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

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I wanted to give this article another run today as it has a lot of value for new HFP readers who may be putting £20,000 per year on the free BA Amex in the mistaken idea that it is the sensible thing to do.

The bottom line for this article is the answer to this question – which is the best British Airways American Express card for someone who can spend £20,000 per year on it?

This article was updated on 26th June 2020 and all the information was correct as of that date.
BA Amex
First, 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?

Many people assume that the free card is the best one if you can spend £20,000, because you save £195 in annual fees and you still earn a 2-4-1 voucher annually.  This is the wrong answer.

Here is the 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 on the Premium Plus card compared to 1 Avios per £1 on the free card.  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.

Should I move my £20,000 of spending to the British Airways Premium Plus card then?

No!  There is no real logic to carry on spending once you have hit the 2-4-1 voucher 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 – such as the free night voucher on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard (£10,000 spend required) or the 2-4-1 voucher on the Virgin Flying Club Reward+ Mastercard (£10,000 spend required).


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 in our house.

And there’s more ….

It is also worth remembering that the one-year expiry on the voucher on the free BA Amex 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.  It is not the BEST option, however.  A lot of people would be better off swapping the free BA Amex for the free American Express Rewards credit card as this article explains.

Anyone who spends £20,000 a year on the free BA Amex card, however, needs to think again. 

Learn more about the credit cards mentioned above

You can learn more about how the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher works in this ‘Avios Redemption University’ article.

Here is the legally required interest rate information on the credit cards mentioned above, together with links to our detailed reviews:

British Airways American Express – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in six months – apply hereour BA Amex review is here – representative APR 22.2% variable

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in six months – apply hereour BA Amex Premium Plus review is here – representative APR 74.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.2% variable

American Express Rewards – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in six months – apply hereour Amex Rewards Credit Card review is here representative APR 22.2% variable

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points after spending £200 – apply hereour IHG Rewards Club Premium review is hererepresentative APR 45.1% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles after your first purchase – apply hereour Virgin Atlantic Reward+ review is here – representative APR 63.9% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Matthew says:

    O/T – stayed at the Lincoln Plaza (Curio) in Canary Wharf last night post Jessie J concert – lovely new and stylish hotel, a la carte brekky for Gold & Diamond Hilton members. Impressed – will stay there again (cash rates reasonable too – we paid <£150 for the Sat night).

    Also – how good was Jessie J last night – amazing! 🙂

  2. O/T – Latam J MAD-FRA pricing at around £70ow in Feb 2020. I struggled to book via their website but managed to get it via an OTA and seem to have a confirmed reservation.

  3. QQ , can ba household members use the 2 4 1 voucher or does the card account holder have to be a passenger on one of the tickets? Thanks.

  4. O/T I’m trying to change a BA flight booked via Iberia promo (MAD-LHR specifically) to a later flight (same day), but it’s an Iberia flight and not BA. There is availability, but the agent said that I can’t rebook because it’s a different operating carrier. I was happy to pay the 25eur change fee and/or any tax difference. Was he correct that I can’t change it? Should I call again?

    I also tried cancelling and rebooking on Iberia, but the agent said that it will take 2 weeks to get Avios back (and not even sure I will work because they are promo avios).

    • Lady London says:

      That does not sound right. IIRC BA and IB flights can be changed, just not AA or any other carrier or flight code. If there is even one flight within the ticket that is ont IB or BA, though, then the whole ticket can’t be changed.

      have your tried HUACA? I get a max of 1 in 3 agents that seem on top of their game, when I’ve called Iberia. That’s a max. But the couple of IB agents got that were good, were really good.
      So give it another go and HUACA a couple of times. Even if you find a good agent who says it can’t be done, good chance a good one will be able to explain clearly to you why not.

      • Yes, I’ll give it another go. This one tried, but then came back and said that it can’t be done due to different operating carrier. Originally, I had a BA flight booked, but now I want Iberia flight.

    • yorkieflyer says:

      If its the 90k avios promo be careful. If you cancel you will likely lose the avios, if they cancel you will keep the avios as Mrs Yorkieflyer can confirm

  5. Bertie says:

    The more I read the above the more I need advice as to the way forward. My wife has a BA premium card which achieved the 241 voucher four months ago, and she also has a gold chargecard with lounge passes still outstanding. I have a BA premium card which has just achieved the 241 voucher, and we wonder what is the best way forward to maximise Avios/241 opportunities, whilst minimising costs.
    Any advice would be welcomed.

    • Spurs Debs says:

      There are several good articles on this site. If you put in 241 in search box you can read them all. Then ask specific questions on what you are not sure on.

    • Lady London says:

      I am not an expert but if its new higher annual fee is still value to you, it looks like you have an opportunity to get an Amex Plat. One of you first then add the other as a supp. the after 1 year, the other of you gets a new Plat and adds the other one as a supp, and cancels the first Plat. so you’ll always have an active Plat with a supp between you. After 2 years rinse and repeat (as the 2 year waiting period for new signon). You could do similar with the BA cards depending on how long it typically takes you to spend up to the level required for bonus on each card.

      i am sure Rob’s very detailed set of articles with recommendations mentioned that having the BA first does not affect the Plat sign-on bonus? If you use the search box on the home page here or if you google a site search with something like” BA Amex, SPG, Amex Platinum headforpoints.com” hopefuly those terms all being within the articles I’m recaling, al of wihch were within the past 2-3 months or so, will come up. Rob gives clear sequences, and which card blocks which other one etc.

      Other than the the value in the Plat seems to come from the fact that if you refer someone who applies and gets a card then the referral bonus is chunky and based on the fact that you are referring from a Plat so the highest level. The person you refer may take out a lower level of card you still get the Plat level bonus if you referred them from a Plat. You can do up to 5 referrals per year per card.

  6. Graham says:

    Can I apply for the Premium Plus BA card and get the welcome bonus Avios if I have held the free BA card and Preferred Rewards Card in the last 6 months?

  7. Earwax says:

    “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. It is not the BEST option, however. A lot of people would be better off swapping the free BA Amex for the free American Express Rewards credit card as this article explains.”

    Disagree. With recent changes affecting card churning, you won’t be able to sign up (with referral of course!) for the Platinum and get 50 000 or more MRP after launching welcome bonus and requesting supp card.

    It might not matter to those who put over £100k a year through their Amex cards but in my case signing up an canceling Platinum (every 2 years now) will be the only way to acquire significant number of points.

    So, if you are Avios collector and a low spender, keep your free BA card and churn highest paying MR card to maximise your gains.

  8. Andrew Macnair says:

    Does anyone know if the 241 voucher can be triggered if you upgrade to the premium card during your calendar year having already spent over £10k? TIA Andrew

  9. The other thing to bear in mind with the BAPP, as is mentioned in the article is the 3 avios for £1 spent on BA or BA Holidays. If you use it to buy £10k of tickets or BA holidays you will get 30,000 Avios. If you go to the extreme of spending £20k on BA tickets/holidays you will end up with 60,000 Avios on the BAPP card which on the free card would only give you 20,000 Avios. Even if you don’t go that far you are likely to get to close to 2 Avois per £1 spent on the BAPP card.

  10. Derek says:

    Have just taken delivery of my new Gold Preferred card and waiting on current transactions to clear on my blue BA Amex before closing – so can start the 24 month clock – but noticed in my Offers a bonus on buying Avios (30k avios for £335). Was wondering if you thought 1.12p/avios was a good deal?

    • Derek says:

      Should add… at end of the 24m plan to apply for the BAPP

      • Richard Cook says:

        Depends how you redeem.

        If you buy last minute flights, ie same day / day before, then it could be very helpful.
        Where you can sometime gets up to 6p or 8p per point.

        I’ve had flights that would cost £600 and got them for 15000 points

  11. heenz says:

    Hi im new to all this, and have been reading with interest. i have the standard BA amex, if i upgrade now, will the points ive spent this month change ie increase or would the incease in points only happen with spending when the new card arrives ?

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