Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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? – 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 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

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 (103)

  • Bob says:

    With regards to FTV, does the return leg of the journey need to be completed by April 2023 or just the outbound? Many thanks.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Why do you recommend quite a convoluted and lengthy option of upgrading / downgrading. Applications made in this way often get rejected. One needs to CALL BA AMEX team and they will do everything for you IN MINUTES. They know this process well and are always happy to help.

  • Mat says:

    I have a BAPP card which I have triggered the 241 voucher already. Should I be downgrading to the blue now, or wait till 1st September? Any advantages of doing either?

    • BJ says:

      Only advantage of keeping BAPP after triggering the voucger is 0.5 avios/£ .. @Genghis always enjoyed explaining the monthly maths for this one on the back if his fag packet so I’ll leave it to him if you don’t get there first.

  • Nik says:

    I have a couple of questions that hopefully someone can answer;
    1. How do I identify these I-class flights. Will they show up on SeatSpy, or on a BA search tool?
    2. Can both of the tickets be bought from the I-class pool, or does the first need to be from Avios availability, then the second free one can be from I-class?

    • Alex says:

      1. Not sure yet if SeatSpy will show or not, currently only shows “reward only” seats. I-Class can be sold for cash so it might not pull them through, we don’t know how it will work yet.
      2. I would assume both from the same bucket will be fine using a 241 as im sure BA’s IT couldn’t handle much else

      • BJ says:

        Also remains to be seen if BA will play fair.

        • Nick says:

          @BJ, what do you mean by ‘play fair’? They have been very open about what they’re doing, it’s all contracted with Amex. If I class is open, in the POS needed for the itinerary being booked, it can be used for a voucher. Simple as that.

          • BJ says:

            Rob or others can correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t see any reason at all why BA could not mess around with this if they wished. For example, what’s to stop them creating a new fare class and leaving I a ghost of its former self?

          • Rob says:

            Nothing, except a) they won’t mess up the entire airline structure just for this and b) given how cheap I-class can be I doubt it is financially a bad deal for BA.

  • Alistair Coffin says:

    My annual membership date on my free BA card is 23rd Aug. (I downgraded a few years ago as I couldn’t use any vouchers)

    I’ve just reached £10k and want to upgrade – I guess there’s no way of getting a newer voucher if my membership date is before Sep?

  • Tony says:

    Can someone just double check my thinking here? I have a BA Blue card with an anniversary date of 29th Jan. As of today I’ve spent £9,200. So my plan is:
    1. Upgrade to BAPP card before 1st September before hitting 10K spend.
    2. Trigger the 10K spend threshold by end of September (no interest in combining vouchers).
    3. Receive my 30 month voucher with additional seat availability in Club World.
    4. Downgrade to Blue card in October, and get pro-rata refund of the annual BAPP fee.

    Have I got this right? Thanks.

    Final question, what does combining vouchers actually mean?

    • Alex says:

      Yes this works, and then just upgrade again once you spend £9.5k etc and repeat. The amount it “costs” for the short time you have the BAPP has just gone up a little.

      Combining 241’s means a family of 4 can travel with 2 vouchers for the price of 2. Only really important normally if you have kids or travel with family etc

      • JDB says:

        As above, you are making a huge leap of faith that Amex will continue to permit this process to the detriment of the mainstream cardmembers after 1 Sep.

    • Rob says:

      All fine.

      Combining – the usual 241 rule is that the voucher holder MUST travel. In theory this means that a family of 4 cannot travel on 2 vouchers, since the cardholder would need to be a traveller on each. BA waives this rule, allowing you to redeem 2 vouchers in the same transaction for the cardholder + 3.

      This won’t be possible after 1st September if one voucher is an ‘old’ one and the other is a ‘new’ one. There is no way that a family of four could use them for one trip.

    • Tony says:

      Perfect thanks gents. Much appreciated.

  • Seb says:

    If I get a Future Travel Voucher from a BA Holiday booking, will I be able to use this against a BA flight-only booking in the future? Thanks!

  • Paul says:

    My card was free with platinum and it seems that by an extraordinary degree of luck my anniversary is 25th August so I get a whole new year before the fee kicks in.
    My BAPP card will almost certainly go at that point and I will retain my platinum card. I am hoping that Amex will then starts to offer better deals to platinum card holders ( they are to a degree even now via the my offers)
    As things stand and with my travel pattern Avios seats are not what they were. I prefer to use them in F and there is now nothing available. Paying £1400 for two Avios seats, on top of the avios and the annual fee for seats to almost anywhere when ex EU fares are not a lot more is just no good value.

    • tony says:

      @Paul – couldn’t agree more. No way can I justify the 2-4-1 being worth the new fee when the TFCs are so high in J. There’s an argument for finding value for a one-off special trip in F with the Mrs – but if they’re not loading availability at the front anymore then I can’t see the point.

      • MisterE says:

        Point taken about the extraordinary Avios charges, and also the desirability (even if not actually available) of First redemptions, but the most important things about Avios for me in current and future conditions are

        (a) flexibility to cancel with relatively minimal charges right up to the last minute and

        (b) direct rather than indirect flights from the UK. We had used an ex-EU cash fare on Qatar from Oslo to go to Australia just as COVID hit us. Decided it was best to come back early, only to find that Norway had put a ban on incoming flights!

        • Track says:

          I know it was chaos in March-May 2020.

          But wouldn’t Qatar re-route to fly to another European destination if Norway shut?

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.