Which British Airways American Express credit card is the better choice for you?

Jun 7, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


For frequent British Airways flyers based in the U.K., the American Express cobranded credit cards are a great choice. For those not familiar, American Express U.K. offers two different British Airways cobranded credit cards:

We refer to these cards regularly here at TPG U.K. for several reasons. For one, they both earn Avios, the most popular airline currency in the U.K. Both cards can also earn cardholders a valuable Companion Voucher after meeting the minimum spending requirement, which we think is the single most valuable credit card benefit available in the U.K.

Related: The ultimate guide to the British Airways Companion Voucher

But the cards have some key differences, too. Before we consider who each card is best for, let’s look at the key features, side by side:

Feature The British Airways American Express Credit Card The British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card
Welcome Bonus 5,000 Avios after spending £1,000 in the first three months of card membership 25,000 Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months of card membership
Annual Fee £0 £195, increasing to £250 from 1 September 2021
Value of Welcome Bonus (based on TPG’s valuation of Avios) £55 £275
Earning Rate 1 Avios per £1 spent on purchases, including with British Airways and BA Holidays. 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on everyday purchases; 3 Avios per £1 spent directly with British Airways and BA Holidays.
Spend required to earn a Companion Voucher £20,000 each membership year, reducing to £12,000 from 1 September 2021. £10,000 each membership year.
Companion Voucher validity period 12 months, valid only for economy class for Vouchers earned after 1 September 2021. 24 months, valid for all classes of service.
Representative APR 22.2% variable and a purchase rate of 22.2% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. 74.7% variable and a purchase rate of 22.2% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.

To summarise, the biggest differences are:

  • The Premium Plus Card has an annual fee while the basic card does not. In the first year at least, the value of the much higher welcome bonus offered with the Premium Plus Card should cover the cost of the annual fee in the first year;
  • The everyday earn rate is higher with the Premium Plus Card, especially for spending directly with British Airways and BA Holidays;
  • The Companion Voucher for the BA Amex Card can only be redeemed for economy if you earn the Voucher after 1 September, while the Companion Voucher for the Premium Plus Card can be redeemed for any cabin of service; and
  • You’ll need to spend less money on the Premium Plus Card to earn the Companion Voucher each year both before 1 September and after 1 September, and it will be valid for twice as long.

Related: Higher annual fee and devalued Companion Voucher: American Express details massive changes to BA cobranded cards

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

So, which is the best card for you?

The value proposition changes after 1 September, so let’s have a look at the difference between the two cards before 1 September, and after 1 September 2021.

Before 1 September

  • You’ll need to spend £20,000 to earn a Companion Voucher on the basic card, versus only £10,000 on the Premium Plus Card;
  • The Companion Voucher on the basic card is only valid for 12 months (must be booked and flown) while the Companion Voucher for the premium card is valid for 24 months;
  • Other than the differences above, the Companion Vouchers earned before 1 September can be used in the same way regardless of the card they were earned from; and
  • The welcome bonus from the Premium Plus Card cancels out the annual fee payable for it in the first year (£195), and you’ll earn more Avios for every purchase with the Premium Plus Card than the basic card.

After 1 September

  • While the basic card remains without an annual fee, the annual fee for the Premium Plus Card increases to £250 per year. By our calculations, the welcome bonus still (just) covers this annual fee for the first year;
  • The spend required to earn a Companion Voucher narrows considerably — while you’ll still need to spend at least £10,000 on the Premium Plus Card, you will only have to spend £12,000 on the basic card (down from £20,000);
  • The validity of each Companion Voucher remains the same;
  • The Companion Voucher earned from the basic card otherwise becomes much less valuable, as it can only be redeemed for economy class seats. Because of the high fees, taxes and surcharges British Airways charges on redemptions, you are unlikely to get much value from a Companion Voucher redeemed in economy; and
  • The Companion Voucher from the Premium Plus Card becomes more valuable as additional Club World availability will be made available to Companion Voucher redemptions from the Premium Plus Card.

Related:

Ultimately, if you don’t travel with BA frequently and don’t need the extra time for redeeming a Companion Voucher, the no-annual-fee card could prove to be valuable before 1 September. The card still offers a welcome bonus and you’ll still earn Avios for each pound spent. After 1 September, the basic card loses a lot of its value because of the Companion Voucher devaluation.

Which card is best for you depends entirely on your individual spending habits and how you plan to use the card’s benefits. As always, do your research before applying for any credit card.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

By far, the most valuable benefit of either card is the Companion Voucher, so if you can earn a Companion Voucher by meeting the spend requirements, this should be your top consideration when comparing the cards.

If you can meet the £10,000 minimum spend for the Premium Plus Card, then the Companion Voucher from that card is more valuable. Before 1 September, this is because it is valid for twice as long, and you only need to spend £10,000 rather than £20,000 to earn it.

For Vouchers earned after 1 September, the Companion Voucher from the basic card is significantly devalued, making it far less of a perk, while the Companion Voucher from the Premium Plus Card becomes even more valuable. This means after 1 September, there is even more of a difference between the Companion Vouchers from the two cards, with the Premium Plus Card’s Companion Voucher substantially more valuable than the basic card’s voucher.

If you can earn a Companion Voucher before or after 1 September, the Premium Plus Card offers a better value proposition, especially in the first year.

However, if you are unlikely to meet the spend required to earn any Companion Voucher on either card, the basic card does remain a good option as there’s no annual fee, it earns valuable Avios and has a small welcome bonus.

Featured image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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