Expecting a flight refund to your American Express card? Here’s how it impacts your next BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher or spend bonus.

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

It says a lot about the spending and travel habits of Head for Points readers that I think I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that at least 50% of our readers will currently be expecting an American Express refund for a cancelled flight.

An email from a reader yesterday reminded me that you may not be familiar with how American Express treats refunds when you have a spend target to hit.

The answer is simple:  all American Express spend targets are based on NET spend, not GROSS spend.  Your spending is adjusted for refunds, irrespective of when the original transaction took place.

I am a good example of this.

My British Airways American Express Premium Plus membership year runs to late February.  I need to spend £10,000 between late February 2020 and late February 2021 to receive my next 2-4-1 Avios companion voucher.

However, I am currently due a £2,000 refund from British Airways.

When this refund turns up, it counts against my target spend.  This means that I will need to spend £12,000 this year – not £10,000 – in order to trigger my 2-4-1 voucher.

It makes no difference that the original purchase took place in my old membership year.  Amex deducts the £2,000 from my gross spending in this membership year so, to hit £10,000 of net spend, I now need to hit £12,000 of gross spend.

The identical situation applies if you are working towards any other American Express spend bonuses:

Any sign-up bonus on any American Express card

10,000 Membership Rewards points for spending £15,000 in a year on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold 

Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for spending £15,000 in a year on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express 

A 25,000 point free night voucher for spending £25,000 in a year on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express 

Does this apply to other card issuers too?

I don’t know, unfortunately.  It will vary on a case by case basis, but you should assume any award is based on net spend and not gross spend.

This would include:

A free night for spending £10,000 in a year on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard (which was pulled from the market last week)

40,000 HSBC points for spending £12,000 in your first year of holding the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard 

An upgrade or 2-4-1 voucher for spending £20,000 in a year on the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 

An upgrade or 2-4-1 voucher for spending £10,000 in a year on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard 

Luckily for me, a Virgin Atlantic refund which is also coming my way will be heading back to my MBNA Horizon cashback card (not available to new applicants).  This is the only 0% FX card that I hold and the taxes were paid in US$.  I do still need to find another £2,000 now to put through my British Airways Premium Plus card.

PS.  A few readers have asked me if American Express is likely to reduce the £10,000 or £20,000 spend target on the British Airways credit card to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher.  I haven’t seen any movement on this so far unfortunately.

Remember that if you have the free British Airways credit card, one option is to upgrade to the Premium Plus version which has the lower £10,000 spending target.  If you have already spent £10,000 in the current card year on your free BA Amex card, your 2-4-1 voucher is triggered immediately on upgrading.  If you haven’t already hit £10,000, your voucher will be triggered as soon as you do.

You can downgrade to the free card again as soon as you have your voucher in your Executive Club account.  The annual fee on Premium Plus is refunded pro-rata, so your net cost is only £16.25 (£195/12) per month.

There is no formal upgrade process.  You simply apply online for the BA Premium Plus card here.  Your existing free BA Amex is automatically cancelled and your existing membership year and spending to date target is carried over.  You don’t, obviously, qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus on the Premium Plus card as an upgrader.

PS. If you have cancelled a card that is due for a refund you should get in touch with Amex to request a transfer of the refunded money.

(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.)

Government hires Morgan Stanley to advise on Virgin Atlantic bailout, talks ongoing (Sky News)
Virgin Australia shares suspended as the airline hovers on the brink of bankruptcy

Click here to join the 15,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Andrew says:

    I have a refund of a few grand going back to my Platinum card and i had already emptied my membership rewards account not thinking I would be refunding, so this will take me to a negative balance and I’m not expecting to spend much over the next few months. Will the membership rewards balance just sit happily at a negative for a while as I slowly work back up to zero over a few months?

    • Alex M says:

      Yes, but why not cancel and re-apply in few months?

      • Lady London says:

        That’s what a lot of people seem to be doing. The benefits of this card are based around travel so you will not be receiving most of the benefits for a number of months.

        The equivalent monthly fee is therefore not worth paying and, remembering amex policy is to refund pro rata, is not a sunk cost. My understanding is that on closure any points balance in either direction is annihilated.

        TBH a few more account closures might also help Amex decide some decent concession to Plat holders during CV mayhem. IMV the card struggles to be worth its £50 a month even in peacetime. It would be disappointing if when things settle down any concessions were only to new cardholders especially since it’s now 24 months.

        So cancel now – plenty of reasons about a card with insurance and lounge benefits not being justifiable when you are not travelling anywhere for months at £50pm – and sadly lose a n y balances.

        For a closed card if money comes back as a refund Amex will contact you and you will be able to have them transfer it to your bank account.

      • Tom Cook says:

        I’m in this boat. Hold the plat for the travel benefits. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon so looking to cancel and then reapply in due course. Amex offered me the opportunity to convert to god, but the agent suggested I should do that by riding them, so I went ahead and cancelled the card anyway,

    • Yes
      So suggest putting spend on an alternative card.

    • Yes, but if you are not using the card much over the next few months (and more importantly not benefitting from the travel perks that justify the fee for some) you could clean the slate by cancelling the card, save yourself some fees and apply again when things get back to normal.

      If you’re not holding any other Amex, and don’t want to be without one, you could also apply for the Green card and then try your luck with the Green > Plat upgrade for 20k MR points when you feel you can get use from the Plat perks again.

    • +1 for cancelling the card. You won’t be able to make use of the benefits in the near future so the return you’re getting on the fee is nil.

  2. CraigyC says:

    I have a load of refunds coming for my platinum card, however the original transactions were within the three month spend target, I assume I won’t lose the bonus points just the points per pound on the card?
    If I’ll lose the points I’ll transfer them off, however if it’s just the normal points I’d rather they stay as MR points for now.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Did you spend more than £3k in the welcome period if you net the refunds? If not I’d say you’re at high risk of losing the bonus.

      • Peter K says:

        I agree with TG.

        • Venturelog says:

          Has anyone been able to get this confirmed? Similar position, card was cancelled after receiving the Bonus. Now due a refund on that card (almost £3k) The Amex reward points are still there for flexibility (have another Reward card). Should I empty it out before the refund is processed?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            You can see an example further in the comments which shows 32k Bonvoy points have been clawed back including a welcome bonus.

      • CraigyC says:

        Cheers, in which case I’ll transfer them out before the refunds. I will check how much I actually spent in the three months (it’s 4K for the bonus now), I may have spent more than I thought.

  3. Graham says:

    What if you have triggered the voucher but your refund puts you back below the trigger point. Do you keep your voucher?

    • Yes, will add this.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yes once it’s in your BA account it’s not removed.

    • Lisa Mundy says:

      I’m in a similar situation to you Graham and would like to know the answer. Not only has my voucher already been triggered but I’ve already used it to book a flight in December. The Terms & Conditions for the companion ticket are silent on this situation. Rob – do you know the answer?

      • Lisa Mundy says:

        Sorry – just seen that Rob has already answered the question.

      • You keep it.

        Some people book a fully flexible BA flight which, coincidentally, takes them over the £10,000 spend target. Unfortunately they realise a few days later they no longer need to take the flight and so pay the £15 fee to refund it. The refund goes through quickly (in normal times) so the payment and refund cancel each other out inside the same statement month and the bill for the flight is never paid by the booker. Try as they might, they can’t find a way to get Amex to take the 241 back so they are stuck with it.

        • Andrew M says:

          LOL, have you ever thought of a career in comedy Rob?

        • TokyoFan says:

          I was holding out to the end of my membership year to maximise lifetime of the voucher when a fraudulent transaction (linked to the data breach) pushed me over the 10k. Customer service was fab in returning the payment, but it triggered the voucher before I wanted it and no way of reversing. Now of course, an additional 6 months so mustn’t complain!

        • If you get yourself into this unfortunate position you need to be aware of currency fluctuations. I had a £24k fully flex ticket JFK-LHR-HKG return during the potential Pilot Strike. My flight wasn’t cancelled so I never got the opportunity to claim original routing tier points/eu comp etc so I had to cancel Myself.

          I cleared £100 on the currency movement though.

  4. DERMOT B DOBSON says:

    I received my refund for a BA flight a week ago, Interestingly, although this has appeared on my BA Amex Premium Plus card, my remaining statement balance does not reflect this.

    My due date is in a few days; if I pay the stated full repayment, I’ll be in credit with Amex.

    I’m proposing to just pay the net amount, I assume it’ll all work out OK, not triggering an interest payment.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You must clear your balance or you will be charged interest. The refund will go against this months spend/statement not last months statement.

      • Dezbez says:

        Correct, definitely need to pay the full balance off, not the net one, then ask for a credit balance refund (CBR) – Amex are very efficient with these tho, so you’ll only be out of pocket for a few days. Or you can transfer a credit balance to any other Amex card, if you have one

    • Genghis says:

      My advice would be to pay the full statement amount per the terms and conditions or contact Amex to explain.

      I paid the full statement amount yesterday creating an even larger negative balance and this morning requested the monies to be sent to my bank account.

    • Peter K says:

      IIRC you still need to pay the full balance when I checked on live chat a year or so ago. They don’t take the refund into account.

      • I was told today that I could just pay the balance as long as it was above the minimum payment… i.e Statement Balance minus refund amount.

    • Rui N. says:

      I have to disagree with the above. I had a £1k statement on my Gold card, I paid £300 and the “payment still needed” shown on the website went down to £700. A few days later a bunch of refunds came through (more than £1000, so I know have a negative balance). This weekend I was going to pay another £300, and the amount of payment still needed is now showing £0.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        In my experience the payment due has never reduced, once I was hit with interest and had it cancelled as goodwill. Perhaps it’s something they’ve implemented in light of the current situation.

        However, unless your payment due says £0 (the OP’s doesn’t) you must pay it off or you will get charged interest. I would screenshot the payment due £0 just incase you need to dispute an interest charge too.

        • Yes, I’ve had a £2k refund in the past couple of days and it’s not made any difference to the statement balance on my BAPP.

      • Lady London says:

        If you did not pay the full amount showing as due by the statement date then I’m pretty sure you would have a month marked as not fully paid. I wouldn’t take the risk.

        If you can find the liquidity Genghis’s solution is much better.

    • 1nfrequent says:

      I had this situation last month. The refund wiped out what I owed. I phoned Amex and asked for a transfer of the refund and the assistant told me that they would transfer the balance of the refund after deducting what I owed for the month. This settled my Amex bill for the preceding month and the App and website both show me as not owing anything.

    • I am not in the situation of being due a refund, so I am not entirely sure on this, but I thought refunds that arrive after your latest statement reduce the amount due for that statement.

      On the front page of my BAPP account it shows a summary over on the left which shows the statement balance, below that is the Available credit and below that it the Total Balance. Immediately below that there is a blue button that says Balance and credit…

      If you click on the button a new page opens. It starts with Statement Balance then below that it shows “recent payments and credits” which seem to be deducted from the statement balance and then below that it shows “Remaining statement balance”

      If you click on the “i” for further information an information box opens which says the following:
      “This amount is the new balance showing on your most recent billing statement adjusted for payments, returned payments and applicable credits since your last statement closing date. Any amounts under dispute have been deducted from this balance.”

      Dermot since you have a refund could do the above and see what it shows on this page? I’d be inclined to chat to Amex before simply paying the balance as the others here may be right.

      • TokyoFan says:

        I spoke to amex a week ago about exactly this, with a refund of 2xfees relating to a 241 (c.£1100) They said the remaining balance is a IT issue, and the fact the refund came in after the statement meant that I only had to pay the difference, regardless of what the app said.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Please report back after the due date. Things could have changed in the IT side as it makes sense to me for it to work that way but it’s not what I experienced a few years ago.

  5. If you get the refund within your current year, can they take an issued voucher back? Either way I guess it resets at the start of your new year and you don’t start with negative spend?

  6. Chris H says:

    What happens once I have cancelled the card? Will refunds still go back to that card and I have to request a transfer back to my bank account, or will (BA) refunds go where I want them to go?
    Or worse case, I will have problems getting the refund?

    • They go back to that card and you have to request a transfer back

    • Graham says:

      They go back to your old card number. You’ll get a credit statement from Amex asking you to call them to say how you want the money. If they have direct debit on file for you it is very easy.

      • They will transfer credit balance to another card as well, you can do this in 5 mins over the phone or via chat.

  7. A bit OT – still waiting for a refund. I called BA on March 18th and BA confirmed that they will process our refund within 14 days. I called again on March 30th and the agent said it would be another 14 days. It’s now April 15th and I am still waiting. Anyone else in the same boat?

    • Andrew says:

      I called then on Sunday, got through straight away and they said they would now process within 48 hours and it arrived on my card today. So give them another call and you should get it in a few days.

    • Dave Barron says:

      BA cancelled my Avios booking on 19/03/20 (4 weeks ago) and I spoke to them same day requesting a full refund. Avios returned immediately whilst I was on the phone. I was told the 2 BA Amex Companion Vouchers would be returned within 24-72 hours and the £1152.44 in fees/charges would be within 10 days. One companion voucher was returned within 24 hours but I continue to wait for the cash and 2nd Companion voucher.

      If you now phone them on 0800 727800 Option 1 is to escalate an existing refund request and there is a recorded message saying to allow 14 days before cutting you off. Option 2 is to discuss an existing booking – if I select option 2 I get a recorded message advising they are very busy and unable to deal with my call right now, ask me to call back later and then disconnects.

      Yes they are exceptional times and I understand their need to keep BA staff safe in their call centres but it’s very frustrating when you need to speak to someone and don’t have the option to hold on the line.

      I want my refund to credit before my next statement generates (had also hoped for this last month!).

      Based on previous comments on HFP I have this morning created a profile on FlyerTalk and have emailed BA refund helper so fingers crossed!

  8. Colin JE says:

    Just wondering if when upgrading online from basic BA card to Premium Card, by applying for the BAPC I can still be referred from someone to earn them a referral fee?

    • No. Feedback from other HFP readers is that this doesn’t work as it is an upgrade.

      • Colin JE says:

        Thanks Rob
        I see from the comments below that my other option is cancel the card then reapply. Presumably that would restart my card year AND get a referral bonus for someone?

  9. Hi Rob. Currently following your January article how a couple can early 185,000 Avios. Award wallet shows Marriott account received the 30k bonus. Checked Amex app and a shows my Marriott balance as -32,000! Thoughts?
    Go to the next stage and go for the BAPP and cancel Marriott Amex.?

    • Genghis says:

      You’ve received a refund taking you below the threshold for the bonus points, hence the clawback. Just cancel the card – not worth referring on. Then get a referral from another or use a “portal” for the BAPP.

      • Thanks Genghis.
        Already referred the card under the old T&C’s. So I will get them to refer me to the Bapp and cancel.

    • I’m guessing that a refund pushed you back below the spend threshold so the bonus was taken away, but too late? No worry, Amex still lets you cancel with a negative balance. Move on to the next card – cancel Marriott AFTER you’ve got the 2nd card so it looks less like churning.

  10. James Hilton says:

    Tangentially related: I have a BA holiday (flight + hotel) booked for June on my BA Amex PP. I did not pay in full, and the balance is due in early May.

    Realistically the holiday will be cancelled by BA – but should I pay the full balance on the amex when it is due in May (and take me over the 2-4-1 £10k trigger), with an expectation to probably get the full amount back, or count my losses and lose the deposit?

    • It’s down to what works for you, but they will offer you a credit for the full amount towards a new booking so you could take that if you want to avoid a refund to Amex.

    • Lady London says:

      If it’s a BA Holiday booking then BA will refund your cash very promptly without quibble.

      So if you can afford it personally I would pay the rest then get onto them for a full refund as soon as anything on the holiday is cancelled.

      • LL, they contacted me to cancel my 2-centre car hire booking which was classed as a BA holiday and offered me a voucher, presumably hoping I didn’t know my rights. I accepted the voucher as I could use it straight away and didn’t want too many Amex credits, which is an option the OP could take.

      • Lady London says:

        Go clarify, my take on this is that if you don’t pay in full you either lose your deposit completely or probs these days get the option to take it as a voucher. Because at this point no part of your holiday has been cancelled at the BA end ….yet.

        Whereas we already know from multiple reports, plus with ATOL rules having some teeth, that where any part of a BA Holiday has been cancelled BA have indeed been refunding all cash paid. They have to within 14 days said @Rob because otherwise ATOL would take away their licence to sell holidays.

        So assuming the holiday or a part of it eventually will be cancelled by BA, paying the rest of the holiday now does ensure OP gets a his cash back and promptly. That the only scenario that does.

  11. Not surprisingly I have spent little this year so, with a BA refund, I ended up owing minus 25p at the end of last month. One point to note is that, when I phoned Amex to upgrade my BA card from the free to the Premium version, they made it clear that I did NOT have the right to simply downgrade my card again; I would have to cancel the Premium card and go through the process of applying for a new free card again.

    • That’s not strictly true – you can do a new application online but they simply upgrade or downgrade your current Amex account. What you can do though, is cancel the card and someone else can then get a referral bonus when you re-apply.

      • Anna, that route doesn’t seem to work anymore. I tried to downgrade my BAPP by completing a new online application. At the end, the system detected that I already had a BA card and I’d have to call Amex to discuss further. No referral bonus was issued either.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.