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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.


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

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our October 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:

  • 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 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

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 (103)

  • Sarah says:

    I have BAPP and have already earned my 2-4-1 for this year and have another 2 2-4-1 so don’t need another one but would probably earn it anyway. Membership year ends on 2 Sep. Should I downgrade to blue or keep the BAPP to keep earning extra avios on spend, as needall the avios I can get otherwise will struggle to get decent value for all the vouchers anyway. Any thoughts?

    • Doug M says:

      You get an extra 0.5 Avios per £ on paid for card, so if you value an Avios at 1p you need to spend £50K to make it worthwhile paying £250 if nothing else about the BAPP has value to you. Of course if you spend at BA that figure comes down.
      If you just want Avios have you looked at Barclays banking offer?

      • Sarah says:

        Thanks for your advice. I was actually going to open the Barclays account anyway so think I’ll downgrade to blue as have enough vouchers to see me through 2023 anyway.

  • BJ says:

    Before opening HfP I was just thinking such an article would be pertinent, and there it was and a very good one at that 🙂 However, I confess to being somewhat anxious about the whole issue. I think the analysis provided here is sound and provides for good decisions. However, what is troubling me is whether the changes announced by amex and BA are the limit of those we will see 1st September or soon after. In particular I am concerned that going forward we may lose the ability to upgrade and downgrade the cards, that we will lose the voucher if we cancel the associated card, and that we will be required to use the voucher-earning card to pay for the flights. While I think all three are unlikely to come to pass, and especially the last, it does make me wonder if we are best triggering vouchers now. Bird in the hand and all that. Play the cards we now hold according to the rules we know instead of gambling on something we don’t know for certain.

    • JDB says:

      Very wise words BJ! Also, the things you mention that facilitate the upgrade/downgrade dance are matters of policy/concession (rather than T&Cs) by Amex, so can be changed without notice. The ability of BA to extend the all the existing vouchers whether already used inside a booking or not suggests the IT on that front is better than one might have thought.

      • BJ says:

        I don’t currently have a BP but my partner is sitting £100 shy of the voucher. Despite my worries we’re gambling on September 🙂 potential extra availability and ability to start flights outside the UK is a huge carrot.

    • Doug M says:

      Not a lawyer. I think Amex/BA would struggle to change the practice of not claiming back the voucher on cancellation of card without notice of several years. Customary practice has determined you can cancel and retain. Suddenly forcing customers to retain the card at £500+ (assuming voucher used 2 years later) to do what has in practice been previously allowed would seem to me to be problematic for them.

      • JDB says:

        ‘Customary practice’ could apply as an ‘implied term’ IF you were interpreting a business to business contract, but in this case the terms are quite clear, including the requirement to be eligible for the promotion at the time of travel and use ‘the’ card to pay for the booking. If you are doing the upgrade/downgrade dance you are having these terms shown to you all the time. Amex can also stop the carry over of spend from the free card to the BAPP, only allow a cardmember a certain number of upgrades/downgrades within a time period or stop pro-rata refunds (a very generous concession, but one now heavily abused) etc. In terms of fairness, you would have zero prospect of success with the FOS as a) it isn’t unfair, b) she anyway has little interest in unfair terms in the paid/rewards card market, especially insofar as the rewards element is concerned and c) it fits with the FCA’s current regulatory focus on protecting existing customers vs new ones. Also, when the gap in benefits between the vouchers is about to be so large, Amex needs to encourage Platinum holders who previously got BAPP free to pay £250 and get as many other people to pay £250 they need to take steps to protect the better voucher for the full fee payers; this will also ensure they meet FCA principles 6 & 8. There are a lot of straws in the wind on this!

  • Dave says:

    I have 2 BA companion vouchers which will probably expire before I will be able to use them. Am I right in thinking the best option currently is to book a cheap (domestic?) avios flight for my family using the 2 vouchers, then cancel for a FTV to extend them to 2023?

    If so, does the destination I book matter? and if I book a one-way trip to minimise the initial avios outlay, can I still use the FTV for a return trip?

    Many thanks

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      Dave, you’re on the right track here. It can indeed be a domestic flight. The destination doesn’t necessarily matter if you are happy to cancel yourself and then wear the £35 fee. However some on here have been booking flights they have a high level of confidence that BA will cancel themselves and so you save that charge too. The only real disadvantage to the FTV extension route for your 2-4-1s (other than any cash fee you tie up in your booking) is that whomever is on your original booking that you cancel for the FTV will be ‘locked in’ so you’ll all have to travel together on any future booking – in other words, don’t get divorced 😉

      • Dave says:

        Ok, that sounds good, thanks. I wasn’t aware of the £35 cancellation fee when requesting a FTV, so thanks for the heads up. I’ll be travelling with my family if/when I use the vouchers, so no issue there.

        Any idea how long BA usually take to issue the FTV? Depending on flight availability, I may want to use it in about a month.

        • Paul says:

          There is no fee for claiming an FTV – the FTV is for the full value of your booking. The £35 per ticket is only charged if you cancel for a cash refund

          • Dave says:

            Ok, thank you, that makes it more appealing. Any idea how long BA normally take to issue the FTV?

          • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

            Yes – my bad – apologies Dave and thanks for the correction Paul

        • Rob says:

          5 minutes

          • Dave says:

            Thanks Rob.

            Is there any issue booking a one-way flight then cancelling for a FTV if I then want to use the FTV for a return trip? I’m just trying to minimise the avios tied up in the FTV in case I can’t use it.

          • Rob says:

            No idea. In theory it should be ok because you are just working around the existing ticket (unlike, say, a name change).

  • Andrew says:

    And not forgetting that those of us who have been enjoying the BAPP free for over a decade as a companion card to our Platinum card will be charged the full annual fee when renewing after 1 Sept, which I won’t be.

  • MisterE says:

    So from 1 September, I understand there will two pools of Avios availability. The bigger/more generous pool will be restricted to BAPP holders but only when utilising a Companion Voucher. So a BAPP holder travelling solo won’t be able to take advantage of the bigger pool. Have I got that right?

    Do we know yet, how Seat Spy will deal with this? Will they have two pages for BA Avios availability rather than one?

    • Andrew says:

      Yes that’s right – only for 2for1 use, not general use. You’ll need to do a dummy cash booking and look for I-class.

    • BJ says:

      You got it right in theory, who knows in practice. We are reliant on good faith from BA, they could manipulate the availability if they wish.

  • Marc says:

    Regarding the upgrading process – there’s this page here which I’ve used last month (instead of submitting a new application): https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/benefits/upgrade/ba-premium-plus-credit-card/

    The old blue card in my Apple Wallet was replaced/updated in under 30 minutes and I had the new physical card delivered on the very next day.

    • Christian says:

      Ditto – I have used this process last month as well, and it was painless compared to submitting a new application. I also seem to remember calling them up a few years back and doing it over the phone.

  • Anita says:

    We have a blue BA which we were planning to upgrade to BAPP but stupidly went over the 10000 spend! The card anniversary is mid September. I realise that if we upgrade after 1st September we will trigger the 2 4 1 immediately. My query is will it be valid for 1 or 2 years based on the fact that we hit the spend on the blue card. It says 2 years above but seem to remember people only getting one year? Thanks

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      Anita – you are still OK to hold off on the upgrade until Sept 1st per the article. You haven’t triggered anything yet as your current spend target is 20k. On Sept 1st this drops to 12k but you still aren’t there yet. However, if you upgrade post Sept 1st then as soon as your BAPP is issued the 2-4-1 will also trigger as you’re past its 10k target. If you do this after Sept 1st you earn the new voucher which can access the new larger pool of Avios business class availability. Assuming the upgrade process in Marc’s post above still works then this should all be doable quite easily before you come to your mid September anniversary. Then you just need to consider what you do going forward which, as per all the other comments, is a little unclear in terms of downgrade/upgrade game options etc.

      • Anita says:

        Thanks, ok to hold off the upgrade till after 1st September. My main query was whether the voucher would be for 1 or 2 years

        • Doug M says:

          Probably 1 year, but you call Amex and they’ll correct it to 2 year validity.

          • Anita says:

            Thanks, that’s what I suspected. Just querying as the article says two year in bold if you upgrade having spent over 10,000.
            Guess I’ll have to do it in September & see what happens!

          • BJ says:

            I cannot see this changing, A quick call will fix it. You should get a cherry on top too in shape of an extra 6 months so 2.5y.

  • Mark says:

    Do we know if these changes have made a lot of people cancel their cards and move elsewhere ?

    • Andrew says:

      Where are they going to go?

      There’s nothing else on the market that will give me the option to buy a short notice domestic flight worth £600 for, at most £9,000 spend.

      *And*

      Give me lots of enticements to spend with their partners.

    • Rob says:

      Simple maths says that 83% of cardholders are at least 2 months into their current spending year, which means they probably feel they should stick it out for the current voucher.

      There will also be 0% cancellations from free BA Amex cardholders who never triggered the voucher (I would guess over 50%) and – as the card is free – a lot of the others might just stick in a drawer instead of cancelling.

      However … a bit like old Boris, Amex may find that customer support for the card is slipping away without being reflected in cancellation numbers, and one day something happens which leaves them very exposed.

      • JDB says:

        Your last sentence is unusually cryptic, Rob! I like the BAPP but if they continue to give the voucher to some for £20, it’s going to be harder to get more people paying £250. I struggle to understand why Amex tolerates it.

      • BJ says:

        Chase perhaps?

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