Why the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card remains the best UK travel card for long-term spending

With the sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus (BAPP) card increased to 25,000 Avios until February, I thought it was worth taking another look at why I rate this card for long term spending.   I have a BAPP and my wife has her own too.

This is especially important given the recent fee hike to £195 per year which may have made you reconsider the value you get from the card.

(I am obliged to remind you that the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card has a representative APR of 76.0% variable based on a £1,200 credit limit.  The free British Airways American Express card has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.)

A lot of the credit card posts on Head for Points are focussed on sign-up bonuses.  Get a card, spend the minimum required to trigger the bonus, cancel the card, move on.

That works fine for some people.  However, if you are a high to medium spender then the few thousand pounds of card spend required each year to hit your sign-up bonus targets will not be a stretch.  You need to consider where to put the rest of your annual spend.

Many credit card issuers offer incentives for spending £10,000+ per year on their cards.  The value of these perks is often underestimated – they are often worth far more than the points for your normal spend and can be more valuable than the sign-up bonus, especially as you can earn them year after year.

British Airways Premium Plus

Here are the key cards which offer annual benefits for spending a large sum:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – 2-4-1 voucher on Avios redemptions for spending £10,000

British Airways American Express – 2-4-1 voucher on Avios redemptions for spending £20,000

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points for spending £15,000

Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express & Visa – upgrade voucher for spending £7,000

Virgin Atlantic Black American Express & Visa – upgrade vouchers at £5,000 and £10,000

IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard – free night voucher for spending £10,000

Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa – Hilton HHonors Gold status for spending £10,000

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – free night voucher for spending £25,000

By a substantial margin, the most valuable of these is the 2-4-1 voucher offered on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus.

A potential 10% return on your spending

When you spend £10,000 on the BAPP card, you get a voucher which gives you two Avios redemptions (on BA planes, ex-UK only) for the miles of one.  You still need to pay the full taxes and charges on both tickets, however.

On an average redemption (two Club World tickets to San Francisco on a peak day, say), this saves you 150,000 Avios points.  On a First Class flight or a longer Club World trip, the saving could easily exceed 200,000 Avios.

I have a very conservative valuation of Avios points of 0.75p.  Most readers value them more highly.  However, even at 0.75p, the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ £1,100 if it saves you 150,000 Avios points on a trip.

£1,100 of value for spending £10,000 on the card is an excellent return.  Even when you factor in the £195 annual fee, you are still getting a £900 net return on your £10,000 of spending.

Why I prefer the Premium Plus card to the free British Airways American Express

As I wrote in this article, I am NOT a fan of the free British Airways American Express card if you plan to earn the 2-4-1 voucher.

This is the despite the fact that you would save £195 in annual fee by taking out the free BA card instead of the Premium Plus.

Why is this?

The 2-4-1 voucher on the BAPP card lasts for two years, whilst the voucher on the free card only lasts for one year.  This is very important since, on busy routes, you may need to book 11 months ahead to guarantee the seats you want.

You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent, which outweighs some of the £195 fee

You only need to spend £10,000 and not £20,000 to trigger the voucher.  Even if you can easily do £20,000 of American Express spending per year, it would make more sense to get a 2nd Premium Plus card for your partner and put £10,000 through that as well – so you generate 2 x 241 vouchers each year, each valid for two years – rather than put £20,000 through the free card.

My full review of the British Airways American Express Premium Plus can be found here.  The official Amex website and application form is here.  The higher sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios is available until February 2017.

(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.)

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.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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My review of BA's Jet and Air lounges at Vienna International Airport
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  1. using the 2 for 1, how do you manage to get seats in business or first to Sydney? i rarely see availability.

    • T-355 for first sector and book by phone and tell them you are adding flights as they become available, this is free as its not possible to book a four sector trip with 241 voucher on line. Seats appear to be released in a pattern so one has to be flexible, involves stopping a few days in Singapore.

      • T-355? Sorry for ignorance but kinda new to all this

      • “involves stopping a few days in Singapore”

        Hold on, but why would I want to spend a few days in Singapore (or any other place) when I am off to Australia? What’s the logic here? If someone has, say, 14 days precious annual holiday, they may not to waste chunk of it on a “few days stopovers”, episodically if all they really care is touring Australia and even 14 day is not that much time TBH.
        I think BA redemption availability is beyond ridiculous for popular long-haul. The few times I tried on AA, I had no issues to go anywhere. It’s indefensible.

        • I guess it’s because BA only have 14 seats per day in total to Sydney. Personally hate flying Oz to London in single hop.

        • Regardless of redemption reasons, a day or two of stopover in Singapore when heading Eastbound to Oz/NZ has always made my trips more enjoyable and jetlag-free. That was on 10 day trips too. If flying with SQ they offer stopover holidays (and allow a free stopover on return redemptions) so it’s a pretty common place to consider it!

  2. Hi,

    I have had the BAPP card since March time and hit the £10k spend by June I think and have been using it since. I can’t start going for the 2nd 241 voucher until next March so do you think it would be a good idea to cancel my BAPP now and get the rest of year refunded?

    I have just been accepted for the Lloyds Avios card so I can use that in the meantime to hit the £7k spend for free upgrade and 6 months of double Avios on the AMEX card (2.5 x)

    The lloyds card is only £24 a year and has 2 years interest free on purchases so I can see myself using it for longer term larger purchases.

    Plan would be to then reapply for the BAPP in 6 months time.

    Firstly – if i cancel my BAPP would i lose my 241 voucher – not used it or booked with it yet

    If I have the lloyds Amex should be OK right?

    Any info would be greatly appreciated.


    • I wouldn’t cancel so soon. You need to (at least) downgrade to the fee free Amex to keep your 241 live but I would hold tight meantime. I know you have the Lloyds card but consider applying for the Amex rewards Gold card instead. 20,000 pts for spending 2k in 3 months and no fee (£140) in the first year, payable after year 1. We cancelled ours after 11 months and waited the mandatory 6 months then reapplied. We’ve just been accepted again. 20k each plus referral bonuses easily transferred into BA avios. The gold rewards card also provides some nice benefits, including lounge access (2 passes) and $75 credit on some hotel bookings and room upgrades where available . (Hilton included). Worth a look at Rob’s review

      • How do you refer/get a referral for the Amex Rewards Gold? I have BAPP and hit the 241, so it would make sense to switch spending. The OH is in the same situation. Looks like either of us can apply, and there’s the 2k target, which we can easily hit, but I can’t see a way to refer each other?

        • If you don’t already know anyone with a Gold Card to refer you then eth guy running this site will do it (just drop him an email). He’ll get points but you also get an uplift from 20,000 to 22,000. Once you get near your required spend refer your wife for her own card.

          • Thanks – so once we’re on the roundabout, we can stay on 🙂
            I’ll drop Raffles an email

    • Hello!
      We got the free card in April then upgraded when when our spend 8k. This put us within 2k of the 2-4-1 which acheived the next month. We called to cancel the card but the chap on the phone advised against (i wont go into his reasons). We downgraded back to the free card, they credited our account with the partial free and it now shows if we spend another 10k before april (i.e 20k in the year) we’ll get ANOTHER 2-4-1 within the same card year.
      sorry if this isn’t a revelation to any of you.

      In my opinion; downgrade or get amex gold for the bonus.. or both!

  3. Qatar virgin says:

    I have a friend who has a 2-4-1 voucher, is there anyway to have this transferred to me? EG can i make them part of my avois family account or anything tricky?

  4. Just a quick question. Why do most people tend to focus on Avios rather than VA flying club? I have a few MR from my Amex Gold and looks like I can get better value for them flying VA upper to LAX than BA CW.

    Thanks in Advance

    • The 241 makes Avios cheaper, you get short haul options (which can be great value) and a far bigger route network.

    • nothing in europe

    • Sadly since the demise of Little Red it has only been possible to direct with VS ex-LHR or ex-MAN – you therefore have to book another domestic flight to connect to your redemption which is a pain both for bags and cost!

  5. Hi Rob,

    I find myself trying to juggle between the Virgin white cards and my Amex Gold card. My wife has the same problem. We are in Manchester and typically fly to the USA using Virgin two times a year, either in first class using miles or cash (if the price is right, i.e. off peak/sale time). If that’s not available its the same approach in PE.

    I am trying to work out if I should bin either card and concentrate on just the one.

    Will applying and paying the fee on the Virgin black card give me a better deal than paying the fee on the Amex Gold card? or is there a better way to earn those miles?

    We always boost our miles at any opportunity.

    All our spend goes on either of the cards to maximise any rewards/vouchers.

    As the Amex will be up in the next few months, any advice will be welcomed.

    • If you actually fly VS, and occasionally fly VS PE, then surely the Black VS card is an absolute must.

      The PE upgrade vouchers when coupled with booking when there is a miles sale offer great value if PE is on your radar.
      For 5k spend you get one PE upgrade voucher, a second for a spending another 5k in the year.

      You don’t necessarily need two vouchers, you could use one for both of you one way. And come back using purely miles, or even using a split cash one way, miles the other way booking (can’t remember the VS terminology).

      Plus the Black has double the earning rate.
      On the white:
      1 VS mile per £1 on the Amex
      1 VS mile per £2 on the Visa

      On the black it is:
      2 VS miles per £1 on the Amex
      1 VS mile per £1 on the Visa.

      Annual fee £140.

      So, if you spent £5k on the VS white Amex, you would have 5k miles.
      If you spend £5k on the VS black Amex, you would have 10k miles plus a PE upgrade voucher.

      Insert your values for 5k VS and a PE upgrade voucher for 2 sectors (one person return, two one way, etc).

      If you can put £10k through, insert your values for 10k extra VS miles and 2 x 2 sector PE upgrade vouchers.
      That must exceed £140 I would think if you (1) actually fly VS normally, and (2) do fly PE on occasion.

      Apply by end of October for enhanced signup bonus.
      I’m sure Raffles has a clickout link somewhere on this site.

      The only issue for me with VS, is that lack of a shorthaul network makes it hard for me to avoid UK APD on redemptions. Hence they are skewed towards in bound redemptions rather than outbound.
      (Also the USA centric route network, there are only 3 destinations left that VS fly to that I fly to. And only 1 of them regularly.)

    • Cancel your Amex and then apply for a BA or wait 6 months and reapply for the gold again for the first year free, the Virgin Black gives you 2 points for virgin miles as opposed to 1 Avios with the gold amex.

  6. talking of Avios – not long now to get in your last BMI Diamond Club Amex/ Visa/ MC spend

    just topped up TV licence £300, water £500, council tax £1000 @ Paypoint

    Sky, TalkTalk & EON, son’s school lunch (e-payment system) already sorted

    any other suggestions?

    • my wife’s parking @ LHR Easter 2017 – Holiday Extras 15% + MSE 30% discount DriveFly

      • had a second look at TalkTalk – they offer an option to refund any credit balance either to your bank a/c or in the form of a cheque, so I sent them another £500 as well

    • Ebay Seller Fees if applicable
      Gift cards for fuel, restaurants, holiday, food shopping for the next 12 months

    • Interesting suggestion re topping up TV Licence – how did you do that, harry?

  7. Another O/T
    Has anyone successfully booked an AVIOS Aer Lingus short haul flight – i.e. Birmingham to Dublin? I just had the BAEC line tell me that there was no availability. As he couldn’t see any availability – on multiple flights over multiple days – I am not certain he was looking at the right system (as he said it was available to book online) or there actually isn’t any availability. The flights are a long way off but are available to book for cash.

    • I had the same problem a few weeks ago – no availability, and when I called I was told that the systems weren’t merged yet, it would be possible in future. I had to book with cash.

      • Its odd though. I was able to book long haul out of Dublin to Boston – they could see that without a problem. Maybe its that there are no award seats between Birmingham and Dublin.

      • Have done some more reading – it feels like Are Lingus are very close to making the changes to their loyality club. I think I’ll hold off booking a cash alternative for another couple of months. Who knows we might see loads of avoids availability open up.

    • Even if they can get availability the taxes on short-haul EI bookings can make them uneconomic compared to just paying cash.

  8. I just got my 2-4-1 voucher buy looking at the small print rule 15 states.
    “The Member is responsible for paying any Taxes, Fees & Charges relating to their Companion Voucher booking. All Taxes, Fees & Charges must be paid for using the Member’s British Airways American Express Credit Card.”
    so can I go ahead and cancel it or will it cause problems?

  9. Send money to yourself via. Papyal with the old BMI Mastercard!

  10. O/T Halifax Clarity

    So I ordered this for my wife today since the BMI Diamond Club Amex/ Visa combo is leaving Avios – ie we’ll use it for overseas spend. Approved there & then.

    Surprised to see there didn’t seem to be an option for a supp card for me.

    Was I just blind or a) can I add myself on as supp later? or b) do I have to get myself one in my own name?

  11. Terry Silver says:

    Slightly O/T – just booked first 241 redemption since getting involved in all this last year. taking the missus club world to vegas next year (no first availabllity) for anniversary. Never flown club before so very excited.

    Thank you to all, especially raffles 🙂

  12. I’ve had the free BA Amex card since 2010. It’s the card I use for all of my daily spending. I would prefer to have the Premium Plus card instead. Is it easy to upgrade rhe card or does one have to cancel it, wait for six months and then reapply?

  13. Hi all – can anyone tell me how long the 241 takes to appear in your account once triggered? I’m waiting (impatiently) as we speak!

  14. O/T

    I have the BAPP & Amex gold cards, but want to get a visa or mastercard for places that wont take amex. Dont mind whether its a hotel card just want to earn points for all my spending 😉

  15. Some analysis of the practical use of BAPP and 241 and costs.

    We run 2 x BAPP to give flexibility on who goes (family of 3) as we don’t often all fly long haul and come back on the same dates and we need the 241 in both names.

    Wife and child just got back on the LHR-BKK route with a 241 for July / Sept 2017 – amazed to get space but it came at a cost of £1030 in taxes and 165,000 Avios. But is this a deal ?

    Without extra offers, an adult and child on Etihad would cost about £2800 usually but this comes with a far better product and chauffeurs. It also accrues mileage.

    If it takes us 2 years to generate 165k Avios then the BAPP costs (now) £780 over 2 years. Add in the £1030 taxes and say £200 for chauffeurs and you have a cash figure of £2010. Versus the Etihad £2800 that means you are using 165k Avios to save £690 which equates to 0.42 pence per Avios.

    Dropping back to the free BA card would save £390 a year at the cost of some Avios for sure but on my maths, it doesn’t really seem much sense to keep with BA and Avios at the cost there is when I could use the Avios for other stuff where I get better value.

    Of course, I would love first class to Australia but I think the whole world is trying to bag that bargain. Whenever I look there is no availability and I suspect I would never get the opportunity when I would want to go.