Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Got the free BA Amex card? Learn how to reduce your £20k 2-4-1 target to £10,000

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We ran an article yesterday to explain how American Express treats refunds made to your card.  As I pointed out, a refund counts against your annual spend if you are trying to earn an annual bonus.

In my case, for example, the £2,000 refund I am due from British Airways on my British Airways American Express Premium Plus card means that I will now need to spend £12,000 this year – not £10,000 – to trigger my next 2-4-1 voucher.

At the bottom of that article, I suggested that holders of the free British Airways American Express card should upgrade – if only temporarily – to the Premium Plus card if they are worried about triggering their 2-4-1 voucher.

Here was my logic:

many holders of the free British Airways American Express card will struggle, under lockdown, to spend £20,000 this year to trigger their 2-4-1 Avios companion voucher

upgrading to the Premium Plus card only costs £16.25 per month in fees (£195 / 12) as the fee is refundable pro-rata

because the Premium Plus card only requires £10,000 of annual spend to trigger your 2-4-1 voucher, once you have upgraded you will either:

trigger your 2-4-1 immediately, if you have already spent £10,000+ on your free British Airways American Express, allowing you to downgrade again quickly, or

trigger your 2-4-1 as soon as you pass £10,000, allowing you to downgrade again at that point

Either way, it is an easy solution if you are worried about missing out on your next voucher.  It doesn’t seem, at the moment, that any support will be forthcoming from American Express or British Airways in terms of reducing spend targets.  You can’t be blamed for taking matters into your own hands.

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 qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus on the Premium Plus card as an upgrader.

You can downgrade to the free card again as soon as you have your 2-4-1 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.

You shouldn’t have the free British Airways card anyway ……

I know that a lot of Head for Points readers have the free British Airways American Express card, hence my advice above.

However, you really shouldn’t.

If you have this card, this is why I think you should switch.  The reasoning depends on whether you spend £20,000 to trigger the 2-4-1 companion voucher or not.

Scenario 1:  ‘Yes, I do spend £20,000 per year on my free British Airways American Express card’

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.  The one year expiry on the free card is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance as it is virtually impossible to time your voucher issuance so neatly.

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 could also get a Premium Plus card for your partner and put your ‘spare’ £10,000 of spending on that, earning a 2nd 2-4-1 voucher in your household each year.

You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent (1.5 Avios per £1) which offsets much of the £195 annual fee on the Premium Plus card.  £20,000 on the paid card would earn you 30,000 Avios vs 20,000 Avios on the free card.  If you value an Avios at 1p, this is £100 of value you get back immediately.

If you spend £20,000 on the free British Airways American Express card, you shouldn’t.

Scenario 2: ‘No, I don’t spend £20,000 per year on my free British Airways American Express card’

Sorry, but I think you are potentially making a mistake too.

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.

Someone spending at least £10,000 per year should upgrade to the Premium Plus Amex card.

If you spend under £10,000 per year, you are better off with the lesser-known American Express Rewards Credit Card pictured above.

The American Express Rewards Credit Card 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.  You can find full details here – it has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.

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 24 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 American Express Rewards Credit Card is flexibility.  Yes, you can use your points for Avios.  You can send them over to British Airways via the Membership Rewards website and they will arrive within 48 hours, often 24 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), Marriott Bonvoy (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.

You have 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, if BA fails to survive coronavirus ….. you’re stuck.

The only good reason NOT to drop your free BA Amex is that having the Amex Rewards Credit Card means that you cannot get a sign-up bonus on an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum card afterwards.  On the other hand, once you have gone two years without the free British Airways American Express, you would be able to apply for the British Airways Premium Plus card and receive the sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios.

(I know that the sign-up rules for American Express cards are now hugely complex.  This HfP articles explains, step by step, which American Express cards you can still get a bonus on, based on the cards you have.)


If you have the free British Airways American Express credit card, and are struggling to hit your £20,000 annual spending target due to lockdown, you should think about quickly upgrading and downgrading to the Premium Plus card.

This will trigger your voucher as soon as your spending passes £10,000 in your current card year.

Longer term, stop and think about why you have the free BA Amex card.

If you are spending more than £10,000 on the free card, the Premium Plus version offers you a better deal.  If you are spending less than £10,000, the American Express Rewards Credit Card offers all of the same benefits (no fee, the equivalent of 1 Avios per £1) with a lot more flexibility.

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

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2022 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the top current deals.

There are special sign-up bonuses on both of the BA American Express cards until 28th February 2022. The bonus on the free card is doubled to 10,000 Avios and the bonus on the Premium Plus card is increased from 25,000 Avios to a huge 40,000 Avios.

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios (SPECIAL OFFER) and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 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

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.

The bonus on the Capital On Tap card is increased from points worth 10,000 Avios to 30,000 Avios until 4th February 2022.

The bonus on the British Airways Accelerating Business card is increased from 30,000 Avios to 45,000 Avios until 28th February 2022.

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

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

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

45,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital on Tap Visa card

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

30,000 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.

Apply 31st March 2022 and your cashback will be increased to 2% for the first three months.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (2% for your first 3 months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (91)

  • Euan says:

    Are you eligible for the sign-up bonus to the free AMEX rewards card if you’ve had the free BA AMEX?

  • Gareth says:

    This is interesting, I’m hopefully going to get £26000, in refunds from cancelled cruises before the end of my year in mid September. I’ve already used the 241 voucher I earned in October in good faith, but I won’t spend £36000 on my BA premium Amex this year given spending has almost stopped with lock down. What happens

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Cancel your card.

    • Gareth says:

      I will downgrade to free card, Hope they don’t take voucher away

      • TGLoyalty says:

        They won’t take the voucher away and what would downgrading do other than give IHG you a -26k balance instead of -39k balance.

  • Kenneth Malcolm says:

    I have £9600 spending on my blue card are you saying I can upgrade to the premium plus and this spending will be carried over to my new card and then if I spend another 400 by 25th July (the end of my current blue card year) I will be eligible for the 2 for 1 voucher? also can I refer myself for this premium card to earn some more Avois?

    • Rob says:


      I strongly recommend you do it BEFORE you hit £10,000 as you will be issued a two-year voucher. If you upgrade after you’ve hit £10,000, you sometimes – in error- get immediately issued with a one-year voucher and you need to start email ping-pong with Amex to get it adjusted to 2 years.

      No referral bonuses are paid on upgrades.

      • Kenneth Malcolm says:

        so I am better to upgrade over the phone now rather than apply via a referral link?

        • Rob says:

          Makes no difference but you’re wasting your time using a referral link. Just use the standard Amex website.

          • Michele says:

            Thanks Rob, I upgraded on line and worked a treat. I now have a BAPP and my spend of £9900 was carried over so I just need to spend £100 for the 241 voucher 0 hurrah. Really appreciate the heads up about upgrading. I will wait until I get the 241 voucher then go back to the free card I think. Although I do have 2 flights booked on BA one to Charleston and one to Nice this year so I need to think of the extra Avios with BAPP. Will have a think unless you have advice 🙂 thanks again

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Kenneth: Yes, just make sure you upgrade to BAPP before spending 10k to get the 2 x Year voucher.
      Would not recommend self referral as Amex U.S have been clamping down on this potentially closing accounts or clawing back referral points.
      Just get a partner or friend to refer you, better to keep a good, long standing relationship with Amex than a ban! 😉

  • Simon jones says:

    Hi I have the BA premium plus card. I reached my 10k spend in March and the voucher was issued straight away and shows on my BA account

    My progress bar on Amex account said I had earned the voucher for this year.

    A couple of days ago I received a refund from some cancelled flights. This has now changed my status bar on my Amex account to say I need to now spend xxx to get my voucher

    I have already got it, does that mean Amex will take the issued voucher back or not

    Can anyone help ?

    • Polly says:

      They won’t take it back
      The counter is just their ongoing system, and you won’t get another voucher.

  • Nick G says:

    My wife and I both have the free BA Amex as well as good credit cards. We rarely use the BA cards anyway. However my question is …. Is there any point at all in having a free BA card?

    Never really thought about it before just kept them running in the background as a back up when I use avios to buy tickets on Qatar. Because we churn cards the issue I’ve found is Qatar want to see the card used to book the tickets usually. We could never gaurantee the churned cards would be around hence the trusty BA cards.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Really is no use keeping them. Infact they’ve stopped you resetting the BAPP welcome bonus clock.

      In my experience Qatar only wanted to see the card they didn’t actually do anything with it. Just keep the card you used instead of cutting it up?

    • Doug M says:

      I believe it’s good credit practice to keep one credit card long term, something like your banks basic free card will serve that purpose. I certainly wouldn’t keep the BA Amex for that, as TGL says you’re not resetting the clock if you decided you did want the BAPP and the 25K welcome bonus.

  • Renaud says:

    I’m considering downgrading my BAPP to save the £195 as my spending is really low at the moment, then upgrading again after lockdown (at the latest before hitting £10000)

    My BAPP resets in early February, only £600 spend so far.
    I have two 241s already with just 250K avios, one expiring April 2021 the other July 2022.
    My partner also has at least another 241

    Is there any reason not to do it in these circumstances? I guess I could just book a flight for next year to use the 1st 241 and get double Avios on the taxes spend, and yes I’d get an extra 5000 avios on the 10K spend, but that’s about it. Don’t think it’s worth 195 is it ? It could take me a while to reach 10K in the current climate: better to do that on a free card, right ?

    I also have an Amex gold that I’m planning to switch to ARCC soon, because the benefits are useless right now.

  • Keith Marsland says:

    Hi. A question please.
    I have a BA Amex Premium card , my wife a second cardholder. Can I recommend her to apply for her own card and then collect the bonus avios !!??


  • Newbie says:

    Is it possible to sign up for the BAPP, get the signup bonus, downgrade, then upgrade again before hitting the £10k, to get the 2-4-1?

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