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Should you dump your free BA Amex for the Amex Rewards Credit Card? Possibly.

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Yes, you read that right.  If you have the free British Airways American Express card, I think it is worth thinking about dropping it for the little-known American Express Rewards Credit Card (“ARCC”).

We don’t cover the ARCC card much on Head for Points so I am dedicating two articles this week to highlighting the core features again.  I wrote about the American Express Rewards Credit Card yesterday (click here) – you may want to read that article first if you missed it.

Let me explain why the ARCC card may be better for you than the free BA card.

Do you spend £20,000 per year on your free BA Amex card?

I have long argued that no-one should have the free BA Amex card if they intend to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher for spending £20,000.

This HFP article explains my thinking in detail.

In summary, though:

The 241 voucher is only valid for one year, 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 (£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

If you spend £20,000 per year on the free BA Amex card, I strongly – very strongly – suggest upgrading to the Premium Plus card.

(You need to call Amex to do this and you won’t get any bonus for doing so, but it is worth it.  Your card year remains the same, and if you have already spent £10,000 this card year on the free card then your 2-4-1 companion voucher is triggered immediately.)

If you spend between £10,000 and £20,000 per year, so you don’t trigger a voucher at the moment but would with the Premium Plus card, it also logically makes sense to switch.

The only reason to have the free British Airways American Express card is if you spend LESS than £10,000 per year.  You don’t spend enough to earn a 2-4-1 voucher but you appreciate the high Avios earning rate.

Except ……

What if you don’t spend £10,000 per year on your free British Airways American Express card?

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 better off with the new 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)

or

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

or

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 Amex 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, Delta among other airline partners.  You can also send them to Hilton Honors (1:2), Marriott Rewards (2:3) 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.

Conclusion

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

If you spend over £20,000 on the free card to trigger the 241 voucher, I think you’re making a mistake as my old article here explains 

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

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 charge 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 …..

PS.  Why is Amex putting its BA relationship at risk by offering a better card?  Simple.  As this card is not a co-brand card, Amex can charge its full interchange fee to shops.  The BA Amex falls under the EU caps on interchange fees, which means that Amex can charge a maximum of 0.3%.  It now has a big incentive to encourage people to move away from the BA, Starwood and Nectar co-brand cards onto its own products.

(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 financial products 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. Tom Cook says:

    OT sorry, no BITS today.

    I churned my SPG card back in March and so this month reapplied and got a new card. I can’t remember, is there a counter for the target spend to hit the bonus or does it just get applied to the account when you hit the £1k spend?

    • If counter is not showing there may be a button to press labelled promotions or something like that to bring it up. Usually under the balance, payment and points info.

      • mines the same with no counter, I am just hoping the bonus appears when I hit the spend. Its not on the app either.

    • Nate1309 says:

      No counter on mine but just ticked over £1000 and shown in the points section already

      • Tom Cook says:

        Ah great thanks, hopefully the bonus will just land! Got the card, stuck £1k on it already so planning on clearing it and cancelling once the points have transferred over. Quick churn!

    • I called Amex yesterday because I was thinking to reapply for a new SPG card but Amex told me to get the sign up bonus I will have to wait 12 months since my cancellation and not 6 months (It is almost a year since I cancelled but looks I should wait longer ..)

  2. One thing to note is that the earning rate is slightly higher with the BA card, since Amex rounds its MRs DOWN to the nearest pound, whereas BA rounds Avios UP to the nearest pound.

    • RussellH says:

      And while always small, this is noticeable if you make a lot of small purchases using the BA card. I currently have both the BA Amex and a PRG Amex. I buy newspapers at Tesco, Morrisons or a local garage which gives me clubcard point on non-fuel items. A weekday Guardian or an Observer at £2 or £3 goes on the gold Amex. Saturday Guardian @ £2.90 and the New European @ £2.50go on the BA Amex. Equally, small food shops at Aldi or Sainsbury’s only go on the gold Amex if costing between £x.00 and £x.49. Above that, they go on the BA Amex. Switching from BA Amex to ARCC typically would cost me 20 to 30 Avios a month – it mounts up.

      The BAPP card makes no sense for me under normal conditions. £3 000 in three months to trigger the bonus is normally way out of my league; £5 000 a year on Amex is more typical.

      • The PRG Amex currently has an offer on massages: 2000 bonus points on HE promotions.

      • I don’t know what funnier “Observer at £2 or £3 goes on the gold Amex. Saturday Guardian @ £2.90 and the New European @ £2.50go” or “30 avios per month”

  3. Is there a time limit you upgrade and downgrade the BA card? So if I already spent £10,000 on the free Amex BA card, and then call Amex to upgrade to BAPP to get the 241 voucher immediately, and then call Amex the next day to downgrade the BAPP to free version, then I only pay one day’s BAPP annual fee?

    • The fee shouldn’t go on til your next statement so if timed right you should be able to do it with 30 days.

    • Remember that if Amex chooses to block you from new cards then your miles and points career would be over ….

      • Freedom from the points gravy train! Just imagine, you can choose independent hotels and fly on any airline you want.

        I wouldn’t endorse this as I am addicted to points and flying in big seats.

      • Perhaps worth trying with the Virgin cards :p

      • Some might equate that with reaching the pinnacle of our hobby … but I suspect the majority of us are averse to involuntary early retirement.

      • Yes getting refunded to many fees puts you in this position also

    • Simonbr says:

      Despite what Rob and others say, Amex sound very serious on the phone when trying to cancel, about needing to use your BA card to pay taxes when redeeming the 241. They tell you it’s in the T&Cs which they could invoke any time they want. For this reason we keep our cards albeit downgraded to blue, until the 241 is redeemed, then cancel, it feels safer to do this..

      • I’ve used 2 4 1 vouchers and not paid the taxes with the associated card. I usually do use a BAPP for the triple avios but it’s not necessarily the one that triggered the voucher.

        • Bonglim says:

          I think the point is that it is difficult for the merchant (ba i guess) to tell if the Amex card being used is the Amex card associated with the account. Difficult at the moment, they could introduce a system; but I can’t see it happening for a while.

          My ethos will the entire points game is to get the points spent asap; less likely to find yourself on the unlucky end of any changes that way.

  4. OT
    Is it just me? The ShopSmall map seems even more useless than in previous years; it cannot find anything.

    • Yep. I thought the same. In previous years my local dentist, farm shop, and a couple of garden centres were all included. This year, nothing.

    • I thought that, many of the usual shops near me are missing. Hoping they appear nearer the date.

      • I think that has happened before where the list is not up to date yet. Although sometimes that has gone the other way and some have disappeared! However currently there is virtually nothing near me (about 10), and there are loads missing that have been on every shop small since it started (whenever that was, probably about 6 years ago).

        • It sounds as if you believe that Amex have got a team of people (or even an SQL statement)comparing the ShopSmall list with the list of merchants.
          Based on previous experience, I predict that the list will still contain retailers etc. which claim that they have never accepted Amex.

        • Only upside to that is if the shop is on the list, amex will still credit you the £5 on a phone call. We had about 10 last year and amex just paid up…some shops just stared wide eyed when l said l was paying with amex…v funny reactions really…

        • I believe merchants can opt in to it in talking to some of them before, but basically amex just end up auto enrolling everyone (including ones that have just had a rep go to and never signed up…). Perhaps this year the only people on the map as the ones that have had to do register to opt in. Could be some EU GDPR thing (with consent to do data things etc although there is no personal info on the map). If that is correct this could be the worse shop small ever as only about 1 in 30 places you go to have heard of it and have the marketing stuff. They would be the ones that opt in.

          I have not idea how the create the list in previous years, as you are correct many don’t take Amex. My assumption is it is just based on some classification data they have on the accounts, and then they turn them on.

          Although this is not always clear cut, sometimes they just say that as they don’t want to pay the extra fees for Amex vs Visa/Mastercard.

        • RussellH says:

          I used to accept Amex when they first brought in Shop Small – I got a letter in the post inviting me to join, but did not take the offer up as I did very little business at that time of the year. So, I would have thought that someone had the responsibility of processing the merchant sign-ups into a database. But perhaps that is too obvious!
          I did not have an Amex Amex at gthe time, just an MBNA Lufthansa one, and I never heard of shop small again until I discovered HfP.

  5. OT as no bits. I want to book a 2 night stay at a Hilton hotel using points and money as I have enough points for one night. The first night is 56,000 points and the second 62,000. However, when I calculate the points and money price, the system tries to charge the higher number of points needed (i.e. the second night price.) Is there any way to get round this or will I have to make two separate bookings to get the first night at 56,000 points?

  6. I if anyone is interested in my last 40,000 IB Avios I can sell you them for £300. Sold initial 50,000 to happy reader few months ago.

    If interested in sure Rob would swap our emails?

    • Wow the full 90,000 IB avios only cost me £210! Fair enough I guess if you’re able to hugely profiteer from it!

  7. Laura Valente says:

    Hi I was able to upgrade my BA card on the AMEX app a few days ago ! Actually asked via a notification on the app ! Also said I’d get 10k bonus miles for doing the upgrade, not quite sure if this will happen, it took seconds to apply for premium plus card and now have them

  8. Another advantage of having a MR card is that it gives greater flexibility about the registration address of the BAEC account. It no longer has to be in the UK. This allows one to earn Avios elsewhere and – perhaps? – avail of regional BA promotions, although I am less sure about the latter, Rob might know.

    • Shoestring says:

      You can get an Amex card in the USA and earn points on their generous promotions —> then transfer the points to the UK. Does hinge on your ability to open cards legitimately in both countries, though.

      • Yes.
        But only MR points.
        You cannot transfer Avios; in fact you will (often enough albeit not always) have a problem if you are earning Avios in both countries.

    • That is correct, although we’ve not seen any Avios promos recently which would make you regret having a UK domiciled account. You also can’t transfer Tesco points if your account is not UK.

  9. Shoestring says:
    • TGLoyalty says:

      Like this promo I’ll be there filling up £10 on the way in and £10 on the way out plus self checkout £10 a time and end up with most of the money back from my shopping last time I ended up a few £ up

  10. Anyone who go the email to get 10,000 points to upgrade the BA free card to Premium, would you be able to post it here? I don’t seem to have got the email and it not showing in the app for me but someone else confirmed it worked when they used the link from a partners email.

    Thanks in advance.

  11. How do you change from an Amex Gold to the ARCC? simply call Amex and change, or apply for ARCC and the cancel gold? im thinking of getting one before my year end and the £140 fee is charged

  12. What’s the maximum amount of Amex issued cards people have on here? I only have 4 (plat, gold business, SPG, and BA premium). I have been flat out refused anymore?

  13. Could anyone tell me pls if there is a referral bonus if I was to refer an existing amex ba cardholder to apply for the 10k avios rewards card? Thanks

    • Shoestring says:

      Sure, not certain what you have in mind but the Amex Amex card family is different to the Amex BA family so your friend should be able to get an Amex Amex card + his welcome bonus & you’d get your referral bonus.

      • I just wanted to refer my friends who currently hold the amex ba card to the one mentioned here ie the ARCC. I wasnt sure if the 10k avios welcome offer is valid if you move from amex ba to the ARCC and if a referral bonus would be applicable. Thanks

  14. sdconniechan says:

    I have a free BA card, applied and got the avios reward a year ago. Am I eligible to apply for the new free ARCC card? Or do I need to cancel the BA card and wait for 6 months? Thanks!

    • You are always eligible to apply for any Amex as long as you meet the general criteria (UK resident over 18 with no bad debt etc.)

      I suppose you are really asking if you will get the signup bonus. The answer is yes, the signup bonuses for the BA cards and the MR cards (ARCC, Gold, Platinum) are separate.

      You only need to cancel the BA card and wait 6 months if you want to get the signup bonus for the BA (premium or free) card again.

    • You always were OK – ARCC bonuses have nothing to do with the BA Amex. This article explains how the Amex bonuses work: https://www.headforpoints.com/2018/02/12/who-qualifies-for-an-american-express-sign-up-bonus/

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