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.

  • Traumahawk007 says:

    It’s all swings and roundabouts. For rewards BAPP definitely the best if you can afford the fee, generally have a high spend with the ability to collect Avios via all possible portals. I would always recommend the free Amex as they are a brilliant company when things hit the fan with 5* customer service, problems with purchases, fraud and disputes with immediate refunds. I’ve had to deal with all those issues and other providers were just a joke.

  • Seb says:

    Similarly, it would be interesting to understand how the Amex Nectar card compares. I put all my Sainsburys spend on the nectar card after I hit the bonus’ on other cards and transfer my nectar points to Amex. Should I be putting this spend on something else?

  • Jek says:

    We have both the free and the BAPP in our house. We fly long haul in J one a year when we use the 241 from the BAPP. In addition, we often fly short haul in eco when we use the 241 from the free card. Upgrading the second card or switching to Barclays makes little sense to us.

    • david says:

      How does this compare with the British Airways American Express cards?
      When converted to Avios, 2 Nectar points are worth 1.25 Avios.

      This means that the £30 Nectar American Express card is more generous than the free British Airways American Express card or the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (1 Avios per £1).

      • Jek says:

        The Nectar Amex cannot compete. Assume £12,000 on the free BA Amex is moved to the Nectar Amex. That’ll give 3,000 Avios more, which I value at £30. Deduct the fee and there is no difference in Avios, but with the free BA Amex you have the 241!

  • ChrisH says:

    Currently I have the free card, last year I had the paid for card as I wanted CW seats for a one off birthday. But we are a family of 3 so I’m never going to pay for a CW seat on top of the 2-4-1. Recently used the 2-4-1 in Economy for Barbados, can’t remember total Avios for the three of us but was reasonable and cash was £150 each. I’d like the three of us to travel in CW or WTP but not sure whether that will happen hence keeping the free card

  • JonR says:

    I’m happy with the free card, but I time my spending carefully. I’ll spend 11,990 and then wait until just before flights become available (so 355 days + 10 days), then spend to hit the trigger. Voucher normally appears 2-3 days after hitting spend trigger. On Economy reward flights in school holidays the value per Avios can be amazing.

  • Wilson says:

    The article doesn’t discuss the benefit of referral bonuses through the free BA Amex, this is one clear winner over the Barclaycard but are referral bonuses available on the Amex rewards?

  • brian says:

    The other options listed certainly offer routes to get better value out of £12,000 spend (and I get that one of the primary purposes of this site is to highlight strategies to maximise value) but right now given my circumstances (family of 3, restricted to travel during holidays, in-laws live a long haul flight away) minimising the cost/time of regular long haul flights is my top priority. Given the cost of flights, economy RFS with a 241 is a very effective way of meeting that goal. I will continue to leverage companion vouchers for annual economy long haul flights as opposed to aspirational business seats every two years.

    When circumstances do change I plan on fully availing of the BAPP offering.

  • Martin says:

    the Amex Rewards card has a new design – it doesn’t yet appear on any of their websites, online banking, or Google Pay, but I got the physical card at the start of the year. I think the translucent/holographic design had been around in some form for about 25 years, yet still looks pretty cool!

    • Rob says:

      Launches 31st!

    • RussellH says:

      I got a (presumably new style) blue one with a centurion on at the end of last year.
      This was a supplementary card (for bonus points) on my partner’s Rewards card.
      Looks about 40 years out of date, somehow, IMHO.
      Not sure why, but the PR Gold card, while also looking old fashioned, seems timeless and attractive. The blue Rewards card is anything but.

      • RussellH says:

        Surely it will be Platinum coloured, not plain Silver?
        🙂

        • Jonathan says:

          I’m hoping too see something similar to the now dead to new applicants; The Iconic Green Card of theirs, it’s my personal favourite design out of all the MR cards, and probably outdoes the BA cards as well

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

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