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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 a 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. Your annual spending threshold starts from the date or the anniversary of when you took out the card. So if your year end is before 1 September 2021 it means you'll still need to spend £20,000 to get the companion ticket. But if your year end is after 1 September 2021 it means you'll need to spend £12,000.

    As long as you meet the £20,000 spending threshold pre-1 September 2021 you can get a companion flight on any type of flight from economy to first class (provided there are seats available) - even if the flight is after 1 September 2021. However, once the £12,000 spending threshold kicks in you can only redeem an economy class companion flight. 

  • 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. 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 has doubled the number of seats available on flights departing from 28 July that can be booked with Avios, with the extra seats available to book now. 

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 all four cards in the table below where we've assumed an Avios value of 0.5p per mile, although the actual value of Avios varies depending on the flights you use them on. Typically, off-peak flights require fewer Avios to purchase than flights during peak times, so aim for cheaper periods if you can when you'll need a typical 10% to 35% fewer points in economy. 

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 How many Avios you'll earn on a £3,000/yr and £10,000/yr spend after any fees (1)
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)

£3,000/yr: £40 in Avios in yr 1, £15 after

£10,000/yr: £75 in Avios in yr 1, £50 after
(2)

British Airways Premium Plus Amex
(£195/yr until 1 Sep 21 then £250/yr, 74.7% rep APR until 1 Sep 21, incl fee. We're checking the APR after 1 Sep 21 and will update this table)

- 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

£3,000/yr: £47.50 out of pocket in yr 1, £227.50 out of pocket after

£10,000/yr: £5 in Avios in yr 1, £175 out of pocket after
(3)

Amex Nectar (4)
(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

£3,000/yr: £81.25 in Avios in yr 1, £6.25 out of pocket after

£10,000/yr: £125 in yr 1, £37.50 after

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

£3,000/yr: £115 in Avios in yr 1, £125 out of pocket after 
£10,000/yr: £150 in Avios in yr 1, £90 out of pocket after
(5)

(1) Assumes an Avios value of 0.5p, though this varies - more info in How to boost Avios. £3,000/yr and £10,000/yr spending amounts chosen because Amex gives various rewards at these thresholds. Assumes any intro bonus requirements are met. (2) Points earned won't change from 1 Sep 21 and example spending thresholds used aren't enough to earn a companion ticket. (3) Doesn’t factor in companion ticket earned at £10,000 spend. (4) Gives Nectar points which can then be converted to Avios. (5) Doesn't factor in two free airport lounge visits. Gives Amex points which can be converted to Virgin Atlantic miles as well as 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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