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How do Barclaycard Avios Mastercard upgrade vouchers work?

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This article is sponsored by Barclaycard

On Tuesday, Barclays launched an exceptional sign-up offer on two new Avios-earning Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit cards.

The Avios Plus Mastercard now offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 within three months. The free Avios Mastercard offers a sign-up bonus of 10,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 within three months.

You can apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus credit card here and the free Barclaycard Avios credit card here.

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 huge (until 18th July) 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. If you already have one, see if your partner is keen.

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 10,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in three months – this is a special offer until 18th July
  • 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)
  • An exceptional sign-up bonus for new Barclaycard customers of 50,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in three months – this is a special offer until 18th July
  • 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
  • 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 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 few people have yet received a voucher so real life experience of using them so far is limited.

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 is 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 partner SUN-AIR in Scandinavia
  • 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

Reader feedback says that you also cannot use it online to upgrade one leg of a return flight for two people. A couple would need to book their trip as two x one way flights which may impact the taxes charged. It is not clear if the call centre can override this. The alternative would be to book each person separately, using the voucher for one return trip.

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.

The application form for the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (10,000 Avios bonus until 18th July) is here.

The application form for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard (50,000 Avios bonus until 18th July) 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 (32)

  • DZOO says:

    Are there any advantages vs the Amex 241 voucher other than the semi-transferable nature?

    Leaving aside the £10 difference in card fees, on a side by side, the 241 is more powerful?

  • hugo r says:

    I tried to use this for 2 people return to LAX in business , I have plenty of avois and availability is there in all classes

    When I go to book it say I don’t have enough vouchers for the required trip, I thought you could use it for 2 people 1 way

    So how does one book this,

    • Gary says:

      Should read “can be used to upgrade ONE return Avios flight for one person, or TWO one-way Avios flights – *but NOT* half of a return flight – for two people.” Barclays voucher quirk as Lloyds voucher used to allow this. Not great for USA as stung for charges on the inbound if wanting both on one booking. Only work around is use voucher for one person return and the other on a separate booking paying full avios.

      • Rob says:

        Updated. Not sure this is meant to happen.

        • hugo r says:

          Hi Rob , so is it a BA issue that it can’t be used or do you have to book 2 one ways if two people are travelling on a return trip and wish to utlize the voucher , doing that way I believe stung a lot of fees / taxes

          • Rob says:

            Not sure yet. Will have a dig. You won’t necessarily be stung – you could either book both people separately to get around it, and for Asia / Middle East / South America the taxes on 2 x one ways should be very similar or even lower to a return. It’s just North America where this is an issue.

          • dougzz99 says:

            So ¾ of the BA long haul network.

          • NorthernLass says:

            And if you book WT or WTP to return from the US, the surcharges drop dramatically compared with CW and F.

  • Graham Walsh says:

    Looked at using my Barclays voucher to head to Sydney for work, alas no availability. That’s the other issue like all vouchers now.

    • Rob says:

      Why do that anyway? Redeem on Qatar in Business to any of their 4 Oz cities and its 180,000 Avios and far lower taxes than BA.

  • Brian says:

    Can you cancel the paid card after 3 months once you’ve got the £360 net of avios?

    If so, how would Barclays make money from this? Surely they’ll close this loophole at some point?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, cancel whenever.

    • Gordon says:

      As per robs article, Yes you can cancel at any time. If I was a single traveler I would jump at it and keep the Barclaycard instead of the Amex PP. Instead my OH has applied for it purely for the 50k bonus. Amex PP works for us….

      • lumma says:

        Now you can use the BAPP for single travellers, I think the AMEX still edges it, more availability in club world plus can use it for 1st class.

        Barclaycard only wins if you know you have significant spend where AMEX isn’t accepted.

  • Froggee says:

    Please, please, please can you ask BA/Barclays if it is intended that these vouchers can be used from the regions e.g. EDI/GLA/MAN to connect through Heathrow onwards. If so why are people having so much trouble using them in this way.

    If I can’t used it for this then the voucher is borderline unusable as I can’t risk just booking the long haul with the voucher and a completely separate short haul connection when travelling with family. And the whole family doesn’t really want to spend a night at Heathrow to mitigate the risk of misconnects and subsequent separation!

    • TM says:

      +1

      I have earned my first voucher from Barclays premier account and at the moment it cannot be used in conjunction with a connection from Manchester…

    • Brian W says:

      +1

      I’d also really like to know this. I took out the MC Plus card and Premier A/C to earn two per year and if they don’t work with a regional connection like the Lloyds ones did and Amex ones do, this is a real problem for me also.

    • NorthernLass says:

      I’ve given up on this – used the voucher to book LHR-LAS in CW and booked the MAN-LHR separately for the night before. Shouldn’t be a problem as we’ll be HBO. Won’t be bothering triggering any more vouchers if this isn’t fixed, however as regional flights are added as RFS, it won’t change if the current pricing options were actually deliberate (i.e. max avios plus £1).

    • memesweeper says:

      It is clear from the T&Cs it is intended to be used from any UK departure point. BA have misimplemented the voucher in their IT systems.

      • memesweeper says:

        Ditto the ‘quirk’ on RFS pricing that Rob refers to. It’s not a quirk. It’s a violation of the T&Cs caused (most likely) by an error of implementation.

      • Rob says:

        The issue, I think, that the system struggles to adjust the pricing when connecting from a 2-class aircraft (domestic) to a 3-class. It absolutely is allowed as per the rules, and indeed as per common sense.

        • MD says:

          Looks like people are going to have a lot to discuss with the head of Barclaycard at the HfP party!

        • NorthernLass says:

          But 241 bookings can accommodate this – you can choose any cabin with avios ability if you use the “stopover” facility, so if there’s no CE available on your domestic leg, you can just select ET and still travel in PE/CW/F on the long haul sector.

  • Judy says:

    Can I use a different card to pay eg can I use AMEX rather than Barclays Mastercard?

    • NorthernLass says:

      Yes, did this last week for the 3 avios per £1 on BAPP.

      • Mikeact says:

        I guess you’re still really keen on building up your Avios via BA….I had the impression earlier that BA was no longer on your favored list of carriers.

        • NorthernLass says:

          I still want max value out of my remaining vouchers. Also avios are very handy for US domestic and Caribbean routes – it’s not all about BA!

  • Liviu Morariu says:

    I applied last week and got the paid version. The Barclays app shows a bonus of 25k avios instead of 50k though. Anyone had similar issues?

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