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

May 8, 2020

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For frequent British Airways flyers based in the U.K., the American Express cobranded credit cards could be an obvious 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 you a valuable Companion Voucher, 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 six months of card membership 25,000 Avios after spending £3,000 in the first six months of card membership
Annual Fee £0 £195
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 or BA Holidays. 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on everyday purchases; 3 Avios per £1 spent directly with British Airways or BA Holidays.
Spend required to earn a Companion Voucher £20,000 each membership year. £10,000 each membership year.
Companion Voucher validity period 12 months 24 months
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 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 card should cover the cost of the annual fee in the first year;
  • The everyday earn rate is higher with the premium card, especially for spending directly with British Airways and BA Holidays; and
  • You’ll need to spend less money on the premium card to earn the Companion Voucher each year, and it will be valid for twice as long.
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

So, which is the best card for you?

In short, which card is best for your depends entirely upon your individual situation. These cards are an interesting combination because of the different Companion Voucher proposition for each card. If you normally spend £20,000 on the basic card in 12 months, you’ll earn 20,000 Avios and a Companion Voucher. If you spend the same £20,000 on the premium card, because of the higher earn rate, you’ll earn at least 30,000 Avios (more if you spend directly with BA and BA Holidays) and a Companion Voucher.

While you’ll be paying the annual fee of £195 each year to have the premium card, by TPG’s valuation of Avios, you’d be earning more than half that value back with the extra 10,000 Avios you would earn by spending the £20,000 on the card each year. Remember you can only earn one Companion Voucher per card per membership year, so even if you spend £20,000 on the premium card, even though you only need to spend £10,000 to trigger the Companion Voucher, you will only earn one Voucher (though you’ll earn plenty of Avios!). You will also receive the Voucher to use faster, as you’ll only need to reach the £10,000 spend, rather than £20,000.

A huge difference between the two cards and the Companion Vouchers they earn are the expiration dates. Remember that you must book and travel before the expiration date of your Companion Voucher. The Voucher earned with the basic card only lasts for one year, while voucher earned with the premium card lasts for two years. If you’re looking for business- or first-class seats to use your Companion Voucher with, you’re probably going to need to book well in advance. With a Voucher that only lasts for 12 months, you’re going to have to act quickly.

A two-year expiration date on your Companion Voucher gives you a lot more flexibility and time to plan how best to use it, and when. This is a very valuable benefit.

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. The card still offers a welcome bonus and you’ll still earn Avios for each pound spent.

Which card is best for your 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. If you can’t meet the £20,000 spending requirement to earn the Voucher on the basic card, then there are other American Express cards which would be more valuable to you than the basic card. Note also that if you can make that spend to earn the Companion Voucher, the additional Avios and voucher validity period makes the premium card a more logical option.

In many cases, the more premium card makes sense, given its reduced spending requirements and higher earn rate. That said, it doesn’t apply to all individuals’ circumstances.

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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