Credit & Charge Card Reviews (4): British Airways American Express

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.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Equifax credit report and score.  Your first 30 days are free then it’s £14.95 per month.  You can cancel at anytime.

As with all rewards cards, this is not a suitable product for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month.  You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.

Key link:  British Airways American Express application form

Key facts:  No annual fee

The representative APR is 22.9% 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.

British Airways American Express review

What is the sign-up bonus?

9,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within three months.  This is a special offer which runs until 7th February 2017 and is substantially larger than the standard bonus of 3,000 Avios.

A larger bonus of 10,000 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!

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

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.

American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for any of its cards.

How else can you earn Avios points from a credit card?

The obvious options are the Lloyds Bank-issued Avios card 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.

Conclusion

9,000 Avios (or 10,000 if I refer you) is an excellent bonus for a free card.

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 for 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.

The application form for the free British Airways American Express card can be found here.

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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Credit & Charge Card Reviews (3): American Express Platinum charge card
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Comments

  1. What happens to the voucher if you cancel the card entirely – does it go immediately?

    • Contrary to any advice from Amex, the voucher just sits there in your BAEC. Remember to use the voucher though you need an Amex – any Amex (Amex, Lloyds, MBNA issued) of any person – to pay the taxes.

  2. One thing you can do is upgrade the Blue to the Premium Plus at a later date. Whilst you don’t get another sign up bonus all the spend done so far on the blue card counts towards the Premium Plus target for the 241 voucher, so if you unexpectedly find yourself close to the 10k spend target for the Premium Plus card you can upgrade and get the voucher and then downgrade again to get a fee reimbursement.

  3. Dave Barron says:

    O/T – My BA Amex offers are this morning showing £100 cash back on a £500 spend with BA. Offer valid until 24th November. I expect if available his will be useful to many HFP readers. Wish this had been available to me a few months ago when I last made a booking!

  4. Seems they’ve stopped doing upgrades/downgrades over the phone.

    Just downgraded mine and my partner’s BAPP cards as we’ve triggered 241/are concentrating on Virgin Atlantic miles, had to submit a new application with my existing card number. Not managed to check my credit file yet to see if it shows as a new application/search….

    • Applications for existing Amex customers tend not to result in a new credit search, at least anecdotally for me and my wife. We had one search each for our first Amex and then none ever since

      • Is this true if you churn cards say the PRG and BAPP but always have at least a small overlap?

      • the_real_a says:

        No this is not true for me. Every time i apply for a new AMEX i receive a credit search, and also a separate “account” is placed on my credit file with the open balance.

    • just downgraded over the phone

  5. With the BA cards (free and PP) does the 241 voucher trigger as soon as you reach the required spend or does it only show on the anniversary of your card or some other date?

    Cheers

    • A few days after triggering the spend.

      • Do you have to wait until after your next statement for the 241 to trigger or does it get applied a few days after the spend regardless?

      • Thanks Genghis

        • Is the 241 a single or return flight?

          • A return starting and finishing in the UK. It can be open jaw (i.e. going to one airport and then returning from another but this must be booked over the phone).

          • And the distance between the jaws must be less than either of the to/from UK flights. e.g. You can do LHR-JFK, BOS-LHR but you cannot do LHR-JFK, HKG-LHR.

          • OK so, stupid question #27 –
            Is the 241 voucher redeemable against a reward flight, a paid flight or either?

            Cheers

          • Hi Alan. The 241 is a for a reward flight only. So if for example you wanted to book a flight to Hong Kong, and the BA calculators says 150k avios for a Club World return for one person (I haven’t checked the exact number of avios), then for two people to take that trip you would pay 150k avios and the taxes for two people (say around £500 x 2 = £1,000). So the longer the flight, the more avios required and therefore the more ‘value’ you’ll get from your 241.

          • Thanks again Genghis

          • Return flight

  6. Thank you Genghis – very helpful

  7. 1. Does being a companion card holder on my BA Premium Amex prevent my partner from getting a signup bonus if she applies for one in her own name (with a companion card for me)?
    2. Do companion cards count towards the 2 charge card and 2 credit card limits?
    3. Is card approval assessed on household income or personal income (my partner doesn’t have a personal income)? It’d be useful if the answer to this question was included in all your card reviews.

    • 1) No
      2) No
      3) There is no individual income requirement. I have seen previous comments about this and I believe it’s OK but as both wife and I earn, I have no first hand experience.

    • This would also be our situation so I hope the answer is household income!

      • My wife just applied for an Amex as a housewife with zero income. Accepted with modest credit limit

  8. Anyone had positive experience churning Virgin MBNA yet?

    • Yes, successfully churned the white card. Went from closed to new opening and bonus points posting within about two statement periods. Someone else posted about their success a couple of weeks ago too.

    • Ditto, also churned the white card.. Waiting for about 14 months after cancelling.

  9. Iasked this a few weeks ago, but forgot which thread it was in so never saw if anyone replied:

    With the 2-4-1 voucher does the ‘return’ leg have to end in the UK? In other words, could I use LON-TYO outbound and then TYO-HKG ‘inbound’?

  10. I already have a BA Amex card and have recently applied for a card for my wife. Do the same rewards apply if she spends £1000 in the first 3 months do we get the 9000 Avios points? I applied for it over the phone with American Express and her card came today so wanted to check before she uses it that the 9000 points apply if she spends the £1000 in first 3 months? She has activated the card. Please advise. Many thanks

    • I’ve never applied for a card over the phone like that but I presume so.
      It sounds also like you missed out on some referral avios?

    • Did you apply for a card for your wife as a supplementary card holder to your own account. If so she would not get any points as any spend she makes is on your account. If that was the case then refer her as a friend so she gets her own account and the points

      • Hi John, yes, I’ve just spoke to Amex and they confirmed the card is a supplementary card so I won’t get the Avios bonus. They have told me to send a referral to her and she can apply individually so I’ve done that and my wife has opened the referral and it says. **You will not be eligible for any Welcome Bonus award if you currently hold or have held any Avios enrolled American Express Card in the past six months you do not get any welcome** So based on this, because my wife now has a supplementary card and can earn avios points when she uses, do I assume she would not be eligible for the 9000 avios points? Any advice?

        • she will be eligible for the bonus because any points that she earns on the supplementary are added to your total.

        • Hi John, I am guessing you are talking about a gold card. I took out a gold card with my wife as a supplementary holder. I then referred her for the card with me as a supplementary card holder. I got a referral bonus. As we always travel together we made use of the 2 free lounge access. We then both only used my card to get the bonus avios. When we reached the required spend we stopped using my card and used hers and managed to get to the required spend for the bonus. As we had used our 2 free lounge access she cancelled her card and reverted back to my card. We managed to spend £15000 to get the 10000 anniversary bonus which I got today. As soon as I see the the points have transformed my BA account I will cancel the card. As I have the BAPP card we now use that. I will refer my wife for the gold card when she is eligible for the bonus for taking out another card. Of course this only works if you can reach the required spend but as I have found out from this site there are many ways to do that. Hope this helps. I am sure others will have different views but this seems to work for us.

  11. Slightly O/T but last year i churned the Platinum Card within 6 months for each of my 5 HHA members..I used the cards to buy J.L vouchers to buy our foodshopping at Waitrose but we also had new carpets, new sofa, new furniture … My wife thought I was Barmy, but it all came good in the end… the added bonus was that we bought all the furniture from JL via Avios E-Store for 4 Avios per £ at the time!

    So

    Jan –> A referred B
    Feb –> B hit spend target and referred to C,
    Mar–> B cancelled , C hit spend target and referred D
    Apr –> C cancelled, D hit spend target and referred E
    May–> D cancllled,
    June–> E hit spend target and referred A
    July –> E cancelled.

    I’ve got a nicely kitted out house, and a pile of Avios (but a slightly stressed wife and family members who weren’t 100% convinced I wasn’t doing somethign dodgy!) – Thanks to my mum, dad, brother, and sister in law 😀

  12. barnaby100 says:

    What is the maximum limit on a BA amex does anyone know? They seem to stick it up by a few thousand every few months and just wondered where the cut off was?

  13. Other than the fact that you can’t churn the amex gold charge card, is it not a better idea to apply for the amex gold credit card which has no fee and gives you membership rewards points rather than just avios at the same rate? Especially as you say that there’s no point in chasing the 2 for 1 with this card.

  14. Does anyone know if my wife has the Preferred Rewards Gold Chargecard, can she refer me for a BA card (I want the premium version), or do referals only work on the same type of product?

  15. I have an unused voucher that will expire in May and because of lack of availability, it looks like we may not be able to use it before it does. My last BA AMEX (Premium) was cancelled in 2015; can I get the card again now and get a new voucher upon spending £10k even if I still have an unused voucher “in the bank”?

    • Yes

      • Thanks shaya. For other readers, when I wrote £10k I was of course referring to getting the Premium card. (The comments on the review of that card seem to be closed, so I asked the question here instead.)

  16. Any suggestions for creating the necessary qualifying spend? As self employed I can pay VAT and tax with HMRC via Visa or MasterCard but not Amex. I’ve got my Amex set to fund any Paypal purchases. I did consider paying my wife’s PayPal account then withdrawing to her bank account, though there’s a 3% charge of course.
    Any other tips?

  17. What I found useful is when I’ve triggered 2-4-1 campaignion voucher with BA Amex Pemuim within 3 months I’ve downgraded to BA Amex standard and got back annual fee pro-rata, then I’ve got 9 months to spend 10k to reach another 2-4-1 voucher

    • We have done this also..v useful

    • Can you actually get two 2-4-1 vouchers in a year, one on the premium, the other after downgrading to the basic? Is this always the case, or a serendipitous mistake?

    • I have just done this also..thought it was a mistake when i saw it in my online account.

      question i have is, i want to upgrade back to the Premium account next year to trigger another 2-4-1…but not sure if that will work and when I would need to upgrade? any thoughts?

      • I thought that it simply shows as you needing spend £X to hit £20k spend but another 241 would not be forthcoming should you hit that spend?

        • No, it defintely says spend £X by X date to receive your Companion Voucher and the little % gage thing is at 58% which means I need less than £10K to trigger another companion voucher on my BA CC card.

  18. Think it’s time folks cooled it a bit on the churning. Rob does advise be cautious. It can be taken too far at times. Let’s try keeping it to annually. Don’t want negative responses from our friends in amex….worth a thought. We can all do 1 x bacc/bapp and 1 x prg/plat etc per year then refer…sorry to mention this but we all benefit from ongoing referring.

  19. Dougie Forde says:

    If one upgrades to the BAPP, earns the voucher, then downgrades. What is the minimum reasonable time to hold the BAPP?