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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.

  • FatherOfFour says:

    I sit in the group that can’t make use of the voucher that I have. No long haul travel planned and being forced to use the “more avios, least cash option” is unappealing. I’d rather pay cash and pick up some Tier Points.
    Definitely useful for the non Amex items– though not sure I’ll hit 20k this year without diverting from Amex.

  • Charlie says:

    I struggle to get any value greater than £70 out of the Barclays vouchers at all, due to the requirement to always book Avios heavy tickets. I’ve ditched Barclaycard Plus, and chosen the 7k option on Premier. I’m quite happy to challenge anyone who can set out how they are getting more than £70 of value from these nonsense vouchers.

    • Rob says:

      On long haul ‘Avios heavy’ is the best option so shouldn’t be an issue.

    • David says:

      2x J one ways to PVG 100k Avios saving.

      • Charlie says:

        On PVG, it is a saving of about half that – £500 or 50k Avios from LHR. Using the Barclays voucher for 2x J one ways to PVG with BA on 14th August is 155,000 Avios plus £550 cash. Not using the Barclays voucher is 150,000 Avios plus £1,050, so there is £500 of value there, I accept that.

        However, for two in biz, you could also do: 154,000 Avios and £56 from Helsinki on Finnair to Hong Kong, have a stopover as long as you want, plus 32,000 and £340 on Cathay to PVG, which totals £2,250 ish – very close to the £2,100 using the Barclays voucher with BA (I accept you need to start in Helsinki (with the cost of getting there). So, you’re looking at £150 more plus the cost of getting to Helsinki for two. If you are making a ‘once in a while redemption’, then HEL + HKG + PVG is a pretty good itinerary for an extra £150 plus the cost of getting to HEL. 🙂

        • David says:

          We used 2x one ways on off-peak so 50k each instead of 100k. During peak the saving is less at 32.5k. We then fly LCC to Indonesia as Avios awards were 1x seat only for months now, needed 6x. I got voucher from free Barclaycard. Yeah I’m yet to fly J in Finnair so will think of that next time.

  • Alex G says:

    The Barclays voucher is good for people who want to go to the USA, or who can book their flights at midnight a year in advance.

    There is very limited availability for long haul flights going East.

    I have two Barclays vouchers that will be expiring soon, and I’ve had 7000 Avios on lieu of the third one.

    I’ve got 4 reward flights booked currently. Two were booked with BAPP vouchers which opened up additional availability, where I couldn’t use a Barclays voucher. Two are booked with other One World airlines.

    The Barclays vouchers are useless for me, but the 7000 Avios are very welcome.

    • Bill_B says:

      South America also, if you want a direct flight.

      • Jonathan says:

        The Amex 241 is good for Latin America due to Iberia’s extensive routes there

  • lumma says:

    Great timing for this article as I’ve currently got two 241s and I’ve two months to make my decision on whether to take the voucher or points.

    I’ve got enough points to use one of the 241s and should accrue enough to use the second easily before it expires but I’m not sure I will have enough for the Barclays voucher too, seeing as you need at least 50k to upgrade a shorter long haul to premium off peak.

    The longer Club Europe flights do offer slightly better value than the 7k Avios (Istanbul peak CE would cost 30500 + £1 with the voucher versus 36,700 + £50 without), but on the shorter routes, such as Germany the options would be 19,500 + £1 using the voucher or 19,500 + £50 without.

    For short haul, where many would be happy to fly economy regardless, it might have more value on the routes that have little economy availability after the guaranteed seats are sold, such as London City to San Sebastian

  • Sam says:

    I’ve never liked these upgrade vouchers. They are so restrictive. If you are a family of 3 or more (like us) you have to make separate bookings which is absurd, although I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who have the patience to do so.
    Unfortunately mine was triggered well before the 7,000 points alternative was introduced. It’s still just sat there in my account, can’t see when I’ll be using it.
    Although the 7,000 point alternative is still pitiful.
    If I do end up signing up again for this card it will solely just be for the SUB.

    • lumma says:

      If you already have the voucher, surely you might as well get some value for on a short haul flight? You’ll still be at least £49 better off over booking a normal club Europe return

    • Rob says:

      For a family of 3 it is great when combined with a 241.

      • Tariq says:

        It can’t be combined though, you have to make separate bookings. Reluctantly burned one this way on Club Europe to GVA in conjunction with a 241 booking for the other two seats.

    • Erico1875 says:

      We plan to use it on the EDI to San Sebastian route too. Plenty CE availability, hardly any economy
      Probably come back Ryanair Biarritz to Edi. £30 each

      • lumma says:

        Yeah, the leisure Cityflyer routes never seem to have any economy availability close to departure

        • TP Hunter says:

          They only release 2 seats at T-355 in economy on CityFlyer flights, as compared to 8 seats on BA mainline and Euroflyer. So naturally the availability is reduced.

          Seems a bit of a misleading practice to me as none of the advertising materials around the “guaranteed availability” make this proviso clear, but ¯⁠\⁠_⁠(⁠ツ⁠)⁠_⁠/⁠¯

  • dougzz99 says:

    Have Barclays/BA quietly fixed the 2 year life of the voucher. I’m sure my most recent one has extended from 22 to 24 months.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Why is it not available on BA Amex? I got two vouchers in the last couple of years and had to let one lapse and used the other one for Club Europe flight to BUD out of desperation… I would rather pocket 14,000 Avios for redemptions on AY or JL

  • marks7389 says:

    Challenge accepted 🙂

    We’ve used two so far. One on two one-way seats London to Singapore in Club World. Off-peak for both seats 110K Avios+£600 with the voucher, or 184K Avios+£730 without (the latter being the best value option at 1p/Avios). Saving £870 at 1p/Avios valuation. For that journey (given that it made more sense to fly back with Qatar anyway) the value of an Amex 2for1 would have been identical.

    The other was not so great but the voucher was expiring. Two seats one-way London to Rhodes in Club Europe on a peak date. With the voucher 30.5K Avios+£1, without 23.5K Avios+£195. Saving £125 at 1p/Avios valuation – still better than £70.

    • marks7389 says:

      Meant to be in response to Charlie…

    • David says:

      Yeah I don’t bemoan someone using it. I found the voucher much better use then the 7k. It’s like many things in life, I despise F1 but if someone enjoys it, then great.

    • Charlie says:

      Fair enough on the Singapore route. It would be interesting to see the cash price on the route for the days the Avios seats were/are available. As for the CE routes, on the higher band routes – exactly. Circa a £50 gain. but if you don’t use it, you lose it. also, if you fly from the regions you are put into CE at the highest Avios cost, versus the Amex 2 for 1, where you can choose economy for the domestic segment and biz for the international.

      • Mark says:

        I’ve no record of what the cash price was, but all-in flying out to Singapore in Club World and back from Phuket in Qatar business class was 260K Avios plus £928.40 for two or £1764.20 each at 1p/Avios – plus the upgrade voucher. There were no cash offers running at the time of booking and I’m not aware of anything that would have enabled us to get close to that (the trip was late Nov/early Dec).

        Granted if we’d not had either a Barclaycard or an Amex voucher it would have worked out quite a bit more and it is unlikely in that scenario we would have opted to fly out with BA. If nothing else an outbound redemption with Qatar probably would have been slightly cheaper (and preferable, on balance, even considering the stop).

        • Mark says:

          I would add that, as Heathrow is our local airport, we’re in a much better position to make good use of the vouchers than many others.

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