Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Why the free BA Amex credit card is a bad deal for low spenders

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

Last Monday I ran this article on why I don’t believe that anyone should be spending £20,000 on the free British Airways American Express card in order to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher.

For a high spender, the free British Airways American Express card makes no sense.  If you could spend £20,000 on the free BA Amex card to trigger the 2-4-1, I think you are better off spending £195 to get the Premium Plus card instead. 

This is because:

The 241 voucher is only valid for one year on the free BA Amex, instead of two years for the BA Premium Plus voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance

The £10,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher on the free card (£20,000 compared to £10,000 on the Premium Plus card) could be directed elsewhere, triggering sign-up bonuses on other cards

You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent, which offsets much of the £195 annual fee on the Premium Plus card

The bottom line is that the only people who I think should have the free British Airways American Express card are those who spend under £10,000 per year.

But even that is a bad idea, if we’re honest

I know that a lot of people don’t spend large amounts on their free BA Amex card.  They don’t trigger the 2-4-1 companion voucher BUT they like earning 1 Avios for every £1 they spend.

If this is you, you are now better off with the new and little-known American Express Rewards Credit Card.

Amex Rewards Credit Card

What is the American Express Rewards Credit Card?

ARCC is a standard Amex-branded credit card.  It has no annual fee and no substantial benefits, except for the ability to collect Membership Rewards points at 1 point per £1 spent.

There are three versions of the card available:

LOW RATE – 5,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 9.9% variable (click here)


BASIC – 10,000 Membership Rewards points bonus and a representative APR of 22.9% variable (click here)


PURCHASES – NO sign-up bonus but 0% APR on purchases for 18 months and a representative APR of 22.9% variable beyond that (click here)

The first two cards require a £500 (5,000 points version) or £1,000 (10,000 points version) spend within three months to trigger the bonus.

You will not get the sign-up bonus if you have had a Gold or Platinum American Express card – or any other Amex card which gives Membership Rewards points – in the last six months.  You can still apply for the card, however.

Why is the Amex Rewards Credit Card better than the free BA Amex card for low spenders?

Here’s the interesting bit:

The free British Airways American Express card earns 1 Avios per £1 spent

The free Amex Rewards Credit Card earns 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent.  These transfer 1:1 into Avios points if that is what you choose to do.

What you get with the ARCC card is flexibility.

Yes, you can use your points for Avios.  You can send them over to BA via the Amex website and they will arrive within 48 hours.

However, you have other options.  Membership Rewards points can also be sent to Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad and Delta among other airline partners.  You can also send them to Hilton Honors (1:2), Starwood Preferred Guest (2:1) and Radisson Rewards (1:3).  You can convert them to Club Eurostar (15:1).  You can even use them for shopping vouchers.  You can see the airline partners here.

The new ARCC card gives you more choice.  You can still take Avios if you want, and at the same 1 Avios per £1 earning rate.  If you suddenly decide that you want hotel points, or that Virgin Atlantic miles make more sense, or even that you want to abandon Avios altogether, you can.  Simply move your Amex points somewhere else instead.

With the free BA Amex card, your points are sitting in Avios from Day 1 and you can’t do anything else with them.  If Avios devalues its rewards, if BA stops flying your preferred route, if reward availability suddenly gets a lot harder to find, if Reward Flight Saver fees jump up, if new surcharges get added ….. you’re stuck.

Swapping to the Amex Rewards Credit Card gives you more control over your points.

The only good reason NOT to drop your free BA Amex is that having the ARCC card means that you cannot get a sign-up bonus on an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum card at the same time.  On the other hand, once you have gone six months without the free BA Amex, you would be able to apply for either of the two BA cards again, purely to earn a sign-up bonus.


There are good reasons for EVERY holder of the free British Airways American Express card to reconsider.

If you spend over £20,000 on the free BA Amex card to trigger the 241 voucher, I think you’re making a mistake as my article last Monday explained 

For lower spenders, who aren’t bothered about the 241 voucher, I believe that the Amex Rewards Credit Card offers a compelling alternative to the free BA Amex

Even better, two versions of the FREE ARCC card – Low Rate and Basic – offer an attractive sign-up bonus if you haven’t had a Gold or Platinum American Express card in the last six months.

If you go for the ‘Purchases’ versionyou will also get 18 months interest free credit on everything you buy.

If you go for the ‘Low Rate’ version, you will be paying a representative APR of 9.9% variable.  This is far cheaper than the free British Airways Amex card which charges a whopping representative APR of 22.9% variable.

Something to think about …..

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge 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.

Until 18th July 2022 there is an astonishing special offer on these cards. You get 50,000 Avios on the Avios Plus Mastercard and 10,000 Avios on the free Avios Mastercard. You can apply here. We strongly recommend getting the Avios Plus card whilst this offer is running.

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

50,000 Avios for signing up (A CRAZY SPECIAL OFFER!) and an upgrade voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

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 Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

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

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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:

Amex Platinum Business American Express

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 card

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 (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (78)

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

  • Malibu Sntacey says:

    You would get the BA card because you can churn it seperately alongside any MR card and collect sign up bonuses every six months.

    You would not get any sign up bonus for the basic MR card if you hold any other MR card.

    Why would you get the basic MR card rather than a Gold Card? At least for the first year?

    Doesn’t make sense.

    • mark2 says:

      Also this card cannot be referred which can be a major source of extra points.

    • James M says:

      “Why would you get the basic MR card rather than a Gold Card?”

      Compared with which other card(s)? I have the ARCC as part of my upgrade from Gold / cancel Platinum strategy so I don’t have to redeem all my points immediately.

    • Matt says:

      It may not make sense because you are up for card churning, but for many people they don’t want the perceived hassle of churning cards simply to earn a few points (I do not hold this view). On that basis the basic Amex MR card is bette than BA blue because you can get a higher sign up bonus of 10,000 and have the flexibility with the MR points.

  • James M says:

    You get a 0% period of 18 months from account opening; if you make a purchase in month 3, you have 15 months left at 0%.

  • Nick says:

    Presumably the logical conclusion of this will be that BA move away from Amex, or vice versa. Would we get advance warning of that? My wife and I have generated a 241 each from the BAPP for years but stopped when we had a baby. I’m still sitting on 2 of them ((will probably waste them on CE flights as we have no long haul plans for a while), but if the card were to disappear I think I’d want to bag two more just in case

  • Kathy says:

    The BA Amex was my back-up Avios-earning card in the 6 months to a year non-MR period between gold card churns (I try not to push my luck) – but since I got the Lloyds Amex I don’t use it very often. I still hang on to it for the odd offer – I’ve just had a 500 Avios bonus offer for using it via gate365.

  • Dave Barron says:

    Advice please…..

    I have the free BA card with an anniversary date in June. My spending is currently £9800 so I want to upgrade today to the BA Premium Card so I can grab the 241 with 2 year validity. Once upgraded I don’t plan keeping the card for more than a month or two to get a pro rate refund of fee. My Amex spending is ordinarily less than £10k a year and this will be the first time I have earned a 241 voucher.

    What is the best way to upgrade the card?

    I also have the PRGC (as a churning option). I’ve had this card a couple of months now and have just received my initial spending target. I plan to keep this card for less than a year.

    Is it possible to refer myself from PRGC for the BA Premium and earn referral points even though I already hold the free BA Card?

    My next question relates to the Amex Hilton offer already loaded to my free card (spend £250 get £50 back). So far I’ve done one £100 stay paying with my free BA card. Upon receipt of the BA Premium card I then plan to spend the extra £150 to trigger the offer. Will my loaded offer carry forward and pay out on cumulative spend across both BA cards?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Anthony says:

      I am in a similar position. I have unintentionally spent just over £10k on the basic and have an anniversary date of July. I can’t decide whether to upgrade for a month or two to trigger voucher. I am about to start parental leave for 6 months so had expected to cancel the basic BA and apply for Plus card later to trigger higher bonus again. Am I silly not to trigger companion voucher now? The cost is relatively low but upgrading and cancelling a couple of months later look bad?

      • Polly says:

        Upgrade and cancel, lots do it. Get the 2nyr 241, so much more flexibility. Presume you will continue earning with a gold card, spg whatever, and get referred before you cancel.

    • Polly says:

      Just upgrade on line, putting in your current card BA Amex no. You will suddenly see the black card appearing.
      Also when referring from the prg, we didn’t get the bonus, but worth a try. Just did exactly that recently. Called up, they said you already got referral points for the 1st card, so no further entitlement.

      • Dave Barron says:

        Thanks for reply.

        I’ve just applied online trying the referral route from my PRGC – probably won’t work but worth a try!

        I had hoped for an instant decision but alas no and they have advised I will hear from them by post or email with a decision within 10 days. All standard stuff hopefully because I really want to bag my first 241.

  • Eddie says:

    I’m currently sitting on 35000 reward points and targeting 60000 to enable me to acquire two premier first Eurostar tickets to Marseille. My Gold card starts charging at end of May. Any suggestions on my best strategy as I understand if I apply for this Rewards card I’ll be ineligible for bonus points as a current Gold holder.

    • Polly says:

      I would wait til the year and get your bonus Gold 10k avios spend bonus for that. If you have reached the annual 15k spend tho. Post 1 month into the 2nd year. Fee pro rate refundable. BUT before you,cancel upgrade to the Platinum card for a further 20k £500 spend bonus. Again about a months fee until you have transferred out the avios/MRs etc.
      Yes, no ARCC bonus tho.

      • Alan says:

        Is the 20K offer to upgrade to platinum definitely still live?

        • Nigel Williams says:

          Yes, I’ve upgraded although it does not show on your account like the 15K offers etc did. I chat to the Amex web help (very responsive) to track my spending of the £1K

        • S says:

          The page is there, yes

        • Alan says:

          Thanks both. I need to get myself organised and get upgraded but didn’t want to do it if AMEX had pulled the plug.

  • Angela says:

    If I cancel my BA card do I keep my 241 voucher I have just earnt?

    • Geoff says:

      Amex say no but everyone seems to keep theirs in practice.

    • Dave Barron says:

      Yes provided it’s already posted in your account. You need an Amex to book using your 241 but this can be any Amex and advice on this site says ignore Amex when cancelling as they will state you lose voucher when you don’t!

  • Lumma says:

    I applied for this card a couple of months ago and got rejected, but shortly afterwards AMEX tripled the credit limit on my free BA card. Has anyone any experience of appealing to AMEX offering to reduce the credit limit (or even close a card) in order to be accepted for a new card? I know there was talk that MBNA would allow you to do this.

    I also have an old AMEX (red) credit card too which I opened in 2006, which I tend to put a small (<£100) amount of spending on each month.

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.