American Express has announced some substantial changes today to the two British Airways credit cards.
The biggest changes are to the free British Airways American Express card which I cover here. This card has lost much of its value with the ‘2-4-1’ companion voucher being reduced to ‘Economy only’ flights. The only upside is that the qualifying spend is reduced from £20,000 to £12,000 per year.
This article covers changes to the Premium Plus card. Our full review of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express credit card is here. You can apply here (and beat the fee increase, if you apply before 1st September).
You can see full details of the changes on ba.com here.
What is changing with the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card?
Not a huge amount, but the change is still painful.
The annual fee is going up on 1st September from £195 to £250 per year.
The increase will take effect from your next anniversary date after 1st September. You will receive a letter confirming the changes in the next week or so.
Am I getting any new benefits from my extra £55?
There are some positive changes to the 2-4-1 companion voucher from 1st September.
Premium Plus cardholders get access to additional award availability. This is in addition to the new minimum number of seats guaranteed by BA, although it will vary by route and demand. British Airways will open up ‘I Class’ discounted Club World tickets for voucher redemptions (new vouchers from 1st September only) which should increase availability considerably off peak.
You will also be able to use it for flights which do not depart from the UK. This won’t benefit many people, however, and it doesn’t apply retrospectively to companion vouchers which have already been issued.
The two ways in which this might be useful are:
- for one-way flights back to the UK, when you are travelling outwards on another airline or on a BA cash ticket
- if you want to save Air Passenger Duty by booking, say, Dublin to Heathrow to Dubai – but the extra Avios need for Dublin to Heathrow, plus the cost of getting to Dublin in the first place, would eat up much of the saving
In a cosmetic change, the card is getting a new design which I haven’t seen. The card number will be moved to the back of the card.
What can you do if you don’t want to pay £250 per year?
British Airways and American Express are hoping that the additional Avios availability announced last week, plus access to I-class seating, will make people willing to pay the higher fee.
The snag, of course, is that it will take a while for value of additional availability to become clear, whilst the £250 will be very obvious from the start.
There isn’t even any additional Avios availability, if you are being pedantic, until British Airways returns to at least 50% of the schedule it was running in January 2019. At the moment it is offering double the number of Avios seats but on fewer than 50% of the usual number of services.
Your options would include:
- drop to the free British Airways American Express card – you earn 1 Avios per £1 but the voucher, triggered at £12,000, is only valid for one year and only on Economy flights
- swap to another American Express card such as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express (£75, review here), The Platinum Card (£575, review here) or Preferred Rewards Gold (free in Year 1, review here). None of these are anywhere near as rewarding as the BA Premium Plus card, unfortunately, as long as you redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in a premium cabin
- move away to a Mastercard or Visa card for your core card – the most rewarding are the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards. The free Virgin Atlantic credit card is here (review here) and the paid card with a 15,000 miles bonus is here (review here).
My gut feeling is that most people will suck up the £250 fee for the British Airways Premium Plus card. There was lots of grumbling in this HfP article from 2016 when the fee rose from £150 to £195 but how many people actually went through with their threat to cancel?
The benefits are still very powerful if you can use the 2-4-1 voucher for a premium cabin redemption, and in theory there should eventually be more Avios seats available under the new arrangements. Letting you redeem new vouchers earned from September for I-class Club World seats will also help.
I am more interested to see how holders of the free British Airways American Express card react now that their companion voucher can only be used in Economy. How many will cancel and how many will decide to pay £250 per year to upgrade? It would be interesting to know what percentage of 2-4-1 vouchers issued on the free card are redeemed in premium cabins.
Amex needs to be careful because I think it is now vulnerable to attack. There are, I believe, around 500,000 holders of BA Amex cards and they are an attractive market, spending over £1 billion per month AFAIK. They are relatively easy to target via HfP and other travel media.
JP Morgan Chase is reportedly planning premium UK credit cards. It has hired 400 people in the UK to launch a Marcus-style retail bank under the Chase brand and is proving a strong competitor to Amex in the US. Who knows what mileage products may emerge from Chase or other players?
Given that American Express recently bailed out British Airways by pre-paying for £750 million-worth of Avios, it is clearly assuming that you stick around.
If you decide not to stick around, we will cover some of the alternatives in the weeks to come.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our September 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
The following offers will end soon:
- 2,000 Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard (ends 15th October)
- 30,000 Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard (ends 15th October)
- 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 American Express
10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review
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
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
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard
The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
30,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending 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
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
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: