Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.

  • Olly says:

    Just to clarify – in the example at the end of the article is states that you can just upgrade the return flight but earlier on it mentions that the must be used for vouchers ex-UK. So this is OK as long as it’s a return flight booked from the UK?

    • Geoff says:

      Quote:’For a couple who can use a Barclaycard voucher to upgrade one leg each when both travel together’

      Yes – not sure how this will work unless you can tap into both partners’ upgrade vouchers in one return booking. Otherwise using one voucher outbound and one inbound is not going to work if you cant use one starting from outside UK.

      • meta says:

        You probably have to call if the two vouchers are coming from one account. They can then issue it all under one PNR. At least this is how Lloyds Vouchers worked, so need to call and check.

  • Manuel says:

    By the way, just added the card to my apple wallet which makes spending easier. Definitely carry my phone with me all the time, can’t say the same for my physical wallet.

  • Matthew says:

    In the peak vs off peak savings example here you state it’s 80,000 for a return premium economy redemption to NYC (albeit travelling in business with the upgrade voucher), however your full table of BA Avios pricing to all destinations lists peak premium economy as being 47,500 one way to NYC (and all destinations in that zone), not 40,000 as in the BA table. Is your destinations table incorrect in this regard?

  • Clare says:

    How do i find out more and the 5 mth free Apple TV. I cant see anything on my account offers (free card). Has anyone got it? Cheers

  • Tariq says:

    What would be great, hint hint, is some kind of online calculator which compares the pricing between using two Barclays vouchers versus an Amex companion voucher… must be plenty of people holding an arsenal of vouchers.

    • meta says:

      No need for calculator. It’s very simple. You’re paying more Avios with Barclays vouchers in every scenario because they are upgrade vouchers not two for one

      • Tariq says:

        Yes, but if the difference is a small margin (based on distance, peak/off peak) then I’d prefer to use the Barclays vouchers as I see the 241s having a greater value potential.

  • Paul says:

    the issue with these vouchers and the BA Amex ones is the frankly ludicrous ‘taxes & fees’ that you still have to pay. Since the recent increase in these, even using the vouchers makes it hard to get any real value for most routes. In most cases it makes more sense to pay cash and cash out the avios to nectar.

  • pauldb says:

    When I got my card, I accidentally applied for the free one. But then I realised I could make use of Curve Metal (£15/m inc Fronted) to quite easily stretch my Barclaycard spend from £10k to the £20k target, for less than paying for the Plus card.
    Now I’m thinking it makes an appealing long-term package: free Barclaycards for me and wife, and take Curve Metal for £150/yr to be able to put at least £40k/yr through the cards. And no need to keep churning/downgrading Mastercards.
    Before I commit to Curve Metal, are their any other pitfalls? I’m think I should be able to get myself a supp card on my wife’s Barclaycard and link that to my Curve???

    • Alex W says:

      You only earn 1 Avios per £1 on the free card as opposed to 1.5 Avios on the paid one. If you’re spending £40k per year that’s a difference of 20k Avios which is worth at least £200.

      • pauldb says:

        Yes but it would cost me £240 extra in fees and I’d get one voucher instead of two.

  • S says:

    I think I’ll keep it to 10k as I have a decent chance of hitting it in a short time, with various holiday and work travel spend coming up. I’m not totally sure how much value I’ll get out of the voucher but at least will earn a useful stash of Avios in the process… I hope the downgrading process is straightforward when the time comes

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