This article is part of a refresh of our reward credit card reviews as I revisit and update all of our credit card feature articles. You can read the current series here.
A couple of weeks ago I published our complete guide to the British Airways 2-4-1 companion voucher alongside my review of the British Airways Premium Plus card (read it here).
Today I’m reviewing the free British Airways American Express Credit Card
You’ll receive 5,000 Avios after spending £1,000 in your first three months of card membership.
This is a special offer, the regular bonus on this card is 3,000 Avios – although it’s been around so long you do wonder whether this is, in fact, the new permanent offer.
What can I do with 5,000 Avios?
Reward flight redemptions using Avios start at just 4,000 Avios one-way via British Airways’ excellent Reward Flight Saver scheme.
Destinations available at 4,000/4,500 Avios include Amsterdam, Paris, Dublin, Copenhagen, and Nice.
Alternatively, you can use them to treat yourself to a one-way upgrade to Club Europe. These start at just 3,750 Avios and would include lounge access, extra baggage and complimentary catering onboard – which for under 4,000 Avios is a quite a bargain.
2-4-1 companion voucher
This voucher is one of the best, if not the best, perk in the UK travel rewards credit card market for ongoing credit card spend.
It allows you to book two Avios reward flight redemptions for the price of one.
The 2-4-1 voucher earned on this card is valid for a year and is triggered after spending £20,000 during your card membership year.
Why it makes no sense to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher on the free BA Amex
If you plan on triggering a 2-4-1 companion voucher, you’d be far better off with the Premium Plus card and I’ll explain why.
Longer validity = more flexibility
The voucher on the free BA Amex expires after a year whereas the Premium Plus version is valid for two years giving you extra flexibility to really maximise its value.
That longer validity will be key when trying to book premium cabins on tricky routes such as Sydney, Cape Town, Mauritius or Seychelles. For the best chance of grabbing Avios seats on those flights, you’ll likely be booking as soon as those flights are released, 355 days before departure. If you’re trying to use a 2-4-1 voucher with a one-year validity, you’d have precious little margin for error in terms of triggering and using the voucher within that timeframe.
2x 2-4-1 vouchers for the ‘price of one’
A Premium Plus 2-4-1 voucher is earned after spending ‘just’ £10,000, whereas the free card requires you to spend £20,000. If you’re able to put through the required £20,000 on the free BA card, you’d be better off if you and your travelling companion were each to get a Premium Plus card. You could then put £10,000 of spend through on each card thereby earning two vouchers, each valid for 2 years.
OK, so I want a 2-year voucher but don’t want to pay the £195 Premium Plus fee
If you like the idea of having two years to use your 2-4-1 companion voucher but don’t want to pay the £195 annual fee on the Premium Plus card, here’s a couple of useful tricks:
- Take out and use the BA Credit Card until you’re just short of the £10,000 threshold. You can then upgrade to the Premium Plus card and all progress you have made towards earning a 2-4-1 voucher is retained. When your spend then passes £10,000 you’ll receive a voucher with a 2-year expiry date – exactly the same version as if you’d held the Premium Plus card all along.
- Take out the Premium Plus card and trigger the voucher after spending your £10,000. You can then downgrade to the free card without it affecting the expiry date of your voucher, which by now is sitting safely in your BA account.
Day-to-day earnings rate
You will earn 1 Avios per £1 spent on your card.
Unlike the British Airways Premium Plus card, there are no bonus Avios for purchases made directly with British Airways.
That is a very good rate for a free card and matches that of the American Express Gold and Platinum cards as well as the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard. Although the fact that a free credit card offers the same earnings rate as Amex’s flagship £450-a-year card, says more about the poor Amex Platinum earnings rates than anything else.
Am I eligible for the sign-up bonus?
You are eligible for the sign-up bonus UNLESS you hold or have held one of the two British Airways American Express cards in the last six months.
You WILL still receive the sign-up bonus on this card if you hold/have held any of the Gold, Platinum, SPG, Platinum Cashback or Nectar cards.
There are NO minimum income requirements to be eligible for any cards issued by American Express. That restriction was removed a number of years ago.
The free BA Amex card is a card many apply for when they’re just starting to collect Avios or simply want an Avios-earning credit card in their pocket without having to pay an annual fee. The current 5,000 Avios sign up bonus, while not life-changing, is also a decent enough offer for a free card. That part I get.
But I cannot see why anyone targeting a BA 2-4-1 companion voucher would spend £20,000 on this card. The ‘Premium Plus voucher’ offers a longer expiry date and requires 50% less spending to trigger it.
The application page for the free BA Amex card is here
This card has a representative 22.9% APR variable. Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200. Interest rate for purchases: 22.9% p.a. variable
What’s your take on the BA Amex Credit Card?
Disclaimer: The information provided by Tricks of the Trade is intended solely as a helpful guide to relevant travel rewards card products and their various features and offers. You should always conduct your own research as recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.
hi – just wanted to clarify the trick to avoid the £195 fee – if i take out the free card get to just short of 10,000 miles – how much will it cost me to upgrade to the premium plus card? if i downgrade straight after crossing the 10000 spend threshold will i get the remaining fee pro rated and will my voucher still be eligible for 2 years even afte downgrading the card back to the free version .
Hi Alex. If I’ve understood your question correctly, yes you can downgrade after having upgraded your original to the Premium Plus card to benefit from a two-year voucher. A reader emailed me a while ago to say he’d done just that.
And yes, the two-year expiry date on your voucher would be unaffected.
So you can upgrade and pay the pro rata fees and then downgrade again? That is interesting…
Yes. I don’t know if Amex have some internal guidelines as to how many times you can change product and revert back but it certainly can be done.
Great article Harry. The issue we have had with the BA Premium Card and the 2-4-1 is that even tricky routes like Mauritius in Business Class are not available even nearly a year in advance. Even with being super flexible. Economy is, but as you know it’s about using the voucher for Business to make the most of it.
You’re right in that the most sought-after routes can be tricky even when seats are released 355 days before departure. But that’s why you’d want a voucher with a 2-year expiry so at least you get more than one shot at it!