We’ve now had a bit of time to digest the changes to long haul Avios pricing launched last Wednesday.
As more examples come to light, it is clear that this is a major devaluation.
It has been disguised by giving a (roughly) 15% discount to UK members who use a ‘new style’ Amex 2-4-1 voucher and who can afford to use the maximum number of Avios. Strip these people out and there are some serious underlying issues.
On Friday, we looked at how Avios members outside the UK and US now need 45% to 60%, and up to 92% in some cases, more points – with no saving in taxes. It is one of the biggest overnight, no warning, devaluations ever seen.
HfP is, of course, a UK site with an 80% UK readership and a 90% UK and US readership. Whilst this no-notice devaluation for non-UK and non-US members is shocking, it doesn’t apply to the majority of our readers.
Today’s problem is different.
Holders of old style 2-4-1 American Express companion vouchers are in trouble – and don’t even know it
To recap what has changed:
British Airways has introduced new ‘more Avios, less cash’ options for long-haul redemptions.
- holders of ‘new style’ American Express 2-4-1 vouchers (those issued after 1st September 2021) or
- those based in the UK or US and not using an Amex voucher
…. it isn’t a problem. This is because you can still access the old price in most cases if you wish.
(Note I say ‘in most cases’. On some routes, such as Barbados, pricing has shot up and you will pay more, irrespective of whether you use a 2-4-1 voucher and irrespective of what combination of cash and Avios is used.)
Here is an example:
The ‘headline’ price for a return off-peak Club World flight to New York is now 160,000 Avios plus exactly £350 if you live in the UK.
In reality, you can choose – if you have no Amex voucher or a ‘new style’ Amex voucher – between using:
- 160,000 Avios + £350
- 130,000 Avios + £640
- 100,000 Avios + £850
- 88,000 Avios + £1,240
- 64,000 Avios + £1,480
- 50,000 Avios + £1,790
Last week, before the changes, you had the following options:
- 100,000 Avios + £853
- 90,000 Avios + £1,093
- 75,000 Avios + £1,363
- 65,000 Avios + £1,593
- 57,500 Avios + £1,693
- 50,000 Avios + £1,793
As you can see, today – if you want – you can choose to pay 100,000 Avios + £850 if you don’t want to pay the new headline price of 160,000 Avios + £350.
This is virtually the same as the old price of 100,000 Avios + £853, so you are not any worse off.
If you are using a 2-4-1 voucher for two people, you need to double the cash element shown above to work out the total cash required. You will be better off than you were before but ONLY if you can afford to use the maximum number of Avios allowed.
However, what happens if you have an old style 2-4-1 American Express voucher?
Due to an odd quirk of the rules, only holders of ‘new style’ (issued since 1st September 2021) Amex vouchers have the ability to choose the level of Avios and charges.
Holders of ‘old style’ vouchers get no choice.
These are your options for New York if you have an old style 2-4-1 voucher. The pricing is for two people in Club World, off-peak:
- 160,000 Avios + £700
130,000 Avios + £1,280– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 100,000 Avios + £1,700– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 88,000 Avios + £2,480– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 64,000 Avios + £2,800– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 50,000 Avios + £1,790– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
Last week, you had the following options when using an old style 2-4-1 voucher for an off-peak Club World ticket to New York for two people:
- 100,000 Avios + £1,706
90,000 Avios + £2,186– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 75,000 Avios + £2,726– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 65,000 Avios + £3,186– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 57,500 Avios + £3,384– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1 50,000 Avios + £3,586– not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
If you have an old style voucher, your ONLY Club World option to New York is now (off peak) 160,000 Avios + £700 for two people.
Last week, you paid 100,000 Avios + £1,706.
Surely this is a good deal for old style 2-4-1 voucher holders?
Now, it is clear that 160,000 Avios + £700 is a better deal than 100,000 Avios + £1,706. I’m not arguing with that.
However, if you don’t have 160,000 Avios, it is a moot point.
The fundamental problem with these Avios changes is that British Airways believes that all Executive Club members are rolling in Avios. If they’re not, they can simply take out another US credit card and pick up a 100,000 points sign-up bonus overnight.
This is far, far from the case. Outside the United States – which means for the vast majority of Avios collectors – Avios are hard to pick up at scale.
A large number of HfP readers took up our recent offer of 3,000 Avios for getting the new British Airways Prepaid Mastercard, even though it is a very fiddly product. They did this because they saw it as a way of getting 3,000 Avios towards their next redemption that they couldn’t pick up elsewhere. I doubt a US BAEC member would get out of bed for less than 10,000 Avios.
How the majority of non-US Avios collectors work is that they pick up a few here, a few there. If they are lucky (and with a bit of credit card bonus churning) they can get to 100,000 Avios per year for a premium cabin 2-4-1 redemption using their American Express companion voucher.
Imagine how these people are going to feel when they realise that, overnight, the number of Avios required for the New York flight has gone up by 60%.
They don’t even know that the Avios requirement has gone up.
These changes would have been more acceptable if the HfP reader sitting on 100,000 Avios and an old style 2-4-1 voucher had been given a few weeks notice to redeem at the old rate.
Instead, they have been told nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but nothing that makes it clear that they have been hung out to dry.
Surely this problem will go away soon?
The defence here is that ‘this is a problem that will go away soon’ as old style vouchers expire.
This simply isn’t true.
The last 2-4-1 voucher issued under the old rules was on 31st August 2021. This voucher won’t expire until 31st August 2023.
However, during the pandemic:
- vouchers were being issued with an additional six months expiry, so British Airways Premium Plus card vouchers came with a 30 month expiry date
- existing vouchers received multiple covid-related date extensions
There are many old style companion vouchers out there with expiry dates in 2024 due to the two factors above. Given that there are apparently 750,000 BA Amex cards in issue, there could easily be 100,000 old style 2-4-1 vouchers out there which are still to be used.
This is also a circular argument ….
If you DO believe that ‘this problem will go away soon because these old style vouchers expire soon’, you have to accept the other part of the equation.
Plenty of members will now find themselves desperately needing (as in our New York example) 60,000 extra Avios for the redemption they were planning, and no quick way to earn them.
Whilst this will be a surprise to BA, we don’t all live in America with a virtually unlimited number of different miles and points earning credit cards and few restrictions on who can get them. It isn’t unusual for a keen ‘miles and points’ collector in the US to have over 30 credit cards. Executive Club is now being run for the benefit of these people, not you.
(This is not hyperbole. I saw the head of Flying Blue, the Air France KLM programme, speak at a conference recently. He was explaining how the programme is heavily driven by what has to done to attract points transfers from US credit card holders. The money the programme can make from transfer partners such as Amex and Chase is huge.)
In the next article, we’ll look at how BA has used this devaluation to close down loopholes to reduce your taxes and charges bill – and, where the law stopped it, it simply increased the number of Avios needed instead.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous 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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.