Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Is there any point having the free British Airways American Express credit card?

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In September 2021, American Express made substantial changes to the free British Airways American Express card.

Prior to that, if you spent £20,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express credit card, you received a 2-4-1 companion voucher valid on any Avios flight in Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First Class.

Today, you only need to spend £12,000 per year to receive a 2-4-1 companion voucher but – and this is a big ‘but’ – it is only valid in Economy.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

In February 2022, we saw another major change. Barclaycard introduced the Barclaycard Avios Mastercarddetails here. This has the same earning rate as the free British Airways American Express card (1 Avios per £1) but comes with an upgrade voucher instead of a 2-4-1 companion voucher.

Should the average HfP reader hold the free British Airways American Express card?

To be honest, probably not. If you do have the free BA Amex, let’s look at why other cards may be better suited to you.

You can read our free British Airways American Express review here.

Do you spend under £12,000 on your free British Airways American Express?

Whether or not the American Express companion voucher on the free BA Amex card is worth having is, I admit, personal preference.

However, if you’re not spending £12,000 per year on the free BA Amex card, you’re not triggering the 2-4-1 companion voucher.

In this scenario, why are you holding the card? There are two better options open to you:

  • Get the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard – you earn the same rate (1 Avios per £1) and, as a Mastercard, it is accepted in more places than American Express. You are reducing the cards in your wallet or purse, because everyone needs a back-up Visa or Mastercard for their Amex anyway.

or

  • Get the free American Express Rewards Credit Card – you earn the same rate (1 Avios per £1, if you choose to convert the Membership Rewards points into Avios) but you can also convert your points into many other airline or hotel loyalty programmes
American Express Rewards Credit Card

Whilst the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is a fairly self explanatory product, I will cover the Amex Rewards Credit Card is more detail because you are less likely to be familiar with it.

What you get with the Amex Rewards Credit Card is flexibility.

Yes, you can use your points for Avios.  You can send them over to BA via the Amex website and they will arrive within 24 hours.

However, you have other options.  Membership Rewards points can also be sent to Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad or Delta among other airline partners.  You can also send them to Hilton Honors (1:2), Marriott Bonvoy (2:3) and Radisson Rewards (1:3).  You can convert them to Club Eurostar (15:1).  You can even use them for shopping vouchers.  You can see the airline partners here.

The Amex Rewards Credit Card gives you more choice.  You can still take Avios if you want, and at the same 1 Avios per £1 earning rate.  If you suddenly decide that you want hotel points, or that Virgin Points make more sense, or even that you want to abandon Avios altogether, you can.  Simply move your Amex points somewhere else instead.

With the free BA Amex card, your points are sitting in Avios from Day 1 and you can’t do anything else with them.  If Avios devalues its rewards, if BA stops flying your preferred route, if reward availability suddenly gets a lot harder to find, if Reward Flight Saver fees jump up, if new surcharges get added ….. you’re stuck. Your only way out is via a transfer to Nectar points.

There is literally no area where the free British Airways card outperforms the Amex Rewards Credit Card if you are not triggering the 2-4-1 voucher. You don’t even get bonus Avios when paying with the free BA Amex at ba.com – this is a benefit that only comes with the British Airways Premium Plus card.

Whether you get the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard or the free Amex Rewards Credit Card, either is a better choice than the free British Airways American Express card if you spend under £12,000 per year.

Do you spend over £12,000 per year on your free British Airways American Express card?

If you spend £12,000 per year on the free British Airways American Express card, you might think that it IS worth keeping the card.

After all, you are earning the annual 2-4-1 companion voucher, valid for travel begun within 12 months of issue. This allows you to:

  • book two Avios flights in Economy for the cost of one (full taxes are due on both tickets) or
  • book one Avios flight in Economy for half of the usual Avios cost (full taxes are still due)

If you are an Economy traveller, you may well see some value here. Even if you don’t travel Economy on long haul flights, you would save a handful of Avios on a short haul European trip.

However …..

Once you are spending over £10,000 per year on your free BA Amex, you have a different decision to make. Should you upgrade to the £250 per year British Airways Premium Plus American Express card or the £20 per month Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard?

Yes, you probably should.

Reasons to swap your free BA Amex for the British Airways Premium Plus card:

  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid on Economy tickets, whilst the voucher on the Premium Plus card is valid in ALL classes
  • Holders of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express get access to additional Avios inventory when redeeming in Business Class, making it a lot easier to find seats
  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid for one year, instead of two years for the BA Premium Plus voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance
  • The £2,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher on the free card (£12,000 compared to £10,000 on the Premium Plus card) could be directed elsewhere, helping trigger sign-up bonuses on other cards
  • You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 spent and double Avios when you spend with British Airways and BA Holidays, which offsets some of the £250 annual fee on the Premium Plus card

There is no official upgrade form – you simply apply for the Premium Plus card via this link. American Express will recognise that you are upgrading and will copy over your existing spend and account data. If your application is rejected for some reason, give Amex a call.

Your card year remains the same, and if you have already spent £10,000 this card year on the free card then your 2-4-1 companion voucher is triggered immediately.

Note that you need a personal income of £35,000 to get the Premium Plus card.

HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Plus-Card

Reasons to swap your free BA Amex for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard:

  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid on Economy tickets, whilst the upgrade voucher on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard lets you travel in Business or Premium Economy, albeit not First Class (this is how the Barclaycard upgrade voucher works)
  • The 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free BA Amex is only valid for one year, instead of two years for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard voucher, which is a major issue if you want to book seats 355 days in advance
  • The £2,000 of ‘extra’ spending required to trigger the voucher on the free BA Amex (£12,000 compared to £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard) could be directed elsewhere, helping trigger sign-up bonuses on other cards
  • As it’s a Mastercard, you can use it in more places than an American Express card which makes it easier to hit the £10,000 target for the annual voucher

Conclusion

Given:

  • the September 2021 changes to the 2-4-1 companion voucher on the free British Airways American Express card, and
  • the February 2022 launch of the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

….. there are good reasons for EVERY holder of the free British Airways American Express card to reconsider whether it remains the card for them.

If you spend under £12,000 on the free British Airways American Express card, I believe that the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard and the Amex Rewards Credit Card offer good alternative.

If you are spending five figures on your free BA Amex, you should consider whether there is value in swapping to either the fee-paying Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard or the British Airways Premium Plus American Express.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: £240, charged at £20 per month

Representative 80.1% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £20 monthly fee.  Interest rate on purchases 29.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard credit card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 29.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • This is reduced to £10,000 until 1st November 2024
  • A solo traveller can use it for a 50% discount on the Avios for one ticket
  • The voucher is valid in any cabin
  • It can be used on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus
  • Annual fee: £300

Representative 139.9% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £300 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must not have held the British Airways Premium Plus or the free British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways Premium Plus card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and all of the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £15,000 on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.

Alternatively, a solo traveller can use the voucher for a 50% reduction on the Avios required for one ticket.

This sum is reduced to £10,000 until 1st November 2024.

This voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. It could save you 150,000 or more Avios when used for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.

The voucher with the Premium Plus card is far more powerful than the voucher given with the free British Airways American Express card.  You need to spend the same £15,000 to receive it.  More importantly, the Premium Plus voucher is valid for two years and is valid in ALL cabins.  The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card is only valid for one year and can only be used for Economy flights.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

The voucher can be used for flights on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.

You need a minimum personal income of £35,000 to apply for the card.

British Airways American Express

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • This sum is reduced to £12,000 until 1st November 2024
  • The companion voucher is only valid on Economy flights
  • It can be used on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 31.0% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free British Airways American Express card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £15,000 on the British Airways American Express card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for one year.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

This sum is reduced to £12,000 if you can achieve it by 1st November 2024.

The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card can only be used on Economy flights.

The voucher can be used for Avios bookings on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

If you want more flexibility, the voucher issued with the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is valid for two years, requires the same £15,000 of annual card spend and is valid in ALL cabins including Business and First.  The Premium Plus card also has a higher earning rate of 1.5 Avios per £1 on general spend and 3 Avios per £1 on spend with British Airways and BA Holidays.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.

American Express Rewards

Bonus: 10,000 points

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Your best choice if you want a ‘free for life’ card which earns Membership Rewards points
  • A good choice if you want to close a Gold or Platinum card but keep your points intact
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 31.0% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Rewards card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Rewards card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You may want to do this if you are thinking of swapping your Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum card for a free alternative, and would prefer to keep your existing Membership Rewards points balance alive.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Rewards is the only ‘free for life’ American Express card which lets you collect Membership Rewards points.

We do NOT recommend this card if you would also qualify for the sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  The Gold card is free for the first year, comes with four free airport lounge passes and £120 of Deliveroo credit and has a higher sign-up bonus of 20,000 points.

The best reason to get American Express Rewards is if you are coming to the end of your free first year with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, or no longer want to pay the fee on The Platinum Card, but want to keep your Membership Rewards points intact.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – April 2024 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current 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

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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

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

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

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

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

Huge 30,000 points bonus until 12th May 2024 Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback Business Credit Card

1% cashback uncapped* on all your business spending (T&C apply) Read our full review

Comments (79)

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

  • lumma says:

    I do think, for the average person, 50k Avios plus £200 for two people to fly to New York/Boston/etc. in economy with the voucher from the free card, would be something aspirational and achievable.

    • Sam says:

      We’re actually doing this. Going to New York in summer hols. £400 + points and that’s including our NCL-LHR connections

      • NorthernLass says:

        Domestic connections don’t cost anything as long as they’re part of the same booking.

  • JamesD says:

    I hold the HHonours Barclaycard and also the Free Blue Amex BA card.
    Because I already hold the Barclaycard – which is mostly held just for status now & there may be other ways around holding this.
    Should I close my Barclaycard and apply for the Barclaycard Avois Mastercard, or just suck it up for the time being?

    • JPa says:

      If you have a partner get them to get the Avios card, then you can have both

    • RussellH says:

      I too hold the HHonours Barclaycard and also the Free Blue Amex BA card. And the Creation Marriott card and an Amex Rewards Card.
      So I am not allowed to apply for an avios Barclaycard.
      More significantly, while we used to be heavily focussed on avios, this is increasingly no longer the case. But, we both have a significant no. of avios still, and spending a few quid on the free BA Amex every other month ensures that the avios do not accidentally expire. Should we discover that we need a chunk of avios for some reason or other, then Amex MR points can be converted quickly to avios.
      Otherwise, we would rather have Hilton and/or Marriott points than avios, even though their hotels tend to be in, for us, less interesting places.
      The real killer has been the loss of the IHG credit card, and the lack of an Accor one – both IHG + Accor are more likely have hotels in the places we want them.

  • Adam says:

    For us, family of three, two adults and a 6 year old, we find the 241 useful to use once a year when it comes to getting high cash cost European summer flights for avios, ensuring we book a year ahead, it takes a 25,000 off the cost of the flights, which isn’t too bad for a free card.. I do think, however, when I trigger this next 241 I will look elsewhere in order to reset the 2 year bonus cycle.

  • CJD says:

    I’m in a position where I might consider the free card in a year or two’s time.

    I’m relatively new to the points game, and currently hold the Amex Gold card (opened in May, triggered 20k sign up bonus and have put about £8k through the card) and the BAPP card (held since September, triggered the 60k sign up bonus and have put just over £7k through it.)

    My fiancée and I are due to get married in July 2025, so I am saving up Avios (and planning on triggering a 2-4-1 voucher) towards an aspirational honeymoon redemption (either business or First Class long haul, with Mexico looking like a winner at the moment).

    Beyond that, I’m not sure I’ll earn enough Avios annually to make triggering a voucher every year worthwhile (I’m estimating earning about 40k a year from credit card spend, RBS Rewards converted to Avios and Nectar), which is only really going to get me a chunky business class redemption every 3-4 years. Plus I live in Glasgow, so even redeeming for a short haul flight involves travelling down to London in the main.

    However, I

    • Mikel says:

      I don’t have any issues with the Glasgow / Heathrow connection as the Glasgow lounge is very pleasant and it’s part of the adventure. We’re taking advantage of the direct Edinburgh – Olbia flights in May. Originally had Olbia – Heathrow – Glasgow and an overnight stay due to late Heathrow arrival but that’s worked in our favour this time around. £45 for the flight is a bargain. Hat tip to Rob for the article highlighting this

      • CJD says:

        I do quite like the idea of flying/getting the train down to London the day before and having a day/evening in London to eat out and shop before getting a morning flight for a cheap city break paid for with Avios – it’s just a question of whether the reality is somewhat less convenient (particularly on the journey home.)

  • JonathanY says:

    Sadly, I can’t get a Barclaycard Avios card of any type. Why ? because I have held a Hilton Honors Visa card for 15 years. So to get a Barclaycard Avios card, I have to kill off my HH card (fine as I get Gold HH from Plat Amex) but then wait 6 months to then reapply. I have commented / complained to Barclaycard but nothing they say they can do. Any one found a way round this ?

    • Rob says:

      There will be a new IT system in 2025 which will allow this.

      • RussellH says:

        Hopefully it will not screw up the crediting of Hilton points from the Hilton Visa (always assuming that it is still running).

      • camille55 says:

        I also have the Hilton Honors credit card issued by Barclaycard, from 11 years ago. I had absolutely no idea that precluded you from applying for an Avios Barclaycard!

        In fact, a family member is in exactly the same boat and they were able to apply for an Avios Barclaycard. She got it, then cancelled the Avios BC after a few months, as did not feel she would derive value from it. How weird.

      • JonathanY says:

        New IT system ? Ok. I got the impression that having an HH Visa card via Barclayard prevented you from having a BC Avios earning card , as you were turning your back on one brand going to another ?

        • Rob says:

          There are two separate issues, yes, but both will be resolved around the same time …

          • Talay says:

            I have the legacy HH Barclaycard but also converted an old Barclaycard Platinum into the Avios Barclaycard so I have the Avios one and the Hilton one.

            I’ve had this since early 2023 or shortly after the Avios card came out.

          • Rob says:

            Yes, some people managed this and I’m not sure how it happened. The ‘two card thing’ is a genuine restriction for them with most people.

  • Alex says:

    I guess the only downside to swapping a free BA card to the Amex Reward card is you’re going from Avios earning to MR earning so effectively foregoing any sign up bonuses on Amex.

    For example, I am waiting for my 2 years to be up this summer, would make no sense for me to forego my free Amex for a Rewards one. But I do agree, I should just close that anyway and move to Barclays…

  • G says:

    12 month duration is the kicker for me.

  • flyforfun says:

    I keep wanting to evaluate my relationship with AMEX and the BAPP card, but on my TransUnion credit report (via my Lloyds and MBNA cards from the days they used to give points) they sent a message recently saying all my years of being an Amex customer shows my financial stability and is keeping my score high. They sent one also about my Citibank account that I’ve had for 20+ years, but am being forced to leave as they are pulling out of the retail market. Bad how the algorithm favours financial inertia over getting the best deal.

    • Andrew. says:

      So what’s the next oldest account after your Citibank and Amex? I suspect that the weighting of the algorithm for length of relationship tails off quite considerably once you get to year 6.

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

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