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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 ba.com 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?

Yes.

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.

Conclusion

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 ba.com.

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? – October 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our October 2021 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.

The following offers will end soon:

  • 10,000 Avios on British Airways American Express (ends 2nd November)
  • 40,000 Avios on British Airways American Express Premium Plus (ends 2nd November)
  • 60,000 points on The Platinum Card from American Express (ends 2nd November)
  • 30,000 points on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (ends 9th November)

Here are the top current deals:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 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 and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 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.

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

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard 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:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (127)

  • BrianW says:

    Lots has changed thought 🤷🏼‍♂️. Perhaps not Rob’s opinion, nor his advice, but many things have indeed changed. Try reading the article a few more times for clarity @ChasP, it’s all there if you pay attention.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Two important points here. First, there are more people who would benefit from non-UK departures than you think. Just imagine the number of people who would like to benefit from lower taxes on BA flights from elsewhere. Second, there is an upgrade process to convert blue card into black, and vice versa. You just ring AMEX and tell them what you want to do, and they do this for you. No need to do an extra application as this will confuse things and you might get rejected

    • Rob says:

      There are no savings. Remember that Dublin-Heathrow-XXXXX costs more Avios than Heathrow-XXXXX. You then have to fly to Dublin in the first place. An overnight (no in-airport hotels) may be needed due to timings. The saving is so small it is pointless, in my view, unless you want a day in Dublin for free.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    My opinion is This will benefit mostly those with the paid card, but those with the free card get a benefit of getting a 241 easier.
    If those free card 241s can only use in economy it will take a lot of people out of the equation for 1st/Business seats plus extra available, making it easier to get seats
    Also I think a lot of people travel in economy anyhow so getting the 241 easier makes sense to get the free card for them.
    I’m presuming if you “HIT” the 241 after 1st of Sept then downgrade to the free card you get the best of both worlds
    Free card for paying, but 241 voucher at the 2nd Sept benefit rate ?
    Please correct me if I’M Wrong on this ?

  • Frenske says:

    I have a feeling that most people commenting on this topic are the ones that do not have the fee BA AmEx but the premium. For economy flyers surely the change can be considered as positive.

    • Rob says:

      You shouldn’t be redeeming Avios for economy tickets. You get more value putting the taxes and charges towards a cash flight and turning the Avios into Nectar.

      • ADS says:

        Avoiding Avios redemptions on Economy long haul, yes

        But short haul RFS economy Avios redemptions can be excellent value – especially when BA release availability a couple of days before departure when cash fares are higher

        • Rob says:

          Same applies to long-haul Economy on that basis! For most people, though, it isn’t relevant.

  • Martin says:

    Having just hit the £10k mark on the free card, it’s very appealing for me to take the upgrade path and then downgrade the following month.

    My only concern is if I’d actually be able to use the voucher well. The dream would be to take my partner to Japan, but since the flight needs to be all Avios(as my understanding goes), I doubt I’d be able to get enough Avios in a reasonable timeframe. I just don’t have that sort of spending power behind me.

    Advice welcome.

  • Jon says:

    I’m close to the 10k limit and just called to switch to the premium card and was told I couldn’t. She couldn’t really explain why! Also if I try online it says that I cant and that I need to call.
    Anyone know why this might be? Essentially I’m screwed as I’ll never get to 20k before September and wanted to use the 241 on long haul first class seats.

  • Jon says:

    Any ideas why Im being told I cant switch to the premium card? Near the 10k but certainly wont hit 20k by September but they wont let me change! Tried on the phone and online.
    Anyone else had this?

    • Rob says:

      Did you make a fresh application for the BAPP card? That’s the only way to do it.

      • Jon says:

        Yes, I followed the link in the article

        • Jon says:

          Got it to work now via the link, no idea why it wouldn’t work originally!

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