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Why the changes to the British Airways Premium Plus Amex could be better than we thought

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We ran two articles yesterday on the changes to the two BA Amex (British Airways American Express) cards.

The changes to the free British Airways American Express are outlined here.

The changes to the £195 British Airways Premium Plus American Express are outlined here.

If you are one of the very few people to still have the Silver-coloured British Airways Premium American Express, there is no article. However, you need to know that your card is being closed on 31st August.

Full details of the companion voucher changes are on this page of ba.com.

It seems that we may have been too hard on the Premium Plus changes.

American Express sent us a mass-market press release about the BA Amex changes. This did not go into the levels of detail which are important to Head for Points readers. After the original article went up I spoke with a senior Avios person and we clarified some of the details.

The key change is this:

For companion vouchers earned from 1st September 2021, it appears that you will be able to redeem for ‘I-class’ (‘discounted Business Class’) Club World seats as well as standard Avios availability.

Your chances of getting Club World seats are, in theory, much improved if you have a voucher (issued after 1st September 2021) from a Premium Plus American Express card.

For clarity, this does NOT apply to existing 2-4-1 vouchers or any vouchers earned between now and 31st August.

This is a logical but potentially valuable change

We have been banging on for years on HfP about how it made zero sense for British Airways to be selling Club World seats for £1,299 or £1,499 in a sale, but not making them available for 120,000 Avios plus £550 of taxes.

From BA’s point of view, the maths is virtually the same, so why didn’t they do it?

Going forward, if there is a very cheap British Airways Club World cash ticket available to be bought, it should be bookable with Avios using a 2-4-1 voucher.

The devil is in the detail, of course

British Airways is very capable of moving flights around inside different ticket buckets. I-class is one of two discounted business class ticket buckets, so BA could very easily pop seats into R-class instead if it didn’t want to release them for 2-4-1 redemptions.

We won’t know how this works until 1st September when people start receiving the new vouchers. We can then compare Avios availability with I-class Club World cash availability to see if there is a true match.

It is promising, however. What is even more promising is that, if this is only made available to UK holders of BA credit cards, it creates a pool of seats which can’t be accessed by US credit card holders or those who have frequent flyer miles with oneworld partner airlines.

You may want to slow down your Premium Plus spending

If, like me, you are currently close to triggering a Premium Plus 2-4-1 voucher, you may want to hold on for 3 months.

There may be substantial extra value in triggering it after 1st September. This isn’t guaranteed, and it may turn out to be a damp squib, but it would be a shame to miss out. If it is as good as promised, it will justify the £250 annual card fee.

You can find out more about the BA Amex changes on this page of ba.com.

PS. The ba.com link above highlights an annoying quirk. You will not be able to combine an ‘old’ and ‘new’ Premium Plus 241 voucher in one booking. This throws up even more issues as I will discuss tomorrow.


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

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

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 10th 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

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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

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 (194)

  • jj says:

    Maths time.

    Rob says there are 500,000 BA Amex cards in circulation, so let’s assume 125,000 are black cards. Each 2-4-1 will generate 4 flights, so that’s 500,000 individual reward flights.

    Very roughly, BA operates 250,000 flights per annum. Spread evenly, there would be two voucher travellers on each aircraft. But maybe 75% of flights do not offer great value to voucher holders, so that’s now 8 voucher travellers jostling for seats on the more popular flights.

    Given that 4 Club World flights are already guaranteed to be available on each flight, it doesn’t seem that there will be enough demand to completely swamp I class tickets – or that the impact will be sufficient to cause BA to radically re-think its ticketing strategy.

    • Babyg says:

      i think ba have access to more data than any of us… i have used my 2for1 on CE and even Economy when booking school holidays… the avios have to go somewhere right? given BA are give MORE seats how can this be a bad move (except for people with GUFs)… keep it simple, look at in demand routes (SYD, MLE, MRU) now MORE of us have a chance at a reward seat..

  • CarpalTravel says:

    You’re assuming that all those 2-4-1’s are utilised there. I’ll of had 3 out of 4 expire, even with extensions. 🙁

    • CarpalTravel says:

      That was meant to be a reply to jj – I see doing it via my mobile browser it didn’t take…

  • Basal says:

    Maybe I’m missing something (and I’m new to Avios). I’m fine flying economy to the US, but I would prefer business/first class for overnight travel back to the UK. I was initially excited by the news of soon using the 241 tickets for travel originating elsewhere (i.e., outside the UK). I could then pay for cheap flights to the US (with cash) and then use the 241 for one-way tickets back to the UK (in business/first). But then I did a trial search and saw the taxes/fees/charges; one-way charges are £514/person, but return charges are £575/person! So, this one-way strategy seems a bit pointless.

    • P4D says:

      Out of the US it is not useful yes (Rob has written a whole article on how US avios surcharges got out of hand), originating elsewhere it can be useful.

      • Basal says:

        Thanks, I’ll have to check out Rob’s article on that

  • JoshC says:

    Maths again.
    Amex fee £250. Copays on JFK £700 pp, so cost of a 241 is £1650 plus 110,000 avios.
    R class on same route say £1,350 pp, so extra is £1,050 total not to have to play the availability lottery. The 110,000 avios not spent plus say another 30,000 earned means net up 140,000 avios – enough for almost 6 CLub Europe returns. V few CE routes can be regularly got for sub £175 return.
    So better off giving up on Amex, or better still replace with HSBC Premier MasterCard Elite.
    If you are GGL or higher this applies even more.
    The author needs to rethink his maths. The new Amex is a rubbish deal.

    • Doug M says:

      You’re comparing a near fully flex redemption with a no changes discount fare. At present BWC gives you cover, but that won’t last. I agree that discounted cash fares often make sense, but it’s only fair to mention the flexibility of one versus the other.

      • CarpalTravel says:

        I just spent ages checking what an R class ticket type was only to find out and then come and see you have posted almost exactly what I was going to say! I really should learn to read threads through…

        Totally agree, I have to say that this is a terrible comparison as the flexibility has a huge value and is I have used it many times. The last time I paid cash for non-flex (2x £1600 for tickets to JFK) I had to cancel and so lost them both, recovering only the taxes.

        Even keeping with the competitive route example, a fairer maths comparison would be to the fully flex tickets which right now is £20,000. The non-Flex is currently £4,000.

        That makes the £250 for the BAPP look extremely attractive to all but perhaps the most unyielding of travellers.

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      It’s rubbish to compare to one of the most competitive routes where cash fares are very good.

    • DT says:

      What happens when you want to fly somewhere other than JFK? What happens when cash price for the dates you want aren’t the lowest fares possible? What happens when you aren’t going exUK and the copays are less? What happens if you want the flexibility of £35 cancellation on your ticket? What happens if you’re very avios rich and would rather use them than cash?

      Bold to assume that there is only one way to use a 241. Even bolder to assume that those savvy enough to be on this website are blind and will only use 241 vouchers instead of comparing to cash prices.

      • Ed says:

        The flexibility angle is true. In the JFK example above the nectar pseudo cash value of 130,000 avios is £1,040

    • jj says:

      The new Amex isn’t a rubbish deal. You just chose a rubbish example. Long-haul to the USA is pretty much the worst imaginable use of Avios, even in Club.

      And don’t forget that you earn Avios much faster with the premium card. For many people, that more than offsets the annual fee.

      • Ed says:

        I think perhaps it should highlight that the maths isn’t always clear cut. when and where you’re travelling should be considered carefully.

      • CarpalTravel says:

        jj – Is it really that poorer a use? It is all I have ever used mine for. (I am a very boring holidayer – I know what I like etc…). Have you recommendations for better routes to look at? Maybe I should broaden my horizons…

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          This thread just made me price up my recent US redemption vs cash. 2.5k, 2 vouchers and 275k ish Avios. Flexible tickets would be forty eight thousand pounds. Non flexible tickets no way I’d book them. The second we lose BWC vouchers and Avios become SO much more valuable…

          • Ed says:

            Avios tickets are not fully flexible, yes can be cancelled for a relatively nominal fee. But you can only rebook where there is availability. There is unquestionably value to be had out of the BAPP for many, but it depends on what your needs are.

        • jj says:

          CarpalTravel, I probably overstated the case a little with the word ‘rubbish’, but you can do much better.

          The problem with the USA is that cash fares are usually so cheap that it’s almost impossible to get 1p/Avios return, which is a sensible baseline target. When you factor in the earned Avios forgone on a cash ticket and, if important to you, the tier points, it’s normally better to pay cash and use your Avios elsewhere.

          If you want to visit the USA and can’t afford cash tickets, it might be a great use of your Avios. But if you will be buying cash tickets to other destinations, you might want to switch things around.

          If you are Avios-poor, places like Greece or the Canaries will generally yield much more than 1p/Avios, and the flights are long enough for Club to make sense. If you have more Avios, destinations in South America, Africa or Asia will often offer a strong return.

          • Ed says:

            Surely the cash poor, Avios rich equation fundamentally altered with the nectar tie-in. The ability to exchange Avios for nectar, at a conversion of 0.8p per Avios must be factored in now.

          • CarpalTravel says:

            Thanks jj for the reply, I appreciate it and makes things clear for me. I do generally only fly using Avios and will bear in mind your advice. Currently I have nearly 400k stashed and several 2-4-1’s, just trying to get into a position to make use of them! Will make sure I do do the comparisons though, make sure the Avios usage is sensible. :thumbsup:

          • Chris Heyes says:

            JJ I never even look at cash prices we are Avios rich and it doesn’t bother me how many Avios it is, although we go for the £50 tax/surcharge and Avios for Club seats around 3/4 Holidays a year 3/4 weeks at a time.
            So we probably spend more time abroad than the norm (unless on Business)
            Our Avios will outlive me at 74 this year
            I honestly don’t see the point in paying cash for flights, if my Avios are worth less or more than 1p I don’t care I’ve plenty of Avios to throw at flights.
            We go where we decide to go regardless

  • Hak says:

    The thing that will swing it for me is whether First becomes reasonably available once again. Without that then I am out. Just collect MR points.

    • Rich says:

      They’ve just scrapped tens of planes with First and are reducing seats in others – equalling probably 600 in total and so I don’t think First seats will ever become reasonably available again I’m afraid.

      • Ed says:

        Going to depend a bit more on routes and flexibility. Wide open f availability to Boston next spring.

      • Kevin D says:

        First on BA LHR-MEX return for this years Mexico GP is £3,200 return. It’s looking like it is becoming better to pay cash for F and J class tickets. Forgive my inexperience as I’m only new on hfp but I always thought First would be 5 figures return for BA long haul!

  • Rich says:

    Whilst it’s probably a strange question given all this news, but do Amex still make gestures for long standing card holders? I’ll have had my card for 20 years in August and so will escape the fee increase for a year but recall getting a gift of the then BA Miles (or Avios), I think at either my 5th or 10th anniversary, or is this kind of gesture now just a thing of the past?

    • Memesweeper says:

      No harm in asking. There have been retention offers in the recent past.

    • Sloth says:

      I’ve been with them for 22 years and I’ve never had any anniversary gestures off them…

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