Most of us want to travel more, but time and money are often the main obstacles to achieving this goal. We haven’t found a way to create more time, but the money aspect can be tackled with airline credit cards. This style of travel hacking allows you to collect points and miles to reduce flight costs and unlock upgrades. In the UK, the largest airline loyalty programme is British Airways’ Executive Club. Travellers can use British Airways American Express credit cards to turn their spend into Avios, British Airway’s currency.
UK residents can choose between two Avios-earning Amex cards: the fee-free British Airways American Express card and the British Airways Premium Plus card that comes with a £250 fee. I have only held the free British Airways card and would like to share my thoughts on using it for collecting and redeeming Avios. They are based on my experience which may differ from how others approach this card.
I hope that this review will help you decide if the American Express British Airways credit card is for you. Please note, this article is not financial advice.
The British Airways American Express credit card is considered an entry-level card for those who are starting off on their Avios-collecting journey. This free card allows you to earn one Avios for every £1 you spend on purchases. Balance transfers are not allowed. There are no 0% purchase periods either. You can apply for this card directly on the American Express website.
As mentioned before, the British Airways Amex card has no annual fee. Its representative APR is 27.2% variable at an assumed credit limit of £1,200 and at a purchase rate of 27.2% p.a. If you would like to use this card abroad, keep in mind that there is a 2.99% transaction fee on foreign purchases and cash withdrawals.
The APR is higher than what you would normally get with a non-reward credit card in the UK. The best approach here is to clear your balance in full every month to avoid getting hit with high interest rates. The benefits of this card will be quickly wiped out if you constantly lose money on interest. You might also want to consider a card with lower or no foreign transaction charges for using abroad.
The British Airways American Express card comes with a healthy welcome bonus. If you spend £1,000 in the first three months of usage, you will receive 5,000 Avios. For context, a short haul return Reward Flight Saver in economy to the likes of Brussels or Geneva costs 19,500 Avios + £1 in fees. With a 5,000 welcome bonus and the initial £1,000 spend, you are nearly a third of the way into redeeming your first flight.
It is important to note that you will not receive a welcome bonus if you have held any personal American Express credit cards in the last two years. However, switching to the BA Amex card might still be worth it in the long term.
One of the most valuable benefits that you can receive with the British Airways American Express card is the 2-4-1 Companion Voucher. You will earn it when you spend £12,000 in a membership year. The voucher is valid for 12 months. You can redeem it on British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia flights.
The voucher allows you to take someone on a flight with you when you book a BA reward flight. You will still need to pay all the applicable fees and taxes for both of you. The companion voucher earned through the free BA Amex card is only valid for economy class flights. The voucher can also come in handy if you are travelling solo. In this case, you can use it to receive a 50% discount on the Avios price of a single ticket.
Collecting Avios with British Airways American Express Credit Card
Collecting Avios with BA American Express is straight forward. Just start using it with retailers that accept it. In the past many didn’t, but this is changing. You can use you card in major supermarket chains, popular branded stores and many restaurants and cafés. Paying for holidays, theatre tickets and other services is usually not a problem either. Since I started using my British Airways American Express card, I have mostly encountered issues at small independent retailers. They usually stick to Visa and Mastercard.
To maximise your Avios-earning potential, I recommend making your usual purchases through the British Airways shopping portal (BA eStore). Hundreds of retailers and service providers from John Lewis and Selfridges to Booking.com and Etsy are amongst BA’s partners. Some retailers only give you 1 or 2 bonus Avios per £1 spend. However, others are more generous. Keep an eye out on special promotions when some retailers offer more than 10 Avios per pound.
Collecting Avios through the portal is easy. Instead of going to the retailer’s website directly, you need to click through to it through the BA shopping portal. You can access the portal with your executive club login details. You don’t have to use your British Airways American Express card for this, but you will end up getting a lot more Avios if you do.
Also, you will receive 4,000 Avios referral fee if you invite a friend who gets approved for an American Express card. You can earn up to 90,000 Avios a year this way.
Now on to the best part. Avios earned through your British Airways American Express card can be redeemed on flights, upgrades, hotel bookings, car rentals and experiences. Based on what I’ve seen, you will get the best redemption rates on flights. You can check reward flight availability and book your trip directly on the British Airways Executive Club website.
I have seen many articles and videos that claim that you can travel for free with points and miles. In my experience, that is not quite true. The fees and taxes, especially on Business and First-Class flights can still set you back hundreds of pounds. You will be getting a significant reduction in price, but ultimately, it is not free.
The closest you can get to a free flight is the short haul Reward Saver economy flights where the fee is £1 per flight. This is where you can achieve the best redemption value. British Airways have rolled out the Reward Saver to longer haul flights making the fees and taxes more palatable. For example, I have recently seen a return Reward Saver flight from London to New York where the fees and charges only cost £100.
It is important to note that if you are living outside London, direct short-haul British Airways redemptions are going to be extremely limited. I found that the only direct reward route you can book from Manchester is to London. The situation is quite similar in other UK cities.
Instead, you can use Avios for flights that include a stopover in London. This is fine for longer trips. However, this is not practical if you wanted to use Avios for long weekends in Europe. You will end up wasting valuable time on airport transfers.
The good news is that you can also use your Avios with partner airlines such as Qatar Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia. This option may open alternative routes that don’t require a stopover in London. You will just need to do some digging on what options are available in your part of the country.
My British Airways American Express Experience
I applied for the BA American Express card back in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. With all the economic uncertainty, a free credit card seemed like a sensible option. The high interest rate did not worry me as I tend to clear my balance in full on a monthly basis. In addition, Amex was trying to encourage new subscribers by offering an increased welcome bonus. I can’t remember the exact amount, but I must have received in the region of 10,000 Avios after I spent the initial £1,000.
After about two years of regular use, I ended up with a healthy six-figure Avios balance. The bulk of it is the result of everyday shopping rather than flights. I used the card for as many expenses as possible, from the weekly grocery shop to skincare purchases. I also took advantage of Amex offers that can sometimes help you get some bonus Avios. These are normally available through the Amex app. I also made the most of the BA shopping portal.
I have so far redeemed my Avios for a trip to Greece via London. The lack of choice for direct short-haul reward flights was a little disappointing. For my next redemption, I’m thinking of racking up enough Avios for an ultra-long-haul redemption to New Zealand. I am also considering getting a different American Express card that allows me to collect rewards points that can be transferred to a variety of loyalty programmes.
Is British Airways American Express Card Worth It?
For those who are new to the airline credit card game, the British Airways American Express card might be a good option for you. If budget allows, the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card that comes with a more generous welcome bonus and better earning rates offers better value.
Also, if you live outside London, I recommend thinking about possible redemption strategies. For example, if you are based in Manchester, you might be better off aiming for larger Avios balances so you can redeem them with partner airlines such as Qatar Airways or Aer Lingus for long-haul destinations. You will also need extra Avios to cover the stopover in London. Alternatively, a general rewards card from Amex might give you more flexibility.
The BA American Express card can absolutely help with reducing travel costs making your dream destinations more accessible. If you are confident in dealing with credit, you will be able to make your everyday spend more rewarding and achieve your travel goals faster.
However, if you struggle with debt, I would advise staying away from reward credit cards. They often come with high interest rates and no promotional purchase periods. This means that if you are not clearing your balance in full every month, the costs of using them will skyrocket quickly rendering the points earned useless.
Ultimately, if you are sensible and approach collection and redemption strategically, the BA Amex card is a great starting point for your Avios journey.
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