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

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With the sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus (BAPP) card still increased to 25,000 Avios, and with the Virgin Atlantic bonus lower at 18,500 miles, 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.

(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 Honors Platinum Visa – Hilton Honors 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.

As I wrote earlier this, I think that most people with a free BA Amex should switch to the new American Express Rewards Credit Card or upgrade to the BA 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 still available.  It isn’t clear how long the higher bonus – it is usually 18,000 Avios – will last.

(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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Bits: good BA Club World US fares from Leeds Bradford, BA call centres reprieved

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  1. I think the basic BA card gets a raw deal. I accept all the reasons for having the BA Premium Plus Card, but nothing is mentioned of upgrading and downgrading the card.
    For instance, take out the basic BA card, spend £9999, then upgrade to the Premium Plus Card, spend £1, plus the £195 – and get the 2-4-1 with the 2 year expiration. Immediately downgrade to the basic card, and get your £195 back, whilst keeping the 2-4-1 voucher.

    If you are getting the card for the first time – then yes, fill your boots and get the 25,000 Avios. Otherwise, I would be sticking to the basic card for most of the year, unless someone can tell me of missing benefits.

    • Throw Amex a bone and give them a few quid in fees?

      • You know, I didn’t like the new Like button on FT at first, but I really want to Like this post.

    • Good strategy for earning the 2 for 1’s but not that great at earning Avios. Much better to refer partner every 6 months. Even with the free card you would probably get an extra 20,000 or so avios a year by doing that. With the premium one and a some money spent on fees you could get about 70,000 extra avios a year. (26K avios +9K refer a friend each 6 months). Even fully paying the £195 you would only be paying about 0.27 per avios point. Plus you earn at a higher rate on the premium card.

    • Not really a compelling argument for the free card, that is just gaming the system. Also it would be sustainable if everyone did that.

  2. I think I got great value for my last BAPP card. I have booked using our 241 for EDI-LHR-SIN then back SYD-SIN-LHR-EDI for 244k Avios and £1372.66. The LHR-SIN being in F. In the past we only ever travelled in Economy to Australia – never could afford business or first class tickets. Cost of BAPP was £112.61 after the pro rats refund. Got the 26k sign up and 9k referral pts plus ongoing spend pts.

    • Ps All the other flights are in CW

    • For your return trip when you have the stopover in SIN you will have just enough time to nip to the Qantas lounge to freshen up and grab something nice to eat (the Qantas SIN lounge has one of the best food offerings of any business class lounge I have been in, with great service), never tried the BA lounge.

  3. I made a 241 redemption in CW for the recently released Seychelles service. 125,000 Avios plus £1167 for the two of us off peak. I value Avios at 1p so let’s call that £2517.

    The 241 voucher cost the £195 card fee minus the extra 5,000 Avios through the increased earning rate, so £145. Total cost of redemption is therefore £2662.

    WT+ tickets are selling at £999 return and upgrade to CW costs 30,000 Avios each way per person. Total cost would be £1998 plus 120,000 Avios. Let’s call that a total of £3198. However as a couple we would earn back approx. 45,000 Avios (BA Gold + Silver) so total cost comes out as £2748.

    That gives me a “value” for the 241 of just £2748 – £2662 = £86.

    The maths for my recent West Coast USA / Hawaii trip are even worse than this!

    • Would you spend £1998 non-refundable a year out, and would you have been able to book that on release of the seats (maybe yes in this case for a new route, but for rolling T-355 release the cheapest WT+ buckets are often not available and you have the outbound/inbound wait to give you problems too).
      Actually I think the Lloyds cards come out well here. 130k avios + £1167 + 2x£24 = £2,515. (£14k spend but can include MC.)

      • I think realistically we would only have upgraded the overnight flight in this scenario, so we would have ended up £500+ better off by not using the 241. I can see some people would put value on having a refundable ticket, but it’s not something that bothers me. I’ve not had much trouble finding good WT+ fares in the past but i’m more likely to book a good J ex-EU fare.

        Going forward, i’m downgrading to the free BA and will apply for the Lloyds card (mainly to earn Avios abroad with no f/x fee and if I use the voucher that’s a bonus). Avios continue to offer good value on RFS and partner redemptions – particularly the Iberia North/Central/South American routes from Madrid and JAL domestic/Asia routes to name a couple of examples I’ve made use of.

        • We put real value c 12£k for our F 241 x 2 . With elderly parent always a risk we need to cancel. Worth the £35 fee. Pp. And have done once to SEA. So a useful option for some.

  4. Considering upgrading to the PP from the free version. If I give them a call, any chance they will offer a spending incentive (for bonus avios) upon upgrade or is that not something they do?

    • Sorry I can’t answer your question but any chance you have a partner you can refer instead?

  5. Steve Allen says:

    I have the BAPP with a ‘supplementary’ card for the wife. Both cards have different numbers. The main spend is on my card, with minimum spend on hers. 241 has been issued after 10K spend on mine. Does it work for a second 241 if we spend 10K on her card? Even though it is only a ‘Supplementary ‘card? a 2nd 241 would be pretty handy but not essential.

    • No. The spend from both cards counts towards the 10k. She would have to get her own card.

      • Steve Allen says:

        That’s what I thought, so I guess I’ll have to send her back out to work. 🙂

        • Amex looks at household income so even if your wife doesn’t work she would probably be able to get her own card. My gf quit her job to do a full time qualification and I’ve applied (I mean she applied…) for the gold amex and was approved. Also recently upgraded to Platinum with no issues.
          Make sure to refer her to get an extra 10k avios (9k referral for you and an extra 1k bonus for her after she’s hit the £3k spend in 3 months)

    • No. She has to get her own card (and pay her own £195).

  6. Off topic apologies, but close to current topic!
    Can anyone tell me how long it takes to receive the Lloyd’s duo pack (Amex and MasterCard) with the annual fee of £24, once you have received approval. I need to make a tax payment on 7th October and need a credit card urgently to spend against. If I apply today, any chance I’d have the cards by next Friday.
    Failing that, anyone know a good non-Amex card that would be good to put a large tax payment on.

    • Touch and go on any card, because if they don’t automatically accept you it adds another 2-3 days. And card payments to the Revenue need a few days to clear anyway.

    • If I remember it is usually around 5 days to get the card. As Rob said could be a bit tight.

    • Depends on the amount your paying if its a 5 figure sum then you will be lucky taking into account credit limits, amounts that will be accepted at one time, the limit of card payments HMRC will accept per bill in any given time, never mind the fact it takes a few days to post.

    • I use an HSBC World Elite MasterCard for all our personal and business tax payments. Read an article on HfP end of last year and the card has worked really well for our non-Amex spend (my wife has one aswell but we’ll probably cancel one after 1st year and just keep the one thereafter unless a better non-Amex option comes along). I believe it’s currently the best non-Amex on the market for collecting avios. Not sure if it will arrive in time for your tax payment though but you could bear in mind for future ones.

      • Simon,
        We also use the HSBC elite for all non Amex spend. But we only hold one, with the oh named on the account. Reason we did this was that all card spends end up in the same account. Then transfer over to our BAEC, when there is a bonus conversion like this time last year. Hoping for one this year again. They don’t have a HHA for points, so no point in both of us having the card with full fees. The avios do rack up surprisingly fast.
        But find using PayPal as an option more when faced with non Amex spend is offered more and more now. ESP useful when aiming for spend target. Which has cut down the HSBC spend a bit.
        And now will use Billhop a bit to reach a target spend if necessary. It’s a great new added bonus to our pints hobby.

  7. also sorry, if i use my IHG rewards card, does the points earned count towards the Spire Elite status that requires 75000 points?

  8. Might be a stupid question, but can I have a BA card and get the bonuses while I still hold an Amex preferred rewards gold card? Would I need to cancel that first?

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