American Express and British Airways have launched an increased sign up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express credit card.
Until 21st February, the sign up bonus is increased from 25,000 Avios to 35,000 Avios.
You can apply here.
The interest rate on the card is 107.7% APR variable, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and a £250 annual fee. The interest rate on purchases is 28.1% APR variable.
There is no change to the sign-up bonus on the free British Airways American Express card which remains at 5,000 Avios. As long as you can hit the higher spend target on the Premium Plus card, there is no logical reason to get the free card whilst this offer is running. Remember that you can downgrade at any point for a pro-rata fee refund.
Get a limited time 35,000 Avios sign-up bonus!
If you sign up by 21st February, you can earn a sign-up bonus of 35,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in the first three months. This is the first increased bonus we have seen on the card since last January – if you don’t apply now you could well have to wait another year to see a special offer.
Do you qualify for the 35,000 Avios bonus?
Remember that you are only eligible for the sign-up bonus on this card if you have NOT held a British Airways American Express (free or Premium Plus) card in the past 24 months.
You ARE eligible if you currently or have held The Platinum Card, Preferred Rewards Gold card, Green card, Nectar card, Platinum Cashback cards, Marriott Bonvoy card, American Express Rewards Credit Card, Business Platinum or Business Gold cards.
You ARE eligible if you are currently a supplementary cardholder on a British Airways American Express card held by someone else, but have not held a card in your own name in the past 24 months.
The bottom line is that if you haven’t had either of the British Airways American Express cards in the past 24 months, you will qualify for the 35,000 Avios.
What changed with the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card in the last 18 months?
The changes to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card in 2021 and 2022 were not just cosmetic, although the new card design is far more modern than the old one.
You should now find it substantially easier to redeem your 2-4-1 companion voucher for seats in Club World or Club Europe.
You also have the ability to use your 2-4-1 companion voucher on Aer Lingus and Iberia.
I run through the key changes below.
The big one: 2-4-1 vouchers now have access to extra Business Class availability
Companion Vouchers issued from September 2021 have access to a FAR wider pool of Business Class seats.
Basically, if a flight has roughly eight or more heavily discounted non-refundable cash seats left for sale in Business Class, the seats should be available for Avios redemption.
(To be clear: you only see these extra seats when redeeming your 2-4-1 voucher and only for Club World. You can ONLY book one or two seats – this feature has zero value for a larger group.)
Feedback so far on this change is very positive. Based on reader reports, business class availability is massively better when using a newly issued 2-4-1 voucher. It doesn’t mean you can book on any flight but your odds are hugely improved.
Availability in Club World for these extra seats is EVEN BETTER if you start your trip outside London. This is because (heavily simplified) the availability of extra seats is driven by cash pricing and this tends to be lower for connecting services. If you can’t see London to Singapore, for example, try Manchester – London – Singapore or Glasgow – London – Singapore – your odds of getting two seats are much improved.
The spend target to receive a companion voucher remains £10,000 per card year.
Avios availability is improved across all classes, whether you have a voucher or not
There was a hugely positive change to the Avios programme in May 2021 when British Airways announced that it would be releasing at least 14 seats per flight for Avios redemptions.
The airline now guarantees, when booking opens at 355 days before travel:
- 8 seats in World Traveller / Euro Traveller
- 2 seats in World Traveller Plus (long haul only)
- 4 seats in Club Europe / Club World
This represented a substantial improvement on the previous guaranteed minimum of six seats. There were previously no guaranteed World Traveller Plus seats at all.
As usual, it is likely that more Avios seats will be released over time depending on how well a particular flight is selling for cash. You can be certain, however, that there will be at least 14 seats per long haul departure and 12 seats per short haul flight.
ALL Avios collectors benefit from these changes, not just holders of British Airways American Express cards.
Your 2-4-1 companion voucher flights no longer need to depart from the UK
Historically, your 2-4-1 companion voucher flight had to depart from the UK. Since this was a benefit for UK American Express cardmembers, it was not a major restriction.
The rule has now gone. A flight booked with a 2-4-1 voucher issued after 1st September 2021 can start outside the UK.
The main benefit of this is allowing you to book a one way flight TO the UK. It is obviously also key to using the next new benefit ….
You can also use your 2-4-1 companion voucher on Aer Lingus and Iberia
‘New’ 2-4-1 companion vouchers issued after 1st September 2021 can now be used on Aer Lingus and Iberia.
Aer Lingus puts up very few business class seats for Avios – they don’t guarantee anything, unlike BA – so the value there is low if you want premium seats.
Iberia is a totally different game. Taxes are far lower than using British Airways and it has an unrivalled network to the Americas, including routes not served by BA. If you start your trip in Madrid and book a separate flight down you will also avoid UK Air Passenger Duty.
You, erm, no longer need to travel with a companion to use a companion voucher!
The final change to the companion voucher is a big win for single travellers.
You can now use your voucher to book one seat for 50% off the usual number of Avios, although full taxes and charges are still required.
Coupled with the fact that there are obviously more days with one Avios seat than two Avios seats, this is a good result for those who like to travel alone or who are meeting others downstream.
Other key features of the card
What is the annual fee?
£250. This is refundable pro-rata if you choose to cancel, so – for example – you would be repaid £187.50 if you cancelled after three months.
What do you earn on day to day spending?
The British Airways Premium Plus Amex card earns 1.5 Avios per £1 on all qualifying spending. This compares with 1 Avios per £1 on the free card.
Do I receive a bonus for spending with British Airways?
Yes. The Premium Plus version of the card earns double Avios (3 per £1) when you spend with British Airways or BA Holidays. There is no extra bonus on the free BA Amex however.
Can I have free supplementary cards for my family?
Yes. There is often a bonus offered for adding your first supplementary card, so don’t ask for one during the initial application process.
How long does the companion voucher last?
You need to take the outbound flight within two years of the date of issue of your companion voucher. This compares to one year for the voucher on the free BA Amex, which is also heavily restricted to ‘economy only’ Avios bookings.
You will receive your e-voucher within a few days of hitting the £10,000 spending target.
Should you consider the free British Airways American Express instead?
If you reading this article – and so are probably a ‘hard core’ Avios collector – probably not.
The free BA Amex has a very restrictive 2-4-1 companion voucher which can only be used for economy flights on British Airways. The voucher, issued after £12,000 of spending, also has a restricted one year validity vs two years on the Premium Plus card.
The BA Amex is also not taking part in this ‘enhanced bonus’ promotion, so the current offer of 5,000 Avios looks very poor compared to 35,000 Avios for Premium Plus.
British Airways and American Express have made a conscious decision to put some clear blue water between the two cards.
Following the 2021 and 2022 changes, the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is the best choice for the serious Avios collector. This person wants to redeem in premium cabins and will benefit from the additional Business Class availability that the new-style 2-4-1 vouchers offer, as well as the two year validity period.
If you had been thinking about applying (or re-applying, if you cancelled your last BA Amex card over 24 months ago), now is a great time. The 35,000 Avios sign-up bonus is running until 21st February.
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.