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Got a British Airways American Express? Are you sure you are ready for the 1st September changes?

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On 1st September, the British Airways American Express credit cards will see the biggest changes since they were introduced 20 years ago.

Are you ready?

We have written comprehensively about the changes, but here is a quick reminder.

Got the free BA Amex? Are you sure you are ready for the 1st September changes?

On the free British Airways American Express card:

  • 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued after 1st September can no longer be used for First, Business or Premium Economy flights
  • 2-4-1 companion vouchers will be triggered with an annual spend of just £12,000, down from £20,000
  • 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued after 1st September cannot be used in the same booking as vouchers issued before 1st September

Full details of the changes to the free British Airways American Express are in this article.

On the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card:

  • the annual fee increases from £195 to £250 per year
  • 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued after 1st September will have access to substantial extra availability in Club World – if there are cheap cash seats for sale on a flight (technically “I-class” tickets) you can book them for Avios
  • 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued after 1st September cannot be used in the same booking as vouchers issued before 1st September

Full details of the changes to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express are in this article.

Got the free BA Amex? Are you sure you are ready for the 1st September changes?

If you have the BA Premium Plus Amex, are you ready?

Holders of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card have it easier. There is only have one decision to make in the short term:

  • should you trigger your next 2-4-1 voucher before 1st September, which will let you combine it with other 2-4-1 vouchers you have?, or
  • should you trigger your next 2-4-1 voucher after 1st September, because you will get access to far more Club World seats?

For what it’s worth, I went with the first option. I already had an unused 2-4-1 in the bank, and we are a family of four. It is more important to me that I can combine two vouchers for my entire family than get access to extra Club World seats.

If you travel as a couple, or travel as a family but don’t have an unused 2-4-1 already banked, I would go with the second option.

If you have the free BA Amex, are you ready?

This is where it gets complicated because if you don’t act, decisions may be taken for you without your consent.

Got the free BA Amex? Are you sure you are ready for the 1st September changes?

Will you have spent £12,000 to £19,999 on your free BA Amex on 1st September?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then you have a problem.

On 1st September, your account will automatically trigger the new-style 2-4-1 voucher which is only valid in Economy.

Not everyone will be unhappy about this. Some holders of the free BA Amex have never, ever triggered a companion voucher because they never spent £20,000 in a year. (These people should not be BA Amex cardholders, frankly, because there are more generous cards available but let’s ignore that for today.)

If this sounds like you, here are your options:

  • you could try to bring forward spending (top up your Amazon account etc) to ensure that you hit £20,000 by 31st August. This would get you a one year 2-4-1 voucher which can still be used for First Class, Business Class or Premium Economy, not just in Economy.
  • you could upgrade your free BA Amex to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express. As you have spent over £10,000 this year, your 2-4-1 voucher will be triggered immediately. This will give you a two year 2-4-1 voucher which is valid in any travel class.
  • you can do nothing. A new style one year 2-4-1 voucher, valid only in Economy, will be awarded to you on 1st September.

In my view, options one and two are far more attractive than option three.

Will you have spent under £12,000 on your free BA Amex on 1st September?

If this is you, you don’t have any pressure to act now. Nothing will be triggered on 1st September.

You WILL have to make a decision at some point before you hit £12,000 however:

  • do you remain with the free BA Amex, and wait for the new-style Economy-only 2-4-1 voucher to be triggered whenever you do hit £12,000?
  • do you upgrade to the British Airways Premium Plus card at some point before you hit £12,000? If you are already over £10,000 of spending when you upgrade, your 2-4-1 voucher is triggered immediately. If you are under £10,000 of spending, it will trigger when you hit the threshold.

If you go for the 2nd option, you also need to think about the timing:

  • should you upgrade and trigger your next 2-4-1 voucher before 1st September, which will let you combine it with other 2-4-1 vouchers you have?, or
  • should you upgrade and trigger your next 2-4-1 voucher after 1st September, because you will get access to far more Club World seats?

Will you have spent over £20,000 on your free BA Amex on 1st September?

For completeness, let’s look at the other possible scenario.

If you will have spent over £20,000 on your free BA Amex on 1st September, you have nothing to worry about.

You have already triggered your 2-4-1 voucher for this card year. The change in the rules won’t take effect until you trigger your next companion voucher in a future card year.

How do you upgrade your free BA Amex to Premium Plus?

Confusingly, there is no ‘official’ upgrade process.

Go to the Premium Plus application page here and make a fresh application. Give details of your free BA Amex when asked about what other American Express cards you hold.

Amex’s IT will automatically spot your attempt to upgrade, issue your Premium Plus card, close your existing free BA Amex (it isn’t possible to have both cards) and copy across all of your existing statement information and your ‘year to date’ spending total. This will work smoothly – Amex has the process very much under control.

For clarity, you will not receive a sign-up bonus on the Premium Plus card.

Conclusion

There are some tough decisions ahead for holders of the free British Airways American Express.

If you will have spent between £12,000 and £19,999 on 1st September, you need a plan. If you don’t act, you will be issued with a 2-4-1 ‘Economy only’ companion voucher on 1st September whether you like it or not.

PS. For simplicity above, I have ignored the fact that all 2-4-1 vouchers issued before 31st December 2021 will come with an extra six months validity as a covid compensation benefit. The free BA Amex voucher will be valid for 18 months whilst the BA Premium Plus voucher will be valid for 30 months.


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You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

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Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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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 Platinum Business American Express

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American Express Business Gold

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British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

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

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

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Comments (103)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    Rob But there is a way to use both differant 241s on the same booking (I think ?)
    I have a 241 I can use it in first or Business for two of us yes ?
    Partner has a new 241 from Sept she can use it for two as well yes ?
    Therefor 4 or 6 can travel using 241s as a mix if Partner gets another 241 second year

    • Will says:

      They will be separate bookings. Perhaps you can get availability on same flights but no guarantee

    • BJ says:

      No, that would be 2 bookings Chris, one for you and one for your partner. Remember too that bookings have to be voucher holder + 1 therefore one person holding 2 vouchers does not equate to voucher holder + 3 on a single booking.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        BJ Of course meant on same flight “not booking”
        But still allows 3 241s to be used for 6 people

        • BJ says:

          I think what Rob means is one PNR because absent that you incur risks to you party travelling together and associated hassles if it all gets messy.

        • Marc says:

          Chris, that’s right – but only if three different people hold the vouchers. Which might not always be the case.

          • Chris Heyes says:

            Marc Not correct One person can book for 4 using two 241s
            example 1 + 3
            Plus me can book using a 241
            Total 6 people booked using three 241s

    • Rob says:

      Obviously you can do it if the vouchers are in different names!

  • Mij says:

    How can you see how much you’ve spent so far in a year?

    • Hardpack says:

      It’s on your statement on one of the last pages

    • Paul pogba says:

      The Amex app has a counter (on the “membership” section of the iOS version).

  • TimM says:

    I have the free BA Amex card and will never spend £20,000 on it in a year. Which card is more generous for collecting Avios for relatively low-spenders?

    • BJ says:

      If you can spend £10k in a year then keep the blue but upgrade to BAPP just before reaching £10k. Trigger the voucher then cancel or downgrade to blue again after the voucher is safely in your BA account. If you cannot spend £10k then the PRG during the first year when it is free, otherwise the fee-freefree American Express Reward Credit Card.

      • Paul Pogba says:

        The Nectar Amex generates 1.25 Avios/£ and has a lower fee so might be worth checking out: https://www.headforpoints.com/2021/02/06/review-american-express-nectar-credit-card-3/

        • BJ says:

          Yes, this is true but the offers on Nectar card are generally not as great as those on the MR cards. Over a year I would expect the return on the MR cards to exceed the extra 0.25 avios/£ on the Nectar card especially for a low spender. For example, PRG earns more on travel and currently earns 2 avios/£ on spend for many with the offer. If avios was the goal for a low spender I would still go with an MR card and back it up with a Sainsbury bank Nectar card for shopping at Sainsbury and Argos only provided they regularly shopped there or would consider doing so.

          • Paul Pogba says:

            Are you sure the number of offers is significantly lower over the long term? My ARCC had about 6 offers on it when I barely used it, its now taken over from BAPP as my primary card (to avoid triggering the 241) and the number of offers looks about equal.

          • BJ says:

            @Paul, I am sure the general spend threshold offers are better on MR cards. They also attract the amex travelnoffers and Morrison offers. Doubt anybody had a Morrisons offer on Nectar but happy to be corrected. Not really a factor anyway for us who holding multiple cards but people such as Tiim with lower spend may prefer fewer or a single card. In such cases getting the right card for the big picture is more important.

      • JDB says:

        I think it is a big assumption that this will continue to be allowed after 1 Sep. With the bigger gap in benefits between the vouchers and asking for an increased fee, Amex cannot, from a regulatory/fairness perspective, give the better voucher to the majority for £250, but allow others to have it for a twelfth of that.

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      From 1st Sept the annual target spend to trigger the new 2-4-1 (economy only) voucher for your current card drops to only £12,000. If that is doable for you, you are OK with the flight class restriction & don’t want to pay an annual subscription for the premium card then the basic BA card is still your best Avios option, mainly because a 2-4-1 voucher is so powerful in terms of boosting your Avios possibilities if not travelling alone.

    • Harry T says:

      Nectar.

      • BJ says:

        No, see my point above. The ‘problem’ with HfP, and other blogs too, is that Rob has to keep the articles quite simple both for clarity and to prevent them from becoming too long. In practice this usually means that for the most part articles consider issues in isolation or at best in a limited wider scope. The bigger picture needs to be considered by each according to their own circumstances and when doing so the conclusion reached will not always be the same as that reached by the article. That is not to say that the article is wrong, only that one size does not fit all and that issues should be considered in both wider and personal context.

        • Doug M says:

          Whilst I agree with your broader point that the answer is typically more nuanced, I think reliance of ‘offers’ for a decision process is quite flawed. In my experience they’re so random and senseless that they’re near impossible to value. Gold has had a decent spell with the Deliveroo offer, which I’d guess us widely used, and various get double points on your next X spend. Whilst I have not had one for around 18 months the Plat always seemed the most useless for offers, I appreciate that those that kept it have done OK from redemption offers, but those are pretty abstract and related to brass neck. I don’t factor offers into a card decision.

          • BJ says:

            Not just relying on offers to drive the decision though. There are other factors such as the relative value of referrals and additional cards on MR cards compared to Nectar.

    • TimM says:

      Thanks for all those comments. As I can see, the Nectar Amex earns 0.25 Avios per £ more than the free BA Amex but has an annual fee of £25 (though free in year 1). If you value your Avios at 1p each, by my calculations I would need to spend 2500p/0.25 = £10,000 per year to break even on the £25 Nectar Amex over the free BA Amex and then not be within £2,000 spending of the BA 2-4-1 (economy only) voucher.

      I liked BJ’s strategy of shuffling cards approaching a £10k spend and back again to get the full BA 2-4-1 voucher, but as I don’t intend spending £10,000 in one year, it seems the free BA card is still the best option, at least for collecting Avios.

      I am more than happy to be corrected.

    • Rob says:

      Easy life – Amex Rewards Credit Card, 1 point for £1, free for life, convert into Avios BUT also all other Amex partners so far more flexible than Avios

      Harder life – Nectar with ‘first year free’ for 1.25 Avios per £1, cancel after first year, possibly get Amex Gold free for a year then back to Nectar etc (and after 2 years of this get a BAPP so you can bag the bonus)

  • MrD says:

    I’m ready, I’ve moved to collecting Tesco points.

  • Carl Cross says:

    Thanks for all the great writing on this topic Chris – did as advised and got myself to £20K of spend on the free card, triggered the voucher and have now upgraded to the premium and cards received [intended to anyway]. Wouldn’t have got to £20K without forward planning as business expenditure low still so thank you for your great article!

  • Ed Newman says:

    There is actually a really easy way to upgrade as I did it this week and was done within minutes using this link: https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/benefits/upgrade/ba-premium-plus-credit-card/

  • David says:

    Card anniversary 11th Sept 21 with £10K+ spent on the free card. If I pay £195 today to upgrade and trigger 2-4-1, and then downgrade again next week after the cards/voucher have arrived – any implications? Would I get refunded 51 weeks pro-rata (worth doing!) or only refunded the 4 weeks or so before my card anniversary date? If the latter, perhaps work keeping PP for the next year for the higher earning ratio. Unless it gets charged again on my anniversary date…? Confused!

    • BJ says:

      If you downgrade again before your next statement is issued you may not get charged at all. However, I wouldn’t play such games with amex. I alwatsvtry to give tghem sonething and hold any cards at least three months, six in most cases.

  • jjh4yb says:

    I’m thinking of giving up on my Premium BA AmEx. A subscription that comes in at over £20/month seems steep, I’d previously rationalised it on the quality of insurance provided. I’m a solo traveller, so companion vouchers are not a great incentive.

    Therefore the comment, “These people should not be BA Amex cardholders, frankly, because there are more generous cards available but let’s ignore that for today.” grabbed my attention.

    Is there a current item pointing these cards out or an item in the pipeline?

    Many thanks for continuing to keep us so well informed.

    • BJ says:

      If used wisely the voucher will save you your £250 many times over.

      • jjh4yb says:

        I’m wondering if you missed my comment about being a solo traveller or am I missing something?

        • JDB says:

          I was wondering about your comment re “quality of insurance” on the BAPP card?

        • BJ says:

          As a solo traveller Virgin voucher would work better if you found their network useful. There are places for solo travellers to make contact, might be worth exploring as an option to explore BA voucher. Don’t mean to travel together, just to fly together.

    • Doug M says:

      I don’t think the BAPP has the equivalent of decent travel insurance, so I’d check what insurance means to you. Virgin have a much smaller route network and harder to find points redemptions, if you’re a USA traveller their voucher may work for you, but that’s a £200 card. The solo BA voucher is via Barclays Premier banking. That’s in the £150/year range, but does provide Avios to offset that cost, albeit a bank account and not a credit card. The days of the Lloyds voucher for £24/year have sadly ended.
      As a solo traveller myself, my strategy in the broadest sense is Amex Gold in 13 month spells to get the extra 10K MR, BAPP every two years for 25K sign up, and on and off Plats for those benefits as needed. Non Amex fallback is IHG black card that’s no longer available.

    • Doug M says:

      @jjh4yb. As a solo traveller that often allows for greater flexibility. Whilst Avios redemptions can be a real winner, they can also be quite poor value for long haul without 241 given fees on them. Have you considered ex-EU? It’s my go to method for long haul, and means earning good chunks of Avios without too much credit card faffing.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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