This is our review of the free British Airways American Express (BA Amex) credit card.
It is part of our series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles are linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Card Offers‘ area in the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
This article was updated on 1st June 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
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.
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.
IMPORTANT: Big changes are coming on 1st September 2021
The British Airways American Express card is changing on 1st September.
The spend required to earn the 2-4-1 companion voucher will be cut from £20,000 to £12,000 per year.
However, crucially, the companion voucher will only be valid for flights in Economy, either long haul or short haul.
You need to bear this in mind if you are thinking of applying for the card, and consider whether paying for the British Airways Premium Plus American Express – which still allows redemptions in all classes – is better for you.
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 British Airways 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 cards without a foreign exchange fee. One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than Amex charges) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
How else can you earn Avios points from a credit card?
Don’t forget these less-obvious options:
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 20,000 Avios points.
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.
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.
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.
Before you apply, remember that – from 1st September – any 2-4-1 companion voucher that you earn will only be valid on Economy Avios flights on British Airways. If you do not want to redeem your Avios for Economy tickets, you should consider the Premium Plus card instead.
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 Card Offers’ 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.