TPG reader question: Can I still get the welcome bonus if I upgrade from the free BA Amex Card to the Premium Plus Card?

Jun 20, 2021

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a new weekly column to answer your credit card, points and miles and general travel questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguyuk, message us on Facebook or email us at tips@thepointsguy.co.uk.


Recently, American Express announced big changes to both the British Airways American Express Card and the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. More specifically, the Companion Voucher benefits on both cards are changing, as well as the annual fee on the Premium Plus Card. You can read about all the changes here.

As a brief overview, here’s what you need to know:

  • British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card — The annual fee on the card is increasing from £195 to £250 as of 1 September 2021, however, the Companion Voucher is getting more valuable. More specifically, you can now use it on flights that don’t begin in the U.K., and BA is opening up more award availability.
  • British Airways American Express Card — Also known as “the basic card,” the amount of spend needed to earn the Companion Voucher is decreasing from £20,000 to £12,000 in a 12-month period and you can use it on flights that don’t begin in the U.K. However, as of 1 September 2021, you can only use the Voucher on economy redemptions.

Many TPG readers have been contacting us about the changes — you can read answers to the most commonly asked questions here.

By far, the worst of these changes is the new restriction for Companion Vouchers earned from 1 September 2020 on the basic card that redemptions can only be in economy class (Euro Traveller or World Traveller). There is still value in the basic card, even if you never spend enough for a Companion Voucher each year — here’s why.

Understandably, some readers are considering changing from the basic card to the Premium Plus Card as the basic card gets worse while the Premium Plus Card gets better as of 1 September — now is actually the perfect time to upgrade.

That brings us to this week’s TPG reader question:

If I was applying for the BA Premium Plus Card for the first time, I would be eligible for a 25,000-Avios bonus. Because I am upgrading from my existing basic card, am I eligible for the welcome bonus?

Martin, TPG Reader

Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for Martin. In 2019, American Express introduced tough new restrictions on personal American Express cards. It meant that cardholders could not earn a welcome bonus for a card they applied for if they’ve held an American Express-issued personal card in the past 24 months.

There are some exceptions to this rule, and you can read our guide here.

In the case of British Airways cobranded American Express cards, the rule is simple: You, unfortunately, will not be eligible for the welcome bonus if you switch from one BA Amex to another, in either direction. Martin could cancel his basic BA Amex and wait 24 months and then apply for the Premium Plus Card and he would be eligible for the welcome bonus of 25,000 Avios by spending £3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership.

However, this would mean that would be miss out on two Companion Vouchers for the two years he has no BA Amex card. This could be a far greater loss than the 25,000 Avios welcome bonus he would miss out on if he switched immediately.

If he was upgrading cards on the phone, he could certainly ask American Express politely if there was anything it could offer him to retain his business and upgrade the card. Depending on his history with Amex, it may offer a small amount of Avios, though this is not guaranteed and is certainly the exception, not the rule.

What Amex is offering those upgrading their BA Amex cards is that any spend towards a Companion Voucher on the basic card will carry over to the Premium Plus Card and it will count towards the new Companion Voucher. This only works if the cardholder has not yet earned their Companion Voucher on the basic card for that card year, but it is still a nice gesture from Amex.

Related: A Companion Voucher for me and another for my partner — TPG reader success story

Bottom line

The restrictions on welcome bonuses announced by American Express in early 2019 were an unexpected and unwelcome change to anyone serious about earning miles and points in the United Kingdom. Depending on how you look at it, the upcoming changes to the Companion Vouchers could be the same.

While Martin won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus on the Premium Plus Card if he switched immediately from the basic card, he will be able to earn a Companion Voucher on the Premium Plus Card, which becomes the single most valuable perk of any U.K. credit card, especially after 1 September 2020.

Featured image by Josh Gribben / The Points Guy

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