This is our review of the free British Airways American Express (BA Amex) credit card.
It is part of our series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles are linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards‘ area in the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 31.0% variable.
Reward credit cards generally have high interest rates and are not suitable for anyone who does not pay off their full balance each month. If you do not clear your balance, you should look for a non-rewards credit card with a low interest rate.
This article was updated on 1st December 2023, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
About the free British Airways American Express card
The British Airways American Express card is issued directly by American Express. This analysis is focused on the free version of the card – I review the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card here.
What is the BA Amex sign-up bonus?
You receive 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within three months.
What are the rules for qualifying for the sign-up bonus?
The bonus is only available to customers who have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months.
You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job. Amex is only interested in any personal cards you have had.
You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card. As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.
If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply. You still receive the other card benefits including the 2-4-1 voucher.
Don’t qualify for the bonus? You may qualify for the BA Premium Plus American Express bonus
It is important to note that the bonus rules are less strict on the paid-for British Airways Premium Plus American Express card.
Instead of ‘you can’t have had a personal Amex card in the last 24 months’, the Premium Plus card rule is ‘you can’t have had either of the British Airways Amex cards in the last 24 months’.
This opens the door to existing or recent holders of the Gold, Platinum, Marriott and Nectar American Express cards.
Nothing stops you trading down to the free BA Amex – and getting a pro-rata fee refund – once you have triggered the bonus on the Premium Plus card. You can apply for the British Airways Premium Plus American Express here and our full BA Premium Plus review is here.
Any other benefits with the BA Amex?
When you spend £12,000, you receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for one year.
If you are a solo traveller, the 2-4-1 voucher can also be used to get a 50% discount on the Avios required for a reward ticket for one person.
The voucher can be used on:
- British Airways
- Aer Lingus
2-4-1 companion vouchers issued on the free BA Amex are only redeemable in Economy Class. If you want to redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in World Traveller Plus, Business / Club or First, you have no choice but to get the Premium Plus card.
Remember that full taxes and charges must be paid when you use your companion voucher. The discount only applies to the Avios element of your ticket.
What is the annual fee?
The basic British Airways American Express card is free.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the BA Amex card?
You receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on the card.
You do NOT receive bonus Avios when booking British Airways flights. This benefit is only available with the Premium Plus card.
What is an Avios point worth?
How long is a piece of string!
This article is my best attempt to calculate the value of an Avios point.
Other points to note about the free British Airways American Express card
If you have the free British Airways card, you can upgrade to the Premium Plus fee-paying version at any time. However, you will not receive another sign-up bonus. Any spend you have done towards the 2-4-1 voucher to date will be carried over and your membership year remains the same.
You can also do this in reverse – once you have triggered your 2-4-1 voucher, you can call American Express and downgrade to the free card for a few months (receiving a pro-rata fee refund) until your new card year starts and your spend starts counting towards the new voucher. Do note, however, that American Express has started to push back against people who attempt to upgrade and downgrade multiple times.
You can apply for the card with a minimum personal income of just £20,000.
Is the BA Amex a good card to use when travelling?
As the BA Amex adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.
Unfortunately there are no credit cards with 0% foreign exchange fees worldwide which earn airline or hotel points. (The Virgin Atlantic credit cards have 0% FX fees in the Eurozone.) One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than Amex charges) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more about Currensea by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
Is this card better than the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard?
This is fundamentally the same package as the free British Airways American Express card. You earn 1 Avios per £1. Both have a 5,000 Avios bonus. Both have an annual voucher for hitting a spending target. Mastercard is accepted more widely than American Express.
The key difference is the annual voucher. Barclaycard Avios Mastercard gives you an annual upgrade voucher for an Avios flight on British Airways when you spend £20,000. You can upgrade a return flight for one person or one leg of a return flight for two people. Read our Barclaycard Avios Mastercard review for the full terms.
You need to think about which option is best for you:
- Can you put £12,000 per year through the free British Airways American Express to earn a 2-4-1 Avios voucher, which can only be used in Economy?
- Can you put £20,000 per year through the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard to earn an upgrade voucher, good for one person return or two people one-way?
Here’s the key thing to remember. Because American Express is not accepted everywhere, you will need to get the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard anyway if you want to earn Avios on all of your shopping. Does it really make sense to have the free Barclaycard and the free American Express?
Of course, nothing stops you getting both the American Express and Barclaycard cards purely for the sign up bonuses and then cancelling one later if you choose. Both cards are free.
How else can you earn Avios points from an Amex card?
Don’t forget these less-obvious options.
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and is free for the first year. These convert to 20,000 Avios points.
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.
The American Express Platinum credit card usually offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up. These convert to 30,000 Avios points. It has a £575 fee, refunded pro-rata if you cancel.
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.
5,000 Avios for getting the British Airways American Express is a good bonus for a free credit card.
In terms of on-going earning rates, 1 point per £1 is decent. However, not receiving double points on BA spending (as offered by the Premium Plus card) is unattractive for anyone with substantial British Airways or BA Holidays expenditure.
Before you apply, remember that any 2-4-1 companion voucher that you earn will only be valid on Economy redemption flights. If you do not want to redeem your Avios for Economy tickets, you should consider the Premium Plus card instead or one of the two Barclaycard Avios Mastercards here.
The application form for the free British Airways American Express card can be found here.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility 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.