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American Express is shaking up its British Airways Avios credit cards from September - here's what it means for you

American Express is shaking up its British Airways Avios credit cards from September - here's what it means for you

Card provider American Express is making a number of changes to its two British Airways reward credit cards from 1 September. The shake-up will see annual fees hiked on one of the cards, while the spending threshold to earn a 'free' companion flight is falling on the other card - although users will only be able to redeem this on economy class tickets going forward. Here's what's happening. 

American Express (Amex) and British Airways (BA) have two co-branded credit cards - the British Airways Amex and the British Airways Premium Plus Amex. They allow customers to earn Avios points on their everyday spending, which can then be redeemed against plane tickets, hotel stays and more. 

Both of these cards also let customers earn one so-called 'companion ticket' each year when they hit a certain spending threshold. With a companion ticket, you can get someone else a matching seat on a flight you've purchased with Avios and they only have to pay taxes and fees (though this can sometimes end up costing hundreds of pounds - see our full Avios guide for more info). But this perk is also being shaken up for some. 

For the full lowdown on both cards and more ways to earn air miles when you spend, see our full Airline credit cards guide. Just bear in mind that with overseas travel still disrupted a cashback or reward credit card could be a safer way to earn perks on your everyday spending, and only spend what you would do anyway - don't use reward cards as an excuse to overspend. 

Amex is shaking up both of its British Airways credit cards

Here's a summary of the changes that will affect both new and existing British Airways Amex cardholders from 1 September 2021:

  • Got or getting the free British Airways American Express credit card? The spending threshold to earn a companion ticket is falling from £20,000/yr to £12,000/yr but it'll be limited to economy class flights only. While the lower threshold to earn a companion ticket may be good news for some, the new restriction on its use is likely to be less welcome for others. That's because economy reward flight redemptions can often be poor value compared to paying for the flight in cash, due to the unavoidable taxes and charges, which can cost more than cheap fares on British Airways or other carriers.

    Note that your annual spending threshold to earn rewards starts from the date or the anniversary of when you took out the card.

    If your year end is before 1 September 2021 and you meet the £20,000 spending threshold before this date, you will still get a companion ticket valid on any type of flight from economy to first class (provided there are seats available) – even if the flight is after 1 September 2021.

    Similarly, any existing companion vouchers you already have are not affected and can be redeemed on any type of flight until they expire (12 months after being issued).

    However, if your year end is after 1 September 2021, the lower £12,000 threshold will apply and any new vouchers you earn from that date onwards will be limited to economy class flights.

  • Got or getting a British Airways Premium Plus American Express credit card? The annual fee will increase from £195 to £250 but all other benefits remain the same or will be boosted. Existing customers will see the fee increase with their next renewal on or after 1 September.

    However, unlike the British Airways Amex card above, companion vouchers earned with the British Airways Premium Plus Amex card will remain redeemable on any type of flight from economy to first class (provided there are seats available). From 1 September, you'll also no longer be required to be redeem companion vouchers on flights departing from the UK only, giving added flexibility.

In addition, British Airways doubled the number of seats available on flights departing from 28 July that can be booked with Avios to eight in economy and four in business. 

Weigh up whether the cards are still worth it from 1 September - you may be able to earn more Avios elsewhere 

Make sure you weigh up the pros and cons of keeping your cards from 1 September. Both cards will remain among MoneySavingExpert.com's airline credit card best buys even after 1 September (assuming no new players come to the market) but you may be able to earn more Avios from the American Express Gold and Nectar credit cards instead, which are also currently best buys.  

We've compared the Avios earning rate on all four cards in the table below. It's worth noting that the monetary value of the miles and points earned from these credit cards can vary dramatically depending on how you use them. For example, Avios can be worth 0.8p each if converted into Nectar points and spent at a Nectar partner retailer, such as Sainsbury's. But redeem them on an economy flight to Europe and they could be worth just 0.5p instead.

So when deciding which card to go for, it's worth considering how you'll use any miles you accrue. However, if it's not just the Avios you're after, then you also need to compare the value of added perks, such as companion flights and free airport lounge visits.

Make sure you also take into account any card fees and if you're unhappy about the increased fee on the Premium Plus card, for example, make sure you diarise to cancel your membership before your renewal date. Also bear in mind that Amex isn't as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa, and you won't get the introductory bonuses outlined below if you've had a personal (ie, not business) Amex in the past two years.

How the top airline credit cards compare

Card, monthly fee and rep APR Bonuses and air miles
British Airways Amex
(no fee, 22.2% rep APR)

- 5,000 mile bonus on £1,000 spend in first three months
- 1 mile per £1 spent

- Free companion ticket on £12,000+ annual spend from 1 Sep 21 (£20,000+ until 1 Sep 21)

British Airways Premium Plus Amex
(£195/yr until 1 Sep 21 then £250/yr, 74.7% rep APR until 1 Sep 21 then 101.1% rep APR incl fee)

- 25,000 mile bonus on £3,000 spend in first three months
- 1.5 miles per £1 spent

- Free companion ticket on £10,000+ annual spend

Amex Nectar (1)
(no fee in year one then £25/yr, 27.3% rep APR incl fee)
- 12,500 mile bonus on £2,000 spend in first three months
- 1.25 miles per £1 spent
Amex Preferred Rewards Gold
(no fee in year 1 then £140/yr, 56.9% rep APR incl fee)

- 20,000 mile bonus on £3k spend in first 3mths 
- 1 mile per £1 spent

- Two free airport lounge visits/yr

(1) Gives Nectar points, which can then be converted to Avios.

We've plenty more tips and tricks on maxing Avios, as well as the best ways to spend them - see 31 tricks to boost and max Avios. For more credit cards that reward your spending with air miles, including ways to earn Virgin Atlantic air miles instead of Avios, see our full Airline credit cards guide.

As with all reward credit cards, make sure you repay the balance each month IN FULL to avoid paying interest, which can often wipe out any bonuses you've earned. You can also use our Eligibility Calculator first to check if you're likely to be offered a card before applying, as unlike our tool, any application will show up on your credit file and may dent your score. See our Credit Scores guide for more on how they work. 

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