Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Is there any point having the free British Airways American Express credit card?

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Last year, American Express unveiled substantial changes to the free British Airways American Express card.

Pre September 2021, if you spent £20,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express credit card, you received a 2-4-1 companion voucher valid on any Avios flight in Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First Class.

Today, you only need to spend £12,000 per year to receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher but it is only valid in Economy.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

In February 2022, we saw another major change. Barclaycard introduced the Barclaycard Avios Mastercarddetails here. This has the same earning rate as the free British Airways American Express card (1 Avios per £1) but comes with an upgrade voucher instead of a 2-4-1 companion voucher.

Should the average HfP reader hold the free British Airways American Express card?

To be honest, probably not. If you do have the free BA Amex, let’s look at why other cards may be better suited to you.

Do you spend under £12,000 on your free British Airways American Express?

When we get into the territory of looking at the annual vouchers earned on the core Avios credit cards, you are into the realms of personal preference.

If you’re not spending £12,000 per year on the free BA Amex card, however, you’re not triggering the 2-4-1 companion voucher.

In this scenario, why are you holding the card? There are two better options open to you:

  • Get the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard – you earn the same rate (1 Avios per £1) and, as a Mastercard, it is accepted in more places than American Express. You are reducing the cards in your wallet or purse, because everyone needs a back-up Visa or Mastercard for their Amex anyway.

or

  • Get the free American Express Rewards Credit Card – you earn the same rate (1 Avios per £1, if you choose to convert the Membership Rewards points into Avios) but you can also convert your points into many other airline or hotel loyalty programmes

Whilst the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is a fairly self explanatory product, I will cover the Amex Rewards Credit Card is more detail because you are less likely to be familiar with it.

What you get with the Amex Rewards Credit Card is flexibility.

Yes, you can use your points for Avios.  You can send them over to BA via the Amex website and they will arrive within 48 hours.

However, you have other options.  Membership Rewards points can also be sent to Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad or Delta among other airline partners.  You can also send them to Hilton Honors (1:2), Marriott Bonvoy (2:3) and Radisson Rewards (1:3).  You can convert them to Club Eurostar (15:1).  You can even use them for shopping vouchers.  You can see the airline partners here.

The Amex Rewards Credit Card gives you more choice.  You can still take Avios if you want, and at the same 1 Avios per £1 earning rate.  If you suddenly decide that you want hotel points, or that Virgin Points make more sense, or even that you want to abandon Avios altogether, you can.  Simply move your Amex points somewhere else instead.

With the free BA Amex card, your points are sitting in Avios from Day 1 and you can’t do anything else with them.  If Avios devalues its rewards, if BA stops flying your preferred route, if reward availability suddenly gets a lot harder to find, if Reward Flight Saver fees jump up, if new surcharges get added ….. you’re stuck. Your only way out is via a transfer to Nectar points.

There is literally no area where the free British Airways card outperforms the Amex Rewards Credit Card. You don’t even get bonus Avios when paying with the free BA Amex at ba.com – this is a benefit that only comes with the British Airways Premium Plus card.

Whether you get the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard or the free Amex Rewards Credit Card, either is a better choice than the free British Airways American Express card if you spend under £12,000 per year.

British Airways BA Amex Premium Plus American Express

Do you spend over £12,000 per year on your free British Airways American Express card?

If you spend £12,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express card, you might think that it IS worth keeping the card.

After all, you are earning the annual 2-4-1 companion voucher, valid for travel begun within 12 months of issue. This allows you to:

  • book two Avios flights in Economy for the cost of one (full taxes are due on both tickets) or
  • book one Avios flight in Economy for half of the usual Avios cost (full taxes are still due)

If you are an Economy traveller, you may well see some value here. Even if you don’t travel Economy on long haul flights, you would save a handful of Avios on a short haul European trip.

However …..

Once you are spending over £10,000 per year on your free BA Amex, you have a different decision to make. Should you upgrade to the £250 per year British Airways Premium Plus American Express card or the £20 per month Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard?

Yes, you probably should.

Reasons to swap your free BA Amex to the British Airways Premium Plus card

  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid on Economy tickets, whilst the voucher on the Premium Plus card is valid in ALL classes
  • Holders of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express get access to additional Avios inventory when redeeming in Business Class, making it a lot easier to find seats
  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid for one year, instead of two years for the BA Premium Plus voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance
  • The £2,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher (£12,000 compared to £10,000 on the Premium Plus card) could be directed elsewhere, helping trigger sign-up bonuses on other cards
  • You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent and double Avios when you spend with British Airways and BA Holidays, which offsets some of the £250 annual fee on the Premium Plus card

There is no official upgrade form – you simply apply for the Premium Plus card via this link. American Express will recognise that you are upgrading and will copy over your existing spend and account data. If your application is rejected for some reason, give Amex a call.

Your card year remains the same, and if you have already spent £10,000 this card year on the free card then your 2-4-1 companion voucher is triggered immediately.

HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Plus-Card

Reasons to swap your free BA Amex to the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid on Economy tickets, whilst the upgrade voucher on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard lets you travel in Business or Premium Economy, albeit not First Class (this is how the Barclaycard upgrade voucher works)
  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid for one year, instead of two years for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance
  • The £2,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher (£12,000 compared to £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard) could be directed elsewhere, helping trigger sign-up bonuses on other cards
  • As it’s a Mastercard, you can use it in more places than an American Express card which makes it easier to hit the £10,000 target for the annual voucher
  • If you’ve not applied for a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard before, you would qualify for a 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus – you won’t get a bonus if you swap from the free BA Amex to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express

Conclusion

Given:

  • the September 2021 changes to the 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free British Airways American Express card, and
  • the February 2022 launch of the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

….. there are good reasons for EVERY holder of the free British Airways American Express card to reconsider whether it remains the card for them.

If you spend under £10,000 on the free BA Amex, I believe that the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard and the Amex Rewards Credit Card offer a compelling alternative. If you’re spending five figures on your free BA Amex, you should consider whether there is value in swapping to either the fee-paying Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard or the British Airways Premium Plus American Express.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: £240, charged at £20 per month

Representative 72.4% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £20 monthly fee.  Interest rate on purchases 23.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard credit card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 23.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • The voucher is valid for flights in any cabin
  • Annual fee: £250

Representative 106.0% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £250 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 27.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must not have held the British Airways Premium Plus or the free British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways Premium Plus card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and all of the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for two years.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. It could save you 150,000 or more Avios when used for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.

The voucher with the Premium Plus card is far more powerful than the voucher given with the free British Airways American Express card.  You only need to spend £10,000, instead of £20,000, in a card year to receive it.  More importantly, the Premium Plus voucher is valid for two years and is valid in ALL cabins.  The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card is only valid for one year and can only be used for Economy flights.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

British Airways American Express

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £12,000 in a card year
  • The companion voucher is only valid on Economy flights
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 27.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free British Airways American Express card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £12,000 on the British Airways American Express card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for one year.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card can only be used on Economy flights.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

If you want more flexibility, the voucher issued with the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is valid for two years, only requires £10,000 of annual card spend and is valid in ALL cabins including Business and First.  The Premium Plus card also has a higher earning rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 on general spend and 3 Avios per £1 on spend with British Airways and BA Holidays.

American Express Rewards

Bonus: 10,000 points

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Your best choice if you want a ‘free for life’ card which earns Membership Rewards points
  • A good choice if you want to close a Gold or Platinum card but keep your points intact
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 27.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Rewards card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Rewards card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You may want to do this if you are thinking of swapping your Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum card for a free alternative, and would prefer to keep your existing Membership Rewards points balance alive.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Rewards is the only ‘free for life’ American Express card which lets you collect Membership Rewards points.

We do NOT recommend this card if you would also qualify for the sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  The Gold card is free for the first year, comes with two free airport lounge passes and has a higher sign-up bonus of 20,000 points.

The best reason to get American Express Rewards is if you are coming to the end of your free first year with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, or no longer want to pay the fee on The Platinum Card, but want to keep your Membership Rewards points intact.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (71)

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

  • PAL says:

    Good point about the Amex reward card I was going to downgrade my BAPP as coming up to renewal. I still have 3 (recent is new type) companion vouchers. Can I use the new one before the others – looking at saving 1k to NA going from Dublin…if not could “waste” them on the positioning flights.

  • MCO says:

    If I downgrade the card does it effect the extra seats my premium voucher could get otherwise?

  • Cornell says:

    Just to double check, if I have ALREADY spent £10,000 this year on the free card can I still upgrade the card and get the BAPP voucher? I thought people usually make a point about needing to apply BEFORE the £10k?

    • Rob says:

      Yes. Voucher is triggered immediately as long as you’ve not hit £12k and triggered the voucher on the free card.

      Note that, due to a weird Amex IT bug, the voucher may be issued as a free card one. This is clearly a mistake and Amex will fix it, but it may require some emailing back and forth. You don’t get this problem if you upgrade just before you hit £10,000.

  • JOHN MATRIX says:

    Or…..keep it because it’s free & gets you additional offers (just by keeping it active with low spend). This article seems to assume you can’t hold multiple cards (aside from BA Premium Amex, which I don’t want).

    • Stephan says:

      Yup that’s what I’m using it for and fine with the 241 economy if triggered.

  • reddot says:

    Thanks for mentioning that you can upgrade via the link you provided. When I chatted to an Amex rep a few days ago, he insisted that the only way to upgrade is to call and my husband hates being on customer service lines.

    • Alex Sm says:

      He might still need to call if online application is “rejected” by the system

  • Alex Sm says:

    For downgrades / upgrades it’s better to call Amex straight away and not bother with online applications because they get rejected far too often. The call centre knows the drill and will sort it out for you in a wink

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

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