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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.

or

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 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 is here, you can apply 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.

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Comments

  1. Yes, have done, and got pro rate refund. It does take precision timing tho, as we have discussed this before. Timing can get confusing, so need to be on the alert. You can go easily over the spend if something purchased a few months back suddenly gets charged, like a Tesco bill! They can take up to a year! But yes, as a strategy it’s doable. We reversed it at 9k spend after drawering it for a few months. Now we just refer and rotate q 6 mths.

  2. Faithy says:

    Do you have 24 hours to cancel a flight booked with avios for full refund? or is that only a cash booking?

    • Kevin H says:

      I made an avoid (2-4-1) booking just a few weeks back and the BA agent made a point of telling me that I had the 24 hour “cooling off” period for a full refund – so same rules apply as for a cash booking.

  3. Kevin H says:

    * avios

  4. Firemin says:

    Interesting conundrum here… what happens if you take out a the Premium card, purchase a £10k fully refundable BA First ticket to trigger the voucher (earning 30k avios in the process via 3avios/£ BA spend), downgrade to normal card, then apply for a refund of the flight ticket.

    Do they subtract the 30k avios as per original transaction, or only 10,000 avios due to the lower earning rate on the normal card…

    e.g. you could earn the voucher effectively for free, and net 20k avios in the process??

    • They will deduct if you have amex avios, not from baec. We were in positive avios for a while one time, after a large refund, so stopped spending on that card, as they kept deducting every month.
      Basically get the refund after your avios and voucher are in the baec..and card cancelled…things happen, plans change…but the credit will be refunded to your account of choice. Don’t think they can really do anything about it. We have had refunds, large hotel pre payments 2k refunded after the card has been closed, even. No questions asked, just a letter asking what we wanted done with the credit. A one off might be ok, of 10k, l mean, but they would notice a pattern emerging if it was a regular thing.
      Some stores allow big ticket refunds onto a debit card which is useful for reaching a target spend quite quickly, but it’s a risk.

  5. Probably a silly question – but how do you transfer the Avios from a BA AMEX to BAEC? I can’t see a link anywhere on my account

  6. Mark Vreeswijk says:

    I have two upgrade vouchers and two 2-4-1 vouchers which I would like to redeem for a family holiday with 4 of us. I remember there were (paid) websites offering help in finding availability for these (I would like to use them to buy e.g. 2X World Traveler plus redemptions and upgrade to Club World using the 2-4-1 vouchers). Any tips where to go?

  7. Tim Rogers says:

    What’s the deal if I have say, the free card and have spent £8,000? Can I upgrade to the paid card and carry over my spend?

    • Peter K says:

      Yes you can. You then trigger the voucher as though it was all spent on the premium card.

  8. If I already have the free ba card and upgrade to the premium card via a referral from my wife’s platinum charge card does she still get the 18K referral points?

  9. Brandon says:

    So i cancelled my BA Prem Plus a few months back – My BA account still shows an e-voucher (2-4-1), but when i go to use it i get “Sorry, there seems to be a technical problem. Please try again in a few minutes, and please contact us if it still doesn’t work”…. Err hoping just a BA website issue and unrelated to not have a BA Amex hopefully? Anybody done this recently? e.g. tried to use 2-4-1 after cancelling BA Prem Plus?

    • Yes, just last month and many times in the last few years, and it worked fine. May be just a temp glitch on the baec website. As many here on the site have done too. So don’t worry.

    • My wife has a BAPP and has received a 241. We have already booked flights for next year on it.
      I have contacted Amex twice (different agents each time) and they tell me that she can’t cancel, only downgrade it to the BA card, otherwise we will lose the 241. This does not make sense to me as we have already booked the flights. Can She cancel with no effect on the 241?

      • Genghis says:

        Yes she can cancel. We do that all the time (even if not used voucher). Just make sure have access to another Amex in any name to use the 241.

  10. Papa joe says:

    Quick question on referrals. I’ve earned the 241 voucher via BAPP card so would like to refer my partner and cancel my card.

    Do I need to keep my card open in order to receive the referral points or would I still get them? Also interested in suggestions for the most efficient churning and referral strategy for a couple trying to build up enough avios for a long haul redemption in first.

  11. OT – Is the AMEX charge card referral link broken? I have tried two links and all came up with the following messages:

    SORRY, it looks like something went wrong.
    This could be:
    A missing character
    Incorrect character case
    To correct please check the American Express Referral Link before trying again.

  12. Hi, looking for a bit of advice.

    I’ve previously had the BAPP card, qualified for the 2-4-1 and downgraded to the free card. I’m now 11 months into having the free card and because I haven’t been paying attention I have spent £17599 on this card, meaning I’m £2400 away from qualifying for another 2-4-1 voucher, however this voucher would have a 1 year expiry which isn’t great. What should I do? Can I upgrade the card to a BAPP to insta qualify for the 2-4-1 ticket with a 2 year expiry? How fast does the upgrade go through? on my dashboard I see it says “Spend £2,400 by 23 May 2018 to receive your Companion Voucher”

  13. 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?

    Cheers
    Perry

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

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. Renaud says:

    Hi,
    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.

    Thanks

    • 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:

        Thanks.
        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 🙂

  18. 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?
    Perry

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