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BAD NEWS (2): Your BA Premium Plus Amex annual fee is going up – but more Club seats opened

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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:

Conclusion

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.

You can find out more on this special page of ba.com.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our June 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. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 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 – 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

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 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.

Amex American Express Business Gold card

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

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending 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

Comments (365)

  • Paul S says:

    Not according to the new terms and conditions on the BA website…..

  • Rob (Different One) says:

    My card anniversary is very end of August and literally just about to trigger what I think will be my 4th voucher (what with all the extensions).

    So on the plus side I miss out on the extra fee for a whole year, on the downside I won’t get the fancy new voucher until sometime in 2022.

    Overall I’m still happy to pay £250 a year so the wife and I can fly to the states on a flat bed on the cheap. Done first class a few times and always really enjoy it but CW is plenty good enough for working class scum like me, especially with the new hard product.

  • Malcolm Bell says:

    Post brexit I read that Amex charges to retailers have jumped and are no longer capped by eu rules. Is this correct and does this make rewards cards economical in the uk again? Does this also allow visa and MasterCard cash back cards again?

    • Rob says:

      Nonsense. The EU law is now in U.K. law. What has changed is caps on transactions on U.K. cards used abroad, in some scenarios.

  • Pete says:

    What happens if I earn a 2 year voucher (before Sept) but then downgrade to the basic (no fee card) – does it still hold its 2 year validity and ability to book lub ?

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