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Should the BAPP Amex let you earn tier points permanently, perhaps instead of Avios?

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The news yesterday that British Airways will start offering Executive Club tier points for British Airways Premium Plus American Express spend generated a huge amount of feedback. Our article had over 350 comments by the end of the day.

As I said yesterday, I feel that it’s the right idea but wrongly executed, although a fair attempt at a first stab.

Let’s look into this in more detail.

Should the BAPP Amex let you earn tier points permanently, perhaps instead of Avios?

I had four issues with the offer. You need to understand that my key starting points when looking at any loyalty deal are whether it is easy to understand and how it plays on human psychology.

The spend threshold starts too high

You need to spend £15,000 within six months to start to benefit from this offer. This is too high and will simply lead to too many people tuning out.

It would make more sense to start earning tier points at £5,000 of qualifying spend for 50 tier points. Most people would earn something this way, and once a member had a handful of tier points it would – psychologically – encourage them to look into ways of earning more.

Remember that it costs BA NOTHING to give out tier points if the member does not go on to earn or retain status. It’s a different dynamic to Avios, where giving someone a handful of Avios which are never used requires IAG Loyalty to accrue for them on its balance sheet for three years.

The number of tier points should be uncapped

You can’t be half pregnant. If you’re going to give out tier points based on card spend, you should allow people to earn status entirely on card spend.

If someone wants to spend £60,000 to earn a British Airways Executive Club Silver card from scratch, assuming they also fly four segments, they should be able to (and the same for spending £150,000 to earn Gold).

Anyone who isn’t flying enough to earn status is unlikely to be flying enough to cost British Airways a fortune in lounge access etc. Some people who gained status via this route would also move travel to BA from other airlines to benefit from it.

Running a six month offer only benefits people with certain membership year end dates

Another issue with this trial is that, even if you were keen to take part, you may find that the way your year end falls counts you out. If you could spend a consistent £5,000 per month on your BA Premium Plus American Express card but your BA year end is 8th March, you’d trigger 100 tier points in your current 2023/24 year (which may be wasted) and 100 in the following 2024/25 year.

Should the BAPP Amex let you earn tier points permanently, perhaps instead of Avios?

There are issues for people who have stopping using a BA Amex because they have spent £9,999

Some people have spent £9,999 on their cards and are holding off spending more so they don’t trigger their annual 2-4-1 companion voucher unnecessarily early – although I published the obvious solution for that problem here.

I spent nothing on my BA card between February 2023 (when I was above £9,500) and the last week of October 2023 because I wanted to ensure the 2-4-1 voucher would be valid for October half term in 2025.

If BA is going to give out tier points on card spend, it ALSO needs to address the issue of people deliberately holding off using their card to avoid triggering their voucher early.

An idea: should British Airways offer Avios OR tier points?

Ever since interchange fee caps cut the money that credit card companies have to fund travel rewards, I have been pushing the idea of giving out elite status instead of miles.

(Iberia has been offering the equivalent of British Airways Bronze status with one of its credit cards for some years now – all you need to do is pay a €100 annual card fee. IAG isn’t against the concept of ‘selling’ status.)

What would happen if you were given a choice with your British Airways Premium Plus American Express?

  • earn 1.5 Avios per £1 (as you do now) or
  • earn 0.75 Avios per £1 and receive 1 tier point per £100 spent?

Why would BA do this? Because it makes financial sense – and financial sense is something that BA understands.

The airline targets a 10% operating profit margin from flying, although it is currently doing better. Bear this in mind.

Let’s assume that BA started to offer the two options above and I chose the second – 0.75 Avios per £1 and 1 tier point per £100 spent on my Premium Plus card.

Should the BAPP Amex let you earn tier points permanently, perhaps instead of Avios?

To earn British Airways Executive Club Silver status at 600 tier points would require £60,000 of credit card spend. I’d also receive (60,000 x 0.75) 45,000 Avios, instead of the 90,000 Avios I’d get at the standard rate of 1.5 Avios per £1.

Let’s assume Amex pays BA the same amount of money either way. Instead of paying BA around £750 for issuing 90,000 Avios, it pays BA £750 for issuing 45,000 Avios and giving me a Silver card.

Basically, BA will have been paid £375 for giving me a Silver card.

Because the airline targets a 10% profit margin on flights, BA makes the same profit on this as if I’d spent £3,750 on flying.

This is a big win for the airline.

Let’s assume I try to earn Silver from scratch by flying. A good ‘tier point run’ would cost around £2 per tier point. You can beat this – Heathrow to Sofia in Club Europe is currently as low as £210 return in March / April / May for 160 tier points, and you’d get another 80 tier points with a connection by starting outside London. Stay five nights in Sofia, book via BA Holidays, and you’d earn double tier points.

At £2 per tier point, I could earn Silver by spending (600 tier points x £2 per tier point) £1,200 on flights. BA would make £120 of profit this way based on a 10% margin. Instead, it would be getting £375 of profit by letting Amex buy me a Silver card.

Even someone with no real idea of what makes a good tier point run should be able to pick up a Silver card by spending far less than £3,750, generating less than £375 of profit for BA.

‘Selling’ status this way is actually good business sense for the airline.

This offer isn’t for you? That’s fine

Clearly this offer wouldn’t be for everyone. That’s fine.

BA doesn’t want it to be for everyone due to lounge capacity etc. After all, when everyone’s a princess, no-one’s a princess (a lesson I learned from reading ‘Olivia and the Fairy Princess‘ to my daughter when she was five – I can sense the blank looks from readers who don’t have a young daughter ….)

There are so many British Airways Premium Plus American Express cardholders – I am guessing 100k-ish – that BA would only want a couple of percent to earn status purely via card spend.

The extra revenue generated from this couple of percent of cardholders who went for it, gung ho, would be worthwhile for both American Express and BA, however.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

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. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

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

40,000 bonus points 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.

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.

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

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) 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 (118)

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

  • PH says:

    On the theme of making status benefits buyable, I’d like to see BA start selling fast track, lounge access, and priority boarding on a per booking basis as well / instead.

    • LittleNick says:

      I wish they would sell CCR access to those flying long haul club world (maybe even restricted to some status members)

      • PH says:

        ..or restricted to long-haul flights that don’t have an F cabin, like Air France do. BA would likely need to improve / reliably start providing these status benefits if they were selling them for cold hard cash, though. Selling (contribution towards) status via CC spend feels less likely to invite complaints than putting a price on each element and then underdelivering.

    • Jack says:

      I don’t think status benefits should be buyable ie you shouldn’t be able to buy your way into the lounge . There are 2 other lounges at heathrow which you can pay to lose and fast track normally is offered via the airport . Status benefits rightly are for those who are loyal to the airlines and fly a lot

  • r* says:

    Im not sure I think its okay that someone with a small business should just be able to buy silver by funneling business spend thru a cc cos it will inevitably lead to a reduction of tp gained from flying. The lhr lounges feel more like priority pass plus lounges now (the quality seems to have dropped post covid and theyre often rammed now), would unlimited cc spend just make that worse?

  • newbz says:

    FWIW and for comparison, some US airlines allow you to get the highest status through spending; on others, it’s the middle status (like Gold on UA, which is pretty worthless domestically, but has some value when travelling internationally). Until recently, the whole thing was more restrictive and status miles earnings were capped.

    I do think a huge difference between US and European programs is the interchange fees. Delta, for example, claims that “spending on its credit cards is approaching 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.” It made about $5.5 billion from its credit card offering last year. These are insane numbers and I think it’s unlikely the UK/EU market will be ever able to head in this direction when the interchange fees are 0.3% in the EU vs 2% (average) in the US. There is very little pie to share in Europe. And obviously, the perverse result is that US airlines are all about spending, not about flying.

  • RevolutionaryRuin says:

    “If BA is going to give out tier points on card spend, it ALSO needs to address the issue of people deliberately holding off using their card to avoid triggering their voucher early”

    Waa waa waaaaaa. No, they don’t. That’s your problem / decision…not BA’s or Amex’s. You spend a good chunk of this article waxing lyrical about what they should do to make it suit people like you better, but then acknowledge that the offer isn’t for everyone. That’s like me complaining because it’s only on the BAPP, and demanding they make it available me because I only have the Platinum card, but alas the same time acknowledging that they only want BAPP members to benefit.

    I’m sure if a thousand more people earned Gold, because of this, then you’d be swift to publish an article about how BA needs to do something about the First lounge being over crowded. You even said yourself they only want a small number to truly earn status. Reddit level analysis, that.

    It might be a dry run for a bigger project, as per your headline (which might make the BAPP a VERY attractive card to some), or it might be a Christmas bonus to be taken as it is. Just be happy that Amex / BA are trying something novel for a change

  • Neil says:

    I have a BAPP card but this doesn’t appear in my offers.
    Just me?

  • Rob says:

    I’ve accrued tons of avios and was thinking of getting rid of my BA Amex as I simply don’t need more avios and can’t really justify the annual fee. If I could earn tier points as an alternative option, this would definitely encourage me to keep the Amex.

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

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