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? – October 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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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 & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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 long list of travel benefits 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.

  • shd says:

    “On an average redemption (two Club World tickets to San Francisco on a peak day, say), this saves you 150,000 Avios points (…) the 2-4-1 voucher is ‘worth’ £1,100 if it saves you 150,000 Avios points on a trip.”

    Bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.

    For once I agree with BA, the value of the 241 voucher is (to a first-order approximation) £nothing.

    • Anna says:

      If you’re getting a seat on a flight for which you would otherwise have to have paid (much) more, surely it’s worth the difference between the two figures? It’s the same as if I wanted to buy a book from Amazon and someone had given me a £20 voucher. If the book cost £30, I would pay the £10 difference in price. The voucher is still worth £20.

      • Genghis says:

        Taking your analogy forward, the voucher gives you a discount at Amazon only on the 10th best book on a subject. If you paid cash you would buy the best book. Is the voucher still worth £20?

        Taking it back to points, if the 241 did not exist, I would probably use avios (still the easiest currency to collect for a UK based person) on partner airlines which are better quality and lower taxes. I get most of my avios for next to nothing so don’t really use a strict valuation as I wouldn’t pay high prices for J and F.

        The “worth” of the 241 voucher is then what it saves me in avios (offset by paying higher fees and the cost of obtaining the voucher) but for flying on a poorer quality airline.

        For me, the numbers still work.

        For example, I have a stack of avios (obtained for next to nothing) and would like to go to HKG from LON in business with my wife and we’re willing to go offpeak times for BA calendar. My choices are BA at 150k avios + £1,100 say + 241 or Cathay at 180k avios x 2 = 360k avios + £500 in taxes. The 241 voucher is therefore “worth” 210k avios – £600, and applying a notional 1p (what I could get on short haul), £1,500. I’d then rather go for the 241 and save the avios for future trips but have to fly on a poorer quality airline.

        • Drav says:

          Hit the nail on the head Genghis. this is the key component that people miss out when they try to flog the 2-4-1 voucher to others.

          whilst you are saving avios, you are paying much more actual cash AND choosing to fly on a worse product.

          of course, if you are aware of that and factor that into your circumstances and it works for you, as you said, then that’s good.

          But the problem is that people are easily mislead by headlines saying things such as “youre saving 1.1k”.

      • John says:

        You are (like lots of people) assuming that the price at which something is sold is the same as its value.

        If you are happy to pay £30 for a certain book, then why not just pay it instead of going to all the hassle of reselling lego just to get a voucher that means you end up paying the same price. (I appreciate that in your example, someone gave you the voucher – but this only works if you genuinely get your avios for nothing).

        I value avios at 0.6p each. This means that when I use my Amex I “pay myself” 0.6p per avios as an accounting entry on my spreadsheet.

        On an economy flight to the closer destinations in Europe, BA sells flights for 4500 avios + £17.50. As long as there is availability, a flight therefore costs £44.50. I would be happy to pay £50, therefore I am making a “profit” of £5.50 per flight, again, just an accounting entry.

        BA can sometimes sell a paid flight on these routes for £200, but I don’t care, since I either pay £44.50 or just don’t go. Of course if it is under £44.50 then I should pay the asking price.

        Similarly, I don’t pay more than £100 a night for hotels, so whereever I use my Hilton or IHG free night, I only receive £100 of value for it, regardless of how much the hotel would have charged.

        • Marc says:

          I have a similar vision to Avios like yours. Band 1 and 2 Short haul flights in economy I value them at 50 GBP. I would never pay more than that in cash, so 4.500/7.500 Avios + 17.50 GBP, I value them at 50 GBP. Normally, below 50 GBP I pay cash, above 50 GBP I use Avios if available. If not, I don’t fly.
          I have a similar policy with hotel nights. However, once IHG savd my pocket: it was the night before the SFO Marathon, a weekend night, and I didnt prebook the hotel (usually weekend nights get cheaper with time). Rooms where +350 USD, even in the cheapest hotel. Luckily, the Holiday Inn Golden Gate opened a room for IHG Rewards the day before. Obviously, i would have been out of money if I had to pay cash for that night. But luckily, I didn’t!

        • Anna says:

          But it’s all very subjective. For example, if I currently want a holiday in the south of France in the early summer, it has to be during May half term week. A flight from the North West to Nice for that week costs £300 – £400 pp even with a LCC, so 15,000 avios plus £35 is almost a 90% discount in my books. My Amex gold card has “given” me 24,000 avios for buying food, petrol and a few other things I would buy anyway over 90 days, so I consider them as a “gift with purchase”.

          Not sure what selling Lego has got to do with it, which I don’t do anyway!

        • Polly says:

          John ..with you on that calc. When getting flts to dub mostly get rfs however the odd FR might only be 19.99. So l will go or come bk on fr. By the time the 4500k avios translates to £45 plus 17.50…def not worth an rfs. So each to it’s own.
          But we did a hkg one in 241 F one time and those priced at 12k pp…which we would never have paid. But we did get a kick out of it.

  • Sarah says:

    Hi OT but I am a novice at this and am just looking for some advice.
    My husband has c25,000 BA Amex points.
    I have a separate BA Amex free account with no points and my husband as joint cardholder.
    I have a gold card with c32,000 points.
    I have Avios.com account with a nominal amount.
    My question is can all the points be converted to Avios.com or membership rewards or is the best way to use them all through BA. The only problem with using them with BA is that they don’t do reward flights from Scotland without having to change at Heathrow and this means paying twice for European flights or having to go long haul which we don’t really have enough points for.
    I don’t really want to keep taking out new cards or keep spending on the cards but use what points we have.
    Any advice as to how these could be best used would be much appreciated.

    • Genghis says:

      Hi Sarah. Welcome to the world of points collecting.
      Amex Gold and Platinum cards earn membership reward points and those points sit in your Amex membership rewards account. They can be converted to BA Executive Club (“BAEC”)
      (amongst other things) at 1:1.
      When you have a BA Amex, just before month end the points get swept across to your BA Executive Club account.
      Avios.com and Iberia plus are then separate schemes.
      If you login to Avios.com, and go to the “Your Account” tab, you can then click on “Transfer Avios to/from British Airways or Iberia”. This allows you to combine all your avios from BAEC, avios.com and Iberia plus in one account. Should you want to add your Amex membership reward points to this balance, you would need to convert to BAEC first.
      Hope this helps piece things together.

      • Genghis says:

        To add, you can set up a household account with British Airways. This essentially pools avios from whoever is in the household account (you and your husband) to allow you to make redemptions

      • Sarah says:

        Thanks. That’s helpful.

    • Anna says:

      I agree it’s a pain having to go via Heathrow and having to effectively pay twice for the privilege!

      You don’t say whereabouts in Scotland you live, but if you can get to Manchester reasonably easily, BA now offer a limited number of routes from there to European destinations. These can be terrific value – I managed to get 4 reward flights to Nice for the Monaco Grand Prix weekend next year for 60,000 avios plus £140 RFS fees.

    • Mikeact says:

      I would also suggest, a quick read of ‘New to Avios ?’ above.

    • John says:

      Yes BA is not that great for people living far from London, but you can always take the train down when there is a sale (~£30 each) or try out the cally sleeper when they get the new rolling stock in…

      Why don’t you want to keep spending on the cards? You can just build up the points for a long-haul trip later.

      If you don’t want to churn cards then you need buy paid flights to get more avios, it’s difficult to collect lots purely on spending unless you are a really big spender. My wife and I spend less than £15000 per year, that wouldn’t get us anywhere on avios except that over half of it is on flights which earn tens of thousands of avios from flying.

    • pauldb says:

      I think you have decent options, but you need to decide what you’re aiming for.
      BA have some direct seasonal EU routes from GLA and EDI, and there are some Flybe/Iberia/Vueling options wikipedia is quite good for this.
      If you got a BAPP card and spent £10k, with the sign-up bonus and the points-for-spent you’ll have virtually 100k avios and a voucher, enough to get you to NE USA or the Middle East in Business. That will cost you £195 for the card and £1000 in taxes: do you want to travel longhaul, and does that sound like good value to you … alternatively you can see it as jumping through a few hoops to travel business for the price of economy.

  • Kean says:

    If two people are traveling to the same place at the same time then the BAPP card is definitely the best options. Having two of the Lloyds Avios card in the household on the other hands allows us to go to different places solo or the same place at slightly different time, even when we wanted to go together, we will simply book the same journey using two vouchers.

    Granted, no first class is avaliable and the vouchers only last one year instead of two.But for those like us who appreciated flexibility greatly, this is the best way going ahead, just hope Lloyds would continue to offer the voucher in the coming years. Also having two cards and no FX fees, those cards allowed us to use them anywhere and with literally any business who accepts card payment, its all about flexibility really.

    By the way, even Avios.com states one person can only have one voucher per calendar year, this is false. I have two upgrade vouchers in my account right now and for a small window that they overlap, combined with the ones with my partner’s. They have the same effect with two 241 voucher on two on club world return within that period, shall we choose to of course.

    • John says:

      Exactly, not to mention all the nonsense about booking a year in advance and staying up until 1am blah blah. I mean I’m sure it works for some people but I wonder how many are actually in that sort of position. Then we hear of all these posters cancelling their 241s and letting them expire too.

      I haven’t booked a flight more than 3 months ahead since I was 14 years old. We used to do a yearly trip to Australia booked a year ahead, every year, very predictable since my dad had been in the same job for 20 years and nothing was ever going to change.

      Until he got forced to take early retirement and we got kicked out of his employer-provided housing and moved around several countries. Since then (I’m now 29) I have never really known where I’m going to be more than 6 months ahead. I can’t book a 2-4-1 to Australia a year in advance because I might already be in Australia on that date and then I’d need to come back just to take the 241 trip…

    • Alan says:

      Remember with the Lloyds voucher you only have to *book* within the validity period, so you could actually fly almost two years after acquiring the voucher if you book near the end of the validity period. Also doesn’t have to be an ex-UK flight. I rate the Lloyds voucher very highly, just wish there was a way to choose when it triggered yet still keep spending on the card!

  • Neil says:

    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.

    • Genghis says:

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

      • John says:

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

    • JP says:

      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.

    • AndyR says:

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

  • Liz says:

    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.

    • Liz says:

      Ps All the other flights are in CW

    • CV3V says:

      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.

  • Gavin says:

    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!

    • pauldb says:

      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.)

      • Gavin says:

        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.

        • Polly says:

          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.

  • Leo says:

    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?

    • pauldb says:

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

  • 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.

    • AndyR says:

      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. 🙂

        • MarkH says:

          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)

    • Rob says:

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

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