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How can you maximise the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade voucher?

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The new Barclaycard Avios Mastercards have now been up and running for a couple of months. This means that heavy spenders will be getting close to triggering their first Barclaycard upgrade voucher.

(Barclays Premier current account holders who opt in to Barclays Avios Rewards have also started to receive their first upgrade vouchers – the first batch were issued in February 2022 to those who signed up at launch in February 2021. You can learn more about Barclays Avios Rewards via Barclays Premier here.)

With that in mind, I thought it was worth having a detailed look at how best to use the upgrade voucher.

The full official rules for using the vouchers are on ba.com here.

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade voucher

Let’s summarise the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards:

The free card: Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

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.

Barclaycard upgrade voucher

The paid card: Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

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 a Barclays Premier 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 selected Mastercard World Elite privileges (Barclaycard has yet to confirm which ones)
  • 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.

Note that the fee is paid monthly and you can downgrade to the free card later, albeit that your spend towards your annual upgrade voucher is wiped and you restart from £0.

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card

How do the Barclaycard upgrade vouchers work?

In summary:

  • you receive the voucher in your ba.com account within a few days of hitting the spend target
  • you use the voucher for an online Avios booking in a similar way to how the 2-4-1 BA Amex companion vouchers work
  • one voucher allows you to either upgrade a return flight for one person in both directions or two x one way flights for two people
  • the vouchers are valid for 24 months irrespective of whether you earn it from the paid credit card or the free credit card (this is a big difference to the BA Amex vouchers)
  • you need to take your outbound flight before the expiry date
  • flights must start from the UK
  • availability is based on the class you want to travel in and not the class you are technically upgrading from – in reality it is NOT an upgrade voucher, it is a ‘book an Avios flight but only pay the miles of the next lowest cabin’ voucher
  • full taxes and charges are due based on the cabin you fly in
  • vouchers are returned to you if you need to cancel your redemption flight
  • the vouchers can be used by anyone but the booking must be made by the cardholder
  • you cannot combine the voucher with a BA Amex voucher
  • you can only use the voucher for British Airways flights
  • you cannot use the voucher to fly in First Class

How do you maximise the Barclaycard upgrade voucher?

The sensible answer, of course, is ‘to go somewhere you really want to go’.

After all, the ‘best value’ Avios redemptions based on points needed per mile flown include Abuja, Jeddah and Kuwait. It doesn’t encourage many HfP readers to holiday there.

That said, I have come up with six points to consider. Before I start, we need to look at the Avios redemption table for British Airways flights:

Avios redemption chart

Remember that you cannot use the Barclaycard voucher to upgrade from Business to First so we won’t be touching on that.

You probably shouldn’t use your voucher for a short haul flight (Zone 1-3)

I don’t say this because the difference between business class and economy class on British Airways short haul is small.

In fact, if you don’t have BA status, I actively recommend redeeming Avios in Club Europe. The extra Avios cost over Euro Traveller is good value when you factor in fast track security, priority boarding, priority check-in, lounge access, the guaranteed empty middle seat (a couple won’t be sharing a row with a stranger), the free meal and all the drinks you want.

The reason it’s a bad way of using your upgrade voucher is because of how British Airways is pricing them.

A couple of years ago, BA introduced ’50p taxes’ redemptions on short haul. These may be eye catching in adverts but are terrible value. A one-way flight to Amsterdam, for example, will cost:

  • 4,750 Avios (as per the chart above) + £17.50 taxes and charges or
  • 9,250 Avios + 50p

As an Avios is worth at least 0.8p (the value if you convert them to Nectar and spend them in Sainsbury’s) the second option is TERRIBLE value.

Unfortunately, if you use a Barclays Upgrade Voucher for a short haul redemption, it prices off the ’50p’ version. Using the voucher to book a Business Class flight to Amsterdam would cost you (for 2 people) 9,250 Avios + 50p each, ie the usual Economy price.

If you DIDN’T use the voucher and just booked a standard Avios one-way redemption in Business Class from London to Amsterdam, you’d pay – as per the chart above – 8,500 Avios + £25 each.

At best, the voucher is saving you no more than £35 if you use it like this. You’d get a bit more value on longer European routes – and of course saving £35 is better than a punch in the teeth – but you can do a LOT better.

Your voucher could save you 120,000 Avios

The biggest saving you can make when using your Barclays Upgrade Voucher is 120,000 Avios.

This is for a return Business Class off-peak flight to Zone 9, where you pay 130,000 Avios instead of 250,000.

In reality, most people won’t save this much. Your Barclaycard voucher will save you 40,000 Avios on a peak day return Business flight to New York for example, which is more realistic.

On a mid-range redemption, you’ve ‘saved’ £400

As I said above, a ‘typical’ redemption (peak Business class return to New York, Dubai etc) saves you 40,000 Avios when you use a Barclaycard upgrade voucher.

At a notional 1p per Avios, your Barclaycard voucher has saved you £400-worth of points.

Remember that, now an Avios can be transferred into 0.8p-worth of Nectar points, a voucher which saves you 40,000 Avios can be treated as saving you £320 of real cash. You can convert the Avios you saved into Nectar points of that value.

Barclaycard Avios

The one you probably didn’t spot – you save MORE Avios when you travel off-peak

Because of the odd way that the Avios redemption chart was drawn up, your Barclays Upgrade Voucher gives you a bigger saving on off-peak dates.

For example, Heathrow to New York in Club World business class, return:

  • off-peak dates cost 52,000 Avios with the voucher, saving you 48,000 Avios
  • peak dates cost 80,000 Avios with the voucher, saving you 40,000 Avios

Don’t forget that taxes and charges are based on the cabin you fly

If you are using the Barclaycard voucher to reduce the Avios cost of the cabin you normally travel in, you will pay the same taxes and charges as you would expect. The voucher gets you an Avios saving but you still pay the taxes and charges of the class you fly in.

If you normally travel in Economy and are using the voucher to treat yourself to Premium Economy, or normally travel in Premium Economy and are using the voucher to fly in Business Class, you will have a higher taxes and charges bill than usual.

There are two reasons for this:

  • Premium Economy attracts the higher level of Air Passenger Duty (£185 in any cabin except Economy) whilst Economy attracts the lower level (£26 on a long haul flight)
  • British Airways adds additional surcharges of its own on Avios redemptions which increase by class flown

Upgrading from Premium Economy to Business beats Economy to Premium Economy – despite an identical Avios saving

Ignore all the numbers. At the end of the day, you want the best flying experience possible.

Using the Barclays Upgrade Voucher ‘saves’ you the same number of Avios whether you use it to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy or from Premium Economy to Business.

Upgrading from Economy to Premium Economy is, however, a relatively modest change. Wider seat, bit more leg room, but that’s about it. You’ll be on the hook for a big jump in Air Passenger Duty and you don’t even get lounge access.

Upgrading from Premium Economy to Business IS a huge jump. Lounge access and a fully flat bed (with a door, if you get Club Suite) IS a massive difference.

To maximise the ‘value’ of your voucher, ignore the Avios saving and focus on the value of the experience. This means, if you can, using your voucher for an upgrade to long-haul Business.

‘Maximising’ your voucher could also mean, for example, saving the voucher for a flight where you know BA has a decent lounge on the return, or for a short-haul flight which departs at the right time to get breakfast or dinner rather than a snack. It’s about more than the absolute number of Avios saved.

Conclusion

Making the most of your Barclays Upgrade Voucher means looking at both the Avios you need, the Avios you save and the cabin experience you will end up getting.

For a solo traveller, the sweet spot is probably a return upgrade to Business Class on a 10-12 hour flight (eg US West Coast) flying off-peak. 65,000 Avios + taxes and charges for a return flat bed flight to San Francisco can’t be beaten.

For a couple who can use a Barclaycard voucher to upgrade one leg each when both travel together, the sweet spot is potentially using the voucher for the overnight leg of a flight where one direction is a day flight.

New York is the obvious example here. Off-peak, 52,000 Avios per person plus taxes and charges would get both of you Premium Economy outbound and Business Class inbound. You may find Premium Economy totally fine for the day flight out, but you would get the flat bed for the night flight on the way back.

Used sensibly, the Barclays Upgrade Voucher can have real value, and save you Avios worth hundreds of pounds.

The application page for Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card (25,000 Avios bonus) is here.

The application page for the free Barclaycard Avios credit card (5,000 Avios bonus) is here.

If you are already earning a voucher from the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, you can earn a second annual voucher from Barclays Premier – learn more here.

Comments (95)

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

  • NorthernLass says:

    As long as the pricing is stuck with the 50p option for RFS, together with the other issues (it won’t price up CityFlyer routes or anything long haul with a domestic connection), the upgrade voucher isn’t worth keeping the Mastercard for. It’s still not clear whether these glitches are deliberate or IT errors, especially as the Ts and Cs actually state that it can be used on CityFlyer services.

    • meta says:

      Yes, plus this not being able to use it starting outside UK and BA’s ever-increasing carrier imposed charges from UK kills most value out of these. If you are in a couple, you would also pay more Avios than 241 vouchers.

    • Mick S says:

      can the domestic connection not be sorted by booking over the phone? I’ve always had to do that with Avios/Lloyds upgrade voucher in the past.

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      Agreed; and while waiting for BA to clarify you’re still paying the monthly fee. I’ve got the voucher after 6 weeks spend so will be downgrading once it lands in my BAEC account.

      • NorthernLass says:

        Possibly but it used to be a lot easier to get through to avios.com!
        What do you mean, BA verifying you’re still paying the fee? How would they do that?

    • HH says:

      Re. RFS, BA GUF2 vouchers behave exactly the same so don’t expect any changes. If I’m being generous to BA, it’s to maximise the Avios savings of the vouchers. But I’d rather make the choice myself!

  • TerryTierPoints says:

    How does this work with a domestic connection? Does this need to be done over the phone?

  • Cwyfan says:

    Is it possible to use it to pay for 2 passengers to upgrade one leg and pay the normal higher rate for the other? For example, an upgraded flight each in business from premium economy on the outbound leg, and a business return each on full avios.

    • meta says:

      Yes, but it would be two separate tickets and two separate set of cancellation fees. You also wouldn’t be protected under UK261 for the whole trip if either outbound or inbound was cancelled.

      • NorthernLass says:

        Would you not be protected as long as your inbound flight was on BA or an EU airline? Obviously it would make no sense whatsoever to do this on a US route as you’d be fleeced with the surcharges on the return leg.

        • meta says:

          You are protected for either flight in general for delay/cancellation compo, but under UK261 if any of your flights in the booking are cancelled you have the right to cancel, re-route or rebook the whole thing. Since it would be two separate bookings, you are not.

          BA moves outbound by a day or cancels, you still have to take the inbound or cancel with fee. If all on one ticket, you don’t pay anything.

          • NorthernLass says:

            @meta, I see what you mean – I thought you meant that it was because the return leg wouldn’t be starting in the UK, my mistake!
            It’s all very unsatisfactory – to get any value out of the voucher I’d need to use it for a long haul upgrade but that would mean booking a domestic connection separately with all the associated problems of not getting any hold baggage interlined and no protection in the event of cancellation of either leg. Even if BA could technically do this on the phone, the seats may have gone when (or indeed, if!) you get through.

  • anon says:

    I gave up on the card once my 25k Avios (plus 5k Avios for the poor launch) were credited. I found the account too frustrating to service and complete even the most basic of functions. A quick complaint got a gesture of goodwill which in effect made those Avios free but until Barclaycard improve their IT, I’ll not be returning.

  • Nick says:

    ‘Note that the fee is paid monthly and you can downgrade to the free card later,’

    I would like to hear if anyone has managed to downgrade. My voucher has landed so want to get the free card now ( gone back to Amex spend). However I’ve been told by Barclaycard I can’t downgrade and have to keep checking the app to see if an ‘offer’ appears. Yet during the application process it stated this would be possible. Now paying £20 p/m for nothing. Yes I could cancel and re apply but that would be another full credit check. Not ideal.

    • memesweeper says:

      Raise a formal, written, complaint. You should be compensated.

    • Barry cutters says:

      You are not really paying £20 a month for nothin g. You still have the card and can earn avios on spend . You can’t really complain that it isn’t letting you take advantage . If everyone did that there would be no rewards credit cards at all

    • JDB says:

      At what point in the application process did it say you could downgrade the card as opposed to cancelling the card?

    • Rich says:

      I’ve just checked the app and in the ‘change to a different card’ section it offers me the zero fee Avios card as a change option. I didn’t click ‘get’ as I don’t want the downgrade so can’t be 100% sure of my eligibility but it looks to be a real option.

      I am 2 months in and have triggered the 25k bonus.

    • Andrew says:

      I’ve downgraded from the plus to the free card. All I had to do was select ‘change to a different card’ in the app and then wait a couple of weeks. Sadly it looks like my progress towards the upgrade voucher has been reset but I’m still swimming in unused 2for1s so that’s no great loss.

    • StanTheMan says:

      I downgraded via the App to the free card – the last £20 monthly fee for the Premium card was also automatically refunded.

  • StuboBrown says:

    Has anyone successfully added this card to Apple Pay yet? The original article at launch said it should be possible but wasn’t ‘live’ yet but that was weeks ago and it still won’t load into my wallet. So frustrating!

  • keith says:

    Any news on the world elite benefits, if any? I’m struggling to find any reference to them.

    • Joao Pinto says:

      I couldn’t register in any of the world elite webpages. Once I got my bonus I will as well downgrade not worth it the 20 pounds per month.

      • harry b says:

        RE: World Elite.

        Same for me ,tried last month with no joy.

        Just what are the World Elite benefits this card is supposed to access, As you say annoying that no information available.

        Rob,did you not ask Barclays some time ago for clarification on what the World Elite benefits where ?

    • ervo says:

      I rang Barclaycard about this. They put me on hold twice to try and find some info and then said they would call me back. This was 2 days ago and I’m still waiting. I see Rob still mentions this so-called privilege in today’s posting, but he has yet to say anything at all about what we get. Not impressed, by Rob or Barclaycard

      • Rob says:

        I can only tell you what Barclaycard tells me!

        • ervo says:

          To be fair to us, especially those considering signing up, you could at least point out in your posts about this card that the World Elite thing, as it stands, gives you no additional privileges at all. Believe me, I’ve just come off the phone again with Barclaycard and they don’t know a thing about it, nor can they refer to anything, nor is it mentioned in the Terms and Conditions. It’s a non-existent privilege

        • Alan says:

          Yep unless they tell you otherwise then probably best to be clear zero WE benefits available.

          • Symon says:

            Agreed. I remember asking about the WE benefits when the card first launched and Rob was trying to get details from Barclaycard. If they still won’t tell Rob what WE perks the card has, then it’s clear it’s a WE card in name only, and they added it for perceived value.

  • Claire says:

    Do we know how it works for booking at 355 days and then adding return leg. Will you need to phone up for return flight to be added or can you book the return flight as soon as it becomes available online and then phone the next day and get the avios returned?

    • Dace says:

      I tried this and they point blank refused.

      • memesweeper says:

        T&Cs state both legs of a return must be booked at the same time.

        • JDB says:

          Funnily enough that is also a term for ordinary Avios bookings (and therefore also 241 bookings) albeit not one that is applied : –

          “15.10. For return journeys, outbound and return flights must be booked at the same time. Travel to one destination from a point of origin and returning from another city to the same point of origin (or vice versa) is permitted.”

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