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How do Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade vouchers work?

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In February 2022, Barclays launched two new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit cards.

These are very, very good products with everything you could ask for, and are easily (in my view) the most attractive Visa or Mastercard credit cards in the UK. You get:

  • a great sign-up bonus which the majority of HfP readers will qualify for
  • a very high Avios earning rate
  • an annual BA cabin upgrade voucher for hitting spending targets

Every HfP reader in the UK should seriously consider applying for one of these cards.

In this article, I want to explain how the cabin upgrade voucher works and who will benefit the most from it.

Barclaycard Avios credit cards

Before I talk about the cabin upgrade voucher, let’s summarise the two new Barclaycard Avios credit cards:

The free card: Barclaycard Avios

Note that the card has a representative APR of 23.9% variable.

The benefits are:

  • No annual fee
  • A sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 5,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in three months
  • You earn 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • You earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Whilst not travel related, you also get up to five months of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade for free

You can apply here.

HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

The paid card: Barclaycard Avios Plus

Note that the card has a representative APR of 72.4% variable based on a £20 monthly fee and an illustrative £1,200 credit limit. The APR on purchases is 23.9% variable.

The benefits are:

  • A £20 per month fee (reduced to £15 for customers who hold Barclays Avios Rewards via their current account)
  • A sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 25,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in three months
  • You earn 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
  • You earn a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher if you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • You receive Mastercard World Elite privileges (it isn’t yet clear what these will be)
  • Whilst not travel related, you also get up to five months of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade for free

You can apply here.

HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Plus-Card

How does the cabin upgrade voucher from the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard work?

The full details are on this page of ba.com. If there is any divergence between that page and what I write below, trust ba.com.

Put simply, you receive a voucher which can be used to upgrade ONE return Avios flight for one person, or TWO one-way Avios flights – or half of a return flight – for two people

These are the same vouchers that are issued by Barclays Avios Rewards to holders of Barclays Premier current accounts. For clarity: it IS possible to earn TWO cabin upgrade vouchers each year, with one from Barclays Avios Rewards on the current account and the other from a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard.

This voucher structure is not new. Lloyds used to issue a similar product on its Lloyds Avios Rewards credit cards, which are no longer available to new applicants.

If you had the old Lloyds vouchers, there are two key differences here:

  • the Barclays voucher is NOT lost if you need to cancel your flight – you get it back to use again, like a BA Amex companion voucher
  • you cannot use it for a one-way flight TO the UK – all flights must depart the UK

Rather than cutting and pasting 37 bullet points from ba.com, I have broken down the key items in various categories.

Remember that very few people have yet received a voucher (the first batch were issued to Barclays Premier customers in February 2022 and I doubt more than a handful have been issued to credit card holders so far) so real life experience of using them is slim.

When do I earn a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cabin upgrade voucher?

You receive your cabin upgrade voucher in your British Airways Executive Club account within five working days of hitting your annual spend target.

This is:

You can earn a new voucher each card year as long as you hit the spend target.

You will be able to see your vouchers online on the same page of ba.com which currently shows your British Airways American Express companion vouchers.

Who can use the voucher?

This is important. The voucher is semi-transferable.

Whilst the flight must be booked from the account of the person who receives the voucher, the flight can be booked for anyone. The usual restrictions apply if you are in a British Airways Executive Club Household Account – ie the flyer must be in your Household Account or on your Friends & Family list.

Barclays Upgrade Voucher

What do I pay when I use the voucher?

Let’s get one thing clear. THIS. IS. NOT. AN. UPGRADE. VOUCHER.

I call it a cabin upgrade voucher. Barclaycard calls it a cabin upgrade voucher. Lloyds used to call it a cabin upgrade voucher. It is NOT a cabin upgrade voucher.

In practice, this is how it works.

You go to ba.com and book a flight using Avios. If you choose to apply the voucher, the Avios you are charged is the sum required if you had booked in the next lowest cabin on the aircraft.

Instead of a cabin upgrade voucher, it is really a ‘book a flight but only pay the Avios you would have paid if you had booked in the next lowest cabin’ voucher. This isn’t very catchy, so we pretend it is a cabin upgrade voucher.

This DOES make a difference, because:

  • the taxes and charges due are the taxes and charges of the higher cabin, since that it what you are booking into (this bit should be obvious), and
  • you do NOT need Avios availability in the lower cabin, only in the higher cabin (this bit is NOT obvious)

You are NOT booking 2 x World Traveller Plus seats on Avios and then upgrading them using the voucher. You are booking 2 x Club World seats on Avios and using the voucher to reduce the cost of the Avios component to that of the next lowest cabin.

Let me repeat – you do NOT need Avios availability in the lower cabin. You DO need Avios availability in the cabin in which you intend to fly.

Hope that’s clear …..

How many Avios can I save when using the cabin upgrade voucher?

A lot, if used well.

Here are some examples:

  • You save 60,000 Avios on an off-peak Club World return flight to Miami (you pay the World Traveller Plus rate of 65,000 Avios vs 125,000 Avios for Club World)
  • You save 84,000 Avios on an off-peak Club World return flight to Singapore (you pay the World Traveller Plus rate of 91,000 Avios vs 175,000 Avios for Club World)
  • You save 45,500 Avios on an off-peak World Traveller Plus return flight to Singapore (you pay the Economy rate of 45,500 Avios vs 91,000 Avios for World Traveller Plus)

Standard taxes and charges, based on the cabin you fly in, are still payable.

Using vouchers on short-haul redemptions are poor value

There is a quirk to using the vouchers on short-haul which makes them poor value. This is over and above the obvious point that an upgrade from Euro Traveller to Club Europe to Nice is far less valuable than an upgrade from World Traveller Plus to Club World to San Francisco.

The BA website seems to be using the ‘£1 taxes’ Avios price when you redeem your voucher. This is poorer value than the alternative pricing option of £35 / £50 taxes which is used when redeeming an American Express 2-4-1 voucher on short haul.

Unless you are Avios rich and cash poor, it is not great value and an extra reason to try to redeem on long haul if you can.

What are the restrictions on what flights I can book?

  • You can only book British Airways operated flights, with a BA flight number. This includes the City Airport flights operated by BA CityFlyer.
  • You cannot use the voucher to book with Qatar Airways, American Airlines etc
  • You cannot use the voucher on franchise partners SUN-AIR and, in South Africa, Comair
  • You can use up to two upgrade vouchers per booking
  • All flights must depart from the UK
  • The voucher is only valid on Avios flights. You cannot use it to upgrade a cash flight.
  • You cannot book in First Class. The highest upgrade you can get is to fly in Club World / Club Europe, paying the Avios required for World Traveller Plus / Euro Traveller.
  • You cannot use a Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher in conjunction with a BA Holidays booking, in the same way that you cannot mix a standard Avios redemption or a companion voucher with a BA Holidays booking

Can I combine my cabin upgrade voucher with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher?

No, not on the same ticket.

You also cannot use it with any other voucher. It may be possible to combine them with the vouchers issued to Gold Guest List members as these could be used with the old Lloyds vouchers – I’ve not heard of anyone trying it yet.

Obviously a family of three could unofficially combine an Amex 2-4-1 voucher and a Barclays upgrade voucher on the same trip. Two seats could be booked with the companion voucher and the third seat booked with the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade voucher. You would need to make two separate bookings to do this.

Can I upgrade an existing Avios booking?

No.

This is an important restriction. You cannot book a World Traveller Plus ticket on Avios and then ring up BA to upgrade it to Club World if two Club World seats open up later. You would need to cancel the original booking and make a fresh one.

How long is my voucher valid for?

You must complete the outbound segment of your flight within 24 months of the issue date.

The expiry date is the same, irrespective of whether you earned your cabin upgrade voucher from the free or the fee Barclaycard.

Can I have multiple vouchers?

You can only earn one Barclaycard Avios cabin upgrade voucher every 12 months. However, as you have two years to spend them, it is possible that you may have two in your British Airways Executive Club account at the same time.

If you have a Barclays Premier accounts, you can earn an additional cabin upgrade voucher via this route.

You CAN use two cabin upgrade vouchers on the same booking if you have two in your account, to upgrade both legs of a return flight for two people.

Conclusion

As you can, the cabin upgrade voucher you will earn from the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is very powerful. It could easily save you 50,000+ Avios on a long haul business class redemption.

It is especially valuable for solo travellers, who finally have an Avios credit card reward they can use.

The application form for the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (5,000 Avios bonus) is here.

The application form for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard (25,000 Avios bonus) is here.

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.

Comments (70)

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

  • Matt says:

    Do you need to pay for your booking with a Barclaycard when using an upgrade voucher?

    Also, do you need to retain the Barclaycard until you use the voucher?

  • PeterK says:

    Can you use the voucher to upgrade two people on the return portion of a UK originating round trip booking?

  • Peggerz says:

    I am trying to find info as to whether this voucher would cover internal connections within the UK. For example, for the last 6-7 years I would get an upgrade voucher from the Lloyds Avios card. On one occasion I had to convince an agent that a connecting flight from EDI-LHR would be required to get me over to CFU, but normally it was straight forward.
    Rob can you confirm that a return trip using 4 flights in CE on BA is allowed with this new Barclays voucher?
    Thanks.

  • Lell says:

    Any update on when existing Barclaycard holders will be able to apply for one of the Avios cards? The site still tells me I’m ineligible….

    • Rob says:

      Look in the app. If under ‘Change Card’ it shows as an option, you are targeted and can swap your current card for this one. You get a small bonus.

      If you don’t see this, or don’t want the small bonus, you need to cancel what you have and wait 6 months.

  • AlisonH says:

    Hi, my OH has applied for the Barclaycard Avios Plus card, it was referred so had to upload proof of income yesterday. When he is accepted he will then apply for me as an additional cardholder. Is it worth me applying separately for the free card too? If I did that before the additional cardholder request would that affect my eligibility? Thanks.

  • Jason says:

    This is rubbish! I applied with great credit score and got rejected, even being a Barclays customer! Very disappointing indeed! Not sure Barclays have this under control sadly.

  • Daniel says:

    Hi Rob, big fan of Avios here esp. after the last Qatar Airways move. Thx for this article. Barclaycard Avios Plus Card already approved (used your link for extra 5k Avios) and on its way. Thinking about moving my HSBC Premier Account to Barclays as I believe with 2 “upgrade” vouchers a year there will be loads of oportunities for interesting itineraries (travelling with my wife). Thx again.

  • Juliette says:

    @Rob
    I recently opened the Avios Plus Card and am working towards the £3000 spend for the bonus, I’m getting confused by the in app spend tracker, got a balance of £856 on my card but only £292 is showing on my tracker – is there a delay as to when it shows? These are all spends, no balance transfers or cash withdrawals or anything
    Tried calling Barclaycard but they didn’t seem to know! Reckon you might be the best source of info for this kind of stuff, if I’m not achieving the 3 month spend target because of a delay or something the card definitely isn’t worth it!

    • Rob says:

      No idea … not had any other feedback on this to be honest. More will probably emerge over the next couple of weeks.

      • Miss London says:

        Do we have any clarity on the spend tracker yet Rob? I’ve spent on the card and the transactions have cleared but my tracker dials are still all £0. I also tried calling Barclaycard to ask them and the agent didn’t know – they said as it’s a new product they don’t know much about how it works yet!

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

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