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BAD NEWS (1): Amex guts the free BA credit card for most, stuffs existing cardholders

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American Express has made two important announcements today about the two British Airways credit cards.

We are splitting it over two articles so that you can focus on the card that you have. If you have the Premium Plus American Express card, click here to read about the changes.

It isn’t good news for holders of the free British Airways American Express credit card. Many cardholders are going to feel that they are being treated unreasonably.

Our full review of the free British Airways American Express credit card is here. You can apply here (if you still want to) – these changes do not kick in until 1st September.

Details of the changes are on here.

What is happening to the free British Airways American Express card?

At present, these are the key features of the free BA Amex card:

  • you earn 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • spend £20,000 in a card year and you receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher, valid on Avios redemptions departing from the UK, in any class (full taxes and charges are due on both tickets)
  • the first leg of the flight booked with your voucher must be taken with one year of the issue date

What is changing?

The card remains free.

There is no change to the sign-up bonus of 5,000 Avios.

There is no change to the earning rate on the card, which remains 1 Avios per £1.

The changes all relate to the 2-4-1 companion voucher.

What is happening to the 2-4-1 voucher on the free British Airways American Express?

Here is the killer:

All companion vouchers triggered from 1st September will only be valid on Economy flights.

You can no longer redeem your voucher in World Traveller Plus, Club World / Club Europe or First.

For clarity, there is no change to the terms of any existing vouchers you have, or new vouchers which are issued by 1st September.

There are two positive changes:

  • the spend required to trigger the voucher is cut from £20,000 to £12,000
  • your 2-4-1 flight no longer needs to depart the UK, although the number of people who will benefit from this is slim
Avios wing 12

“I assume I still get a premium cabin voucher in my current membership year?”

No. You’ve been legged over.

Irrespective of when your current card year ends, you must hit the £20,000 target by 1st September 2021 to get a voucher valid in premium cabins.

If you don’t, you will receive the new-look voucher which is only valid on Economy redemptions.

If you have spent over £12,000 but under £20,000 on 1st September, your ‘Economy only’ voucher for the current card year will be triggered immediately.

If you have spent under £12,000 on 1st September, your ‘Economy only’ voucher will be triggered when you reach £12,000.

“What can I do?”

If you don’t want to be stuck with an Economy-only voucher and you can’t spend £20,000 before 1st September, there is something you can do.

You can upgrade to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express for a temporary period.

If you have already spent £10,000 in your current card year, your voucher will be triggered immediately. If you have spent under £10,000, it will triggered when you reach the target.

This companion voucher:

  • will be valid for two years
  • will be valid for travel in ALL classes, not just Economy

If you leave it until after 1st September to cross the £10,000 target, your 2-4-1 voucher will also benefit from additional Club World availability. See our other article today for details on how that will work.

Once your voucher is triggered, you can downgrade back to the free British Airways American Express if you wish. The £195 annual fee for the Premium Plus card (soon to be £250) will be refunded pro-rata, so you could spend as little as £16-£32 if it took 1-2 months to trigger your voucher.

You will not receive the sign-up bonus if you upgrade from the free British Airways American Express to the £195 Premium Plus version.

Is there value in the new ‘Economy only’ 2-4-1 voucher that you will receive in the future?

Not for long-haul flights, no.

On long haul, whenever we have done the maths, it hasn’t made sense. Once you have added in the taxes and charges, there is minimal value there. You would be better off buying a flight for cash and turning the Avios needed into Nectar points at 0.8p per point.

There IS potentially some value in using a 2-4-1 Economy voucher on short-haul flights at peak times. Realistically, however, it is not going to be worth much compared to the value you would get from using your 2-4-1 companion voucher in Club World or First on a long-haul flight.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

Does anyone benefit from these changes?


If you currently spend over £12,000 but under £20,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express card, you receive nothing at present.

From 1st September, you would receive a 2-4-1 voucher each year for an Economy flight. This is clearly an improvement.

You will also be able to use future vouchers for trips which start outside the UK, although this is not of any value to most people.

What should you do if you have the free British Airways American Express card?

Good question.

You have four choices:

  • you upgrade to the Premium Plus card – there is a £250 fee (yes, now £250, but that’s another story) but you earn 1.5 Avios per £1 and your 2-4-1 voucher will be valid in all classes and for two years

Ironically, Amex Gold and the Amex Rewards Credit Card earn the same 1 Avios per £1 spent if you choose to convert the Membership Rewards points you will earn into Avios. You also have the opportunity to convert them into other airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue etc), Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, Eurostar and many other partners.

How do you upgrade to the Premium Plus card?

There is no ‘official’ upgrade process for the British Airways cards.

The way to do it is to make a fresh application for the British Airways Premium Plus card via this page of the Amex website.

Give the number of your existing free British Airways American Express card during the application process when you are asked about any other Amex cards you have. After you have submitted it, Amex will automatically pick up that you are upgrading and carry over all of your existing transactions and spending history.

You keep the same card membership year and your ‘year to date’ spending carries over towards your 2-4-1 Premium Plus voucher.

The BA Premium Plus application form is here.


There are two things to clarify here:

  • these changes do not take place until 1st September even for new applicants – if you hit £20,000 before 1st September, you receive your next voucher under the current rules
  • some people will benefit from this change – if you spent between £12,000 and £20,000 per year on the card before, you were not earning any voucher, so getting an ‘Economy only’ voucher is an improvement

For anyone who IS spending £20,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express card, you need to decide which way you are going to jump.

If you are at or close to £10,000 of spending in your current card year you should consider upgrading , if only temporarily, to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express.

You will receive a letter from American Express confirming these changes over the next few weeks.

You can find out more about the changes on this page of

PS. The card is also getting a new design, which I haven’t seen, which includes moving your card details to the back

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is doubled to a crazy 50,000 Avios! Apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is doubled to 10,000 Avios. Apply here.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

CRAZY 50,000 Avios for signing up (to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (only to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. Apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (to 13th June) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend 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:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

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

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (127)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Rose says:

    Bit dramatic given you always say you shouldn’t spend more than £10k on this card. You had me worried the card was closing completely from the headline.

    • Jonathan says:

      Yeah I thought something serious was happening, the card closing to new customers or a cut in the earning per £1 spent.

      As Rob has always said that this card is the wrong card for earning the 241 voucher, if that’s the primary goal

      • Rob says:

        No-one listens to me on that last point though!

        • ADS says:

          Rob, lots of people today have commented that we DO listen to you 🙂

  • tom says:

    I use the BA Blue to pay my rent so with no big effort I reach 20k a year. Luckily for me, with the rent payment due on 15th Aug I will hit the 20k. What I will do after, I am not sure. Thing is, premium card is tempting but as I pay already 550 for a Platinum Card which I find good especially for its insurance, car insure when hiring and the few elite statuses that come with it. 250 for the premium does not make sense as I fly long haul rarely and mostly I do club europe within UK and Italy.

    • Harry T says:

      Why not get a BAPP, pay 10k of your rent on it, and spend the other 10k on a different card?

    • Mark says:

      The way I’d look at it, is that the value of the Platinum card presumably stands on it’s own merit for you, for the included benefits rather than return on spending. So I’d set that aside and also set aside what you’re losing on the current BA Blue offering as that is no longer available.

      If you were to opt for the BAPP card at £250/year and still put £20K through it you’re earning an additional £10K avios (compared to putting that spend through the Platinum and converting the MR points to Avios, that’s around £100 of additional value at 1p/Avios which should be attainable on short haul). Assuming you do that and will use the Avios, the net cost for the 241 voucher is therefore £150. Is that worth it to you? Add on £50 RFS fees and you’re looking at a companion return CE flexible ticket for a net £200.

      Alternatively you could opt for the £160 Virgin Mastercard, but since you say you don’t fly long haul much that may not be for you, and it still has an up-front fee, albeit a lower one. The only other option I can think of that might beat spending on the Platinum (or any free Amex) is the IHG Premium card, but that’s no longer available to new applicants.

      As Harry T suggests you could split the spend, but realistically that will require another fee paying card to obtain any additional benefit and the options these days are quite limited.

      • Mark says:

        The other consideration to take into account is whether you could put more than £20K/annum through a BAPP, and whether that would give you a better return at 1.5 Avios/£ compared to what you would otherwise do. It potentially could reduce the net cost of that CE companion ticket further. Obviously there is an availability downside with Avios redemptions, but perhaps not quite as much as there was with the recent announcement.

  • blenz101 says:

    The real loss is the glitch where you could earn multiple companion vouchers if you timed your upgrade/downgrade correctly and trigger both in the same spending cycle.

  • Iain says:

    I have the free BA card having spent c. £7k. Could I upgrade to the PP, spend £3k more to trigger the 2-4-1 and then immediately cancel PP to downgrade back to the free card?

    I downgraded from PP last year mainly due to Covid impacting travel and ability to use 2-4-1s but I think that’s me done and this will be my last 2-4-1.

    • AJA says:

      Yes that is still possible. Just upgrade when you have spent over £9,500 provided it is before 1 September to avoid paying £250 pro-rata.

  • VK says:

    dont know if this has been answered already but do existing vouchers now benefit from the fact that outbound doesn’t need to be UK anymore?

  • kt1974 says:

    I met someone from Amex at the pub last year (in between lockdowns) and complained that the much-lauded Companion voucher was (a) rubbish for single people and (b) meant that all the premium cabin Avios rewards were snapped up by smug couples. He promised me that they understood my pain, and would be acting on it. RESULT!!!

    • VK says:

      why do you think these changes were initiated by amex and not BA?

    • BSP says:

      I sometimes go to the pub and tell the girls I work for MI6.

      • Dilbert says:


      • RussellH says:

        I know someone who will say that to anyone at all prepared to listen, but we all stopped listening a looooonnnggg time ago.

    • blenz101 says:

      Er – the card still offers a companion voucher just one that is no longer of much value on the free card.

      The plan with all of these companion style fares/promotions is always to attract leisure travellers. The vast vast majority of which will travel as a couple / family. People that go on holiday on their own are very much the exception.

      If they offer half price Avios you may have had a ‘result’ but they will never do this in normal times as it would cannibalise sales for those travelling solo on business.

      • kt1974 says:

        1. It was tongue-in-cheek. Bless, HFP commenters are so literal
        2. The ‘result’ is more premium redemption seats for everyone else 🙂

        • LostAntipod says:

          Amen to that KT1974. If BA keep the same stock of premium cabin Avios seats, this works in my favour. I might not have to stay up until midnight 355 days before my planned vacation in order to find a reward J seat – one of the reasons I stopped bothering with the BAPP card 10 years ago.

  • cinereus says:

    Given I never use my 2-4-1 vouchers as they are such poor value, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

  • Andrew says:

    I’m a customer who this will hurt. I have the free card and always spend just about enough to earn the 2for1 but probably only use 1 in 3 of them with my wife depending on whether we can arrange time off work and the grandparents can watch the children. We like to travel in 1st as a treat since we’d never ever pay cash for it. ‘Wasting’ 2 out of 3 vouchers on the premium card is certainly not on and if I have to plan exactly which voucher we’re likely to use and go premium that year I may as well plan ahead and consider virgin instead.

    This news will make me consider my whole points strategy and maybe concentrate on hotels instead.

    • Ed says:

      Stay with the free card upgrade when near to 10k trigger the voucher, downgrade back to free card? Pro-Rata fee refund, so would be £20 spend?

      • Andrew says:

        That’d work but is still more hassle than now when I can guarantee that I’ll either have a booking queued up or a voucher waiting to be used.

        Scrapping pro rata refunds must surely be the next amex ‘enhancement’. They’re already an outlier in offering them.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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