This is our review of the free British Airways American Express (BA Amex) credit card.
It is part of our series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles are linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards‘ area in the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 25.3% variable.
About the BA American Express card
The British Airways American Express card is issued directly by American Express. This analysis is focused on the free version of the card – I review the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card here.
Any American Express cards you may have which are issued by Lloyds Bank will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.
What is the BA Amex sign-up bonus?
You receive 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within three months.
A larger bonus of 6,000 Avios is available if you are referred by an existing cardholder. Please e-mail me at rob [at] headforpoints.com if you would like a referral.
What are the rules for qualifying for the sign-up bonus?
The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months. Cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.
You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job. Amex is only interested in any personal cards you have had.
You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card. As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.
If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply. You still receive the other card benefits including the 2-4-1 voucher.
Any other benefits with the BA Amex?
When you spend £12,000, you receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for one year.
From 1st September 2021, 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued on the free BA Amex are only redeemable in Economy Class. If you want to redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in World Traveller Plus, Business / Club or First, you have no choice but to get the Premium Plus card.
What is the annual fee?
The basic British Airways American Express card is free.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the BA Amex card?
You receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on the card.
You do NOT receive bonus Avios when booking British Airways flights. This benefit is only available with the Premium Plus card.
What is an Avios point worth?
How long is a piece of string!
This article is my best attempt to calculate the value of an Avios point.
Other points to note about the BA Amex
If you have the free British Airways card, you can upgrade to the Premium Plus fee-paying version at any time. However, you will not receive another sign-up bonus. Any spend you have done towards the 2-4-1 voucher to date will be carried over and your membership year remains the same.
You can also do this in reverse – once you have triggered your 2-4-1 voucher, you can call American Express and downgrade to the free card for a few months (receiving a pro-rata fee refund) until your new card year starts and your spend starts counting towards the new voucher. Do note, however, that American Express has started to push back against people who attempt to upgrade and downgrade multiple times.
American Express no longer has a minimum income requirement for any of its cards.
Is the BA Amex a good card to use when travelling?
As the BA Amex adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.
Unfortunately there are no credit cards with 0% foreign exchange fees worldwide which earn airline or hotel points. (The Virgin Atlantic credit cards have 0% FX fees in the Eurozone.) One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than Amex charges) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more about Currensea by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
Is this card better than the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard?
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched a free Avios Mastercard (apply here).
Until 18th July 2022, the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is an astonishing 50,000 Avios. The bonus on the free card is 10,000 Avios. You can apply here. You should seriously consider this offer as you are unlikely to ever see a stronger one.
This is fundamentally the same package as the free British Airways American Express card. You earn 1 Avios per £1. Both have a 5,000 Avios bonus. Both have an annual voucher for hitting a spending target. Mastercard is accepted more widely than American Express.
The key difference is the annual voucher. Barclaycard Avios Mastercard gives you an annual upgrade voucher for an Avios flight on British Airways when you spend £20,000. You can upgrade a return flight for one person or one leg of a return flight for two people. Read our Barclaycard Avios Mastercard review for the full terms.
You need to think about which option is best for you:
- Can you put £12,000 per year through the free British Airways American Express to earn a 2-4-1 Avios voucher, which can only be used in Economy?
- Can you put £20,000 per year through the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard to earn an upgrade voucher, good for one person return or two people one-way?
Here’s the key thing to remember. Because American Express is not accepted everywhere, you will need to get the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard anyway if you want to earn Avios on all of your shopping. Does it really make sense to have the free Barclaycard and the free American Express?
Of course, nothing stops you getting both the American Express and Barclaycard cards purely for the sign up bonuses and then cancelling one later if you choose. Both cards are free.
How else can you earn Avios points from an Amex card?
Don’t forget these less-obvious options:
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 20,000 Avios points.
Until 19th July 2022, the bonus on Amex Gold is increased to 30,000 Membership Rewards points. These convert to 30,000 Avios.
The American Express Platinum charge card usually offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 30,000 Avios points. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
5,000 Avios (or 6,000 if I refer you) for getting the BA Amex is an excellent bonus for a free credit card.
In terms of on-going earning rates, 1 point per £1 is decent. However, not receiving double points on BA spending (as offered by the Premium Plus card) is unattractive for anyone with substantial British Airways or BA Holidays expenditure.
Before you apply, remember that any 2-4-1 companion voucher that you earn will only be valid on Economy redemption flights on British Airways. If you do not want to redeem your Avios for Economy tickets, you should consider the Premium Plus card instead or one of the two Barclaycard Avios Mastercards here and here.
The application form for the free British Airways American Express card can be found here.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.