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

This is my review of the free British Airways American Express (BA Amex) 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.

Please note that this card is not suitable for you if you do not pay off your balance every month, due to the high interest rate.  You are better off with a low interest rate card such as – click for details – the AA Low Rate Credit Card which has an APR of 6.5%.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 30th January 2018 and is correct as of that date.)

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 will cover the Premium Plus version tomorrow.

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 Amex Rewards cards.

Any American Express you may have which are issued by Lloyds, MBNA or any other issuer will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.

British Airways American Express review

What is the sign-up bonus?

5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within three months. This is a special offer which began in March 2017 – I do not have an end date at the moment.

A larger bonus of 6,000 Avios is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder. Please e-mail me at rob [at] 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 either of the BA Amex cards 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 card – this is not a problem.

You WILL also receive the sign-up bonus if you are currently a supplementary cardholder on someone elses BA Amex.  American Express treats supplementary cards as belonging to the main cardholder and you are not treated as an ‘existing customer’.

If you have the free British Airways 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 and your membership year remains the same.

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 option is the Lloyds Bank-issued Avios card.

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.


5,000 Avios (or 6,000 if I refer you) for getting the BA Amex is a decent, but not exceptional, bonus for a free credit 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 BA Amex Premium Plus card.

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

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.

Bits: BA launches airberlin match, 1200 Avios with £20 NOW TV box, Ski and Snowboard Show
BA changes its baggage rules - effective today, no notice given!
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  1. Has anyone downgraded from the BAPP to the fee free BA amex and then upgraded at a later date to the BAPP again.
    I would like to keep hold indefinitely the BA fee free card but utilise the benefits of the BAPP card.

    • Yes we have over a 2 yr time frame…by accident actually!.all your spend goes towards a new 241 if you roll into a 2nd year. But obv you lose out on spend bonus. Shame you can’t into a referral rotation with somebody else and be named on each other’s cards in order to use the benefits.

    • Amex told us once you downgrade you cannot reverse it. The assumption rightly or wrongly would be if you downgrade you could then upgrade for bonus points after the 6 month window (like cancelling and waiting). We only downgraded until we used our companion voucher (2 months) then cancelled and will restart again shortly.

  2. Antonio says:

    Hi Rob. You mention that you will receive the bonus if you currently hold an Amex Gold. Does that also apply the other way round? I have the free BA amex and want to get the Amex Gold because of the sign up bonus (and lounge vouchers), but was reluctant to do so because I assumed I would need to cancel my BA amex for 6 months before applying in order to receive it. T&Cs for these things are always confusing! Thanks

  3. Slightly OT. I have the Amex Gold to get the sign up and lounge vouchers. Already have the BAPP (for a few years). Thinking of cancelling my BAPP, while I use the Gold. Then in 6 months, reapply for BAPP to get bonus points, and cancel the Gold (after I’ve got the sign up bonus and lounge vouchers).
    Will I still keep all bonus points etc doing this?

    • Andrew* says:

      Avios transfer from BA card to your BAEC account just prior to month end. Usual expiry rules then apply to Avios.

      MR points can only sit in your Amex MR account for as long as you have a suitable card. If you close your MR accounts then you have to do something with the points (transfer or spend), or lose them.

      Not 100% certain if unused lounge passes remain valid after account closed. Certainly aren’t for Priority Pass with Plat Charge Card.

    • Read robs recent post ‘re keeping Mr would have to apply for that free platinum one and keep points on there but next time you apply for gold you won’t get the bonus…ba points presume you transfer out to your baec..bapp you must not have had bonus points for years least you will start to get bapp bonus again that way!

  4. Wally1976 says:

    Any thoughts/rumours on how long these BA Amex cards will still be around for?

    • A the fees roll into their coffers every time we spend. But who knows anything these days..

    • Very good question. With 0.3% interchange the free card is not sustainable at 1 Avios per £1. We are talking £1 billion of billings per month, though, so Amex and BA will be careful.

  5. Prins Polo says:

    I have recently applied for the free version, mostly to have various offers which differ from those available on my Amex Platinum. I had the paid version twice in the past but I consider the voucher to be worthless given the extremely high “carrier imposed charges”, which means that I can often get an ex-EU for roughly the same amount on QR. Even for SYD which is impossible to book but often used as example of maximizing the 2-4-1 voucher, I’ve booked two multi partner awards on JL/QF/CX via Japan and returning via Hong Kong for a total of 400k – wide open availability and superior product on JL/QF/CX. I think this would be 320k plus 1 voucher on BA so a saving of just 80k, more than offset by significantly higher charges and taxes charged by BA.

    • Agree. We would def look at cx if heading to oz if we were that avios rich but doubt we would find 241 will wait for a good ex eu qr sale when the time comes.

  6. Dear Rob,

    The Tesco Clubcard MasterCard seems to be the best option – without Amex – for who wants to collect Avios, I’m right?
    It says it gives you 1 Tesco Clubcard for very 8£ spent, so if 1 Tesco Clubcard = 2.4 avios that seems to be the best one.
    I compared, for example, with Lloyds that gives you 1.25 avios for every 5£ spent.
    There’s any other better offer with Amex?

    Thanks 🙂

    • PS: I was suppose to say better offer WITHOUT Amex. Tks

    • Yes as long as you accept the rounding up to the nearest £8 which can be frustrating. When we looked at our statement.. 100s of £S hadn’t even earned one avios. So v frustrating really. Yes it’s only higher than Lloyds mc in spends of £8 or more. So yes ideal for big ticket spends but useless for under 8£ spends. In your comment you are mixing up mc with amex actually. Lots better amex earning cards out there too…but Lloyds v g in different ways free forex etc…

    • Tesco is the best MC / Visa unless you qualify for HSBC Premier, yes. Lloyds has the upgrade voucher though.

      • Prins Polo says:

        HSBC free or £195 version? The free card is decent but it’s 0.5 avios per pound spent. With the paid version, the math doesn’t really work for me as to offset the high annual fee, I would need to achieve a level of spending that I don’t achieve on Visa / MC, with Amex being my primary card.

    • Genghis says:

      Consider the Tesco debit card too. At Tesco 1 clubcard point / £ so 2.4 avios / £ and elsewhere 1 clubcard point / £8 (same as the credit card).

      • pointsarb says:

        I’m getting 1 point for every £4 spent outside tesco on the tesco premium MasterCard unless I’m mistaken?

        • Genghis says:

          Great if you can spend the £5k in Tesco. But as a simple breakeven analysis results in £50k of non-Tesco spend (to account for the £150 fee).

  7. After starting this as a hobby my other half and I started with the free card. I then upgraded to the BAPP and I have to say that I wish that we had started with the BAPP not the free card, (better referral bonus, spend bonus etc). We have triggered a 2 for 1 voucher so if we had got the BAPP from the outset then we I personally would have had another 40k of avios bonuses. You live and learn!

    • But you can re-apply for the BAPP after 6 months, and in the meantime get 2 x gold cards. It’s a learning curve, think how much better off you are avios-wise since you started!

      • Great point, it has been a bit of a learning curve – I’ve just triggered the Amex Gold bonus so I plan to cancel my BAPP card so that my other half can upgrade, (hopefully we get another voucher) and then refer me back!

        • Now you are in the referring loop, always try to have one of you the gold card and the other one a BAPP with a downgrade to BACC as soon as you trigger the 241. You will learn fast by reading this site avidly anyway…

        • Defo, this site has helped so much this year alone and thankfully my other half is now committed to ensuring that we’re spending in the right places with the right cards….!

        • Indeed, in our house, l often get a call from my OH asking which card should he should use here and there?? Our mantra is “Do you take Amex here” ???
          Tom, remember tho too to double dip if you use Tesco. That can often get forgotten with newbies. Scan clubcard but Pay with Amex…

        • Agree – I pay always with Amex in Tesco – this 1/4 we’ve accumulated 14k alone so it’s been a good run!

          My shopping habits have changed because of this hobby – case in point that I’ve just been to John Lewis to get a suit over lunch, tried it on, then returned to the office to order through the BAEC shopping portal to get 4 avios per £1….all ordered on an Amex of course!

  8. Am I right in saying you don’t need to the the taxes when using the 2-4-1 voucher with the card you earned it on, as long as you pay by Amex ?

  9. This will be a stupid question, but do reward flights not earn avios or tier points?

    • Genghis says:

      Reward flights do not earn avios or tier points

      • Genghis says:

        In general anyway. There are a few exceptions…

        • I’ll bite….!

          Such as?

        • Main category is where you have a paid base fare and upgrade with Avios – here you get the Avios and tier points for the paid fare. e.g. you book a Club World flight to NYC and use 20k Avios to upgrade to First. Here you will get your 140TPs and c.6-7k Avios – not the 210TPs/ c.10k Avios for First. As an aside, Manage My Booking usually shows the F points in this situation, leading to disappointment when the right points post.

          Otherwise it is general admin cock-ups and messy bookings but no-one seems keen to highlight those, lest they get closed down… The one I benefited from was after flight disruption (thunderstorms at LHR), I got rebooked into a revenue fare and earned TPs/ Avios on the rebooked flight – though frankly I’d rather not have got to TXL 6 hours late….


        • We are due to go CW shortly, and I used 20k avios per person to upgrade the CW to first coming back…..interestingly the tier points are now showing at 350 for the trip, not 280 for a CW return….

        • Fingers-crossed, but what it shows in MMB isn’t always what you get so don’t get your hopes up too much 😉

  10. OFF TOPIC:
    TopBonus has emailed memberts to say they can now redeem TopBonus points with Etihad again.

  11. johnny_c-l says:
  12. OFF TOPIC:
    I forgot I had an AirBerlin flight booked using Avios !! I have today had an email from BA telling me that the flight has been cancelled (surprise, surprise). Should I expect the Avios to be returned to my account ? Should I be refunded the taxes & charges ?

    Anyone know WHEN in the process BA would have actually paid AirBerlin for the flight ? The Avios are obviously administratively removed from my account (so I can’t spend them more than once !) immediately, but when would BA actually pay AirBerlin for the flight ? On the day of booking (several months in advance !), one month in advance, a week in advance, the day of the flight or after the flight ?

  13. Charlotte says:

    Hello, I am trying to work out whether to get the free or Premium BA amex card. I know I definitely won’t hit £20,000 per annum spend to get the companion voucher on the free version, but am unsure I will hit the £10,000 spend on the premium version. My partner currently has the free card. So my question is, if I were to sign up for the Premium card and add him as a supplementary card, could he start spending on the supplementary card and therefore contribute towards the £10,000 annual spend needed for the 241 and the bonus of 25,000 points if spending £3,000 in the first three months?

    Thanks so much from an Avios newbie!

    • Genghis says:

      Hi Charlotte. Yes – you can get your partner a supplementary card. Spend on that goes to your account anyway and so counts towards the £3k spend for sign up bonus and £10k spend for 241 voucher.