  This leads to our first key point:

If you are spending £20,000 on the card, you’d earn 10,000 extra Avios by spending the same £20,000 on the Premium Plus card, because of the higher earnings rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 compared to 1 Avios! The Premium Plus also offers double miles when you book BA flights on the card.

Those extra 10,000 Avios alone were almost worth the £150 annual fee on the Premium Plus card.  That is no longer the case, but you can easily argue that at least half of the new £195 annual fee can be offset by the extra Avios you’d earn if you were spending £20,000.

However, that is only part of the answer.

Assuming you can manage £20,000 of American Express spend in a year, I STILL wouldn’t put it all on the BA Premium Plus card either! There are two better alternatives:

Get the Premium Plus card and just spend the necessary £10,000 on it. You can then use the additional annual spending to open more credit cards and meet the spending target required to trigger their bonuses.


If you have a partner, get them their own BA Premium Plus Amex and get yourself a supplementary card on that account. You could then spend £10,000 on each card (your own card, then the supplementary card on your partners account) and earn TWO 2-4-1 vouchers each year.

And there’s more ….

It is also worth remembering that the one-year expiry on the voucher on the free card is very inconvenient.  For busy routes you will want to booking 11 months in advance if possible and this is almost impossible on the free card unless you can time the triggering of the voucher to perfection.

So, taking into account:

  • The need to spend £20,000 instead of £10,000
  • The 10,000 extra Avios ‘lost’ on £20,000 of spend on the free card
  • The lost ability to use spend above £10,000 to meet sign-up bonuses on other credit cards
  • The inflexibility of just having one year to spend the 2-4-1 voucher

…. you really have to wonder if there is ANY point at all to earning a 2-4-1 voucher with the free BA Amex card!

Even with the increased fee, even if you could spend £20,000 on the free BA Amex card I think you are better off spending £195 in order to:

  • earn 10,000 additional Avios
  • get an extra year to use your 2-4-1 voucher
  • have the option of moving spend beyond the first £10,000 to a 2nd BAPP Amex or another card entirely

I am NOT saying that the free BA Amex is useless! You get a decent sign-up bonus (during a promotion) and the Avios earnings rate per £1 is not beaten by any other free card.

For someone who spends under £10,000 a year on their Amex, it is a sensible option. Anyone who spends £20,000 a year on it, though, needs to think again.

If you decide that the BA Premium Plus card is now the better choice, you have two options.  You can ring American Express and upgrade instantly (your spend to date on the free card will count towards your 2-4-1 voucher).  Alternatively, you could cancel the free BA Amex, wait six months and then apply for Premium Plus – this would allow you to pick up the 18,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

PS.  Whilst this is not something that I have ever done, some people downgrade their Premium Plus card to the free BA Amex after triggering the 2-4-1 voucher.  They receive a pro-rata refund of the annual fee for the rest of their membership year.  When they enter their new membership year, they call American Express to upgrade back to the Premium Plus card, restarting the cycle.  This keeps the annual fee below £195 per year.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. My husband ans I have a black BA Amex of which I am a named card holder. We have already spent our £10k for our companion voucher. I also have a free Blue BA card in my name, would it be possible for me to upgrade and have my husband as named card holder under my card, with the possibility of earning another companion voucher?

    • So to clarify: your husband has a BAPP with you as a supplementary card holder. You have the BA blue. Yes you can upgrade to BAPP and then get your husband as a supplementary card holder. Might be worth looking into cancelling your husband’s card (after applying the 241) so you’ll then be able to refer him again in 6 months’ time (9k avios) and for him to get another sign up bonus (currently 18k).

  2. I have the BA Amex card and my husband also has a supplementary card . Our year end was 12 th August . We have a 2 for 1 voucher for next year . If we upgrade I suppose we don’t get the bonus 25000 avios. If my husband cancelled his card and took out the upgraded £195 card would he get the points as a new primary card holder ? It looks like the 195 annual fee card is a better offer . Could you clarify please ?

    • As a supp, your husband is ‘unimportant’ & can take out the £195 card in his own name, no problem, no need to cancel his supp card

      yes – he would get the sign up points

      you could refer him