Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Barclays to offer 7,000 Avios as an alternative to their annual upgrade voucher?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

It has been known for some time that Barclaycard was planning to offer an Avios alternative to the annual upgrade voucher you can earn from the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards and Barclays Premier current accounts with Barclays Avios Rewards activated.

What we didn’t know – and still don’t officially know – is what the alternative will be.

The cat now appears to be out of the bag. The new edition of the British Airways High Life magazine (the print version, not the online version) contains a Barclays Premier advertorial.

In this, it says:

“You’ll soon be able to choose between the upgrade voucher and 7,000 Avios, which could be just what you need to get you away on that dream trip that bit sooner.”

It isn’t clear if you will need to select the 7,000 Avios alternative before your voucher is issued, or if it is possible to swap a voucher which is already in your account.

Is 7,000 Avios a good deal?

To answer that, we need to go back to how the upgrade vouchers work.

There are three ways of earning a Barclays upgrade voucher:

How the Barclays upgrade vouchers work

The full details are on this page of If there is any divergence between that page and what I write below, trust

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

Let’s get one thing clear though. THIS. IS. NOT. AN. UPGRADE. VOUCHER.

I call it an upgrade voucher. Barclays calls it an upgrade voucher. It is NOT an upgrade voucher.

In practice, this is how it works.

You go to 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 an 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 an 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.

Is it worth swapping the voucher for 7,000 Avios?

On the face of it, no. You can clearly get substantially more value out of it than 7,000 Avios.

However, I am slightly confused by some of the anger expressed over at Flyertalk about this proposal, where the High Life article was originally posted. After all:

  • Barclays was not obliged to offer an Avios alternative – it’s not as if Amex lets you swap a 2-4-1 Companion Voucher for an Avios boost – and anything is clearly better than nothing
  • you are obviously not forced to swap your upgrade voucher for 7,000 Avios if you don’t want to
  • the 7,000 Avios alternative will make sense for a lot of people

Who would benefit from taking 7,000 Avios instead of an upgrade voucher?

People who don’t use Avios for flights

The first, obvious, answer is ‘people who don’t use Avios to redeem for flights’.

What many people don’t realise is that the free Barclaycard Avios credit card is THE most generous cashback Visa / Mastercard in the UK, if you convert the Avios into Nectar points.

Here are some comparisons (I am ignoring bonus points received when you spend at the ‘host’ retailer):

  • £1 spent on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard gets you 0.67p of Nectar points (if you convert 1 Avios) – this does not factor in the annual bonus
  • £1 spent on the Sainsburys Nectar Mastercard gets you 0.1p of Nectar points
  • £1 spent on the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard gets you 0.125p of Clubcard points, or 0.25p if spent on partner redemptions (using the new rate from 14th June)
  • £1 spent on the Marks & Spencer Mastercard gets you 0.2p of M&S vouchers
  • £1 spent on the John Lewis / Waitrose Partnership card gets you 0.25p of John Lewis / Waitrose vouchers

The free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is between 2.7x and 6.7x more rewarding than the competition and if you have one of the cards above it makes sense to ditch it.

Anyone who has the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard to use as a general shopping reward card will be happy to take the 7,000 Avios alternative and swap it for £47 of Nectar points.

People who don’t earn enough Avios to use the annual upgrade voucher

The second group of people who may be happy to take the 7,000 Avios alternative are those who use a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard as their ‘back up’ card, with most of their spend going onto a British Airways American Express card.

If these people just about earn enough Avios each year to use their BA Amex 2-4-1 Companion Voucher, they may not have enough extra Avios left to make use of a Barclaycard upgrade voucher.

Taking 7,000 additional Avios from Barclaycard is a double-win – they swap an upgrade voucher they probably won’t use and get closer to the Avios they need to use their Amex voucher.

People whose flight patterns mean that the upgrade voucher doesn’t work for them

The third group is people who use their Avios for specific redemptions which don’t match up with the rules of the upgrade voucher, eg the requirement to start your flight in the UK.

Let’s assume that you are happy redeeming Avios for long haul economy flights. Whilst the upgrade voucher might seem a no-brainer – because you can now fly in Premium Economy for the same number of Avios – this is not true. This is because:

  • you can only upgrade if Premium Economy Avios seats are available, and these can be tricky to find in such a small cabin
  • you are on the hook for substantially higher taxes and charges, even if the Avios required is the same as you need in Economy

A lot of Avios collectors are also members of the ABBA fan club (‘anyone but BA’) and would prefer to use their points to redeem on another airline.

If you take 7,000 Avios, the earn rate on the Barclaycard Avios cards is huge

Someone on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard who spends exactly £20,000 in a year will earn 20,000 Avios from base spend and 7,000 Avios if they choose the bonus in lieu of the upgrade voucher. This is 1.35 Avios per £1 spent – an exceptional return for a free credit card.

Someone with the paid Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard who spends exactly £10,000 in a year will earn 15,000 Avios from base spend and 7,000 Avios if they choose the bonus in lieu of the upgrade voucher. This is 2.2 Avios per £1 spent!

That said, the logic in paying for the Avios Plus card if you are going to take the 7,000 Avios as an annual bonus is slim.

The paid card works best for someone who can easily spend £10,000 to trigger the upgrade voucher but cannot spend £20,000 (or has a better plan for that extra £10,000 of spend, such as triggering a bonus on another card) and has a plan to maximise the value of the voucher.


It seems that Barclaycard and Barclays Premier will soon be offering you the ability to swap your annual upgrade voucher for 7,000 Avios.

We don’t know when this will start, how you will make the choice or whether you will be able to trade existing vouchers.

Whilst on the face of it 7,000 Avios may not seem a generous swap, it isn’t meant to be. It is there to offer an alternative to people who, for one of the reasons I suggested above, do not see value in the upgrade voucher.

To learn more about the cards, read our Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card review here and our Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard credit card review here.

PS. Remember that you can currently win 1 million Avios when you successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April. Click here for details.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

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

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

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.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

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

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.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points 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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (115)

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

  • Mik says:

    I complained to barclaycard a couple of weeks ago, that i hadn’t been offered choice, when the terms said it would start ‘early this year’. I told them the rumour at the time it was for 7000 Avios and rough value of penny an Avios, and they upheld complaint and gave me £70. Happy enough.

    • RJ says:

      Hi Mik, this interests me because I have a voucher that’s due to expire in a week and I don’t see any chance of me using it. How exactly did you make the complaint and did you already have a voucher in your account when raising this with them? Cheers

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.