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Should you take 7,000 Avios from Barclaycard instead of the annual upgrade voucher?

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In April 2023 Barclays added an Avios alternative to the annual upgrade voucher you can earn from the two Barclaycard Avios credit cards and Barclays Premier current accounts.

Instead of the voucher, you can now choose to take a one-off lump sum of 7,000 Avios.

On the face of it, it doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but let’s look into it more closely.

Once you have hit your spending target for the year on your Barclycard – either £10,000 or £20,000 – or reached your 12-month Barclays Premier anniversary you will see the following appear in the Barclays app:

7000 Avios instead of Barclaycard Avios upgrade voucher

Importantly, if you are a credit card holder, there is no rush to choose your reward.

If you don’t want the trigger the voucher immediately – which starts the two year clock on having to use it – you can wait. However, if you don’t make a selection before the end of your membership year, the upgrade voucher is issued by default.

You cannot swap existing, issued, upgrade vouchers for the 7,000 Avios bonus.

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 ba.com. If there is any divergence between that page and what I write below, trust ba.com.

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 ba.com 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 was slightly confused by some of the grumbling when this option was added last year. 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, as we’ve seen over the last year

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’.

Whilst the discussion becomes rather moot on Monday when the Avios to Nectar conversion rate is slashed, historically the free Barclaycard Avios credit card has been THE most generous cashback Visa / Mastercard in the UK, if you convert the Avios into Nectar points.

Here are some comparisons using the rate today (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
  • £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

Interestingly, even with the devaluation on Monday, the new rate of 1 Avios = 0.5p of Nectar points still beats all of the cards above.

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, from Monday, £35 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

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 charges, even if the Avios required is the same as you need in Economy

The voucher is also not great value if used on short haul. This is because you are obliged to use the ‘most Avios, least cash’ redemption option and, on short haul, this is usually not the best value choice. It is different on long haul where the ‘most Avios, least cash’ option is the best choice.

Some 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.

Conclusion

For the last year, Barclaycard and Barclays Premier have given you a choice about whether to take your annual reward as an upgrade voucher or a 7,000 Avios lump sum.

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.

You can apply for the paid card here (25,000 Avios bonus) here.

The representative APR is 80.1% APR variable, including the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 29.9% variable.

You can apply for the free card here (5,000 Avios bonus).

The representative APR is 29.9% variable.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 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 £15,000 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 – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 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

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

Comments (114)

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

  • Matt says:

    The other reason for taking avios is for people who are fed up with BA’s atrocious service even in first class. Qatar Airways is a complete different ball game. My memories of BA avios redemptions has always been I’m glad I used avios and didn’t pay thousands of pounds as the experience was crap. I’ve recently flown Qatar business on avios and my take away is that I’d be happy to spend thousands on a cash flight because the experience was wonderful.

    • SK says:

      I had the same experience, QA is now my preferred airlines

      • MF176 says:

        But you can’t do a short European hop on Queen Bilqis Airways 😉

      • John says:

        Food on Qatar is awful though especially the main and dessert. Don’t know why that is not like they do cheap

        • BJ says:

          9n my ladt QR glight soup was missing on girst sector, three elements of breakfast missing on second sector.

    • BJ says:

      I’ve been flying both BA and QR quite frequently of late. I see no significant difference between their products and service ither than QR has better loubges and better IFE. The rest is same-same or six and half a dozen. You get a mix of hard products and metal on both, the worst on QE being worse that tge worst on BA. Conversely the best on QR is just a bit better than the best on BA. BA web IT is better than QR web IT but QR app is better than BA app. BA telephone CS is better than QR telephone CS. For UK residents BAEC is massively better than QRPC but there is a lot of value in QR rewards, especially for those in tve regions so the ability to flip avios between tbe two is fab. When it cones to onboard service I’ve had great and poor on both and geberally over tine cannit see mucg difference in stuff tgat matters. As far as service ethos is concerned it depends perhaps whether you attribute higher value to the Phoney Pleasant or to the Genuinely Grumpy…

      • Erico1875 says:

        I’ve often had phoney pleasant on QR, maybe I’m lucky but BA crew have always been genuinely pleasant and chirpy.
        If your flight is delayed or cancelled on a non EU segment, try getting compo from QR.

        • BJ says:

          Me too @Erico, worst I’ve had is professional indifference which js what I consider poor but I’d agree that generally BA cabin crew are genuinely pleasant and professionsl. You can chat with them and conversations feel real. On a recent flight one very anxious passsenger expressed concern that he’d need to use the lavatory often, the FA just smiled at him reassuringly and said ” don’t worry sir, we’re not counting”. It gave everybody a laugh including the passenger concerned and put him abd ithers at ease about the possible situation.

          • Matt says:

            I’m glad there’s people that prefer BA and happy to redeem their avios with them. Leaves Qatar avios availability for me!

        • Qrfan says:

          I got eur600 from qr on a delayed flight with absolutely no argument at all.

      • BJ says:

        @-Matt, I didn’t express a preference, I suggested that they are six and half a dozen all things considered.

        • Qrfan says:

          I don’t think you consider all things at all. BA doesn’t offer dine on demand in business. Qsuite is not “marginally better” than club suite if you’re traveling as a couple or a 4. Qatar’s fleet is far younger than the rickety BA fleet, especially the a380s. Qatar runs a separate bus for premium customers when boarding remotely, whereas BA ram their top customers onto a regular bus until it’s rammed full. I think you’re deluded frankly.

          • Matt says:

            BA allow J/F pax on the bus first followed by economy pax. Resulting in J/F first on and last off lol.

          • BJ says:

            @QRfan, I believe dine on demand may have explained my missing breakfast items.
            I gind Qsuite a bit gloomy and depressing, claustrophobic even. Travelling with a companion I like old CW better than any airline suites on a daytime flight. On a night time liggt I’ll take AirLounge as first choice. I like old CW better than QR super diamond cabins. Agree the Qatar bus is nice but how many times do we go on a bus? I like better connecting at DOH than LHR but that’s airports not airlines. I vurrently lrefer to fly QR over BA but for me there is not much in it, it is not a question of delusion but of exlperience, priorities and tastes. Bith BA abd QR IMO when ckndudering all things lag all the major East Asian carriers.

  • Brownbloke says:

    I must admit to being horrified by the way Barclaycard treats its customers (perhaps learning from BA!) in the way they handle applications as well as changes to credit limits. There seems no logic to the refusals or derisory credit limits sometimes offered. I am bailing out of Barclaycard at my next renewal having spent £20k and my wife will do the same once we trigger her ‘upgrade’ voucher as with the continued devaluation of Avios I would sooner have cash back in real money without being tied to spending targets, and go with a company with a more customer friendly focus. 7000 points is hardly a great deal anyway on top of the lottery of Avios seat availability.

  • Dawn says:

    I’m downgrading my card to the free one after I realised just how many Avios points I needed using the Upgrade vouchers long haul. I simply don’t earn enough and the 2-4-1- is more valuable to me.

  • CheshirePete says:

    I’m a bit mystified why the article keeps saying it’s not an upgrade voucher. You’re paying the Avios for the lower cabin to get into the one above, just like a GUF, and just as the same you also need redemption space in the actual cabin you’re travelling in. I don’t see how mystifying this is! May be it’s because I’ve used a fair few GUFs so it’s all very obvious to me it’s an upgrade. The only real big difference is that a GUF is a game changer also releasing “I” and “A” class which is invaluable, and certainly this is where the Barclays upgrade is at a massive disadvantage as it needs P or U classes only. I don’t think you can book into Z with it either, although they are as rare as hens teeth.

    • Ziggy says:

      It’s not an upgrade because you’re never booked into the lower cabin. You can’t be upgraded from a cabin you’re not in.

      • Kuestrian says:

        I find it easier to think of it as an Avios Downgrade voucher rather than a Cabin Upgrade voucher.

    • BBbetter says:

      It can be called a discount voucher, but that’s not great for marketing.

  • BJ says:

    Seems like Barcs themselves have fallen out of love with avios or perhaps they’ve just already thrown everything and the kitchen sink at the products and have little interest in promoting it further. They’ve been very quiet for months now despite the energy that’s been expendex by amex.

    • Dave says:

      Barclays marketing to existing customers is woeful. They’ve acquired a database of cardholders here who clearly like to travel. Who like to spend and collect points. By their very nature they are likely to be in the higher end bucket of the population’s demographic. And yet they do nothing to engage or encourage loyalty and further spend.

      There is a whole suite of offers and benefits available to holders of Mastercard World and World Elite cards that as an issuing bank, they can access and communicate, but they choose not to. Their lack of engagement is utterly mind boggling. But then what do I know?

      • Rob says:

        The bottom line is that these cards are loss-leaders to encourage new, younger people into the Barclays universe. The problem is that almost all aspects of their customer service are shocking, and cardholders are left with the feeling that they’d rather pull their finger nails out with a pair of pliers than give any more of their financial affairs to Barclays.

  • Sussex bantam says:

    I have yet to successfully use one of these vouchers….

    241 is much easier to use on long haul due to increased availability and there is no value in short haul due to being forced into the “least money” option

    I’ll be taking the extra avios !

  • John says:

    Rob – any idea if there will be any new sign on offers for the CC and Bank Account. Been waiting in the wings for ages it seems hoping something comes along

  • sam says:

    any suggestions on how to extend the voucher?

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