Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Why the British Airways Premium Plus Amex is the best 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.)

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

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.

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 points from credit cards? – December 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (87)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • HarryKUK says:

    Do you know if CitiRewards points from foreign accounts (say in Thailand, for example) can be transferred to a U.K. registered BAEC account? Tried to ask the local CitiBank centre but they didn’t know – they said British Airways was definitely listed as a partner but didn’t know if there was a restriction at the BA end to only Thai-based members.

    I currently have the BAPP card but have already reached the £10k spend in four months, so looking for a local card for local spend. The current 5x promo on dining and travel with the CitiRewards card works out well for me out here.

    • Rob says:

      You can but try, although UK Amex points can only go to UK BA accounts.

      • Exeterite says:

        Interesting. My Canadian AMEX can transfer MR points to Avios in my UK registered BAEC account. I’d have thought it would be the same deal with UK AMEX.

  • Paul R says:

    Thanks for the tip guys, used the 2-4-1 voucher for Singapore Grand Prix next year in First Class, £18k worth of flights for 240k points and £1100,,, she who must be obeyed is a happy lady

    • Alex W says:

      Sounds like a great redemption even without a 241! Good work.

      • Stu N says:

        Nice work, have got excellent value from 2-4-1s too. Does take a bit of planning and flexibility but I can say it’s worth the effort.

    • shd says:

      £18k “worth” of flights? Honest….

      • Graeme says:

        That is the cost of them, even if they’re not “worth” it. If you wanted to pay for it, that’s what it’d cost.

  • TripRep says:

    Rob, did you ever do the stats on those HFP/FlyerTalk downgraded on a BA 241?

    Yes their deliberately misleading and stalling tactics (ala RyanAir) are very annoying and disappointing. I’d expect the CAA to be keener on this now too.

    However, from my test case I now I know that CEDR rule inline with the CAA, meaning BA are absolutely liable to pay up equivalent cash EU261 compensation for the Avios value of the “free” companion pax when using a 241.

    I may therefore consider this again.

    Anyone else tried claiming compensation, same result?

    • BillB says:

      I was reading a few threads on FT a couple of days ago where someone had compiled a list of reported downgrades (post 57 of link below contains the list) obviously anecdotal. Two things that jumped out at me were 1. the numbers/percentages reported: 3 in LGW and 1 in LHR and typically due to late aircraft changes and 2. more reports of downgrades by those not on 2-4-1’s.
      (Apologies if you have already seen the link or were a contributor)

      • Rob says:

        But Avios tickets would be 10% of the cabin at best, and 241 a fraction of that.

        • rams1981 says:

          And as I reported a few weeks back – on my way back from Rio on a 2 for 1 BA voucher I was UPGRADED to first. So it’s not all bad news with the 2 for 1…

      • Dennis says:

        I was also upgraded to first on the way back from Dubai!

    • BillB says:

      Also there is some compo talk in there.

    • New Card says:

      What was your test case? We are having exactly this issue at the moment – BA refusing to compensate for the 241 passenger re an involuntary downgrade. Would be very interested to hear how you managed to obtain full compensation for the 241 passenger (and whether this included taxes etc / whether calculated on one leg only or full return ticket price)! Many thanks.

      • TripRep says:

        Downgraded CW –> WTP as free 241 companion on Flight to Maldives. Wife stayed in CW as the main traveller. Rob ran an article on it in Feb/March.

        After 8 weeks of back and forth with BA “Customer Services”, and 3 refusals to pay compensation under EU261, finally got deadlock position so I could refer to CEDR which took a further 3 months (they are v busy) to agree with the law & decide in my favour. Received cash equivalent of 75% of the Avios that I would of had to pay for a single CW sector at a rate of 1.6p / Avios. BA also refunded the fare supplement difference between CW & WTP.

        Should I be unlucky enough for it to happen again, I’d go for a small claims court case with letter before action, I feel confident that’s the only process to get a swift and fair result.

      • TripRep says:

        New Card – if you give me full details of the downgraded sector/flight (via Rob if you prefer), I’d be willing to advise on what I think you are due.

    • bruciebonus says:

      I’ve been upgraded to F using an Amex 2-4-1 from Miami! Suspect having a Silver card helps..?

  • Asp says:

    Morning all, if you currently hold the free BA card is it advisable to hit say 9.9k then upgrade to the premium card and push it over 10k or can you hit 10k spend then upgrade after to receive the 2-4-1 with 2yr validity? Thanks

    • Memesweeper says:

      Yes, but you’ll earn slightly fewer Avios per £ on the free card spend on that first £9.9k of spend. If you think you can hit 10k quickly I’d not bother. You can downgrade after earning the voucher (once it hits your BAEC account) if you want to minimise fees.

  • Clive says:

    OT: …does anybody have experience of cancelling a Virgin reward flight? Is it straightforwardly refundable – and can you do it online or do you need to call them to cancel?

  • paul roberts says:

    I have a different point-of-view – the free BA card tends to make more sense for me and here’s why. I only use Avios points for European flights (I find the Avios scheme poor value for longer flights – the taxes/charges are crazy for long-haul Economy flights….it’s just not worth using up lots of Avios on these). And, for European flights, I only want to go away once or twice a year with the family. That means that the points I tend to have from the past (100,000+ normally is always in my account), the points I earn from the card each year, and the points I earn from flying BA on business all over the world, mean that I don’t really have a need to earn lots more Avios….I’d be paying £195 and, yes, earning lots more but not having a need to spend them given I just don’t see value in using them for longer-haul flights.

    • the real harry1 says:

      I’m similar – European economy flying only so 241s are pretty pointless – I like to keep a spare set of free Amex cards for deals (eg the current Esso offer: spend £50 get £5 back every time, includes giftcards & Tesco spending if there’s a Tesco store attached!) & for Shop Small

      You could make a points case for churning the BAPP since the sign-up bonus is pretty good and annual fee refunded pro rata upon cancellation

    • Lady London says:

      It’s not just for short haul in Europe they can be useful for short haul in lots of other places.

    • Simon says:

      I agree. In the last year I’ve pivoted away from BAPP to hotel cards and MR Amex. I need to travel on specific dates around school holidays, but can’t book leave too far in advance. the 2 for 1 means that I need to plan over a year in advance to be able to be sure to use it on long haul. It’s been great for a couple of splurges (e.g. I always wanted to try CWLCY so used it for that) but it’s not a long term win for me with my current lack of work travel, young family, and general lack of avios.

  • Joe says:

    I think it’s a little bit unfair to say the 241 is 10% back on your spending when it requires you to spend 150,000 Avios to ‘realise’ it. Spending £10,000 on the card will only get you 15,000 Avios (if you don’t count sign up bonuses etc). If you can earn the other Avios elsewhere that’s great, but I think it’s an important point to make that it will be very hard to get the 10% back without another source of Avios earning. I know a lot of people who seem to get this card because they hear it’s the best, without really looking at all the details, and then are disappointed when they realise how long it’s going to take them to earn 100-150k Avios.

    • Genghis says:

      150k avios isn’t too onerous.
      His n hers Plat and BAPP (one with £10k spend for 241 and one for £3k spend) is:
      92,000 + 79,500 = 171,500, for £17k spend.
      But granted, you need to stash of avios to make the 241 work.

      • Anna says:

        I was interested to know whether it would be worth getting a 2nd BAPP for the extra companion voucher, but would struggle to accumulate a 2nd lot of 150,000 avios. So I calculated the cost of buying avios when there’s a 50% bonus on, and using them with a 2 4 1, versus paying for, say, first class flights to New York.

        2 seats in 1st to New York using 2 4 1 works out at £1600 for the avios plus £195 for the BAPP fee plus about £1000 for the taxes and fees = £2800.
        2 cash seats on the same dates would cost a total of £6800, so on the surface this looks like a good deal, i.e. if your budget for flights is £3k, you can get first for the same price using this method.

        I don’t know if BA tend to have offers on first which might make this less of a good deal?

  • Jack Smith says:

    Rising annual fee and downgrade of BA service make this card worthless, also there are many other ways to get cheap business class tickets, I will downgrade it from Dec.

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