The received wisdom, prior to the 2015 Avios devaluation, was that the British Airways Premium Plus American Express 2-4-1 voucher was the best thing since sliced bread whilst the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card upgrade voucher left something to be desired.
The 2015 changes to Avios reward pricing meant that the relative value of the two vouchers changed. It often takes time for long-held opinions to change, even when the underlying facts are now different. Is the Lloyds Avios Rewards card still second fiddle to the BAPP Amex 241?
In support of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express 2-4-1 voucher ….
Let’s summarise the deal with the BA Amex card. When you spend £10,000 on the Premium Plus BA American Express card, you get a 2-4-1 voucher valid for TWO years on an Avios redemption in ANY class.
The ‘catches’ are that:
you can only use it on a BA flight starting in the UK
you cannot use it on a one-way TO the UK (one-way FROM the UK is fine) and
you pay full taxes on both tickets
The voucher on the free BA card is less attractive. This article (click) explains why you should NOT try to earn a 2-4-1 voucher on the free British Airways Amex card.
Here is a good point we forget – if you cancel your redemption, you get your voucher back; the voucher is valid for 2 years from the date of issue (you must fly the outbound leg by this date)
Here are some bad points we forget – you need be travelling with someone else to use it; the £10,000 of spend can only be accumulated via American Express which excludes many small retailers and online payment providers for council tax etc
What happened with the 2015 Avios devaluation?
In some ways, the 241 voucher became MORE valuable. As Club World to New York jumped from 80,000 Avios to 120,000 (peak) or 100,000 Avios (off-peak), the voucher is saving you more Avios!
In other ways, the voucher is LESS valuable. If you can no longer earn enough Avios each year to use it in Club World or First, you may use it for a less attractive redemption (say, World Traveller Plus or Club Europe) where the value you are getting per Avios point is lower.
In general, the BA Amex has NOT got less valuable. It is simply that the Lloyds card has got more valuable.
In support of the Lloyds Avios Rewards upgrade vouchers ….
Following the scrapping of the Premier card earlier this year, there is now only one version of the Lloyds Avios Rewards card.
It comes with a £24 annual fee and offers you a voucher to upgrade a return reward flight – or two one-way flights – by one class when you spend £7,000.
Let’s be clear about one thing. It is NOT an ‘upgrade’ voucher, despite the name. It is a voucher which lets you book a redemption flight for the miles of a cheaper class. You do NOT need Avios availability in the cheaper class, just in the class you want to fly.
For example, if you want to fly Club World, you do NOT need to find reward space in World Traveller Plus to ‘upgrade’. You only need reward space in Club World, for which you are charged the World Traveller Plus price.
Here are some good points we forget – spending on BOTH the Amex and the MasterCard cards count towards the vouchers; the Lloyds card have no foreign exchange fees so you can boost your spend on holiday with no worries about being overcharged; the upgrade voucher is great for solo travellers; you only need to spend £7,000 to trigger it
Here are some bad points we forget – the upgrade voucher is LOST if you cancel your reward flight (although you can make date changes); the MasterCard has a very poor earning rate on spend (0.25 Avios per £1); you CANNOT use the upgrade voucher to fly in First Class; the voucher is only valid for ONE year from the date of issue (you must book by this date but can fly later)
What happened with the 2015 Avios devaluation?
With the 2015 changes, the multiplier between flight classes changed:
World Traveller Plus was 1.5x economy, it became 2x economy
Club World was 2x, it is now 3x
First Class was 3x, it now 4x
The Lloyds upgrade voucher would previously have saved you 20,000 Avios if travelling to New York in Club World, whilst the BA Amex 241 would have saved you 80,000 Avios. Remember that Club World was 80,000 Avios and World Traveller Plus was 60,000 Avios. Put crudely, before April 2015 the BA Amex 241 was 4 x better than a Lloyds upgrade voucher.
Today, if travelling to New York in Club World, the Lloyds voucher saves you 40,000 Avios on a peak day and 48,000 Avios on an off-peak day . The BA Amex 241 voucher will save you 120,000 Avios on a peak day and 100,000 Avios on an off peak day. This has substantially increased what you can save. Put crudely, after April 2015 the BA Amex 241 is now only 2-3 x better than a Lloyds upgrade voucher.
Let’s compare a typical redemption
Sticking with our New York Club World redemption, let’s see how five redemption options compare using different credit card reward vouchers:
Two Club World seats, off-peak dates, flights to New York on British Airways:
No credit card – 200,000 Avios required
BA Amex (free version) – no fee, spend £20,000 on the Amex and your cost falls to 100,000 Avios, saving you 100,000 Avios
BA Premium Plus Amex – pay a £195 card fee and spend £10,000 on the Amex and your cost falls to 100,000 Avios – saving you 100,000 Avios
Lloyds Avios Rewards – pay a £24 card fee and spend £7,000 across either the Amex or MasterCard and one person travels for 52,000 Avios (the WTP cost). The other pays the standard price of 100,000 Avios. You save 48,000 Avios.
The British Airways Premium Plus option is STILL the best deal for a couple, I think. It has never made sense for a solo traveller – the best options if you travel alone are in this article.
However, you are restricted to one BA Amex voucher per person per year. A couple can have a Premium Plus card each, of course, but you are then looking at £20,000 of Amex spend per year to trigger both vouchers – this is not easy.
A more interesting scenario would be to get the Lloyds Avios Rewards card and use it ALONGSIDE your British Airways Premium Plus card.
Here are some good reasons why:
The fee on the Lloyds card is only £24 per year so your sunk cost is low
With no foreign exchange fee, it is a better card to use for your holiday spending than a British Airways Amex with its 3% fee
You can use it for bills such as council tax where you can often use a Visa or MasterCard but not an American Express
Between the second and third points above, triggering the upgrade voucher at £7,000 should not be too difficult. It should not make a big difference to how long it takes to trigger the voucher on your BAPP Amex if you have close to £7,000 of annual overseas spend or spend at ‘non Amex’ retailers.
Don’t cancel your British Airways Premium Plus American Express. The 2-4-1 voucher, for a couple, remains the best deal available on ANY loyalty credit or charge card.
The Lloyds Avios Rewards card has a decent claim for being added alongside it. Whether you should do it depends on how many Avios holidays you book per year, how much money you spend on credit cards per year and whether you would prefer to push MasterCard or Visa spend towards a non-Avios card instead (eg Hilton, IHG – the best MasterCard and Visa cards are in my article here).
(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.)