At present, if you spend £20,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express credit card, you receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher valid on any Avios flight in Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First Class.
From 1st September, you only need to spend £12,000 per year to receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher but it will only be valid in Economy.
As few Head for Points readers are keen to redeem their 2-4-1 vouchers in Economy, because it represents terrible value when you factor in the taxes and charges required on top, I want to remind you of an alternative credit card.
The basis of this article is the little-known American Express Rewards Credit Card.
My full review of the Amex Rewards Credit Card from January is here. You can apply here. Let me explain why you might want to.
What is the American Express Rewards Credit Card?
ARCC is a standard Amex-branded credit card. It has no annual fee and no substantial benefits, except for the ability to collect Membership Rewards points at 1 point per £1 spent.
It comes with a bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points if you qualify.
Here is the interest rate information:
Sign-up bonus and earnings rate:
- Get 5,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 within 90 days
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent
- Points transfer at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin and other airline schemes
- Your best choice if you want a ‘free for life’ card which earns Membership Rewards points
- A good choice if you want to close a Gold or Platinum card but keep your points intact
- Annual fee: Free
Representative 22.2% APR variable
You will receive 5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Rewards card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.
Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.
To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.
You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.
You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.
For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Rewards card even if you do not qualify for the bonus. You may want to do this if you are thinking of swapping your Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum card for a free alternative, and would prefer to keep your existing Membership Rewards points balance alive.
American Express Rewards is the only ‘free for life’ American Express card which lets you collect Membership Rewards points.
We do NOT recommend this card if you would also qualify for the sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. The Gold card is free for the first year, comes with two free airport lounge passes and has a higher sign-up bonus of 10,000 points.
The best reason to get American Express Rewards is if you are coming to the end of your free first year with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, or no longer want to pay the fee on The Platinum Card, but want to keep your Membership Rewards points intact.
We normally recommend this card to Amex Gold or Amex Platinum cardholders
For many people, there is only good reason to get this card. If you currently have an Amex Gold or Platinum card and want to cancel it but do not want to cash in your Membership Rewards points, this card is your answer.
Apply for the American Express Rewards Credit Card. Once it is active, you can cancel your Gold charge or credit card or Platinum charge card safe in the knowledge that your Membership Rewards balance is safe.
The Amex Rewards Credit Card is also a good free BA Amex alternative
However, when you look at the card, you realise something else. ARCC is fundamentally better than the free, and hugely popular, British Airways American Express credit card.
Let me explain why the ARCC card may be better for you than the free BA card.
Do you spend under £10,000 per year on your free BA American Express card?
If you spend under £10,000 per year on your free BA Amex, you should think about switching to the Amex Rewards Credit Card.
Higher spenders may also want to think about this, if they have no interest in a 2-4-1 voucher at £12,000 which can only be used in Economy.
Look at your returns:
- The free British Airways American Express card earns 1 Avios per £1 spent
- The free Amex Rewards Credit Card earns 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent. These transfer 1:1 into Avios points if that is what you choose to do.
What you get with the ARCC card is flexibility.
Yes, you can use your points for Avios. You can send them over to BA via the Amex website and they will arrive within 48 hours.
However, you have other options. Membership Rewards points can also be sent to Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad, Delta among other airline partners. You can also send them to Hilton Honors (1:2), Marriott Bonvoy (2:3) and Radisson Rewards (1:3). You can convert them to Club Eurostar (15:1). You can even use them for shopping vouchers. You can see the airline partners here.
The Amex Rewards Credit Card gives you more choice. You can still take Avios if you want, and at the same 1 Avios per £1 earning rate. If you suddenly decide that you want hotel points, or that Virgin Points make more sense, or even that you want to abandon Avios altogether, you can. Simply move your Amex points somewhere else instead.
With the free BA Amex card, your points are sitting in Avios from Day 1 and you can’t do anything else with them. If Avios devalues its rewards, if BA stops flying your preferred route, if reward availability suddenly gets a lot harder to find, if Reward Flight Saver fees jump up, if new surcharges get added ….. you’re stuck. Your only way out is via a transfer to Nectar points.
Swapping to the Amex Rewards Credit Card gives you more control over your points.
There is literally no area where the free British Airways card outperforms the Amex Rewards Credit Card. You don’t even get bonus Avios when paying with the free BA Amex at ba.com – this is a benefit that only comes with the British Airways Premium Plus card.
The only good reason NOT to drop your free BA Amex is that having the ARCC card means that you cannot get a sign-up bonus on an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum card in the future. You would have to cancel ARCC and wait 24 months.
However, if you drop your free British Airways American Express for the ARCC card, you WOULD be able to get a sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card in 24 months time. Swings and roundabouts …..
Do you spend over £10,000 per year on your free BA Amex card?
If you spend at least £10,000 per year on your free BA Amex, you have a different decision to make. Should you upgrade to the £195 (£250 from 1st September) British Airways Premium Plus American Express card?
You probably should, given the changes coming on 1st September:
- From September 2021, the 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex will only be valid on Economy tickets
- The 241 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid for one year, instead of two years for the BA Premium Plus voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance
- The £2,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher (£12,000 compared to £10,000 on the Premium Plus card) could be directed elsewhere, helping trigger sign-up bonuses on other cards
- You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent and double Avios when you spend with British Airways and BA Holidays, which offsets some of the £250 annual fee (from 1st September) on the Premium Plus card
There is no official upgrade form – you simply apply for the Premium Plus card via this link. American Express will recognise that you are upgrading and will copy over your existing spend and account data.
Your card year remains the same, and if you have already spent £10,000 this card year on the free card then your 2-4-1 companion voucher is triggered immediately.
Given the changes announced last week, there are good reasons for EVERY holder of the free British Airways American Express card to reconsider whether it remains the card for them.
If you spend under £10,000 on the free BA Amex, I believe that the Amex Rewards Credit Card offers a compelling alternative – just be careful that you don’t compromise your ability to get future sign-up bonuses. It is also an option for anyone who has zero interest in a 2-4-1 voucher which is only valid on Economy flights.
You can apply for the American Express Rewards Credit Card here.
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.