Why NO-ONE should spend £20,000 for a 2-4-1 on the free British Airways American Express card

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It is almost two years since I last ran a version of this article.  I thought it was worth updating it and giving it another outing because it makes a few interesting points which you might never have considered.

The bottom line is this – which is the best British Airways American Express card for high spenders?BA AmexFirst, let’s remind ourselves of the rules on each of the two BA Amex cards:

The BA American Express card has no fee, earns 1 mile per £1 spent and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £20,000. The voucher lasts for 1 year.

The BA Premium Plus American Express has a £195 annual fee, earns 1.5 miles per £1 spent (3x on BA flights) and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £10,000. The voucher lasts for 2 years.

Why is getting the 2-4-1 voucher via the free BA Amex card a bad idea?

For a start, triggering the 2-4-1 voucher means you need to spend £20,000 on the free BA Amex.  This leads to our first key point:

If you are spending £20,000 on the free BA Amex card, you’d earn 10,000 extra Avios by spending the same £20,000 on the Premium Plus card.  This is because of the higher earnings rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 compared to 1 Avios.  The Premium Plus card also offers double miles when you book BA flights on the card.

Those extra 10,000 Avios alone are worth around half of the annual fee on the Premium Plus card.

However, that is only part of the answer.

Assuming you can manage £20,000 of American Express spend in a year, I wouldn’t put it all on the BA Premium Plus card either!  There are two better alternatives:

Get the Premium Plus card and just spend the necessary £10,000 on it to trigger the 2-4-1. You can then use your additional annual Amex spending to open more credit cards and meet the spending target required to trigger their bonuses.


If you have a partner, get them their own BA Premium Plus Amex and get yourself a supplementary card on that account. You could then spend £10,000 on each card (your own card, then the supplementary card on your partners account) and earn TWO 2-4-1 vouchers each year.  That is what we do.

And there’s more ….

It is also worth remembering that the one-year expiry on the voucher on the free card is very inconvenient.  For very popular routes or at peak periods you will want to be booking 355 days in advance if possible and this is almost impossible on the free card unless you can time the triggering of the voucher to perfection.

Even if you could spend £20,000 on the free BA Amex card I think you are better off spending £195 to get the Premium Plus card in order to:

  • earn 10,000 additional Avios if you choose to put £20,000 on a BA Amex
  • get an extra year to use your 2-4-1 voucher
  • have the option of moving spend beyond the first £10,000 to a 2nd BAPP Amex or another card entirely

I am NOT saying that the free BA Amex is useless! You get a decent sign-up bonus of 5,000 Avios and the Avios earnings rate per £1 is not beaten by any other free card.

For someone who spends under £10,000 a year on their free BA Amex – and so could not trigger the 2-4-1 on the Premium Plus card – it is a sensible option. Anyone who spends £20,000 a year on it, though, needs to think again.

The legal stuff:  The free British Airways American Express credit card has a representative APR of 22.9% variableMy full review of the free BA Amex is here, you can apply here.  The British Airways Premium Plus American Express credit card has a representative APR of 76.0% variable including the £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit Interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable.  My full review of the BA Premium Plus Amex is here, you can apply here.

(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 1.5 million monthly page views.  Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios?  Click here to read our latest news storiesclick here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.  Read this article to learn how you can get 10,000 FREE Avios by signing up for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card.)

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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  1. Just spotted that AMEX Gold is no longer a charge card, it’s now a credit card.

  2. Hi
    We are not regular Business Class flyers (I wish!) and have never earned a 241 voucher so I am after some advice. I currently have approx £9000 spent on the free BA Amex card and my year is up in June. I’m thinking it makes sense to upgrade now to the BAPP card and transfer the spend over to that? Am I right in thinking that if I do this I wont get the additional avios on the spend to date? After earning the 241 voucher could I then refer my husband for the BAPP (with sign up bonus) and return to the free card and get a pro rata refund?

  3. Hi Rob,
    I’ve got the free card right now and have nearly spent £20k. If I upgrade ASAP to BAPP I understand I’d trigger the voucher sooner. With that AmEx would charge the fee. Once I trigger the voucher can I downgrade, get a pro rata refund and keep the 2yr voucher, or would the voucher be at risk?
    Thanks for any insight you can offer.

  4. Renaud says:

    I am currently on ~5k spend on the free BA Amex card since January. If I upgrade to the Premium card, have i got 1 year from now to spend the remaining 5k, or only 8 months?
    Also, the 2-year validity on the 241 voucher, is it between the issuance of the voucher and the travel date, or issuance and booking date? My guess is it is the former, but want to make sure.


    • Genghis says:

      8 months.
      The 241 is issued shortly after you go over the threshold. It’s then valid for two years. You need to fly the whole outbound leg of your journey before the voucher expires.

      • Renaud says:

        Need to work on a strategy to obtain 2 vouchers with close end dates (family of 4), a minimal spend and a maximum of Avios accrual now 🙂

  5. Hi,

    We are getting married in Greece next year and we have already put the deposit down for the family to go away. When we pay off the balance in June it will be just over £10k.

    So should I get the BAPP, spend 10k and then downgrade to standard BA?

    I currently have 18k Avios from shell points (6 years ha) +25k from the BAPP. How many Avios points would I need for a descent honeymoon return flight?

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