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Review: the British Airways American Express (BA Amex) credit card

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This is my review of the free British Airways American Express (BA Amex) credit card.

It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Top Credit Card Offers‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 1st September 2020 and all of the information was correct as of that date.  Ignore the November 2019 publication date.)

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

Key link: British Airways American Express (BA Amex) application form

Key facts: No annual fee

The representative APR is 22.2% variable.

About the BA American Express card

The British Airways American Express card is issued directly by American Express. This analysis is focused on the free version of the card – I review the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card here.

Any American Express cards you may have which are issued by Lloyds Bank will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.

Review free British Airways American Express credit card

What is the BA Amex sign-up bonus?

5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within three months.

A larger bonus of 6,000 Avios is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder. Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.com if you would like a referral.

What are the rules for qualifying for the sign-up bonus?

The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months.  Cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.

You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job.  Amex is only interested in any personal cards you have had.

You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card.  As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.

If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply.  You still receive the other card benefits including the 2-4-1 voucher.

Any other benefits with the BA Amex?

When you spend £20,000, you receive a voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for one year.

I strongly recommend, however, that you do NOT get this card if you are interested in the 2-4-1 voucher. You are SUBSTANTIALLY better off getting the Premium Plus card instead if you are willing to pay the annual fee for that card.

This post explains why the companion voucher on the basic British Airways Amex is not worth having (in my view). The lower earning rate on this card and the one year validity of the voucher – compared to two years for the Premium Plus voucher – makes a huge difference.

What is the annual fee?

The basic British Airways American Express card is free.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the BA Amex card?

You receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on the card.

You do NOT receive bonus Avios when booking BA flights.  This benefit is only available with the Premium Plus card.

What is an Avios point worth?

How long is a piece of string!

This article is my best attempt to calculate the value of an Avios point.

Other points to note about the BA Amex

If you have the free British Airways card, you can upgrade to the Premium Plus fee-paying version at any time. However, you will not receive another sign-up bonus.  Any spend you have done towards the 2-4-1 voucher to date will be carried over and your membership year remains the same.

You can also do this in reverse – once you have triggered your 2-4-1 voucher, you can call American Express and downgrade to the free card for a few months (receiving a pro-rata fee refund) until your new card year starts and your spend starts counting towards the new voucher.

American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for any of its cards.

Is the BA Amex a good card to use when travelling?

As the BA Amex adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad. Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee.  One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

Review free British Airways BA American Express Amex credit card

How else can you earn Avios points from a credit card?

The Lloyds Avios Rewards Mastercard is closed to new applications.

Don’t forget these less-obvious options though:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 10,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card offers 10,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 10,000 Avios points.

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

The American Express Platinum charge card offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 30,000 Avios points. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card offers 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for signing up. These convert to 6,666 Avios.  It has a £75 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.

Conclusion

5,000 Avios (or 6,000 if I refer you) for getting the BA Amex is a decent, but not exceptional, bonus for a free credit card.

In terms of on-going earning rates, 1 point per £1 is not outstanding, and not receiving double points on BA spending (as offered by the Premium Plus card) is unattractive for anyone with British Airways expenditure. The terms and conditions of the 2-4-1 voucher make it less attractive than the voucher offered by the BA Amex Premium Plus card.

The application form for the free British Airways American Express card can be found 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.

Comments (18)

  • The Original David says:

    Is there anybody who should actually sign up for this card? If you’re interested in the sign-up bonus, either the BAPP or the PRG (or Plat) is a better option. If you’re interested in the on-going earning, the ARCC is better because of the flexibility of MR points over Avios. The only target market I can think of is wise-guys tooling up their Amex kit ahead of some Shop Small abuse, but I didn’t think Amex wanted to encourage that…

    • Waddle says:

      If you want a free card that earns points and you only collect Avios, this card is hard to beat due to two aspects – Avios per £ is rounded up vs MR per £ rounded down on the ARCC and the ability to trigger a voucher at £10k through the upgrade/downgrade route. The ARCC does not have any type of annual reward. Depends on personal circumstances and preference on part-pound rounding & voucher vs flexible points.

      • Matt says:

        Of course there’s lots of people that sign up to this card David. The vast majority of Amex card holders don’t read HfP or have the faintest interest in learning the knitty gritty world of maximising points earning. They just want a free card that earns them some avios to get them a flight to somewhere sunny. Also to that sort of customer I don’t think Amex are the best at marketing their MR scheme as most people I people don’t realise you can convert them to avios they assume you must have the BA card.

        • Shoestring says:

          we had the free BA Amex going for years, no intention of spending enough to get 2-4-1s as that’s pretty pointless in Europe, just a useful card for offers incl Shop Small and a reserve Amex for those times ‘in between’ other Amex cards, also not a bad idea to keep a long term card going as some credit rating agencies like this

        • The Original David says:

          I know lots of people *do* sign up for it, I was querying whether anyone *should*. If the only market is people who are clueless at the points game, perhaps this whole article is a waste of time!

          Good point on the upgrading/downgrading trick though – perhaps this does still have a place in the wallet of the savvy points collector, although again not something I would have thought Amex would be keen on.

          • Shoestring says:

            yes they should – sign up for blue – free – get to £9750 – upgrade to BAPP – £195 pa pro rata – hit £10K, get the 2-4-1 voucher – downgrade to blue or cancel for minimum fee, maybe 15 days/ £10

          • RussellH says:

            Of course people should sign up for it.
            Not everyone can spend the sort of money that might make the £195 / annum card cost effective, or anywhere near it.
            As far as I am concerned, churning Amex cards is no longer possible, as the increased targets are way out of my league. I would not be able to spend £3000 per annum on an Amex card, unless we were to suddenly decide on some super special long haul offer written up here.
            And if you quite often spend £2.50 on a credit card, as I find myselg doing, the Blue BA Amex card is the best one to do it on.

  • BJ says:

    O/T: New amex offers this morning include LNER, Beer52, Stratford Hotel, Fortnum & Mason, Turo Car Share.

  • Gordon says:

    Definitely worth paying the £195 fee per year for the Amex premium plus card on top of the 0.5 Avios per pound spent and the companion voucher triggered at £10k over the free card,The most important aspect is the 2 years you have to cash in your companion voucher as availability can be frustrating and 12 months will go past in the blink of an eye.

  • Mikeact says:

    Seems the best way to use this with a Lloyds voucher, is two seperate bookings, me to use the voucher and wife to use discounted Avios.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    Got this card as my first ever amex – before I knew about HFP. Wish i’d got the BAPP instead but didn’t know what was what back then.

  • Ayayay says:

    Tesco credit card is an option where Amex is not taken. Tesco points convert to Avios but the rate isn’t great.

  • Harry T says:

    @Rob
    Any sign of the rebranded Bonvoy Amex emerging in the near future?
    I’m thinking of closing my MR and BA cards and switching to the Marriott card so I can reset my clock for the Platinum and BAPP bonuses.
    I’m wondering if it’s worth opening the current SPG Amex or waiting for the new one?